Mr Monkey does the Luxembourg Garden
Clive’s son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren will have about six days in and around Paris next week. They all adore Disney (at least two days, we’re told) and are also considering Versailles. For the times they stay inside the Périphérique, Paris’s ring road, they’ll have endless choices about what to see and do.
Since Paris with children has been on my mind lately, I thought I’d offer a quick list (developed over quite a few years) and some tips for anyone thinking about visiting Paris en famille. It’s a family-friendly and child-friendly city extraordinaire, metro stairs notwithstanding – take a collapsible stroller for the youngest ones.
As is so often the case with children, the key is to combine sightseeing activities with time for playing and eating, so everyone stays relaxed and has a great experience. I can’t think of a better place than Paris to do all three.
Here are a few of my favourites, by category and then combinations:
Sightseeing: Churches & Monuments
- Climbing famous landmarks: Eiffel Tower (and it sparkles after dusk for five minutes at the beginning of each hour); Notre Dame – stairs up to the top ‘walkway’ (or stay at ground level as I much prefer & take photos of your loved ones at the top); Arc de Triomphe
- Sainte-Chapelle – for older children, breathtaking upper level
- Sacré-Coeur – take funicular up & enjoy great free view at top
- all of Paris is a sensual sightseeing delight for children (and adults): the Seine alone provides terrific entertainment with many different kinds of boats flowing up and down. My son at toddler age also loved Paris’s garbage trucks and men in green jumpsuits with powerful hoses & plastic brooms; he later developed a youthful passion for watching and riding metros and became an avid Paris map-reader and metro-route-planner. I’m hoping Clive’s grandson(s) may also enjoy using Paris par Arrondissement and planning our metro routes.
Museums – basic strategy = go at opening, do one or two things and be done
Inside the Louvre Pyramid
- Louvre – Pyramid, escalator down, find Mona Lisa
- Marmottan – introduction to small museum & downstairs Monets
- Orangerie – even younger children appreciate the huge Monets
- Rodin – garden & sculpture garden behind the museum
- Pompidou – at least the escalator to view at top & back down to the fun Stravinsky Fountain
- Natural History (eg if kids into dinosaurs, which mine was not)
- Musée d’Orsay – for older children, interior & giant clocks, walk thru Impressionist galleries on top floor, café at end
- Special interest – Police museum (‘had’ to visit when my son was six), maybe this time les Poupées (dolls) and/or Magie (Magic)!?!
Parks & Gardens – Picnics
Cooling fountain at Place des Vosges
- Luxembourg Garden – a timeless favourite for all ages (photo at top of this post) – sailboats on the central basin & large play areas
- Trocadéro Gardens – sloping down past statues & fountains to the Eiffel Tower
- Champs de Mars – below the Tower – one adult can stay with youngest child/ren at play areas while older ones climb the Tower
- Place des Vosges in the Marais – stunning square with cooling fountains on a hot day
- Ranelagh Gardens – by Musée Marmottan – play area, an old-fashioned carousel & lawns for kicking a soccer ball
- Square Jean XXIII behind Notre Dame, Parc Monceau, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Jardin des Plantes, Jardin du Palais Royal and striped Buren columns, Square du Vert Galant (the triangular-shaped tip of Ile de la Cité with its flowers, benches & weeping willow tree) … and really anywhere! There are play areas ALL OVER Paris so it’s always easy to pause to let the kids run off some energy and the adults sit on a bench and rest, too.
Food & Cafes & Restaurants
Picnics are the way to go, though I also believe it’s good to introduce children to café-sitting and perhaps a meal or two in a bistro or brasserie. But for the most part, Paris offers a world-class banquet of goodies that children especially adore.
- any boulangerie or patisserie treats: row upon row of colourful sweet selections – macarons, chocolates, mini-tartes and quiches … Yum!
- baguette sandwiches of any kind, available everywhere; hotdog & cheese on baguette with an Orangina
- crêpes from a street stall (save Breizh Café for the parents) eaten in a park – ones made with Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread are always popular
- hot chocolate at Angelina
- ice cream from anywhere – parents may appreciate Berthillon on Ile St-Louis or Pozzetto in the Marais
Shops & Department Stores
- Monoprix – all over Paris – fun to browse and reasonable prices
- BHV – stationery section, café with views at top (parents can venture into epic basement DIY section, if interested)
- papeteries – one of the BEST kinds of Paris shops – many to choose from & aisles of colourful notebooks, writing pads, markers and all manner of stationery treasures
- Paris is a walking city – just about anywhere you go offers something interesting to see or do or eat
- Les Berges de Seine – looking forward to showing Clive’s family the restored Seine riverbanks, especially between Place de la Concorde and Pont d’Alma – and seeing if the kids enjoy the climbing walls, play areas & floating garden
- the quais of the Seine – past booksellers in the city centre, along Quai d’Australie (and the Aussie Embassy) between the Eiffel Tower and Bir Hakeim – anywhere!
Combinations / Locations – a few favourites
One of many fanciful rotating objects in the Stravinsky Fountain, Pompidou Centre
- Orangerie, then play in Tuileries, hot chocolate at Angelina, walk back to Place de la Concorde
- Notre Dame, play in park behind it, then bridge over to Ile St-Louis, ice cream at Berthillon and/or picnic down by the riverbank
- Notre Dame, cross Pont d’Arcole, play in Square Viviani by Shakespeare & Co, walk through St. Germain
- Luxembourg Garden, walk up Blvd. St-Michel & across Pont St-Michel to Notre Dame and/or Sainte-Chapelle
- Musée Marmottan, then play in Ranelagh Garden, walk down rue de Passy to Trocadéro & view of Eiffel Tower
- Eiffel Tower, then play in Champs de Mars
- Louvre, then Pont Neuf, down to Square du Vert Galant – or Pont des Arts over to rue de Seine
- Pompidou Centre & Stravinsky Fountain, walk in Marais & play/picnic in Place des Vosges
- Arc de Triomphe, walk down Champs Elysées, play in Champs Elysées garden (or in high summer or winter months, continue to Place de la Concorde and ride the grand Ferris Wheel)
- Musée d’Orsay – escalators up to Impressionist galleries, views thru giant clocks, cold drink or snack in café at end, then picnic & play in Tuileries
Whatever Your Interests
The opportunities to have an amazing family time in Paris are, truly, endless. So much about making the trip memorable depends on the children’s – and parents’! – interests. Whatever they may be, the City of Light will deliver, and more.
Arc de Triomphe & the Champs Elysées
Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Paris.