France is full of activities, world-class museums and a wealth of outdoor activities, often well-tailored to appeal to kids of all ages. Take fun tours in the capital, a family bike ride through countryside, experience a local seasonal festival in the riviera, or explore the winter wonderlands of the Alps and Pyrenees mountains.
There is the opportunity to immerse the whole family in French culture with rural farm-stays and camping, and a world of opportunities for kids to test their tastebuds with iconic French favourites – freshly baked croissants and baguettes, boeuf bourguignon (beef stew), croque monsieur (ham and cheese toastie), and escargot (snails) or cuisses de grenouilles (frog legs) for the more adventurous.
Paris is alive with activities for kids – visit the Museum of Natural History and head to the Children’s Gallery for an interactive treasure hunt exhibition, take a chilling early morning tour of underground Les Catacombs, catch a puppet show and explore the playgrounds at Jardin du Luxembourg, take an eccentric tour of the sewers at the Musee des Egouts, have a picnic and experience the carnival games for young children at Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.
The Alpine resorts of both the French Alps and the Pyrenees region abound with adrenaline-filled activities – skiing, snowboarding, alpine walks during the winter and white water rafting, kayaking, paddle-boarding, rock-climbing, paragliding during all other seasons.
Family-friendly festivals run year-round throughout the French Riviera, notably the Nice Carnaval in February, local food and harvest festivals throughout September and October and charming Christmas markets throughout the Riviera and Provence. Nice is a top choice for kids who will enjoy gelato on the pebble beaches and exploring the historical sites of Old Town.
Corsica is home to idyllic beaches perfect for young children. Spend lazy days on the picturesque beaches, go snorkelling in the clear-blue waters, visit Europe’s largest tortoise and turtle sanctuary, sail, kayak and take a sailing trip around the ‘Island of Beauty’.
Generally speaking, the best time to visit France is in spring, April to June, or autumn, September to November. These periods are relatively uncrowded (excluding the French Easter holidays in April), and the weather is reasonably mild and pleasant in most parts of the country, particularly during spring.
Avoiding the French holidays is an important consideration as many French people choose to holiday in their own country – this encompasses mid-July to late August, as well as the Easter holidays which fall during April. The reason for this is that most businesses and parts of the country close down, except for the tourist industry itself – large crowds at popular sites and traffic on the roads are what’s to be expected during these periods.
October through March is the low season for travel through most parts of France. Accommodation and tourist site prices are approximately 50% lower during this period. Keep in mind when visiting more rural regions, that many hotels and restaurants may close for the duration of this low season. December to March is high season for ski resorts in the Jura Mountains and French Alps.
Young children will love the French food – baguettes and croissants are favourites. In Paris, take a picnic in one of the city’s beautiful parks – Jardin du Luxembourg and Parc des Buttes-Chaumont are top recommendations – children can watch a puppet show, spend time in the playgrounds and be entertained by carnival games.
Train is efficient and often the preferred way to travel around France. The national railway network SNCF is extensive with discounts that include children under four travel for free and children aged four to eleven travel for half price.
Car hire is also efficient, independent and can work out in some cases to be cheaper than train travel, depending on the route. It is a useful form of transport for visiting the more remote and rural areas of France. Car hire is usually cheaper when arranged online ahead of departure rather than walk-in rentals. The most important thing to be aware of is insurance and collision-damage waivers (CDW) – these vary greatly between companies and you can be liable for up to 100% of a car’s value without included purchase of CDW. Children under ten are not permitted to ride in the front seat and must use a front-facing child seat or booster. Children under 13kg must use a backward-facing child seat.
Bike rentals are available in most towns in France for approximately $20 to $25 per day. Most major cities have automated bike rental systems with access points around the city, where you provide credit card details and are charged by the hour. France is known for its cycling and most cities are very bike-friendly with bike paths in the major cities and many rural areas with networks of secondary roads for cyclists. Young children are permitted to be towed in a bike trailer.
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