It may be known as the city of love, but Paris does a fine sideline in catering for families, too. Pram-friendly boulevards, inventive play parks and state-of-the-art immersive museums are just some of the joys of a Paris family holiday.
There’s something delightfully old-fashioned about childhood pleasures here: float wooden boats on the Jardin du Luxembourg’s pond, ride ponies in the Jardin des Tuileries and seek out the best ride on gilded carousels. Meet the animals in two urban zoos, flop out on the urban beach along the Seine, or seek out a shaded spot for a picnic with a view.
Here you will find everything you need to know to plan the perfect family trip to Paris, from things to do with kids in Paris to family-friendly restaurants and parks.
Paris isn't just a destination for adults and lovers, it's also a great place for kids, with lots to do and see to keep your little ones busy, both indoors and out.
Whether you're visiting over half-term, during the holidays or just for a weekend, we've rounded up the most enticing kid-friendly activities and venues in the French capital.
Racing a wooden sailboat on the gardens’ pond is a rite of passage for petits parisiens. You can rent one on the spot during the school holidays, or on Wednesday afternoons and weekends most of the year. You’ll be out of luck in the winter months though, so make sure to bring your own if you’re itching to hit the water.
The capital’s photogenic river has plenty of appeal for kids, though not due to its quaint vintage book stalls, nor its soppy love locks. Come summer, the Seine transforms into a beachy playground with sand pits, sun-loungers and cooling water sprays to run through. Head to the Bassin de la Villette to burn off excess energy: the giant waterborne hamster ball is a firm favourite.
Rollercoasters aren’t always all that. Slow and steady, Montmartre’s funicular, which ferries visitors up and down the rather steep hill, got our little experts’ votes. It may have something to do with its space-shuttle looks, or the sweeping view of Paris you’re rewarded with on reaching the top. Bring some coins so urban explorers can have a go on the steampunk telescopes.
Even on a rainy day, the zoo is sure to keep little monkeys happy. There’s plenty to do indoors if the weather’s not playing ball. Visit the vivarium’s snappy and slippery residents, or explore the greenhouse to get up close and personal with free-roaming sloths, bats and lemurs. For a special occasion, you can even book breakfast with the giraffes.
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.
The riverside museum’s train-station past is fascinating for budding engineers, and its collection of 19th and 20th-century art is equally engrossing. Our little art critics’ favourite work? An imposing, almost cartoon-like polar bear, sculpted by Rodin’s assistant François Pompon, who took inspiration from the menagerie of the Jardin des Plantes.
The Galerie des enfants (Kids Gallery) will keep the kids occupied for hours with workshops and exhibitions. The activities, devised to get kids to explore modern art will appeal to children 2 and up.
Teenagers will love Studio 13/16, a social place with workshops carried out by artists and free events. There is even opportunity to meet up with artists and experiment with artistic set-ups.
For more than 92 years the Bouglione family has kept Paris in its thrall with its spectacular circus acts, which have included performers such as Robin Valençia, a female human cannon ball.
This stunning Art Deco cinema holds a behind-the-scenes ‘Studio Tour’. Over-5s can explore the projection room, play with special effects and become the stars of their own take-home film.
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Too hungry, too tired, too bored? When tiny feet start to drag, it pays to have insider info up your sleeve to keep everyone happy. Here we’ve picked five kid-friendly restaurants in Paris to suit all ages and appetites.
Families rule at this laid-back venue, where adults can eat and drink their coffee in peace. Kids can roam free around the coin môme (tots corner), which includes toys and a clever mini-bar serving fruit juice shooters.
For a laidback lunch, head to this cheery Vietnamese canteen – the original outpost of a thriving mini-chain. The decor’s kitsch and cluttered, while the kitchen serves up classic street-food eats, from beef-topped bò bún noodles to tofu-stuffed banh mi. The slow-simmered pho is deliciously comforting; perky spring rolls, dipped (or not) in chilli sauce, should convert any fussy eaters.
Paris is full of casual crêperies, but this place is next-level, sourcing its ingredients from Brittany – including the all-important butter. Lacy buckwheat galettes come with all manner of fillings, from herring to smoked salmon, but you can’t go wrong with a complète of ham, cheese and egg. For dessert, try a decadent crêpe with ice cream and salted caramel sauce.
Parisians of all ages queue up in hip Pigalle for affordable, old-school French favourites. Sausages and mash and beef bourguignon are served by frantic yet chipper waiters in proper black-and-white livery. The handsome dining room squeezes in 300 covers – a bustling, relaxed setting for a meal en famille. There’s no need to book: it’s open seven days a week, from noon until midnight.
This Seine-skimming botanical garden houses one of the oldest zoos in the world. Rare leopards, tamarins and red pandas are bred here. Check out the history of evolution in the Grande Galerie, complete with an ark-like procession of impressive mammals. Don’t miss a spin on the Dodo Manège, a merry-go-round featuring a panda, Galapagos tortoise and triceratops.
Located on the eastern edge of Paris, this magnificent stretch of green is a slice of French countryside in the city. Explore the medieval Château de Vincennes, or row to one of three petite islands on the lake. The petting farm’s cows, pigs and goats are no match for the zoo’s more prestigious residents. Get up close and personal with free-roaming sloths, bats and lemurs.
Kids will love running around this sprawling but hilly Belleville park. The feature at the centre of the park is particularly attractive with its classical gazebo, cascading waterfall and fun suspension bridge. On sunny days, the sweeping city views make this a favourite picnic spot for locals.
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