Do you remember your first trip to Paris? I do. I was 20 years old and had never seen a city so beautiful, even in the middle of winter. Flash forward a few (!) years, and we took the opportunity to take our twins on weekend trip to Paris to share with them a love for a city that charms with every visit.
Here are my finds and tips to help you plan your first family trip to Paris.
Planning your trip to Paris with kids
As with all family travel, doing some thoughtful planning in advance will make for a trip full of wonderful memories. You know your kids best, so consider how much walking they are prepared to do and the activities they prefer as the cornerstone of your travel plans. With that in mind, here are some tips for a memorable first family trip to Paris.
When to go
Spring in Paris is a cliche for a reason. Bright blue skies and sunny days mean easy travelling for families and the city is at its beautiful best.
Of course, there is never a bad time to visit Paris, but I would avoid the peak tourist seasons in June and July when the crowds swell and mid-winter when a little of the magic fades, and you are restricted to indoor activities.
I once visited in August and while it is mid summer many Parisians have left the city for their summer break, and it is not as busy as you might expect.
Where to stay
Pick a central arrondissement (area) close to a Metro station with a bustling local cafe and restaurant scene. Even better if you find somewhere close to a park or playground, though this is not so easy in Paris.
For short city breaks, we like the convenience of staying in a hotel. After a full day of sightseeing and museum hopping, a bright hotel room with luxuries like a coffee machine and fluffy bathrobes is the perfect way to unwind.
We stayed at the chic and welcoming Hôtel Adèle et Jules in the up and coming 9th arrondissement. The hotel is down a quiet lane in twin Haussman era buildings. With perfectly Parisian balconies and stylish decor, the hotel ticked all the boxes for a memorable stay.
Our junior suite was perfect for a family with young children. The twins snuggled into the large sofa bed after splashing about in the generous bath. There was even a little footstool for them to reach the basin in the bathroom.
Families with older children can take advantage of several interconnecting rooms at the hotel. These rooms offer privacy for both parents and kids with the security of a single entrance.
We collapsed into one of the most comfortable hotel beds I have slept in, having enjoyed peeking at the rooftops and beautiful lights of Paris from our room.
Attention to detail and signature touches at Hôtel Adèle et Jules are an important part of the experience. We enjoyed a generous breakfast and complimentary afternoon tea service in the charming lounge. Guests are also invited to use the hotel gym facilities, and there is an honesty bar for those midnight cravings.
Just a 3-minute walk from the Grand Boulevards Metro stop on Line 8, we quickly got to all the sights we wanted to see from Hôtel Adèle et Jules. The hotel is well situated near Paris’ beautiful passages shopping arcades and a vibrant neighbourhood full of restaurants and cafes. The concierge and front desk staff will point you to the best local venues, and it is also possible to buy ‘skip the line’ tickets for some of the top museums with them.
How to get around
Paris is a city that is easy to walk around though that is not always the best approach with children whose little legs tire quickly. Take the Metro – the system is fast, efficient and a cinch to navigate.
We got excellent value from our three-day Paris Visite transport pass that also covers the bus and funicular at Sacre Coeur. You can buy the pass at Metro stations that cover zones 1-3.
You will need purchase a ticket for zones 1-5 if you plan to visit Versailles or take public transport to Charles de Gaulle airport. Public transport is free for children under 4 years old with reduced rates for those under 11.
Things to do in Paris with kids
Once you have found the perfect base for your family trip to Paris, it’s time to choose your activities. We like to explore an area each day and enjoy a mixture of culture, sightseeing and parks when we visit cities.
Where to find child-friendly views of Paris
Are children romantics? Oh yes, they are. They love the elegant feel of Paris with its wide boulevards and of course searching out the Eiffel Tower wherever they are in the city. There are so many splendid views of the city; the trick is to find the ones you will all enjoy the most.
I think on any first visit to Paris it is a must to head straight for the Trocadero to see the iconic tower in all its glory. Then stroll down the steps through the Jardins du Trocadero towards the tower, perhaps stopping for a carousel ride along the way.
Make sure you have pre-booked your Eiffel Tower skip the line ticket and zoom up the elevator for panoramic views of Paris.
Having seen the city from up high, it’s time to take to the water and join an hour-long cruise down the Seine. You can buy a combined Eiffel Tower and cruise ticket which I strongly recommend as the queues here are long also. We learnt the hard way!
As you cruise down the river, count the number of bridges and spot the funny faces on Pont Neuf.
The journey takes you past the Place de la Concorde where from November to May you can ride the Grande Roue de Paris (Paris Ferris Wheel). We loved the bird’s eye views of the Tuileries Gardens, Eiffel Tower and down the Champs Elysée from the 60-metre high wheel.
Another favourite Paris viewing spot is below the Sacre Coeur basilica. You can also climb to the dome for sky high views though note there are over 300 steps to the top.
Before sunset, make your way to Printemps department store on Boulevard Haussman where, on the 9th-floor rooftop terrace, you can sip champagne as the sun’s rosy glow lights up Paris.
There were lots of kids there when we visited, and the vibe is relaxed and fun. Do note – there are no toilets on the rooftop so make a bathroom stop before you go.
Take in Paris from these vantage points
✪ Arc de Triomphe – the views down the Champs Elysée are priceless, and there is no charge for children 17 years and younger. Be aware there are many steps to climb
✪ The views from the south towers at Notre Dame are also scenic but be warned there are 420 steps and no lift
✪ Montparnasse Tower offers stunning 360 panoramic views of the city, its monuments and boulevards
Parks and gardens of Paris
Family travel in European cities is so much easier when you know where to find spaces for some outdoor fun.
