This is a good set of ideas for travel to Paris with kids, most of which I think is spot-on, especially advice to eat at big brasseries where noisy kids won’t even be noticed.
Be sure to buy a Pariscope and check the enfants section for a list of current events for children, including children”s theater, circuses, special museum workshops, and all the puppet shows. Time your stints in the major museums carefully, and look into any children”s tours they might offer. The ideas below focus on Paris proper; outside the city there”s always Disneyland Paris.?
Give your kids an idea of how Paris was planned by climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. From here work your way down the Champs-Élysées toward place de la Concorde. Stop for a puppet show at the Marionettes des Champs-Élysées, at avenues Matignon and Gabriel. Or head to the Palais de la Découverte, just off the Champs, to catch a planetarium show. Continue walking down the Champs to the Jardin des Tuileries, where kids can work off steam on the trampolines, ride the ponies, or spin on one of the prettiest merry-go-rounds in Paris. For an afternoon treat head for Angélina (on rue de Rivoli), a tearoom famous for its thick hot chocolate.
Note: If you want to see the puppet show, do this on a Wednesday, Saturday, or Sunday. Skip this on Monday, when the Palais de la Découverte is closed.
In the morning head to the Tour Eiffel for a bird”s-eye view of the city. After you descend, give the nearby carousel a whirl; ride on one of the Bateaux-Mouches at place de l”Alma; or, for older kids who arelooking for a gross-out factor, brave Les Égouts, the Paris sewers. Next take the métro to the Parc André-Citroën, where there”s a computerized “dancing fountain,” or to the Bois de Boulogne, where you”ll find a zoo and mini amusement park (the Jardin d”Acclimatation), rowboats, and plenty of wide-open space.
This won”t work on Thursday or Friday, when Les Égouts are closed.
Start early at Notre-Dame Cathédral, climbing up the tower for the view of the city and the gargoyles. Have lunch in the area, and then head to Berthillon, on Île St-Louis, for some of the city”s best ice cream. Afterward cross the Seine and walk or take the métro to the Odéon stop. From there walk around the colonnaded Théâtre de l”Odéon to the Jardin du Luxembourg, where there”s a playground, a pond where kids can rent miniature boats, a café, a marionette theater, and plenty of places to sit. If you think your children would like to see the bustle of a local market, try the one on rue Mouffetard. Ready for more? Walk to the Centre de la Mer et des Eaux, an aquarium nearby, then continue on foot or by bus to the Arènes de Lutèce, one of the few vestiges of the former Roman city. Not far on foot or by métro is the Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden with the state-of-the-art Grande Galerie d”Évolution, a museum exhibiting a collection of taxidermy of all kinds of animals. Also just a métro ride away in Montparnasse (métro Denfert-Rochereau) are the catacombs, dark tunnels filled with bones, which usually fascinate older kids.
Don”t try to see the Catacombs on Monday or the Grande Galerie d’Évolution on Tuesday, when they”re closed.
Take a walk through the Marais, stopping early on at the Musée Picasso and keeping your eyes peeled for storybook architectural details. Nearby, pick up a sandwich to eat on a bench on the place des Vosges. Next, head over to the Centre Pompidou; either see an exhibit (often there are special kids” programs related to the shows) or simply ride the escalator to the top for a great view of Paris. Around the corner, on square Igor-Stravinsky, watch the imaginative, moving sculptures in the fountain. Another option is to take the métro from the Châtelet-Les-Halles station to the Porte de La Villette stop; in the whimsical park of the same name are an interactive science museum, a museum of musical instruments, an IMAX theater, and various innovative structures to play on and in.
Because of closings, do this between Wednesday and Sunday: the Parc de La Villette is closed Monday and the Centre Pompidou and Musée Picasso Tuesday.
With Children in Hotels?
Most hotels in Paris allow children under a certain age to stay in their parents” room at no charge. Hotel rooms are often on the small side, so inquire about connecting rooms or suites.
The budget-priced Hôtel Marignan (13 rue Sommerand, Paris, 75005, France. PHONE: 01-43-54-63-81) has rooms that sleep four or five, as well as access to a communal laundry room and kitchen facilities. The Hôtel Résidence Henri IV (50 rue Bernadins, Paris, 75005, France.PHONE: 01-44-41-31-81) has rooms with kitchenettes.
The chain Novotel (PHONE: 800/221-4542 for reservations; 08-25-88-44-44 in France) is a good bet as it allows two children under 16 to stay free in their parents” room; kids are offered free breakfast and gifts. Many Novotel hotels have playgrounds and children”s corners with video games.
Renting a furnished apartment is a convenient choice for families. Weekly rentals can be as economical as an inexpensive hotel.
On the other end of the price spectrum, the palace hotels are increasingly attuned to travelers with children. Many have special activities geared to make kids feel welcome in the formal surroundings. The Four Seasons Hôtel George V Paris (31 av. George V, Paris, 75008, France. PHONE: 1-49-52-70-00, www.fourseasons.com/paris) has a “George the Frog” program which includes personalized T-shirts, in-room milk and cookies, and hotel-wide scavenger hunts. The Hôtel Meridien Montparnasse (19 rue de Commandant-Mouchotte, Paris, 75014, France. PHONE: 01-44-36-44-36, www.lemeridien.com) offers games, face painting, and a Sunday brunch where kids have their own buffet. The Ritz (15 pl. Vendôme, Paris, 75001, France. PHONE: 01-43-16-30-30, www.ritz.com) treats young guests like kings, with special cooking classes, gifts, and kids” menus.
With Children in Restaurants?
Although high chairsand coloring books aren”t standard except in overtly child-friendly chains such as Hippopotamus, which serves good steak-frites, some French restaurants can be warmly welcoming to budding gastronomes. You can help the experience by preparing the ground: Pack a folding booster seat for toddlers, since in the rare cases where high chairs are provided, they are usually missing pieces. Cigarette smoke is likely to be a problem, so ask for the no-smoking area.
Brasseries are one of the best choices for kids; they”re lively and noisy and provide familiar options, such as pommes frites (french fries), croque monsieurs (toasted ham-and-cheese sandwiches), and roast chicken. Creperies are also fun, fast, and quintessentially French: what child can resist a crepe filled with warm banana and smothered in chocolate sauce?