Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo has spent several summers in Paris with his three kids. We’ve asked Eric for his thoughts on how families can optimize their time in the City of Light.
Paris is one of our favorite destinations. It’s easy to get around, the food is among the best in the world, and there are an infinite number of things to do, with culture, art, shopping, parks, and monuments everywhere you go. The city can be just as fun for families as it is for couples, but a visit with kids requires extra planning or you’ll end up exhausted and stressed, with no one happy. Here are our top five tips for a better kid-oriented trip to Paris:
1) Stay Better
As with the rest of Europe, hotels were largely designed without families in mind. There are Parisian hotels with rooms that sleep four, and there are a few with connecting rooms, but it’s not easy to stumble upon them. Start your planning early (through a search on Travelocity) to get an optimal room setup in the neighborhood of your choice. We prefer the 7th arrondissement, with the Eiffel Tower and markets of Rue Cler, but everyone has a different opinion, and it’s hard to go wrong. Virtually anywhere you stay you’ll have access to the Metro, so don’t be afraid to stay slightly outside the city center to save money.
2) See the Museums Better
We love the museums of Paris, but when you’re with kids you don’t want to wait in long ticket lines at the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay and then spend hours walking around, searching for highlights via museum maps. Lines aren’t kid-friendly, nor are three-hour museum visits. For the major museums, it’s worth booking family-friendly tours in advance that let you skip the lines and take you to the major (and minor) exhibits that kids will find the most interesting. We’ve had excellent tours with Paris Muse (including a scavenger hunt through the Louvre) and Context Travel, but there are a lot of options. It’s well worth the cost.
We also enjoy visiting smaller museums, which can be less crowded and just as interesting as the big names. Two of our favorite small museums are the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature and the Musée Marmottan Monet. The Musée de la Chasse is fun and quirky for kids, with interactive animal-related displays in a setting straight out of a Wes Anderson film. The Monet Museum lets kids get close to amazing Impressionist art without the crowds. We’ve had both museums virtually to ourselves, even on rainy days.
3) Eat Better
Paris has amazing food, but don’t feel like you need to have three-hour meals at expensive restaurants to experience it. Our favorite thing to do is to visit the markets of Rue Cler or the farmer’s markets throughout the city (the Marché Biologique Raspail on Sundays is excellent), pick up an assortment of breads, meats, cheeses, fruit, tarts, and wine, and have a leisurely picnic lunch or dinner while the kids alternate between eating and playing. Every summer we end up at the Champs du Mars park at the Eiffel Tower at least half a dozen times for dinner—a primary reason we like to stay in the 7th arr. And picnics are a great way to save money.
Also, as with everywhere we travel, we try to fit in cooking classes. We loved learning to make macarons at Cook’n With Class in Montmartre, but you can find classes for baguettes, pastries, and really any element of French cooking throughout the city. Virtually any private cooking class can be kid-friendly—just be sure to mention the ages of your kids when you book.
4) Play Better
I don’t think any city has as many parks, playgrounds, and carousels as Paris. We’re constantly stumbling upon new places to play and returning to our favorites, including Luxembourg Garden and the Jardin d’Acclimatation. At Luxembourg, be sure to rent a small boat and sail it on the pond, go for a pony ride, play at the (very large and very fun) playground, and spear brass rings at the carousel. The Jardin d’Acclimatation is an old-school amusement park with rides, picnic areas, playgrounds, and a water area, perfect for a hot day. Both destinations can entertain your kids for the better part of a day without breaking the bank.
5) Explore Better
In Paris you can get around by walking or by taking the Métro. Do both. The Métro is great for traveling long distances and for giving legs a rest, but if you rely too much on the subway, you’ll miss out on seeing neighborhoods away from the major tourist areas and the transitions between arrondissements, with their parks, cafes, and shops. We like picking a destination in the morning or the night before, taking the Métro there, exploring the area, and then slowly walking back to our hotel or apartment, discovering new places along the way. Since we always stay near the Eiffel Tower and you can see the Tower from virtually everywhere in the city, it’s impossible to get lost! Even if you’re not staying near a major landmark you shouldn’t be afraid of wandering, since you’ll always be able to find a Métro line that can get you back to your hotel.
Do you have other great tips for seeing Paris with kids? Please comment below!
Eric Stoen is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnomads, visit travelocitygnomads.com.
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