10 Things to Do With Kids in Paris

If you’ve gotten a response via email from someone else, it may have been from Emily, who has been helping me keep up with things on the blog, including all the newfangled tech stuff that eludes me. Emily is married, with children, and lives in Paris. Because I get a number of requests about kid-friendly activities in Paris, I asked her to offer up with her 10 favorite things to do with kids in Paris, including bonus tips on dining out with the little ones.

-David


10 Fun Things to Do with Kids in Paris 

With an 11-year-old daughter and a new 6-month-old son, I was worried that I would have a hard time finding activities to suit the whole family.  Happily, while Parisiens have a reputation for indifference, they delight in babies. French people (almost) universally love babies, so they are welcome nearly everywhere in Paris. Below is a list of activities that we have enjoyed recently together as a family, and I hope you will enjoy them too.  

(Words to the wise: While Paris is baby-friendly, the city streets, sidewalks, and compact cafés aren’t always stroller friendly. When in doubt, check the website or call before you go.)

1. Jardin du Luxembourg

The Jardin du Luxembourg is a treasure, with so many things to discover.  At first glance there is the obvious: a newly renovated playground, swings, a carousel and the round pond where you can rent a classic model sailboat.  If you look a little closer you will find a theatre with a daily puppet show, balloon sellers, a fairy floss stand, pony rides and a place to feed ducks in the shade at La Fontaine Médicis. There are hidden beehives (the honey is exclusively sold one day per year), a pétanque terrain where you can watch older men battle it out daily and even a miniature statue of Liberty hidden in the greenery. You can also enjoy lunch outside while the kids explore at La Table du Luxembourg.

As with most French parks the grass is for looking only. However during the summer, they open up one large patch for picnics. Right across the road is the often-overlooked “Petit Luxembourg” where you can kick a ball around, use the ping pong tables and jungle gyms, and sit anywhere you want, including on the grass.

2. Louvre in winter

In winter, when it is too cold to spend long stretches outside, it can be hard to find somewhere for kids to run off all their excess energy.  An unconventional choice that we have tried and tested is the Louvre. With miles of cavernous hallways, it is a warm, and more importantly dry, place that is stroller friendly and (as long as you keep an eye on them) great for littles to practice their toddling skills.  They also run ateliers for children of various ages all year round, which range from painting sessions to treasure hunts.

As culture is such an important part of children’s education in France, expect to be welcomed by the locals.  Any side-eye you receive will be from tourists.   

3. Jardin d’Acclimatation

The Jardin d’Acclimatation, in the Bois de Boulogne, has recently been renovated and is better than ever.  Set in the shadow of the Frank Gehry designed Fondation Louis Vuitton, kids can run through fountains, enjoy the rides, indulge in sugary treats, be amazed by the peacocks wandering about on their own schedule, bounce on trampolines, or go down the classic swing and slide route. Arrive by the Small Train, which leaves from Porte Maillot and takes you through the Bois de Boulogne before dropping you off inside the Jardin. This is not only a fun novelty, but a good way to skip the lines at the main entrance, which can be long (you can also book tickets online, in advance).

4. Seine River Cruise

A completely touristy pursuit, the long, flat, boats that cruise up and down the Seine are wonderful for children and adults alike. In nice weather, sit on the roof terrace of these boats and alternatively wave to strangers as the boats drift past and daydream about owning one of the impressive apartments overlooking the river.  It is the perfect way to see many of Paris’ famous landmarks, including a unique view of the Eiffel tower.

With departures every 30-40 minutes (depending on the season) you can either buy tickets upon arrival, or with various companies online here, here, here or here.

5. Centre Georges Pompidou

It is hard to miss this controversial building, located on the edge of the Marais, and since its completion in 1977, it has become one of the most visited monuments in France.  They have a wide range of cultural activities for children ages 2 and up; specially devised programs for children to enjoy the major temporary exhibitions, a Kid’s Gallery (interactive workshop-exhibitions devised by contemporary artists) and a Kid’s Studio (programs designed to develop small children’s awareness of art and creation). For teenagers there is Studio 13/16, an open space with free programs dedicated to 13- to 16-year olds.  There is a mix of free and ticketed events and further information can be found in English on their website.

