June 4, 2015

10 Things to See in Paris with Children

Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Paris, France with my mother and daughter. Three generations together in Europe for a week of sightseeing and fun. We’d been planning it for almost a year and we could’ve pinched ourselves we were so excited when the trip actually came to be.

For this trip I thought I’d write a few posts about things we did and saw in specific categories like sightseeing, shopping, etc. Traveling with three generations, the youngest being 7 years old, meant strategizing on everything from meal times, to playground breaks, and museum waits. It all worked out well and we had a marvelous time. Hopefully my recaps, as well as a few tips, will help you on your future trip to Paris, as well!

Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

Paris is a very kid-friendly city. Never once were we scorned for bringing a child into a restaurant, shop, or museum. My daughter was well behaved but she is still a child at the end of the day. We focused on places she could chat, walk, observe, and eat without fear of being scolded. It wasn’t hard at all. Since she is still young and just learning about art and cultures we stuck to smaller, more manageable museums and sights. (I’ll save the Mona Lisa for another time!) Each day we picked one thing to make a big impression and then moved on to a meal and playground break. We also purchased the Paris Pass before we left and that helped immensely with museum entries. The lines were still long, but they went faster since we’d pre-purchased our tickets. Here are 10 cultural sights we saw, and loved, and I’d highly recommend to anyone to traveling to Paris with a child, or without:

Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

1) Musée de l’Orangerie: This is a tiny museum located at a corner of the Tuileries next to the Place Vendôme. We first tried to go on Sunday afternoon but the entry line with the Paris Pass was too long. This was because the museum is so small and they only let so many people in at a time. Plus, as with every museum now, there is a metal detector and security like an airport, which slows down lines. The second time we went we arrived at 9am on a weekday and it was perfect. We walked right in and spent ample time enjoying Monet’s Water Lilies. Downstairs we found more impressionists and were easily able to navigate the bright space without my daughter getting bored or overwrought by long walks or stair climbing.

Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

2) Tuileries Garden: I mentioned playground breaks above because we made at least one or two each day. Letting kids run around is, I think, an essential part of traveling with them. After a morning museum visit my daughter relished the chance to race around with other kids. Even though there was a language barrier she seemed to have no trouble making new friends! Play really is a universal language. The Tuileries had a really cool playground, trampoline park(!), and pond for sailing toy boats. The toy boats, we think, only come out on the weekends and they were so much fun. For 3 Euros my daughter pushed one around a fountain pond for 30 minutes while my Mom rest in the sun. Naturally, after each playground romp we went to find an ice cream cone. (More on the French ice cream in another post!)

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Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

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Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

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3) Palace of Versailles: My daughter has declared this her favorite sight of the trip. What’s not to love about seeing a grand palace once occupied by royalty?! No Disney here! Getting to Versailles was a snap on the Metro. We arrived at 9am as the gates opened and the entry line only took 15 minutes. Our Paris Pass ensured that we were ushered right in (through security and metal detectors, of course) and the walk through the palace was easy and fascinating. I gave my daughter my iPhone to use for photos and she’d taken approximately 438 by the time we were done. There were 10 shots alone of the “secret” door Marie Antoinette used to flee the angry mob on October 6, 1789. The gardens were just being planted when we were there so we didn’t get to see them in all their glory, but the views of the grounds were breathtaking.

Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

4) Musée d’Orsay: This gorgeous museum is filled with beautiful impressionists and more. Though we arrived at opening time we still had to wait in line for 45 minutes, which was difficult for my daughter. The security line took forever (!!!) Thankfully she occupied herself with a sketchpad while we waited. The wait was worth it once we were inside and strolling the upstairs corridors observing Van Gogh and Renoir. My daughter’s favorite was Degas’ little dancer sculpture. She circled the podium twice marveling at the real fabric skirt and the ribbon in her hair.

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Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

5) Luxembourg Gardens: These gardens were probably our favorite of all in Paris. My mother and I marveled at the endless pots of pink geraniums and public art, while my daughter loved the kid-friendly parts of it. There is an action packed playground nestled in one corner amongst the trees. There is a nominal charge to get in and my daughter adored the cool equipment which included a zip line-type apparatus. We also loved the toy boat action in the grand pond. Not only was it bigger than the pond at Tuileries, it also featured a duck house. Each boat was named for a country and we sailed for Greece!

Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

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Kids in Paris | The Naptime Cehf

6) Eiffel Tower: My daughter anticipated visiting the Eiffel Tower since the moment she learned of this trip. She couldn’t wait to see the whole thing front and center for herself. Since we stayed right near it we were able to walk through Eiffel park at least once, sometimes twice, a day! Bliss! The view of it never grew old. The only bummer was that the lines were insanely long. I figured out that I should reserve tickets in advance too late before our trip so we had to wait for tickets with the masses. Once we finally got in the elevator my daughter was a little grouchy, but that was quickly forgotten when we got the observation deck. From there we admired the views and took lots of photos.

Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

7) Musée National Picasso: This museum was a real favorite of everyone’s. It is located in the Marais district in a sweet old hotel. (And the Marais district, omg I love it…more on that soon!) We purchased tickets online for a specific entry time and downloaded them to my phone, which worked beautifully. No waiting at all! The museum has a calm even flow, which makes it great for kids. There is no crowded main room with people clamoring to take in lots of art at once. Instead, you roam the hotel freely and find sculptures, paintings, and more tucked into corners, hallways, and even staircases. This made it easy to gain a well-rounded view of Picasso’s life and work without feeling like you are being forced to march on a specific route. My daughter didn’t know much about Picasso and really enjoyed his animal sculptures and the way he shaped human heads out of found objects. Since our visit we’ve talked about him more and I can see that the museum made an impression.

Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

Paris wtih Children | The Naptime Chef

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8) Place des Vosge: My mother knew of this little gem since she’d been on a trip a few years ago. The play area is small but fun, and it was the perfect hang out in the Marais district after our visit to the Picasso Museum. Plus, there is an Amorino ice cream shop right around the corner!

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Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

9) Notre Dame Cathedral: We visited the cathedral on Sunday morning during Mass. At first I was a little wary of walking a kid around during the sermon, but she was very quiet and calm and focused on all of the fun details surrounding her. The best parts about the cathedral for kids are the scale models of the cathedral while it was being built. It is a great way to give a child perspective of the enormity of the project and to see how grand buildings were built before there were such things as power tools and modern technology. She also loved the Rose window and the intricate stained glass.

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Paris with Children | The Naptime Chef

10) Musée Rodin: This fun museum was perfect for an afternoon visit. We spent most of the time roaming the outdoor sculpture garden. My daughter was thrilled to meet “Mr. Thinker” as she knows him from a popular movie she watches. We enjoyed the calm, sweet garden in which to admire the art.

Bonus) The Metro: Obviously the Parisian transit system is not historical, but it was a great way to get around the city. Many trains travel above ground so it also turned out to be a good way for my daughter to see the city and get accustomed to navigating the Metro map. We had subway passes for the entire week and we used them non-stop. It was much easier than taking taxis and the system is very kid-friendly. Be forewarned, however, there are plenty of stairs so it might be more difficult with a stroller.

There are many, many more cultural sights to see in Paris in addition to the ones I listed above. But we found these places to be perfect for our traveling trio. I am sure my daughter will have the chance to visit Paris again in her lifetime so she can add to this list. Until then, this trip was a great way to introduce her to the city of lights.

Stay tuned for more about our trip next week!

References I loved for our trip: The Little Bookroom Guide to Paris with Children: Play, Eat  , Shop, Stay, City Walks with Kids: Paris Adventures on Foot, Paris en Famille