I recently returned from a month-long European family holiday which — of course! — involved Paris. It was wonderful, but I won’t lie: taking two kids overseas is un peu exhausting. And Paris, for one, is a very different experience when you’re with children. You’re not spending hours in cafés sipping rosé and reflecting on the meaning of la vie, let’s just say. Not that this need be a negative, because travelling with family forces you to explore a different side of a city, and do things you might otherwise not even consider (what with all that aforementioned rosé-sipping and café-dwelling). Such as …

Twirling through the Tuileries

In the north-west corner of this gorgeous garden, you’ll find a whimsical children’s wonderland. There’s a playground, a jewel box of a carrousel, and a delightful statue of Charles Perrault — the Parisian author of such fairytales as Cinderella and Puss in Boots — who overlooks a series of sunken trampolines that will have your kids literally jumping for joy.

A Luxembourg Garden Afternoon

Devote a good half-day to this beautiful Left Bank park. For a few euros, you can hire a wooden boat for your kids to push around the pond. You might even be able to catch a pony ride. The cafés and stalls will keep you stocked up with sandwiches, crêpes and ice-cream; savour them while watching locals play pétanque and chess. Don’t miss the olde-worlde merry-go-round, which is inspired by tilting-at-the-ring training.

Going for a Spin

There are many fabulous carrousels around town, but for those of you particularly obsessed with the attraction, book a guided tour of the Musée des Arts Forain (Funfair Museum). It’s in French, but non Francophones can request an English information booklet. And anyway, the fun you’ll have whirling around the old rides — especially the bicycle merry-go-round — is universal.

Other Museums for Minis

  • Musée de l’Armée (Army Museum). Those who dream of being a knight when grown-up will find the displays of medieval armoury, both for soldiers and for horses, fascinating.
  • Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Hunting and Nature Museum). Vegetarian families might wince at some of the taxidermy trophies. Nevertheless, it’s a fabulously decorated museum that is more glamour than gore.
  • Grande Galerie de l’Évolution (Gallery of Evolution). Housed within the Musée Naturel d’Histoire Naturelle (National Natural History Museum), this is another museum to visit for the building as much as its contents. Within a glorious exhibition hall, you’ll find a fabulous parade of animals on show, along with accompanying educational resources. One for all young animal lovers. As is the Ménagerie; also set in the lovely Jardin des Plantes, this little zoo is olde-worlde and oh-so Parisian (it was even a favourite of Madeline). Also search out the Dodo Manège, a merry-go-round that features endangered and extinct animals in lieu of the usual horses.

  • Musée Grévin. Paris’s answer to Madame Tussauds is like a fall into a fabulous rabbit’s hole, where you’ll learn about key moments in French history, and meet a host of famous faux faces, in a succession of glamorous Belle Époque settings.

Cruising the Seine

A river cruise is always a great way to rest tired, over-walked feet, without sacrificing seeing the sights. Also, consider the Batobus as an alternative to taking a taxi or the metro; it’s a hop-on-hop-off service that makes crossing the inner city a breeze.

An Eyeful of the Eiffel

It goes without saying that your kids will love whizzing up the Eiffel Tower — and that almost every other visiting family will have the same idea … To make the situation as stress-free as possible, aim to pre-purchase your tickets, turn up well in advance of your timeslot so you can clear security, and give yourself a few hours there, as exiting the tower can take time. For frazzled parents, good to know: there’s a champagne bar at the top!

The Quest for Quasimodo

If your kids have oohed and ahhed over The Hunchback of Notre Dame, go in search of the movie star during a tower climb at the fabled cathedral. If Quasimodo is MIA that day, there will still be some wonderfully ghoulish gargoyles to admire.

Say Bonjour to Bert

Paris is a literal treat for kids, what with all the chocolate and macaron shops. But one don’t-miss ice-cream experience for the whole family is Berthillon, on the gorgeous Île Saint-Louis. Buy yourself some flavour-filled cones, and enjoy them down by the river, as the boats and swans glide by.

A Vroom Around Versailles

For a family-friendly change of scenery, take a day trip to Versailles. If it’s peak tourist season, you might not want to weather the crowds within the palace, so make the most of the expansive gardens, where you can run wild among all sorts of delightful groves, walk your lunch and treats off along the glorious canal, and rent a buggy to trek out to Marie Antoinette’s delightful hamlet.

The Happiest Place on Earth

Paris might be your happy place, but your little princes and princesses might prefer Earth’s Happiest Place. So if you have another day to spare, take the train out to Disneyland Paris, well prepared to brave the queues and pleas for sparkly dresses and tiaras.


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