Paris is a great city to visit with children from toddlers to late teens . . . Here are some ideas.
25.06.1996 - 14.06.2017
If your children are teens, here are some suggestions. Below that are ideas for pre-teen intrepid travelers and below that Playgrounds in Paris .
A mother who was traveling to Paris, had only two days and was accompanied by her 13 and 14-year-old children. She asked me for ideas and here were some of my suggestions to her.
First, involve the kids in the planning. We had three children so everyone in the family had to list at least five things they wanted to see. Then we plotted them on a map and fit them into our trip. We tried to visit at least three things each person had chosen. Since we all made a list, Mom and Dad also got to see three things they wanted which was nice and the kids accepted as fair.
Next, get each child a camera even if it's a very inexpensive one. They will have a grand time with it and their own pictures will mean more to them than your pictures will . . . and they will take very different pictures. I was always amazed at what our kids saw that I didn't . . . and vice versa, of course.
I asked our kids to keep a journal and it usually worked. They still have some of them but most are long gone. If nothing else, it helps identify photos when you get home. If your kids are reluctant, try something easy like date and a list of places you visited that day or give them a goal like identifying favorite meals or activities. If there is mass rebellion, forget the idea.
Here are some things that are particularly fun for teens and you do have to take their tastes and your budget into consideration. Web sites listed below the suggestions are in English unless specified otherwise.
Notre Dame Cathedral: If lines aren’t too long, climb the tower to see the gargoyles up close and personal. The square in front of the Cathedral is always fun with buskers and tourists, birds to feed and there is even a nice park behind the Cathedral.
The Eiffel Tower: There can be a long wait to climb so you may want to just look and walk underneath for photo ops. If you can afford it, reserve lunch or dinner at one of the Eiffel Tower restaurants for great views of Paris without waiting in line to go up the tower. If you want to do something totally different, take them up the elevator in the Montparnasse Tower where they will have a great view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. You really can't see the Eiffel Tower when you are in it, so the Montparnasse Tower is great for a typical Paris photo with the Eiffel Tower in it. There is a viewing platform at the top and there are a couple restaurants.
The Rodin Museum and garden: The kids under age 18 are free but you have to pay. If you don't want to, skip the museum and go through the garden with lots of sculptures and it's only 4 euros for adults and the kids are free. There is a nice tea room in the garden and a playground for younger children.
A Fat Tire Bike Tour: If you have nice weather, this is the perfect thing to do with teens. You ride around Paris on bicycles with a guide who stops and explains the sights. We've never done it, but we've seen them going around town and heard the guides when they were in the Tuileries taking a break and we happened to be there. It looked like great fun, especially if your teens like bike riding.
A Segway Tour: We were crossing the Seine to the Musée d'Orsay once and were passed by a group on Segways. They looked like they were having a grand time and there were a lot of teens in the group. We saw another group on Segways in Nice and again, lots of teens and it looked like they were all enjoying themselves.
Cluny Museum (Musée de Moyen Age): This is one museum that usually doesn't have a line so is a good place to buy your Paris Museum Pass if you plan to get one. The Museum Pass is for Mom and Dad because most of the museums are free for kids under age 18. The Cluny is a small museum and very popular with school groups. You can spend as much or as little time here as you want and then have a picnic in the medieval garden outside. You can visit the garden for free if you don't want to visit the museum. For the picnic, get something from the nearby market or there are street vendors across the street. There is also a nearby McDonald's if the kids think that is cool.
Tuileries or Luxembourg Gardens: You should try to visit one of these gardens and both if you have time. The Tuileries has a carnival in warmer months, a permanent playground all year, cafés, miniature sailboats to rent, fish to feed, the Orangerie Museum, lots of people to watch and great ice cream (gelato). The Luxembourg has pony rides, chess games, puppet shows, tennis, jogging, concerts, cafés, an art museum, fountains and more miniature sailboats to rent.
Musée d’Orsay: All the Impressionists are here; it's reasonably small so doesn't take all day, and even young teens should enjoy a short visit. There are special activities for different ages of children so ask at the desk when you enter. Kids often enjoy museums more when they go through with a purpose like filling out an activity sheet. If our own kids are any guide, most teens age 13 or 14 and up should enjoy limited visits to places like the Orsay. It's an old converted train station and just seeing the inside of the building is great fun.
Cité des Sciences at the Parc de la Villette: It’s the largest technical and scientific museum in Europe with lots of interactive exhibits. The famous Géode, a theater with a 180-degree screen would be fun too. There is also a Musée de la Musique in the same park with more interactive exhibits. You could turn them loose in the park for a while too.
The Berges of the Seine: The banks of the Seine are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so in 2013 they removed the highways along the river on the Left Bank from Pont Léopold-Sédar-Senghor (formerly Pont Solferino) to the Pont Du Gros Caillou and it has been pedestrianized and set up with all sorts of activities that should appeal to nearly everyone. This is for Parisians and visitors. It even includes tipis that can be used for kids' birthdays. There are running tracks, meditation areas, lessons in all kinds of things from running to yoga. There are restaurants and even food mobiles. It all looks like great fun and especially in the summer when everyone will be out enjoying the river, it certainly would be worth exploring. Check the web site for the activity schedules or just go to the information booths that are on site. In April of 2017 the Right bank opened. Check the web site below for all the activities.
