When you’re travelling with kids, it can be hard to keep everyone happy. The solution? Be strategic, hopping from sophisticated cafés and sights to child-pleasing treats and museums. It’s all about striking the right balance, so everyone can get the best from the city. Trekking halfway across Paris with tired kids in tow is no-one’s dream day out, so don’t try to cover too much ground. Instead, keep it local, checking into a central, family-friendly hotel then exploring the neighbourhood.
The Villa Panthéon Hôtel makes for an elegant home-from-home, with its wood-panelled walls, antique rugs and capacious Chesterfields. An epic breakfast spread runs from soft-boiled eggs to flaky pain au chocolat, while the frescoed courtyard’s a tranquil hideaway. The hotel’s perfectly placed for adventures on the Left Bank, whether you’re wandering the vibrant Quartier Latin or elegant St Germain-des-Près.
We’ve picked six tribe-pleasing addresses – from a spectacular museum to a leafy secret tearoom – all within easy walking distance for younger ones.
Entire afternoons can be whiled away at this Victorian glass-and-steel hall, the soaring centerpiece of the city’s natural history museum. Its menagerie of specimens occupies four floors, from cases of jewel-hued butterflies to vast whale skeletons. Most magical of all is the parade of animals that marches across the first floor: hippos, giraffes and other Jungle Book beasts, led by an immense elephant.
Just opposite the Jardin des Plantes is the minaret-topped Grand Mosque – and while its hammam is women-only, everyone’s welcome in the tearoom. Time seems to slow down in the tranquil courtyard, with its tile-topped tables, fig trees and sweet, fragrant glasses of mint tea. Share a plate of honeyed baklava with the kids and look out for the resident sparrows, quick to swoop on any stray crumbs.
This friendly, old-school address is something of a rarity in Paris, where most bowling alleys are banished to the edge of town. It has eight neon-lit lanes and is popular with birthday parties (don’t be surprised if you’re playing alongside an excitable group of French kids). Ask for bumpers for novice bowlers, and bring some small change: the retro air-hockey table’s impossible to resist.
The remains of this vast arena date back to Roman times, when the city of Lutetia stretched along the left bank of the Seine. It’s a fascinating, half-forgotten spot, hidden by apartment blocks (head for the doorway on rue Monge, marked by a stone gladiator’s helmet). You’ll have to imagine the clashing swords and baying crowds – though you can still see the cages where wild animals were kept.
Behind a sweet, green-painted frontage, this independent toyshop is appealingly old-fashioned. Throwaway tat is banished, and its games and toys are built to last, from chunky wooden fire engines to handmade marionettes. From pocket-money spinning-tops to handsome Steiff bears, there’s something for every budget here, along with natty bits of kit like the colourful, recycled-plastic backpacks.
For an authentically Parisian picnic, swing by the market on place Monge; a pretty, plane tree-shaded square in the Latin Quarter. Its stalls set up shop three mornings a week, on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Pick up the essentials – cheese, charcuterie and bread – then see what looks enticing. A tub of herb-flecked olives, perhaps, or a bag of candied fruit to take home.
Paris has plenty of things to do on a city break with kids.
Paris can be just as much fun for a child as for an adult, you just need to know the right places to go.
Kids living in Paris tell us their favourite spots for a day out.