Paris - just the name brings about associations of romance and splendor, but the city of lights is a wonderful destination for the whole family.
Below you'll find the best family attractions and activities in Paris, as well as family hotels and family specific guidebooks to help you further plan your dream family vacation in Paris.
All of these recommendations are based on our own experience which our kids are happy to share with other travelling kids. However, this is by no means a closed list. Paris has so much to offer that we weren't able to visit all the relevant attractions and tell about it. So to complete this guide and allow you to explore the family friendly attractions that's right for your family, I've collected recommendations from fellow family travel bloggers as well.
What's on right now - Summer 2012
- La Triennale Intense Proximite at the Palais de Tokyo recommended by the Tidepooler blog as a great place to spend a rainy afternoon. The colorful exhibition the exhibition runs until the end of August 2012.
- These are the most popular attractions in Paris right now - and no, Eiffel Tower is not at the top of the least, rather Notre Dame Cathedral..
Paris with kids - year round attractions
- Eiffel Tower - day or night this great symbol of Paris is very impressive. Buy your tickets online prior to your trip to avoid the constantly long lines (which are impossible with kids). Here is my daughter recommending a visit to the top of Paris.
- Pompidu Center - it's one of those museums where even kids that don't appreciate art will be delighted and amused by the displays. The outside fountain with mechanical sculptures is great fun as well.
- Notre Dame Cathedral - with its tall towers and river side location the Notre Dame is beautiful. Our kids were very impressed by the inside tour of the Cathedral. The playground behind the church was another plus. If you are already in this area stop for ice cream at Berthillon, located in the near by Ils San Louis region.
- The Catacombs - From AllOvertheMap.net came this recommendation for a spooky trip below the streets of Paris - a great attraction for rainy days. It’s spooky, musty and cold and it’s full of bones and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into an Edgar Allan Poe story. And that’s exactly why they loved it.
- EuroDisney - no family visit to Paris is complete without EuroDisney. Plan to spend a full day to enjoy what this theme park has to offer. Try to time your visit to mid week days in June or September to avoid crowds. If you arrive on a weekend, use the FastPass system to time your visit to the most popular attractions and avoid the long wait. Our favorite rides were Buzz Light Years and It's a small world.
- Chateau de Versailles - the famous castle of the last French kings is grand and beautiful. Located about 30 minutes drive from Paris it is accessible by train and is a day trip option from the city. The castle is open for self guided tours, making it ideal for families that can tour at their own pace. It is very crowded so try to arrive early to avoid the masses of tourists. Once you've toured the castle head out to the gardens - the kids will love running around, feeding the swans and taking a boat ride. You will all love to look around at the beautiful gardens.
- Museum of Decorative Arts - kids are often not great fans of museums but this museum is bound to win over the toughest cookie. The Toy Gallery at the museum features changing exhibits which are always colorful and fun for kids all ages. The rest of the museum offers unique exhibits of house hold items as seen through out the years.
- Luxembourg Gardens - after a day at the museum spend the afternoon at Luxembourg Gardens one of Paris' great green spaces. With beautiful flowers, a palace and a great playground you'll all have fun.
- Paris has plenty more playgrounds which offer a fun break between attractions. Family travel blogger, Along the Yellow Brick Road, recommends the playground at the Trocadero where you can bounce on the trampolines in the Jardin des Tulieres.
- Batobus - experience Paris from the river Seine as you cruise by the world known attractions. The boats sail the Seine frequently with several stops close to major tourists attractions in Paris. You can hop on and off each stop making it a very convenient and fun way to explore Paris. The kids loved spending time on the boat allowing us adults to take in the scenery in peace.
- Cite of Science - expect a full day of family fun with age specific hands on activities, endless galleries on every topic you can think of, 3D movies and more. Some activities are timed for entry so build your day around those.
- Jardin d'Acclimatation - the oldest theme park in Paris and perhaps in the world. It's location in a beautiful park only adds to its charm. It doesn't have thrill rides but it offers a charming locomotive train that runs through the forest to the park and beautiful carousels set in magnificent grounds.
- Parc Asterix - recommended by FamilyTravelScoop, Parc Asterix is located outside of the city. The kids will have fun exploring this park which is based on the Roman Empire, Greek Mythology and Paris in the Middle Ages. There are loads of rides and games to keep your family entertained for the whole day. If your kids read the Asterix comics books I'm sure they'll love the parc..
Popular attractions to avoid:
Paris is known for its world class art museum such as the Louvre or Museum de'Orsay. However, these popular tourist destinations tend to be very crowded. Visiting an art museum with small children is challenging enough without the crowds. From our experience it is best to skip these museums if you are traveling with small children or visit at a less crowded time of the day, such as afternoon before closing.
Paris is also known for its top notch restaurants. Sadly, these establishments are often not child friendly at all. Even the most behaved and well mannered child will not enjoy the restrictive environment and may not enjoy the food as well. If you do wish to try out these restaurants its best to do it over lunch when the atmosphere is more relaxed.
Where to stay:
As a family your best bet is staying at an apartment hotel. It's often cheaper than staying at regular hotels and offers much more space. Most apartment hotels offer in room kitchen facilities which also makes it easier when traveling with kids. Having stayed at the hotels below we can personally recommend them.
- In Paris:
- Residence Le Prince - offers great left bank location - walking distance to Notre Dame Cathetral and the river front. Great restaurants all around.
- Near EuroDisney:
Would love to hear your feedback - leave a comment if you can recommend family friendly hotels or attractions.
When traveling as a family you do not have time to plan while travelling. From our experience creating a detailed daily itenirary is a great help and makes your vacation smooth and worry free. Here are some family oriented guide books to further help you plan.