Paris Family Travel Tips:
- Cruise the Seine.
- Enjoy street performers at the Pompidou Centre.
- See the battlements plus the art at the Louvre.
- Take in the view from the Eiffel Tower.
- Stroll the Tuileries Gardens.
The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the other must-sees take on a new look when visiting with your child. Just don’t drag your gang from museum to museum. Instead, visit a few facilities while making your Paris stay more of an experience than an art history tour.
To savor the special élan of this city, stroll the Champs-Elysées, one of Paris’ great avenues, or meander through any neighborhood. Your kids will be fascinated. Dogs sit patiently in cafés and people take tea with their pet pigeons in cages beside them. Motorbikes ride on the sidewalks, bicyclists on the road, and mimes act out comedy routines on street corners. Plus, nearly every block contains a bakery or sweet shop.
Enjoy the city’s outdoor spaces. Palm trees, sand, deckchairs, and a swimming pool transform a section of the Seine’s right bank into a beach from mid-July to mid-August when the city sizzles. Refreshment stands and maybe even some live music add to the beach party atmosphere at Paris Plage.
Join the Parisians lounging around the fountains at the Tuileries Gardens. The nearby Musée de L’Orangerie has small, kid-friendly rooms full of spectacular art. Claude Monet’s Water Lilies are among the highlights as are paintings by Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, and Cezanne.
Although the Louvre showcases centuries of art, focus ahead of time on the few things you want to see. Younger kids like starting in the crypt which contains the remains of the 12th-century battlements, a castle model, and 800-year-old graffiti carved into the stones by the masons. At the gift shop let your kids pick out postcards of such noted works as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo that they can search for in the museum. Afterward, reward your kids with snacks at the Carrousel de Louvre, an underground complex of shops and eateries.
Even if your kids only know the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris for its hunchback legends, the massive Gothic structure with its art and crypts should hold their interest, as will the street mimes and artists selling watercolors and handmade bracelets just outside the cathedral.
Another good place for strolling: Ile Saint Louis, with its narrow streets, 17th-century buildings, and boutiques. For a totally different cityscape, visit the Centre Georges Pompidou. This structure wears its colorfully-painted pipes, beams, ducts, and even its escalators on the outside. Take in the sweeping views from the top floor and browse the Musée National d’Art Moderne, a collection that includes Picasso, Braque, Miro, and Matisse. Outside, especially on a Saturday, enjoy the clowns, mimes, magicians, and other street performers holding fort in the plaza.
The best way to see the Eiffel Tower is from a distance, but the best way to experience the landmark is by climbing for the view. You can climb the stairs to the third floor for a look over the city’s rooftops, or line up for the elevator ride to the top for a panoramic shot.
How to end a family day in Paris? Take an after-dinner boat ride on the Seine with Bateaux Mouches. The city, twinkling lights and all cast a magical glow. In the moonlight, the Eiffel Tower is laced with golden sparkles and the spires of Notre Dame shimmer in the night sky.
Tip: With ‘tweens and teens, take in Paris underground tours. Visit the city’s Catacombs and sewers (Les Egouts).