Paris with kids. Can you face it?
Updated: Jan 7, 2019
Paris is a moveable feast, Hemingway once said. But are the kids having fun?
Paris is always a good idea.
Unsurprisingly the French capital has universal appeal. We think of Paris and images of lovers strolling along the river bank, drinking cheap and wonderful wine spring to mind. You might also associate the city of lights with the arts, galleries, sophisticated restaurants and world famous monuments. You might not necessarily match Paris with happy kids. But here is the secret: Paris is a brilliant city to spend a long weekend with the little people. It is pretty astonishing the number of activities parents and children can do together whilst both parts have fun. Here some tips on things todo in a weekend as well as where to stay.
Kids are unashamedly excited about food and where else can you try the most delicious macarons, madeleines, crêpes, bread and cheese if not Paris? Fair play: not quite the healthy option, but if you are spending only a weekend there, then, chances are you can burn a lot of the calorie intake by all the walking you will do whilst enjoying a guilt free culinary journey. But the most interesting part of this food heaven is that kids will have the chance to try things they don't normally eat. Travelling is a brilliant way to introduce the new, the strange, the unfamiliar. Lots of the French delicacies are street food, so they don't cost the earth, if you choose well. Take the children to one of the many food markets and let them touch, smell and taste all they like. Food is culture and it is a feast to the senses. For the best macarons in this world, try Hugo Victor, worth a trip to Boulevard Raspail. No disappointment here.
It is unlikely the whole family gets excited about getting up and spending hours in the queue to check out a Renaissance painting at the most famous museum in the world. Therefore, straight away, I suggest you forget about the Louvre, at least for now. Instead, you can still explore the famous landmarks of this extraordinary city and have fun with the kids at the same time. You will be surprised of how much History they can take. Try to aim for open spaces. They will have a great time running around the fields that lead to the Eiffel Tower. Its stunning park is a favourite spot for the Parisian families to enjoy a baguette with cheese as it is the river banks during the spring and summer months. I would, however avoid it if you have toddlers. It can quickly turn into a very stressful experience having to watch them and make sure they don't dive into the Seine to see how deep it is. (You really want to avoid that!) The Montmartre district is a big hit with families. The stairs up and down are a fitness test, but a major fun for the little ones as the grown ups keep an eye out for the inviting wine shops along the main roads or tucked away in cobbled streets. For some culture, I strongly recommend a visit to the stunning Rodin Museum. Its breathtakingly beautiful gardens dotted with the works by the most celebrated French sculpture of all times as well as the exquisite 18th century Hôtel Biron house are a hit with the whole family. Don't miss a visit to Notre Dame. Take the opportunity to explain what are those freighting looking gargoyles that live in the same church the Hunchback story comes from. Fascinating, I hear them say.
WHERE TO STAY
There is no point trying to discover that little gem tucked away in a distant district. By distant, I mean far from all the main touristy spots that will wow the kids and, luckily, you, after all you can never see too much of Paris. I see the appeal of both types of the more popular choices of accommodation: hotel and a private flat. I have stayed with my kids in a gorgeous family home we booked through airbnb, located in the trendy Latin Quartier with cool bars, old cafés, a lot of literary appeal. My tip here is to be taken seriously: make sure you have it absolutely clear with your host how to get into the apartment. We had the address, the location for the key, but there was no clear number, only surnames to identify each flat. I knew the name of the people renting us the apartment, but I could have never guessed the name on their door was of the former tenant that they hadn't changed. I had to count on the kindness of the bar owner downstairs who knew the hosts and saved us from further misunderstanding. In another occasion we stayed at the heart of Saint Germain, in the gorgeous Hotel Baume, an elegant and beautifully 1930s style decorated 4 star hotel steps from the famous Sorbonne University and Odeon Theatre. In both occasions we made the most of the street food and the quaint bakeries and cheese shops nearby and prepared ourselves deliciously French inspired platters with the freshest and most tasteful ingredients, not to mention the divine wine selection. A smart way to eat well, learn about the local food and produce and not break the bank.