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 exploring the city en famille.
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.
When Parisians head out of town for their summer holidays, the city reveals itself as a quieter, more child-friendly destination. 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. From the cobbled streets of the fifth arrondissement to the waterfall of the Buttes Chaumont, here are some ideas to keep the little ones happy.
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.
Located minutes from the Moulin Rouge, this mini tropical haven boasts bright, leafy decor and the friendliest staff in town. Owner and mother Anne has made this a stress-free zone for fellow parents with a play area, kids’ menu, high chairs and diaper-changing facilities. The weekly-changing menu of healthy homemade quiches, poké bowls, sandwiches and pastries for grown folk is also terrific. The only bum note in paradise? Aloha is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
A stone’s throw from the Marché d’Aligre, this old-school toy shop is a treasure trove for little shoppers. Behind an attractive red and gold façade, its shelves are laden with all manner of teddies, puzzles and traditional wooden toys. The range of tot-sized costumes is particularly good: pick up a dinosaur tail, musketeer outfit or shimmering mermaid skirt.
Little parisiens will immediately recognise the name of this street from a much-loved kids’ tale, featuring a cannibal witch. With its old-school market, hole-in-the-wall cafés and sensational fromageries, it’s a picturesque spot to satisfy rather more reasonable appetites. Look out in particular for the crêperie on wheels, which churns out the city’s biggest and best-value pancakes.
Perched at the top of the Buttes Chaumont, this open-air guinguette takes its cues from the Camargue’s laid-back lifestyle. Graze on Mediterranean tapas in the beer garden, order a perfect Neapolitan pizza and catch one of the venue’s family-friendly workshops or live gigs. Rosa Bonheur really comes into its own during the city’s festivals, which it celebrates with gusto.
Stock up on picnic essentials at this bustling market a hop and a skip from Bastille. The cheeky vendors here sell everything from fresh cheeses and baguettes to piles of ripe fruit and olives. The flea market, which runs daily except Mondays, is a pleasant spot for a rummage. Find vintage toys, retro furnishings, and antique cutlery for your alfresco feast.
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Paris can be just as much fun for a child as for an adult, you just need to know the right places to go.