A guide to visiting Paris with children and grandparents, from where to stay to how to get around

Here’s a surprising fact: the city of romance is more family-friendly than you think. In fact, as one of the most visited cities in the world, Paris attracts more families than solo visitors or couples, and not just to Disneyland.

In 2019, a satisfaction survey of tourist attractions conducted by the Paris tourist office placed family activities in second place with 68.3%, behind only gastronomy with 77.1%, and above arts, culture, shopping and wellness (67%). Before the pandemic, the Sacre Coeur, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Pompidou Center and the Musée d’Orsay were the top five tourist attractions in the city.

I had enjoyed visiting Paris on numerous occasions, both with friends and family, and to visit friends, but now, with an elementary school-age child and a preschool-age child, I was taken aback by the prospect of a multi-generational trip. Should I forget idle wanderings through the Marais and flea markets, late dinners and museum visits?

And where would we stay? Those bijou hotel rooms can be romantic for two, but impractical for four when it’s bedtime for tired kids.

Fortunately, we found those statistics to be true. This step-by-step guide should help you plan a foolproof trip that will satisfy most ages.

Riding the escalators inside out at the Center Pompidou is an easy way to please young children (Photo: Getty Images)

how to get there

eurostar it’s a relaxing way to travel, taking passengers from North London to North Paris in two hours and 16 minutes (connecting tickets can be booked from anywhere else in the UK). Seating is roomy, and energetic kids can zip up and down the aisles, enjoying the scenery rolling in from the windows and the novelty of spending half an hour under the sea (“will we see any sharks?”).

Advance single fares are available for £39 and if you’re prepared to have your under-fours on your lap, they travel free. Children ages 4 to 11 travel at reduced fares in standard class; select your seats at no additional cost to sit around a table if available. And baggage allowances are more generous than when flying.

Move around, without getting stung

Arrivals at Gare du Nord are warned about rogue taxi drivers around the station, with a billboard indicating the official taxi rank to the right of the platforms. Here, the bailiffs organize arrivals in two lines, with a shorter wait for families and people who need assistance. This does not guarantee that you will not be fleeced. We were directed to a taxi which presented a fare card with a “€65 flat rate” for the 20 minute ride to our hotel.

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By law, a taxi must be equipped with a light on the roof, a parking meter in the rear tray of the vehicle (which indicates the time of completion of the service), a parking meter to calculate the price of the trip, a plate with the number of the taxi on the right front fender. Any vehicle that does not have all of these features is not a true taxi. The price is based on the distance traveled or the time spent and varies according to the day, place and time.

Sophie Lam and family at the Place du Trocadero (Photo: Harriet Lam)

There is no fixed price for Parisian taxis, except between Paris Charles-de-Gaulle airport and the right bank (€53), or the left bank (€58) and between Paris-Orly airport and the right bank ( €37) or left margin (€32). paris.fr/pages/taxis-51

Focus on a manageable area of ​​the city each day and walking is best if you have wheels. The Metro is not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs, and very few stations offer step-free access. We saw a passenger who had to walk up a long flight of stairs while a companion carried his wheelchair. Buses and RER commuter trains are better.

Children under four years of age travel free on Metro, RER and buses; those from 4 to 10 years are half price. 10-single-ticket carnets (books) can be bought at station machines, but paper tickets are being phased out: virtual carnets can be loaded onto a Navigo Easy Pass (€2) at machines or counters.

Find a place to stay, with flexibility

Self-service is a flexible option, although quality and price are variable. We stayed at Citadines Trocadero, at 16the. It’s about a five-minute walk to the metro and Place du Trocadero, the hill that overlooks the Eiffel Tower where we took our kids for a spectacular night view of the illuminated monument (along with hundreds of camera-wielding tourists and souvenir peddlers). ).

city ​​cars The aparthotel is located on a quiet residential street near a supermarket and what it lacks in character it makes up for in its generous size: rooms are spacious, clean and quiet. Between six of us, we had two one-bedroom apartments with a sofa bed in the living room and kitchen, which meant we could put the kids to bed and enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, and cook breakfast with no problem at all. the morning (guests can opt for a €13 breakfast in the small cafe on the ground floor).