There were lovely parks and playgrounds near all of the major attractions we visited. Our favourites were at the base of Sacre Coeur, in the Jardins du Trocadero and throughout our wander through Montmartre.
Some of the parks deserve a special mention
We took a stroll through the natural beauty of the Parc des Buttes Chaumont in the 19th district. It was a beautiful sunny day, and hundreds of Parisians lounged on the lawns by the lake looking up at the beautiful Temple de la Sibylle. Children took rides on ponies and played in a huge sandpit.
The Jardin du Luxembourg is home to one of the most famous playgrounds in Paris. Here you pay a small fee to enter a magical world of play equipment, a vintage carousel and a little lake where you can watch small wooden boats float about a lovely pond.
In the Jardin des Tuileries between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde we enjoyed relaxing on the garden chairs watching the ducks. There is also a playground in the north-west corner.
Carousels of Paris
Luckily for my children, I have a slight obsession with carousels in France. I have no problem stopping for rides because the vintage carousels have such a unique charm. You will find beautiful carousels near the Eiffel Tower and near the funicular at Sacre Coeur.
For those who love a quirky ride, the Dodo Manège in the Jardins des Plantes has a triceratops and you can practice your jousting skills at the vintage carousel in the Jardin du Luxembourg.
At the Musée des Arts Forains you can indulge your carousel obsession in this museum dedicated to fairground attractions. Note – bookings are essential as the museum is accessed via a tour.
Museums and monuments of Paris
As the weather was so beautiful on our visit and our children only small, we limited our indoors activities to a few short visits.
There is something about Impressionist paintings that captures children’s imaginations so I recommend a visit to the Musée D’Orsay where you can view the works of Degas, Monet and Renoir. Kids also like to peek out of the clocks at the top of the museum for views over the Seine. The museum is free for children under the age of 18.
If it is raining or cold head to the Pompidou Centre for a modern art fix. The Pompidou has specialist galleries for children from the ages of 2 and is also free admission for children under 18.
We were entranced by the beautiful stained glass windows of Sainte-Chappelle. The beautiful rose window dating from the 15th century was a favourite.
The cathedral of Notre Dame is fun to look at even from the outside with gargoyles and statues gazing down. Explore the Île de la Cité and area around the cathedral and Sainte-Chappelle for fascinating glimpses of old Paris. Don’t miss the bird and flower market on Place Louis Lépine.
I love simply wandering Paris, and there is no better place to this with kids than the winding cobbled streets of Montmartre. Take the funicular from Place Saint-Pierre to the base of Sacre Coeur. You can use your Paris Visite transport pass for the ride.
At the top, enjoy the views of Paris below and the wedding cake like basilica above before taking a stroll through the village of Montmartre, once an enclave of artists and performers.
Stop and watch the street performers and admire the artists at work (or are they?) in the square at Place du Tertre.
Meander down the hill, stopping to duck into little boutiques. Before you hop onto the Metro at Abbesses take some time to admire Le mur des je t’aime (the love wall) in Square Jehan-Rictus. There you will also find a little playground.
In early Spring people were lined up for what seemed like a very long wait (over an hour at least) for most of the major attractions we visited. I don’t know about you, but standing around waiting with a couple of restless children is not my idea of a happy trip.
Consider pre-booking tickets for the main attractions in Paris. For the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Louvre this is a must. We recommend online tours booking site Get Your Guide who have a long list of skip the line tours for Paris.
What and where to eat in Paris with kids
We did a big foodie trip to Paris without the kids a couple of years ago, but with the family in tow, another approach is needed.
Eating breakfast at the hotel meant we had a great start to the day. Check the offering at your hotel before you arrive as some only offer a simple continental breakfast. At Hôtel Adèle et Jules there was a fantastic spread including cereals, eggs, fruit, yoghurt, mini croissants and even noodles. That kept the kids going for a couple of hours.
After breakfast, we relied on snacks and picnic lunches to keep us going throughout the day. Near the Jardin du Luxembourg we picked up a delicious takeaway lunch including baguettes, salads and pastries from Dalloyau at 2, place Edmond Rostand.
You could also visit foodie street Rue Mouffetard close to the Jardins des Plantes or one of the smaller local markets like the Marché Raspail for fresh fruit and bakery items.
We found the small french bistrots we tried for dinner welcoming to children. Our kids were even presented with a little Eiffel Tower key ring each at one. Standard French fare for kids is steak haché (burger without the bun) or chicken goujons (posh for nuggets). Kids meals usually come with some salad as well as fries.
We often buy a main meal and split it for our children and this was no problem either. Omelettes are another alternative and make a delicious and nutritious lunch or dinner.
Of course, no trip to Paris is complete without crepes, macarons or a visit to Berthillon near Notre Dame where you find the most delicious ice cream in the city.
Memories of Paris
Paris has always been one of my favourite cities and now it holds some of my most cherished family travel memories. We loved our stylish stay at Hôtel Adèle et Jules, and our time spent discovering the beauty of Paris through many splendid views, monuments and parks.
The highlight for us all was our ride on the big ferris wheel at the Place de la Concorde with a much-loved cousin.
The trip was the perfect introduction to Paris for our children. I hope one day you will visit this magical city with your family and they will fall in love with France and Paris too.
Disclaimer: We were guests of Hôtel Adèle et Jules and as always all thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links – for more information on our affiliate policies visit our disclosure page.
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