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
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.