Joined: 24 Sep 2004 Posts: 443 Location: Paris, France
Posted: Wed Feb 22, 2006 1:01 pm Post subject: Visiting Paris with children
I sometimes get emails from readers who want to come to Paris with their children and are looking for advice on where to go and where to eat. Since I have little experience taking kids out in the city (none of my friends have babies yet, although I'm happy to say that one of my closest has just told me she is pregnant!) I thought I would point those of you who are interested to this recent New York Times article (registration required): The City of Light, This Time for the Babar Bunch.
Of course, if you have comments, advice or tips to add, please feel free to do so on this thread!
Joined: 07 Mar 2006 Posts: 7 Location: Utrecht, the Netherlands
Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2006 3:40 pm Post subject:
I'm new to the forum (not to the blog though) and thought that this might be a good topic for me to give my first reply to
I'm from the Netherlands and have visited Paris frequently in the past couple of years (first visit in 1996 I think). The first time I went to Paris I travelled with my parents, twinbrothers and sister. The boys were not even three and were still being wheeled around in their pushchair. We discovered that most of the stores, as well as the metro, were not easily navigated with a double-wide pushchair but quickly managed to find a system to make it all work
We've always enjoyed to try out the variety of restaurants in the Quartier Latin but I have to admit that most of the places are very much orientated towards quick cheap meals for tourists. However, there are a few gems hidden between the multitude of the more "tourist-y" places!
As for which places to visit when in Paris... I think that as long as kids are well-behaved they can be taken pretty much everywhere. My brothers loved (and still love, they are 13 now) to go to the wellknown cathedrals, museums and the like. However, they especially enjoyed this place! A science museum with a special exhibition for kids.
I cannot really give any tips on where to stay with kids. We generally stayed on a campsite near Paris or in a small hotel (the name of which I unfortunately cannot remember *grmbl*). If you're interested in the campsite or the hotel, leave me a message and I'll get back to you!
Some general rules that we used while travelling through Paris with small kids:
- Whatever you do, learn your kids the most important rule of travelling by metro ('cause you'll be doing that a lot!!): whenever the metro drives off and mum or dad (or anyone else in the family) aren't on it yet GET OFF AT THE NEXT STATION AND WAIT THERE!! Worked great for us when we (family of six) got separated once.
- Explain to your kids how the metro works, how they can identify when to get off and such. This sounds too difficult for them but believe me, when my brothers were five they were already telling us when to get off or how many stops we still had to go. It gives them something to do and gives them a feeling of being responsible for part of the trip which is a good way to keep them calm in a busy, overflowing metro wagon!
- If you have very young children, always make sure they are wearing a dogtag with your information or some other similar form of identification and your phonenumber and make sure they will not be able to take it off themselves! Also make clear on the tag what language the child understands.
- When you buy your carnet of tickets for the metro make sure to get addictional maps of the public transport and hand these out to the people you're travelling with.
- Secure the zippertugs of backpacks and shoulderbags together with a safety pin. One less thing to worry about when you already have a couple of kids to watch
Please don't hesitate to ask me if you want to know more! I may not be a Paris native but I might be able to explain more about the Paris experience from a tourist point of view
Joined: 29 Sep 2004 Posts: 97 Location: Paris, France
Posted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 6:20 pm Post subject:
This is a great topic to explore, and you would think that I, living in Paris for the past 4 years, with two children, now 3 & 8 yrs old, would have a ton of input. Eh, not so much. But here's my two cents:
Children under 4 ride the metro and buses for free, no ticket required.
Children 4 to 12 can use tickets called Tarif Reduit. They are half price, and you ask for them at the ticket booth, or from the bus driver. You can buy a carnet of those too. Never, never dispose of your ticket (kids and adults) until you have completed your journey, and are back on the street. Random check points are set up, and getting caught without your ticket, that you just used, is costly. I know.
A small introduction to your children, of what you expect to do and see, before you arrive is a great way to build enthusiasm. Schedule an hour or so per day, just playing and running at a park. There are so many parks in Paris, of all sizes. A break from the walking and the "ooo look at that" is great for kids, and therefore great for the adults! Also there are merry-go-rounds, "manege" everywhere. They are great for a 10 minute break. There are a few restaurant chains that have hi-chairs, and cater to kids, but just a few, and they are not what I would call good restaurants. The best of the bunch is Leon de Bruxelles, mussels and fries, with a varied, American style, kids menu and little complementary toys. Down the list is Hippotomus - go only if desperate.