6. Escape game

Escape games are growing in popularity all over the world, but in Paris you have the opportunity to discover one with a unique twist.  Set inside the famous Palais Garnier, immerse your family in the chase to lift the curse of the Phantom of the Opera.  Participants are free to roam around this spectacular monument, visiting the Grand Escalier, the Avant-Foyer, the Grand Foyer, the Galerie du Glacier, the Salon du Glacier, and The Phantom of the Opera’s box while guided through the process by actors in period costumes.

Available to all ages but I suggest calling in advance if you want to take the little ones.

7. Patinoire

In winter, a selection of ice-skating rinks open up all over Paris.  Our favorite is the “Largest ice rink in the world” inside the Grand Palais. During the day you can enjoy the light of Paris through the famous glass roof, and at night enjoy the disco lights, giant mirror balls, and a DJ.

There is a space dedicated entirely to children, so little ones can learn to skate in safety and in a relaxed environment. Follow up the hard work with a choice of gaufres (waffles), crêpes, un hot-dog (a hot dog) and of course, a cup of chocolat chaud (hot chocolate).

8. Lunch in the Eiffel Tower

For the quintessential Paris experience to remember, lunch in the Eiffel Tower is it. Restaurant 58 offers a 3-course set menu with a beverage; €41 for adults, €17 for kids under 12. (Price subject to change.) The lunch service is tailored to families so expect charming service without any stuffy-ness. Follow up lunch with a visit to the glass floor. (The restaurant is planning renovations from September but will be open again early 2020.)

9. Atelier des Lumières 

The Atelier des Lumières opened in 2018 after 4 years of renovations to the disused foundry space, and what they have created is simply magical. An animated journey through the life of an artist and their work (currently Vincent Van Gogh), is projected on to all the surfaces of the space, accompanied by a moving soundtrack. A simple premise but a captivating experience and bonus, it is air-conditioned. The perfect place to sit and enjoy a beautiful, calm moment together with the kids.

Tickets can ONLY be booked in advance online, you cannot buy tickets on arrival. Strollers are not allowed.  

10. Jardin des Plantes

The perfect place to let kids run around in a beautiful setting, the Jardin des Plantes is so much more than just a botanical garden.  There is a small zoo, greenhouses, and a series of temporary exhibitions.  The permanent collection includes a children’s gallery, the gallery of paleontology and comparative anatomy, mineralogy and geology gallery, and the impressive gallery of evolution.  The gallery of evolution will have everyone astounded, from the blue whale skeleton to the life-size savanna caravan, and the hall itself is a masterpiece surrounded by 3 balconies under a 1000 m² glass roof.

Summer Bonus: Seine River Path

Along the Seine path from Pont d’Iéna to Pont des Arts there is a series of activities for children, including the Little Adventurers Trail with a very popular climbing wall and 20-meter-long slate wall to decorate (just an FYI, that it’s B.Y.O. chalk).  In summer there are also bars, restaurants and ice-cream trucks catering to the whole family along long stretches of the river, including the famous Paris-Plages. Important to note that while most of the path is well paved, certain stretches are still in ancient cobblestones which can be tricky for prams or strollers. 

Eating Out with Kids in Paris

Eating en famille (with family) is an important part of the French culture and, with the exception of a few very high-end places, kids are very welcome in restaurants in Paris. That said, French people do expect kids to be well behaved, but are understanding when things go wrong if they can see you are doing your best. Kids here are brought up to participate without being the center of attention or be “entertained,” so crayons and activity packs sometimes appear as a nice bonus, but are not standard. No one will judge you if you resort to electronics, but screens without headphones will not be tolerated!

Kids menus tend to have the same items wherever you go (spaghetti bolognaise, hamburger or beef patty with French fries, chicken and frites, etc, a scoop of ice-cream) but should your children wish to try out some new flavors, many places will make anything from the adult’s menu in a smaller portion or let you share plates between the family.

Eating at the earlier sitting (midday for lunch and 7pm or earlier for dinner) will allow you more space and give you time to settle in before the restaurant gets full. Most places will happily accommodate strollers, provide high chairs and warm bottles for you. Note that changing tables are not guaranteed and rarely provided, so plan accordingly. 

[Photo credits in this post to Emily Gaudichon.]

Bringing the kids to Paris? Here\'s list of ten fun places to take them, written by a local.

