This summer I went to Paris with my family. People kept advising me against choosing Paris as a family destination, but we went anyway, because I love not doing as I’m told. I’m here to tell you that my kids loved it, and so did I. Well, they loved most of it, some of it not so much. So I thought I’d share the parts that did work with you, and spread some love.
Oh, quick side comment, have I mentioned that I turned forty this year? The Paris trip was actually planned as a fortieth birthday treat that involved a lot of hot chocolate, eclairs, and sitting by the Seine. Being forty means also being mature enough (don’t laugh!) to accept that this trip would not involve rolling out of the Buddha Bar in the late hours, and spending an entire day looking at modern art. I rolled with the punches and had a great time, and you haven’t heard the last of this. I’m celebrating all year, it’s a good age to be.
Here’s the top ten list courtesy of me and my kids:
What my kids enjoyed the most in Paris
1. The Tuileries
Although my 10 year old found the statues of Greek gods in the Louvre fascinating, the six year old screamed his head off for the entire time we were there. When we finally stumbled out clutching our heads into the sunlight of the Tuileries, it was like a curse lifting. The Tuileries are so beautiful and a lovely counterpoint to the huge, over-crowded Louvre museum. The kids loved walking around in them as much as we did. They sailed boats in the pond, ate ice cream, and my husband and I actually got to have a pretty long conversation without interruptions while they played in the very nice playground there. Sweet!
2. Hot Chocolate at Cafe Angelina
Right across from the playground in the Tuileries, we discovered Angelina, which is meant to have the best hot chocolate in Paris. I don’t know if it is indeed the best, but it was pure, molten dark chocolate. My arteries were filled with the heady stuff, and it felt pretty good; maybe a little too rich for the kiddos, but they had a whole range of other goodies for them. The Cafe itself is so decadently furnished that my daughter was in raptures, and my son was just happy to be served dessert.
3. Picnic near the Eiffel Tower
I generally avoid very touristy activities when on vacation, but the ten year old really needed to go to the top of the eiffel tower, so we did, and it was fun. But what was more fun was the picnic afterwards. Places to eat near the tower tend to be overpriced, so I asked a security guard to point us to a grocery store, in really bad French, and he, surprisingly, obliged. We bought a baguette, some cheese, olives and other stuff and found a spot near the river. Eating outdoors in the sunshine with the tower looming over us was a lovely experience.
4. St Chapelle
Notre Dame is beautiful, and the kids loved looking at gargoyles and trying to spot the hunchback (thanks so much, Disney), but it was totally overshadowed by St Chapelle. This church took our breath away. The stained glass, and patterned walls were so beautiful that even the six year old stared open eyed without a whine. Also it is mercifully small, perfect for short attention spans.
5. Riding the escalators at the Pompidou Center
The Pompidou center contains some beautiful modern art, and the courtyards are fascinating, but what really got the kids excited about it was riding those escalators all the way to the top and looking out over Paris. Also, we found the best Lebanese food somewhere in a tiny alley nearby. Sorry, can’t remember the name, but the Marais district is great for middle eastern street food.
6. The Metro system and the Funicular
Once you get the hang of it, the Paris metro is pretty easy to use. My kids are fans of all public transport, the little one is quite the trainspotter, so they loved it. When we visited The Sacre Coeur cathedral in Montmartre, the kids insisted on taking the Funicular train up the tiny hill to the cathedral. It was slow and not very thrilling, I could have walked up faster, and the ride was ridiculously short, but the they rode it a few times (you pay with a regular metro fare) and were very pleased by it.
7. Pain Pain
This bakery in Montmartre is a true treasure. It is so cute, their quiche is to die for, and we fell in love with their eclairs. You have to visit to see what I mean.
8. Jardin du Luxembourg
These gardens were a hit with the whole family. So beautiful, and relaxed, and large enough to get lost in. They also have a nice playground, that you pay a fee to get into (what?). The kids gave it a thumbs up, and so do we.
9. Hanging out by the Seine
No need to really explain this one, right? There are some spots by the Seine that just beckon to you, and ask you to stop and sit awhile (or run up and down the steps frantically while your parents catch their breath).
1o. Getting Lost
We got spectacularly lost in Paris, because we speak such bad French, and it led us to discover some of the best places. We wandered through the Sorbonne, and the Beaux arts district, we saw beautiful apartment buildings and imagined what it would be like to live in them, and we discovered delicious crepes, cool street art, and a soccer festival!
We couldn’t really cover it all in a week. There are so many other places I would like to visit in Paris. The Rodin Museum, Belleville Park, and Les Docks to name but a few. I have always loved traveling with my kids , so there will be plenty of other trips to write about.
Now, back to the grind…..
I stumbled upon your blog today and enjoyed seeing what your children enjoyed in Paris. I, personally, have come to believe that Paris is one of the most child-friendly cities in the world (Tokyo is my other top pick) but I know what you mean about how people think of it as the opposite. How wonderful that you took your children despite what people said. I hope your article will encourage others to venture to Paris with their children. I started blogging this week because I opened up a boutique french tour company and I want to chronicle the path that brought me to open it and my experiences trying to grow the company. One of the things I’ve done is develop 32 excursions in Paris especially for families with children. As a fellow mother, I’d love to have you follow my adventures eventually I plan to share an article I’ve written on visiting the Eiffel Tower and some other things like that. PS I especially liked the picture you took from the Pompidou Center. Please check out my blog.
Thank you Lisa! I look forward to reading your blog. I think it is so important for kids to travel, and experience different cultures. Good luck with everything!!
[…] I took my family to Paris. What a landmark trip, The hot chocolate, the old apartments, the Seine, the relaxed mood of my husband. This is just the start of my travels with my family. The kids enjoyed Paris enormously and were little cultural sponges, and I realized that there are so many places that I want to share and explore with them. My husband and I are in talks about this Summer, so watch this space for more travels. […]
[…] has all the energy of a city without the spikiness that some of my favorite places – London, Paris, and New York have. It is an oldtimey version of those places. Everyone seems connected with their […]
[…] Strange, right? I love writing travel guides for parents, and have waxed lyrical about London, Paris, New York, and Copenhagen in the past, but not Chennai. […]