I spent a considerable amount of time in Paris in my 20’s and loved it. But I hesitated to do Paris with kids.
I thought the things I enjoyed about the city might not have the same appeal to my 13 and nine-year-old children.
I was wrong.
Several weeks into our European adventure, my husband and I relished the opportunity to relax and let the kids take control of the itinerary. Turns out, the bucket list items in Paris transcend generational barriers.
Finding your way
Paris has the standard traffic troubles of every major metropolis. This is a sprawling capital. Public transport is the way to go.
Each Paris metro stop has a handy map outside. Use it to work out where you are and what’s around you. No matter which arrondissement (meaning ‘suburb’ or ‘zone’) you find yourself in, there is always something interesting to see within easy walking distance.
I forgot just how beautiful and impressive Notre Dame is.
The cathedral is colossal. It’s gothic carvings breathtaking. Notre Dame is free to enter. The queue moves quickly. Inside we learnt about the building’s construction. Our children gave a coin donation to the nuns who worked with the poor. The photos we took just don’t do the building justice.
After a quick lunch in the Latin-quarter, we walked along the Seine and came across Paris’ famous padlock bridge. The padlocks are attached to the bridge and signed with the names of lovers who hope to stay together. Every now and then, the authorities remove the locks so they don’t compromise the structural integrity of the bridge.
The bride takes you right up to the back entranced to the Louvre. If you’re travelling to Paris with kids the Louve must be on your list. It is one of the most famous museums in the world and home to the Mona Lisa.
You’d be hard pressed to get in without having to line up. But the wait is worth it. Inside you will find a breathtaking collection of the world’s most famous art. Music fans might even recognise spots from Beyonce’s music video.
We recommend carving off a good few hours to explore the Louvre with kids. Make sure you snap a few photos of the stunning glass pyramid at the entrance.
The Tuileries garden forms an avenue of sculptures, ponds and perfectly-kept greenery between the Louvre Museum and the Place de la Concorde.
Parisians relax on sun-chairs around the pond. These chairs are free to use. In the middle, the bustling city, these gardens house a true sense of joy and love. Perhaps a little too much as my daughter was a little grossed-out by the couples smooching on benches. But Paris is the city of love and the French aren’t afraid to show their passion.
Place de la Concorde
The Place de la Concorde is the largest public square in Paris. It separates the Tuileries Garden from the Champs-Elysées. My husband and I marvelled at the size of the Luxor Obelisk monuThet. THe kids marvelled at the strange headlights on an old 2CV classic French car.
Shopping & fast cars
My children love shopping. Sports shops are their favourite. Euros were burning a hole in their pockets as they walked past Paris shop windows. It was low season when we travelled to Paris with kids. Many of the shops had sales. So we took them for a treat. My 13-year-old son shot hoops in the indoor basket ball area in the Nike shop. My daughter tried on lots of shoes. But of course, you can’t shop in Paris without taking a stroll down the Champs-Elysées. This famous Paris street is lined with expensive cars. The kids were impressed.
The Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomph stands directly in line with the Louvre, one at each end of the Champs-Elysées. In the distance is the new modern arch, La Defence.
Our top tip is to avoid visiting the Arc de Tripmphe in rush hour. The famous French monument is set in the middle of a very busy roundabout. Traffic is crazy. And fun to watch.
The kids were determined to climb to the top. We jumped in the queue and waited around an hour for a view that was undoubtedly worth it. The sun was setting as we hit the top. It created the perfect lighting to capture Paris’ stunning sunset, with the Eiffel Tower peeping out in the distance.
The Eiffel Tower
It’s not too far to walk from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower.
We hoped to capture the perfect night photo of the enormous bundle of steel. After navigating the crowds and numerous street vendors selling mini Eiffel tower souvenirs, we got the money shot. The kids look like they are picking the Eiffel tower up in their fingers.
Friends had told us to visit mid-week at not school holiday time. This time was correct. We came back the next day to visit the Eiffel tower and found a fast-moving queue to the top.
The kids were stunned by the notorious strong winds at the summit. We stopped off on level one for a hot drink and a view of the city.
One of the best things we did in Paris was to book a 24-hour jump-on, jump-off boat ticket. The boat stops along the seine at the main tourist sites. It was a great way to relax under cover and take in the beautiful architecture of Paris. The kids enjoyed not having to walk so much and it also gave us another perspective of the city. It was interesting to see so many large working barges still using the river amongst all the tourist boats.
While most of Paris’s must-see attractions involve waiting in a queue, it is for good reason. Millions of tourists flock to the city of love every year to admire its iconic architecture, stylish shopping opportunities and sophisticated yet welcoming city-vibes. It truly is a mandatory, if not highly-recommended stop on any European family holiday.