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33 comments

  • Sbz
    August 26, 2019 2:46pm

    If you have magic-loving kids, don’t miss the Musée de la Maggie, in the Marais. It is small and open only a few times a week, but my son loved it. The Seine River bank thing was not as big of a hit. Reply

  • Sbz
    August 26, 2019 2:47pm

    Also, the area by the pyramids at the Louvre was happening every night – we watched the Eiffel Tower light show from there, and it was a very festive atmosphere. Reply

  • Barbara Young
    August 26, 2019 3:32pm

    We had a wonderful time at the Museum of Fairground Arts (Musée des Arts Forains). http://arts-forains.com/en/visitors Reply

  • Swarup Bandyopadhyay
    August 26, 2019 4:20pm

    thank you! we’re planning a trip to paris next year and this will be very helpful!! Reply

  • Andreas
    August 26, 2019 4:28pm

    For French speaking kids, the Musée en Herbe is great. They offer arts « ateliers » where the future masters make their own art in the style of a known master, frequently one with an ongoing exhibition. Reply

    • Jmh
      August 26, 2019 10:38pm

      My 7-year-old son loved these. He has been in a bilingual French-English school in the US for 2 years and was excited to be able to understand the instructor and other kids.

      Chez Hé is a great restaurant with a play area to visit with kids. Super Cafe was good too. Reply

  • Susan R. Kelley
    August 26, 2019 5:53pm

    These all sound like things I would like to do as well. However, since I am in my 80’s I would walk rather than run. Love this blog! Reply

  • Judy Fujimoto
    August 26, 2019 6:09pm

    Thanks for this helpful information.
    David, is there a source for child-friendly restaurants in Paris. We are thinking of traveling with our grandchildren to Paris (9 & 6 years)? Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      August 27, 2019 8:54am

      Hi Judy, your grandchildren will be welcome everywhere, but maybe avoid the michelin star places on this trip. The French don’t really offer child-friendly places as they assume you can just take them everywhere. Try to pick restaurants with a bit more space as some can have the tables packed quite tightly together. Eating earlier will allow you more space and more dedicated service. The Bonpoint Cafe in rue de Tournon, set in the garden of a beautiful kids clothing store is especially welcoming. Also there are many crêpe and ice-cream stands around so you can always pick one up, sit in the closest park and let your grandchildren have a little run around. I hope you have a great trip. Emily Reply

  • jaen
    August 26, 2019 7:02pm

    What a fantastic activity list! Thanks! Reply

  • Xiaofan Sun
    August 26, 2019 7:44pm

    The list might be more suitable for smaller kids (or girls). We took our two teen boys to Musée des égouts de Paris, Musée des Arts et Métiers and, the Catacombs(!) and they loved them all. Reply

  • violette kogut
    August 26, 2019 8:18pm

    et les buttes chaumont, la passerelle la grotte et le manège avec le marhand de glace;
    le musée de la sciences c’est formidable Reply

  • Sharon
    August 26, 2019 8:30pm

    Wow have things changed! When I was in Paris with my 5 year old daughter 35 years ago, I did not feel that the French loved babies or children. I took her to an unfunny restaurant very early evening and definitely felt unwelcome even though there was no one in the restaurant. So from then on we did charcuterie in our room. We did enjoy the parcs however, and especially sailing the little boats. I felt like I had to protect her on the sidewalks however. Her head was purse level, and the locals did not seem to care if they clocked her in the head. This is not to say that either of us do not like Paris–we’ve been numerous times. Reply

  • margaret gault
    August 26, 2019 8:38pm

    Thanks, Emily, for a great list. Perhaps you should think of a blog of your own. Reply

  • Mary Nelson
    August 26, 2019 9:48pm

    My kids loves:
    Berthillion Ice Cream
    Rodin Gardens
    Feeding birds and squirrels every morning w/ leftover bread from breakfast
    BHV toy and art dept
    Sketching in all the great museums…museum officials are VERY accommodating and the kids’ sketches were delightful scrapbook additions..esp when paired with a postcard of their subject! Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      August 27, 2019 9:00am

      Hi Mary, the BHV toy department is definitely a winner and the idea of sketching paired with the postcards is one I will try, thank you. Reply

  • Kate Turner
    August 26, 2019 10:28pm

    When my children were young, we read the Linnea in Monet’s Garden and did everything in the book. We stayed in the Hotel Esmeralda (right behind Shakespeare’s Books and across from Notre Dame), then went to Monet’s house and gardens in Giverney. It was a lovely trip for a summer visit. During the winter months, the Jardin de Luxemburg (including hot chocolate at Angelina) is always good. If the roller skating nights are still happening, it’s fun to watch even if you’re not a a participant. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      August 27, 2019 8:58am