Here are some web sites for the suggestions above.
Notre Dame Cathedral web site
Eiffel Tower web site
Rodin Museum and Gardens (under age 18 are free)
Fat Tire Bike Tour
A Segway Tour of Paris
Cluny Museum or Musée de Moyen Age (under age 18 are free)
The Tuileries Gardens
The Luxembourg Gardens (Don't switch to English or you go to the Senate web site.)
Musée d'Orsay (under age 18 are free)
Museum of Science and Industry (under age 2 are free; others have different rates, check the web site)
Museum of Music (under age 26 are free)
Berges of the Seine web site (For all ages, infant to senior citizens)
Here are some suggestions for the preteens. A family going to Paris with children under age 10 asked me to plan three days for them focusing on the kids enjoying the trip. Here are my suggestions and you can take what you need from this. If you have longer, there are many more things for younger children in Paris. The French love children so will spoil them in restaurants and parks. You will get more attention simply because you have them with you. It's a great way to meet the French people. They had already planned their fourth day at Paris Disneyland. A good substitute for this is Parc Asterix, a very French theme park featuring the cartoon characters Asterix and Obelisk. If your kids insist on Disney, that's fine, but if they are up for an adventure, try Park Asterix. Parc Asterix web site
They said they only had a half day for day one. Their idea of the Jardin des Plantes and a Seine River Cruise sounded great to me, and the little zoo at the Jardin des Plantes is fun. There are also ducks wandering the garden that you can feed if you take a few baguette crumbs with you. This is a much overlooked garden in Paris but it is truly charming and great for little ones because there are ducks and pigeons on the grounds and the little menagerie (zoo) is child-sized. In the spring there are baby animals and that is always fun. (There is a genuine zoo out at the Parc de Vincennes but that's a real day trip.) Jardin des Plantes web site in French
Day 2: Unless your kids are more patient standing in line than ours were, I'd just walk under and around the Eiffel Tower, buy them an ice cream cone, let them ride the carousel and leave. Walk across the river to the Trocadero (great Eiffel Tower views), let the kids buy a funky souvenir from the many vendors there and then get on the Metro #6 in the direction of Charles de Gaulle-Etoile. Eiffel Tower web site
This takes you to the Arc de Triomphe. At the Arc de Triomphe be sure you take the tunnel under the road; it's much safer than trying to cross the street. Walk around with all the other tourists, check the Eternal Flame and see if there is a huge line to go up to the top. If there isn't a long line and the elevator is working, go up and enjoy a fabulous view of Paris. If there's a huge line, I'd skip it. Get back on the Metro #1 in the direction of Chateau de Vincennes and take it to Champs Elysées/Clemenceau stop (4 stations from the Arc). Arc de Triomphe web site
Now get out and walk the Champs Elysées toward the Place de la Concorde. This takes you on the Champs Elysées through a lovely garden with the Grand and Petit Palais on your right. It's a lovely walk and skips all the overpriced stores on the previous section of the boulevard. At the Place de la Concorde, go up the stairs on either side and into the Tuileries Gardens. The kids can feed the fish in the first pond if they have a few baguette crumbs with them. Otherwise, walk through the Tuileries looking at all the fun things there. If it's summer, there's even a fun fair (carnival) in the Tuileries. There are also a couple outdoor cafes there and it would be a great place to stop for lunch with two kids. They can chase pigeons and ducks or sit and recover from the sightseeing. Lots to see and do including renting little sailboats if they wish. Tuileries Gardens web site
After lunch you are right at the Louvre so this would be a good time to visit. You don't want to stand in line so go around toward the Seine, along the river and you will see two green lions at a doorway. This is the Lions' Gate and you can get into the Louvre there without any line at all. Check the web site and see what you think you and the kids might enjoy because you could spend a month inside the Louvre and not see everything. There's a fun Egyptian collection, the Napoleon apartments, neat sculptures . . . lots of paintings. Here's the web site: Official Louvre Web Site That should pretty much finish your day. Hop the Metro back to your hotel.
Day 3: Take the Metro to Hotel de Ville. Then you can walk across the Seine to the Ile de la Cité and visit Notre Dame. You don't have to climb the towers, it's great just to walk through and marvel at how big and beautiful the church is. There is a small playground between the church and the river and you will often see street performers in front of the cathedral. It's fun and the kids will remember it forever. (So will you.) Note there are 387 steps up the tower to see the gargoyles and there is no elevator (lift). Notre Dame Cathedral web site
Next you can walk down to Pont Neuf and go across in one direction or the other. If you want to visit Invalides, walk the Pont Neuf to the right bank and go up past the east end of the Louvre to the Louvre-Rivoli Metro station and take the #1 Metro in the direction of La Defense for 3 stations and get off at Concorde station to change to the #12 Metro direction of Maire d'Issy and get off at Assemblée Nationale right at Invalides. Visit Invalides, see Napoleon's Tomb and stop at a nearby cafe for lunch. A good choice might be to pay the four euros to get into the Rodin gardens. (kids are free) There is a tea room in the gardens and you can eat while the kids run around in the gardens. There is a small play area and lots of French children will be there with them. It would be fun and you can enjoy the sculptures. That and getting back to your hotel will give you a full but fairly relaxed day. Invalides web site and Rodin Museum web site
Then you are off to Disneyland the next day and that will be a full day. Disneyland web site
If the kids can carry their own luggage, take the Metro out to CDG for the trip. Otherwise, you might find it easier to take a shuttle and let the driver deal with your luggage. We have used Paris Blue Shuttle and it's always been on time and reasonable. Paris Blue Shuttle web site
If you only do half of this, you will still have a memorable vacation and the kids will make it more fun. BTW, Parisians and the French in general, love kids so people will be happy to help you and give you directions. Just tell the kids to smile a lot and say "merci" a lot. Everyone will be enchanted. Have a great trip.
