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17 Authentically French & Kid-Friendly Things To Do in Paris

17 Authentically French & Kid-Friendly Things To Do in Paris

The most important thing to know about my family’s Paris vacation is that we did a home swap. We got to pretend we were local Parisians for ten days. As a result, we found fun, local things to do that we probably would not have if we’d stuck strictly to the touristy neighborhoods. 

We did hit some of the essential sights, like the Louvre and Notre Dame. We took day trips to Chartres, Versailles and Reims.

We ate at Brasserie Lipp and shopped for books at Shakespeare & Co. This Shakespeare is not the one that published Ulysses in the 1920. But it is a very good English-language bookstore and a good stop for vacation reads, books on Paris and books by and about the American expat Literati that frequented it in the 1950s.

american book lovers in paris always find their way to shakespeare and company, the legendary english-language bookstore.

We also discovered public pools and local parks and got to make the most of Paris’ amazing green markets. 

Here are some of the best things to do in Paris with kids, both on and off the beaten tourist track.

You Might also like my posts on London, Edinburgh and Amsterdam with kids

Where To Stay With Kids in Paris

I appreciate that not everyone wants to swap their home with a stranger as part of their vacation plan. But I would encourage people visiting Paris with kids to consider a vacation rental

We had a roomy two-bedroom apartment in the residential 15thArrondissement, a bit more than a mile from the Eiffel Tower.

We were a block from the Metro, which is pretty easy to navigate, and we could also walk to a lot of places. We had pharmacies, supermarkets, shops, neighborhood restaurants and a nice park right nearby. 

Having a kitchen allowed us to cook fantastic meals with amazing ingredients from green markets, butcher shops and bakeries. We were eating authentic French food and saving money. 

Our mornings often began with fresh baguettes and croissants with cultured butter and fresh summer fruit, and it cost a fraction of what hotel breakfasts do. 

The further from the city center the bigger and less expensive your rental will be. But an apartment in the center city will still cost less and give you more room than most hotels, including hotels in less convenient neighborhoods.

17 Essential & Unexpected Things To Do With Kids in Paris

We did not go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was August and the lines were insane. I’m sure the view is stellar. And I would do it if we visited Paris again at a less busy time of year.

claimbing to the top of the arc de triomphe with kids for a stellar view of paris, including the eiffel tower.

We compensated by enjoying nice, less crowded views of the city from the top of the Arc de Triomphe and the peak of MontMarte.

for a stellar view of paris without waiting in lines, head to the top of montmartre.

Trying Your Hand at the Museums

The Museum We Liked Best

The Musee Carnavalet, in the Marais, is the museum that we most enjoyed and that I routinely recommend as family friendly. Housed in a 16th century mansion, it celebrates the history of Paris and has a hodgepodge of paintings, antique furniture and even a small guillotine. 

Tiny Traveler’s favorite room, on the ground floor, had miniatures of Paris’ neighborhoods at various points in history. She poured over all the details, asked tons of questions and began making up her own stories about what was going on inside these scaled-down villages. 

The same room also featured antique store signs, which were amusing. For example, an antique copper mermaid advertising a fish store.

Our Second Favorite Museum

We stopped by the Centre Pompidou more than once. The building itself is kind of cool and there are some nice city views from it’s glassed-in staircase. The modern-art exhibits here are always changing, so there is no telling what you’ll see.

The museum itself is an open, kid-friendly space and a manageable size. You’re likely to see some large-scale or colorful painting or sculptures that will appeal to kids.

visiting the quirky pompidou center art museum is one of many things to do in paris with kids.

There are usually family activities that you can participate in without knowing French. And like Carnevalet, you can see most of it before your kids get bored.

Also, the slanted plaza in front is a fun place to scooter or skateboard.

Trying the Big Museums

We couldn’t leave Paris without visiting the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay; the second as much for its building as the art. It’s housed in Beaux-Arts train station that was built at the turn of the 20th century. The arched skylight roof and a café that sits below the station’s giant clock make it a unique arts space.

We paid for tours at each of these museums because doing so allowed us to skip the very long lines both museums usually have. Moreover, we didn’t think we’d get to see much of either of these large museums before Tiny Traveler was bored, and a tour was an efficient way to see the highlights of each collection. 

the musee d'orsay in paris still resembles the train station it used to be. you can take kids to visit but make it short.