Le Centre Pompidou has great exhibits for children, and the moving fountains next to the museum are wonderful. Kids love them!
La Villette is a great park with a few different museums, catering to children of all ages. The different museums include; science, music, and.... And great stuff to play on/with, a canal runs through this park. This can keep you busy for days.
Le Bateau/Bato Bus cruises up and down the Seine hitting some of the major sites. You can get on and off with a one day ticket and come and go as you please. I prefer this to the other tourist boats because there is not a lot of chatter. If you want a real tour, chose les bateau mouches.
Quick sandwiches and small bottles of water and other drinks are available at almost every boulangerie.
When I asked my 8 year old for further suggestions to this list, here's what I was told: The top of the Eiffel Tower is a MUST do! She loves the natural history museum at Les Jardin des Plantes, and the small zoo at the same park. You can do the entire zoo in under 2 hours.
Joined: 24 Jan 2006 Posts: 72 Location: Limburg Province, The Netherlands
Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 2:57 pm Post subject:
Thank you so much for this topic!! We are going to Paris the week before Easter with our 2 daughters who are 5 and 9. I love the activity suggestions. Do you have any food suggestions.
We have rented a two bedroom apartment for the week. I'm thinking we may end up taking food back up to the apartment for our evening meal. My 5 y.o. is accustomed to eating earlier than the restaurants open for dinner. And she really needs to get to bed by around 8:30 on vacation since her normal bedtime is 7:30-8:00. She gets too tired (read cranky) the next day if we let her stay up too late. She is also a bit of a picky eater. I'm counting on bread and the ubiquitous poulet roti to get us by. I can steam up some broccoli and call it a meal. Thankfully she likes yogurt and cheese.
Joined: 01 Oct 2004 Posts: 256 Location: Richmond, VA, usa
Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:55 pm Post subject:
there's a book I got for my daughter when she was heading to paris to be an au pair last spring called "Around paris with Kids" by Emily Emerson....it's a Fodor's travel publication....seems very handy _________________ Make me half the person my dog thinks I am.
Joined: 14 Oct 2005 Posts: 827 Location: Oakland, CA
Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 5:39 pm Post subject:
Last week I found the travel journal that I kept when we took our then 4 year old son to France in 1987. I will look for it again, because it is full of tips for traveling with children - including places to go and things to do. I do remember a rather enormous variey of transport vehicles were involved - (again - 4 year old BOY ). I will write more this weekend! _________________ L'appetit vient en mangeant. -Rabelais
Yay Alisa! I agree with your kidlets... the Natural History Museum at Jardin des Plantes - a must see for curious little children (and their not so little adult friends....... )
The carousels look gorgeous, and are so popular on a sunny day.
Pompidou Centre is lots of fun for kids with those sculptures and fountains. There is also usually street performers around there.
A lot of the parks are really good fun too. Parc Monceau is really pretty and has ducks and lots of running space... very important at feral hour _________________ If you cannot feel your arteries hardening, eat more cheese. If you can, drink more red wine. Diet is just "die" with a "t" on the end. Exercise is walking into the kitchen.
Joined: 29 Sep 2004 Posts: 97 Location: Paris, France
Posted: Sun Mar 12, 2006 12:22 pm Post subject:
I wish that I had specific ideas for food, and could help Melly, and everyone else. But I don't go to restaurants with the children that often.
I have a "tip" of sorts.... Every eating establishment has their menu(s) out in front, so you can know before you go in, if this will work for your kids. Most often the starters (les entrées) have simpler things, and many places have le saucisse/le hot dog. This often comes with melted Gruyere, which I find fab, but my kids don't, and fries. So you need to verify, and ask to have it without, if you so desire. This is not a healthy way to eat all of the time, but if you are on holiday, and that usually means trying to relax, and if you are like me at all, you also relax your dietary requirements, don't you?!
What else? If you are eating at "home", but don't want to spend too much time shopping and cooking, there are many "traiteurs" (places where lovely food is already prepared) take it home, heat and eat. For fresh stuff, you should locate the street markets (les marchés) and know which days of the week they are functioning, nearest to where you are staying. Always wonderful options there!
I am eager to hear everyone elses tips as well. I am discovering, and when it comes to kids stuff, I feel like there is more to know!
First, it depends of the age and ... there are little boys and little girls..