      The roller skating nights do still happen and are such a nice surprise. Sounds like you had a fantastic trip! Reply

  • Lenita Firth
    August 26, 2019 11:08pm

    What a great list! We no longer have young kids or grandkids, but there are wonderful ideas for us oldies visiting (again) of things we’ve not done before. Thank you. Reply

  • Anne E
    August 26, 2019 11:52pm

    Thank you for this exceptional resource. Our kids are grown, and sadly there are no grandchildren, but if we ever get back to Paris, I will keep this list as reference. Reply

  • August 27, 2019 1:12am

    My daughter enjoyed the 3 teddy bears enjoying café life next to the Luxembourg last week!

    A few more:

    – la France Miniature in Élancourt is a nice park with scale models a hundred or so of France’s most notable monuments. Budget about 2 hours

    – Aquaboulevard near Porte de Versailles is a great way to fight the heat, with all sorts of swimming pools, slides and other aquatic pursuits Reply

    • Dena
      August 27, 2019 2:38pm

      Thank you! I have missed both of these in the past, on the list for our spring visit! Reply

  • Dena
    August 27, 2019 2:37pm

    Yes to 3, 5 & 10! So often overlooked. Yes to the cotton candy at the Tuileries fair too! The summer and holiday fair at the Tuileries is spot on, so much better then an American fair. Retro Tour with kids is incredible. The 69 bus is a great way for kids to see the city and get a real feel, not a tourist approach. A bakery class for sure (as simple as Viator or something more sophisticated). The Musee de la Magie is AMAZING for adults of children alike. A brief 1.5 hours is enough-but you are transported. There are endless options….the French are so good to children….it is an incredible way to experience the city! (I did not know their was cotton candy in Luxembourg Gardens…did that candy in the post photo come from the Tuileries Garden?!? Reply

  • Julia
    August 27, 2019 8:09pm

    We loved Parc Monceau with a four year old and two year old – you can picnic on the grass in some parts of the park, and there is a lovely carousel. Reply

  • August 28, 2019 2:52am

    I was surprised to find Paris a very child-centric town unlike NYC. Every month there are fetes going on. Check out http://www.sortiraPAris.com http://www.evous.fr In March the 5-day Agriculture salon is fabulous. The chocolate salon in November too. Both are at Porte de Versailles. Love the photos. Reply

  • Paulette
    August 28, 2019 10:53am

    Charming, Emily. The pictures are lovely too. Reply

  • Becky Mobley
    August 28, 2019 9:37pm

    My Grandson and I did a bicycle city tour. We also took one to Versailles – great way to get around the Palace and tour guides helped us shop for picnic lunch in town so we could picnic in the garden. Reply

  • witloof
    August 29, 2019 2:10am

    I was in Paris on Sunday and decided to take a break in a little park on Rue du Vielle Temple, near Rue des Rosiers. I was delighted and impressed to see two couples sitting at a picnic table eating a formal meal, complete with lighted candles in an elaborate candelabra, while their children ran and played in the park {it was enclosed by a fence and gate}. When the kids decided they were ready to eat, they sat down with the growups and were served. What a lovely way to spend the afternoon! Reply

    • Margaret
      August 29, 2019 4:52am

      That sounds amazing! Was the candelabra hanging from a tree over the picnic table? Reply

  • August 29, 2019 8:30am

    How about the Fête de la Petite Ceinture all around Paris on August 31st? I just discovered this ‘secret’ train line that has been newly restored as cultural and green spaces. Looks like fun for all ages! Reply

  • Chef_Deb
    August 29, 2019 7:52pm

    Thank you!! I look forward to visiting with my grandson soon and my daughter will appreciate all this info too. Reply

  • Megan
    September 4, 2019 4:31pm

    We visited Paris last June and I found Parisians so absolutely lovely – especially towards our kids (7 & 4 at the time). In fact, they can’t wait to go back and are begging us to take them again this upcoming summer. The biggest hits were definitely the Louvre & Versailles (not in Paris, I know), but we didn’t manage to even hit half of your list, so it looks like we need to go back and for even longer this time. ;-) Reply

  • Monica
    September 7, 2019 1:35am

    Perfect. I just booked our first trip to Paris with kids for next June. Love the list. I am actually thinking about doing river cruise lunch/dinner with kids. Reply

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