More suggestions including Playgrounds in Paris:
For small children, there are playgrounds and parks all over the city. The Luxembourg Gardens even have a special age-limited play area. There are puppet shows, pony rides, games, flowers (our granddaughter's specialty) and even toy boats to sail in public fountains. If you have a child interested in chess, there are public chess games . . . participate or watch.
For all ages, the Tuileries Gardens near the Louvre has a summer fun fair with a carousel and Ferris wheel in addition to the toy boats and in the far fountain, you can feed the fish. (Bring your own baguette or croissant crumbs.)
Are you visiting the Cluny Museum (Musée de Moyen Age) in the Latin Quarter? There is a wonderful children's playground in the medieval gardens right outside the museum. Get a sandwich from a sidewalk vendor across the street and retire to the gardens for lunch and let the kids run wild. They have recently enlarged the playground section and it is really nice.
Are you visiting Invalides and Napoleon's tomb? Right around the corner (west side of Invalides) along the rue Fabert you will find a small playground tucked into the grounds. It is shaded and quite private considering it is near a major tourist sight in Paris. This is geared more to smaller children.
Are you visiting the Rodin Museum? (If you're near Invalides, you might as well.) There are lovely gardens and several places for the kids including a sandbox at the far end near the tea room. Get a tea or coffee and watch the kids play in the gardens.
Are you visiting Notre Dame cathedral? Between the cathedral and the Seine river, there is a small playground where you can watch boats on the Seine and the kids can relax. This is for smaller children.
If you are in the Marais, the Place des Vosges isn't a playground per se, but you will see many happy French families enjoying the grass, shade and fountains. Join them. The square is one of the most beautiful in Paris surrounded with cafés and galleries.
The Jardin des Plantes on the banks of the Seine at the eastern end of the Latin Quarter is great. There are plants, flowers, a Natural History Museum, a large metal ballein whale (I have no idea why), ducks wandering loose and in the northwestern corner there is a small zoo or menagerie which includes black swans, deer and kangaroos. Spring is fun here!
Walking to the Pompidou Center, plan to pass the Tower of St. Jacques. It has been completely renovated and there is a lovely playground on the grounds at the foot of the Tower.
Then go on over to the Pompidou and at Place Igor Stravinsky let the kids enjoy the really fun and colorful sculptures that rotate and spout water in the huge fountain. You can settle at the cafe while the kids enjoy the fountains. This is great for teens and pre-teens and they will have lots of company from all over Europe.
The Garden of the Palais Royale is always fun. Just outside the garden are the Daniel Buren sculptures that look like different sized pillars painted black and white. We have often seen Parisian children with their mothers playing on these. There seems to be a counting game that is popular there. Watch and learn.
Further afield, the Parc Monceau in the 8th is huge and full of happy Parisians relaxing. On holidays (and probably all summer) they offer pony rides. There are ducks and ponds, a carousel and refreshment stands. There are benches for mom and dad. Visit the Cernuschi Museum and the Nissim de Camondo Museum nearby. The Cernuschi Museum is free for all ages.
Have teenagers? They might enjoy the Viaduc des Arts in the 11th. You can climb up onto it from a block behind the Opera Bastille. Look for the stairs. Get a birds eye view of Paris.
Another age 8 to adult favorite is the Cite de la Musique. It is an interactive Music Museum where you walk through with laser-guided earphones. When you walk into an exhibit, the earphones play it for you. Outside is the Parc de la Villette with crazy chairs and statues and best of all, the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie. This is where you find the giant Geode Theater. You can't miss it. It is a huge cinema in the round inside a giant silver ball. The museum is just on the other side of the little canal. You might enjoy a canal-boat trip to and from the park.
If you're thinking of Disney Paris, reconsider and think about Parc Asterix instead. It's in the same general area as Disneyland and it is very French. It is a theme park based on the French comic book character Asterix and is loosely French-European history from the Celtic-Roman eras combined with rides, shows and food.
Keep your eyes open, there are many more places for children. Paris is a city that loves children.
Get "Paris Pratique par arrondissement" a map booklet of all Paris. It has streets, gardens and parks listed along with all the subway, train and bus lines. Invaluable and available at any Paris news stand, most tabacs and lately, even at souvenir shops.