Last year we've taken our 11+ grandson to Paris ( and Bruxellles and Holland). He's a gifted kid , but a kid nevertheless. He was not at all interested in the parks( waste of time, trees are not interesting), Eurodisney of course yes. Actually, he had a very precise list of all the most famous touristic places he "had" to visit, including, most surprisingly, the Pantheon and the Louvre ( Mona Lisa and Venus of Milo were a "must). He had to see the Eifel and walk down the stairs from the second floor ( don't ask how his grandparents survived this adventure), but also had to see it at night , illuminated, from the place of Trocadero. He did his homework, and knew axctly what he wanted. He had no interest in the romantic little streets ( !!??) his grandmother wanted to share with him.. We lived in a Citadines appartment and he liked to buy the baguette and croissant in the morning, at least the two first days. After that he preferred to sleep half an hour more instead. He insisted on climbing on the roof of ND ( not me, his grandfather was on duty ). As for food, what are Mc Donalds' and pizzas for?
I learned from this trip that kids don't like too many explanations ( both me and my husband are guides , so the first day we nearly killed the poor kid with history, architecture etc..), they like coke and frites, and they want to see the most touristic places, because that is what they have learned about. I trust him that he will "taste" the other Paris in due time.
Oh yes, he loved the "Le Paradis Latin" show ( we joined a group led by a guide friend of ours, so it was a bonus).. aspecially the acrobatics..
Bon voyage et bon courage !
Joined: 14 Oct 2005 Posts: 827 Location: Oakland, CA
Posted: Mon Mar 13, 2006 2:18 am Post subject:
I'm back and I relocated my little travel journal describing a few days in Paris and a week traveling through the Loire Valley with a 4 year old boy.
First of all, the highlight of the trip for him was the variety of vehicles we were able to experience. The bateuax Mouches, the Metro, the city busses, tiny French taxis - any vehicle was a delight and if he was tired and cranky, sometimes just a change of vehicle did the trick!
We spent some time every day at the playground at Jardin de Luxembourg - it was very near our hotel. One whole afternoon we spent at the Jardin d'Acclimatission - a kind of homely little amusement park in the Bois de Boulogne.He rode the carousel , little cars, trucks and fire engines on a track, La riviere enchantée - boats, a pony ride. I don't know if it's still there, but it was a treasure when we were there.
Don't miss the Flower market on Ile de la Cité -near Notre Dame, - very colorful and kid friendly. On Sundays it's a bird market - which is even better! Two ways to occupy your children!
We visited a few museums - the Rodin sculpture museum is great because it's outside and he could run. The Musee d'Orsay is brilliant - even for kids, just because of the space. Ben and I spent about half an hour in the Louvre looking at "old things" before he got bored. Sam (my husband) and I pretty much took turns in museums, except for Pomidou Center, which Ben enjoyed enough for us to stay about 2 hours.
I had researched toy stores in Paris so that we would have one visit to a great toy store (as a carrot) and we chose Le Nain Bleu (the blue dwarf) on rue de Rivoli , maybe? It was full of American toys - or toys he had already sseen in American toy stores, so that was a little disappointing. We finally found a German fire engine that was a novelty and he was happy. Outside of Paris, the toy stores (at that time) were less Americanized. It will undobtedly be different now with the European Union.
In terms of eating - in Paris and all over France, we carefully checked the menus outside before we chose and we often picked restaurants out as we were wandering during the day - so that he was a little prepared for where we were going. I always carried a bag with drawing pads and colored pencils and some small toys for the dinner hour. We tended to eat quickly and leave - unlike some of the hours long dinners we've had in Paris since then! We also did as someone previously suggested - made a part of our touring a trip to the street markets or nearby shops to pick out lunch and we picnicked every day in some park. Ben was a pretty adventurous eater, but he still ate a LOT of omelettes with frites! However one day in Belon, with a huge plateau de degustation, he tried every type of shellfish on the tray and thoroughly enjoyed himself! I was stunned and so were most of the adults in the resto - everyone was staring and remarking about him!
I think the thing we did that made this a lovely trip was that Sam and I adjusted our expectations in order to make it fun for Ben. We knew we weren't going to be able to spend hours in the museums or go to concerts or plays every night. We've been back to Paris with Ben twice since and had equally lovely and very different times each visit. _________________ L'appetit vient en mangeant. -Rabelais
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