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Citadines has a dozen more sites in Paris, most of them well located, such as Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Les Halles, Bastille, Montmartre and Opéra. Rates from €170

Similar apart-hotels are operated by Adagio and StayCity, as well as the fancier Pepper & Paper on the Left Bank.

Eat in and out, without stress

Citadines Trocadero has a nice little courtyard that was empty most of the time during our visit. After hosting a picnic at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann’s food hall, Le Gourmet, we sat down on a warm summer night and enjoyed our bounty for a fraction of the cost of dining out.

That said, it’s impossible to resist the temptation of a Parisian restaurant, and while it’s easy to damage your bank account (and your nerves if you have kids who don’t like to sit still in a fine dining room), we found the perfect formula at Broth in Republic. These sprawling restaurants are enjoying a renaissance, founded in 19the century to feed workers broth, or broth, with a piece of meat, went out of fashion with the introduction of the new cuisine. Now they’re back, serving inexpensive dishes like egg mayonnaise (€2.40) and steak and chips (€11.80), as well as John Dory with ratatouille (€12.90).

One of the dining rooms at Bouillon en République (Photo: Sophie Lam)

The decor is classically Parisian: long tables with white tablecloths, red leather banquettes, wood-paneled walls, and pendant lighting, with some restaurants serving up to 300 diners in multiple dining rooms.

After wandering through the Marais (yes, it’s still possible with kids) and along the Seine past the billboards of Notre Dame (expected to open for the 2024 Paris Olympics), we wandered the streets of the Île Saint-Louis, where it is difficult to avoid by Berthillon handmade ice creams. The family business sells sublime firsts at numerous outlets – join the queue outside the wood-fronted salon at 31 rue St Louis en-Île.

The generational game of cultural days

While the grandparents browsed in the restaurants of the Marais’ 17theMarché des Enfants Rouges, 19th century food market, we detour to the beautiful children’s playground in the landscaped Square du Temple Elie Wiesel.

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After a lazy stroll through the Marais, we check out the children’s book section of Shakespeare and Company, across from Notre Dame, and fill water bottles at the spring-fed green metal Wallace Fountain.

On a hot summer day, we were treated to the free-to-visit pools at the Bassin de la Villette, part of the annual Paris Plages that bring the city’s waterways to life while other family members shopped and visited the museums. Even when the pools are not operational, it’s fun to rent one of the little red electric boats to glide around the city’s largest artificial lake or beyond the Canal St Martin or de l’Ourcq – ask for a seaman’s diploma certificate to your son. to take home as a souvenir. Book in advance, from €40 an hour for five.

Summer pools at Bassin de la Villette (Photo: Getty Images)

Nearby, the extensive and landscaped Park of the Villette It is home to Europe’s largest science museum and several concert halls, as well as seasonal events and festivals, such as the huge Europa Kids bouncy park and weekly family activities.

the Orsay’s Museum dedicates two weekends a year to children, but regularly organizes workshops and weekend family events. Free admission on the first Sunday of the month, otherwise €16/€13.

A manageable walk away is the Jardin du Luxembourg, which has several gardens, a boating lake and Garden Game playground, €3 per child. To add to the excitement, head west to the Bois de Boulogne, where the Acclimatization Garden It encompasses traditional fairground rides and smaller roller coasters, as well as playgrounds and splash pads in the summer. €7.

Autumn and winter days can be spent in the Fairground Arts Museum, a whimsical and interactive museum that celebrates fairgrounds through guided tours; Reservation essential, €18.80/€12.80. Meanwhile, going up the escalator from inside to outside in the Pompidou Center can be entertaining enough without having to see an exhibit. The nearby regeneration of Les Halles, with its curvaceous canopy, makes the commercial district a more attractive prospect.

Finally, a rainy day tip from Sylvia Whitman, owner of Shakespeare and Company: “Ride the 14 subway from start to finish. [Saint-Ouen to Olympiades]. The new decals on the front create the feeling that you are driving the train.”