In 2011, my wife nearly dragged me to the plane that would take us for the first time to Paris. Up until then and for no particular reason, I was never particularly interested in French culture or anything French for that matter. As a teenager, I often listened to French pop music (Les Ritas Mitsouko to be exact, but don’t tell anyone, ok?), but that was my one and only French connection.
However, our first visit to Paris changed it all forever, and four years later, I am the family’s second biggest fan of the French capital. Who’s the biggest? Our daughter! Kids just love Paris and who can blame them? I mean, where else in the world can you find bakeries selling mouthwatering pain au chocolat and freshly baked croissant, with the same density as in Paris? But enough with why I love Paris…
After spending a week in the French capital with our daughter last February, I came up with the following mini guide to “Paris for kids”.
A mini guide to Paris for kids
1. Spot the puma at Parc Zoologique de Paris
After a massive renovation project that lasted six years and costed approximately 167 million euros, Parc Zoologique de Paris opened its doors again to the public in April 2014. Parc Zoologique was completely redesigned focusing on the protection of endangered species and raising visitor awareness on the importance of protecting the environment. I have to admit that although I am not a big fan of zoos, I was literally knocked off my feet by Parc Zoologique and the wealth of information provided to its young visitors.
The zoo is divided in five zones that reconstitute the ecosystem of five geographical areas of our planet: Patagonia, Sahel-Sudan, Europe, Guyana and Madagascar. 1.000 animals, 180 species, 2 restaurants, 2 crepe kiosks, and a great shop/library will keep your kids happily occupied for at least half a day.
To get there: Take metro line no 8 (direction Pointe du Lac) and get off at Porte Dorée. From there it’s 10 minutes walk to the entrance of the zoo. Entrance fee: adults 23 €, children (12-17) 17,50 €, and children (3-11) 15 €.
2. River cruise on Batobus
Who doesn’t like boat cruises? Me! But I am always the grumpy one, so my opinion doesn’t really count. Boat cruises are actually great fun! Especially in mega-cities like Paris, it’s an effective and relaxing way to see all the main attractions without risking being stepped over by a group of Chinese tourists too busy looking at their mobile phone at the other end of their selfie stick.
Batobus operates hop-on hop-off base, and stops at the Eiffel Tower, Musée d´Orsay, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Notre Dame, Jardin des Plantes, Hôtel de Ville and the Louvre. A day-pass costs 16€ (free for children under 3, 7€ for children under 16). You might want to buy the 2-day-pass, which actually costs only 2€ more. Good deal!
3. Shopping at Antoine & Lili’s
Sightseeing is nice and educational, but who wouldn’t fancy a short shopping break? The owners of Antoine & Lili’s toy store by Canal Saint-Martin (10th arrondissement) have succeeded in creating a kid’s fantasy world, where the youngsters will go “whoa! cool!”, parents will feel nostalgic, and their credit cards will let a deep sigh.
When you are done with shopping, don’t forget to take a stroll along the waterway and into the labyrinth of narrow alleys and streets. You will find all sorts of quirky little shops and trendy restaurants to choose from.
4. Enjoy the sun at Jardin du Luxembourg
When the sun is shining, I cannot think of a better place to take the kids than Jardin du Luxembourg. Fill up your picnic box with unhealthy staff (incl. colorful macarons for the children) from your local fromagerie and boulangerie, grab a bottle of Chamblis from the fridge, and enjoy a day by the octagonal pond, watching the kids maneuvering their toy sailing boats or throwing them to its other’s heads.
There is also a carousel, a playground, and a puppet theatre. What else would a parent possibly wish for? I know, earplugs!
5. Fun activities for kids at the Centre Pompidou
Centre Pompidou is my favorite contemporary art venue in Paris for four reasons: you don’t need to spend half of your holidays queuing to get in, there is always something greater than life going on (this time it was Jeff Koon’s turn), the roof deck offers breathtaking views over Paris, and who would expect it? They run fun activities for the family’s little ones!
And this concludes my mini guide to “Paris for kids”. But, wait a second. Something is definitely missing. What could that be? DISNEYLAND! Truth is we had bought tickets to visit Disneyland (you get them cheaper on the internet), but the weather was simply awful. And because the only reason I would have lined up in the pouring rain, would have been to see Charlize Theron and not Olaf from Frozen, we decided to keep the tickets for our next visit. Fortunately, they are valid for a year. In other words, we like it or not, we ought to go back to Paris. Poor us, I know.
Check out also the following posts on Paris: