A family holiday in Paris
Written by Nichola West
Paris may be known as the ‘city of love’, but it is also very family friendly and bursting with activities and fun for all ages.
Any first-time trip to Paris should include the Eiffel Tower; it’s one of those must-visit iconic places and it really doesn’t disappoint. Travelling up to one of the viewing platforms is a great experience, and it’s an ideal spot to look down over the whole city. For little legs I would recommend taking the lift rather than the stairs, and make sure you book tickets in advance to save having to queue for these as the lines can be long. It’s also possible to choose which stage of the tower you want to visit if you don’t fancy travelling right to the top. The Eiffel Tower is also a great location to take a picnic – there are plenty of gardens around the base of the tower, and it is a lovely spot to sit, looking up in awe at this wonderful structure.
Once you’ve had a view of Paris from above, head to the Carnavalet Museum to find out the history of this diverse city. With free entry for everyone and a host of objects kids will enjoy, including toys from the French royal family, it’s sure to keep all ages entertained. Or you can join one of the museum’s many child-friendly activities, which include workshops and family tour sessions. It’s a great place to take in the city’s history in a fun way. Just take note that, like many of the museums and galleries in Paris, the Carnavalet is closed on Mondays.
If rain threatens to disrupt your plans, then undercover attractions such as L’Aquarium de Paris are perfect, or head underground to the city’s strangest attraction – Musée des Égouts – where visitors can explore the city’s hidden sewers, a tourist destination for more than a century and great fun for kids.
Don’t feel you have to miss out on the great artistic sights – the Louvre in particular shouldn’t be missed, but also shouldn’t be tackled as a whole. I recommend picking a couple of highlights you would love to see and set out on your art treasure hunt with the children. Talk to them prior to the visit, giving a little background to each piece of art, and then set off on your quest to track them down. You’ll spot plenty of other artistic beauties along the way, and it will be a fun experience without being overwhelming. If you’re travelling with a pushchair, remember that you can skip the long queue and head to the entrance slightly to the side.
France is a food-lover’s dream, and it’s a great place to get children interested in food and not just eating it. At the Gourmet Chocolate Museum (next to metro stop Bonne Nouvelle) you can learn about the 4,000-year history of this delectable treat and, of course, have an opportunity to sample it too. There are some great hands-on chocolate workshops here, geared to all different ages of children, so it’s a great place to get stuck in and make your own delicious confectionery. It’s also another good rainy-day option.
For more sweet treats, grab some macarons or ice cream. For the latter, Berthillon near Notre Dame is perhaps the best ice-cream in the world, with so many flavours to tempt you – try the rhubarb, it’s really special.
One of the best things you can do in Paris is to wander the streets and simply take it all in. Head to Montmartre for incredible views at the Sacré-Cœur basilica, and Les Halles in the first arrondissement with pedestrianised streets, art galleries, and street entertainment on every corner.
And finally, a short hop out of the city is Disneyland Paris. While Paris is packed with many cultural and fun treats, Disneyland really is a wonderful experience which should not be missed. Easy to get to from the centre of the city, take the RER A train from Charles de Gaulle – Étoile station. You’ll be dropped at the doorstep of the world-famous mouse. It’s a great day out, and I defy even the biggest Disney-sceptic not to have a wonderful time.
When your feet are done walking and you’ve eaten your fill of sweets, head to Le Royal Monceau on Avenue Hoche for the perfect family stay. With adjoining rooms, baths run at a time and temperature of your choosing, and with cookies and milk delivered before bedtime, it’s the ideal way to end your family holiday in Paris.
Theme park alternatives
Eschew the garish play parks with their neon lights and loud music and head to Le Jardin des Tuileries for some old-fashioned, memorable fun. Here, under the shadow of the Louvre, wooden toy sailing boats can be rented by the hour for a couple of euros, and children can race around the large ponds setting the boats sailing in the breeze with wooden sticks. It feels timeless and simple, but will entertain children much longer than any merry-go-round can. The Place des Vosges in the Marais district is a quintessential Parisian park and perfectly manicured, but with a sandpit and some play equipment, it’s a great spot for a picnic. Wander down to the sixth arrondissement, where Le Jardin du Luxembourg is another space full of timeless appeal – take in a puppet show here, enjoy the children’s playground, or have fun on a vintage carousel ride.
Distance: 4,980 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 15 minutes
Frequency: 3 flights a day