The Dorsay’s tour focused on the museum’s well-regarded impressionist collection, while in the Louvre tour we had the “greatest hits” tour, stopping at the Venus de Milo, the enormous Coronation of Napoleon painting, the Mona Lisa and a few other key pieces. 

The Louvre tour was great and the tour guide managed to engage Tiny Traveler. The D’Orsay guide fired a lot of information at us too quickly for her to follow him. Both were with the same company, so it was just luck of the draw. There are more tour options these days, so opt for those aimed at families if you can.

seeing the mona lisa up close can be difficult with kids because of the huge crowds.

We could have stayed in the Louvre after the tour, but it was so crowded, finding our way to anything was exhausting. And we only saw the tiny Mona Lisa from about 40 feet away.

The small church that made a big impression

Most people go to the Ile de la Cite to see Notre Dame Cathedral and Marie Antoinette’s prison cell. And we did both of those. But the hidden gem for us was the small but dazzling Church of St. Chappelle.

if you are going to visit one church in paris with kids, make it sainte chappelle with its kaleidoscope of stained-glass windows

Walking into the Church of St. Chappelle on a sunny day is like stepping inside a kaleidoscope. Even our cathedral-weary child looked up, stopped in her tracks and said, “whoh!” 

More than 1,1000 stained-glass images surround you in the upper chapel. And unlike in the big cathedrals where the windows are hundreds of feet over your head, these are close enough to see in all their mind-boggling detail.

A Day Trip To Versailles

Versailles is less than ten miles from Paris, making it an easy day trip to take with kids. 

large crowds line up to visit versailles every day. it's a good idea to book a tour with kids, partly to skip the line.

We did a guided tour here, again partly to skip the line. The tour was helpful because there is so much history here and one geared to families is best. Our guide showed us the grounds and the Hall of Mirrors and left us on our own to walk through the chateau’s viewable rooms, which is typical.

All the rooms all have the gilded baroque décor that you would expect. The Hall of Mirrors and gardens were more interesting to me. Though it’s hard to truly appreciate the Hall of Mirrors when it’s mobbed with visitors.

visiting versailles is a good thing to do in paris with kids because of the vast outdoor gardens you can explore.

Aside from the size of the gardens, I was most impressed by the fact that the citrus fruit trees are potted. They move them indoors for winter and outside again in the spring. 

After you’ve toured Versailles venture over to the Estate of Trianon, a folly made to look like a Norman hamlet with idyllic cottages, a stream, a water mill, a working farm and tunnels of trellised grape vines. Marie Antoinette had it built as her escape from the crowds at the chateau, where she could be alone or entertain small groups of friends. 

on a day trip to versailles with kids, be sure to visit the normal farming hamlet marie antoinette built to escape the pressures of life at the chateau.

It’s charming and a sensory relief after the overload of Versailles. Walk from the hamlet back toward the formal Petite Trianon and you’ll find a series of “secret” stone paths crisscrossing through the woods. There’s even a small stone grotto with a bench that was clearly built for discreet interludes.

They’re the kind of discovery kids love and Tiny Traveler did. We could easily have spent an hour or two exploring all of them had we found them earlier.

Practical Info: The L and C train lines will each have stations just a few blocks from the gates of Versailles. It’s a quick ride and less than €10 per person. 

We met our tour guide at Versailles but there are other tours where you travel together by train to the chateau.

If you have very small kids with you, try to make do with a carrier, or at least have one with you. There are a lot of places where a stroller won’t be practical.

Dining around Versailles: It’s a full-day activity and the property is huge. Definitely bring water and some snacks, or even sandwiches for a quick picnic. (I’m not sure you’re technically allowed to eat within the gates of Versailles, but we snacked discreetly and no one stopped us).

The food options around the Chateau are not stellar. And Rue de Satory, off of Rue de la Chancelerie has a handful of casual restaurants including two bistros, burgers, Asian food, a vegetarian/vegan café and a crêperie. We spotted a few other crêperies, too. 

Footwear: Wear comfortable shoes. There is a lot of walking. And paths around Marie Antoinette’s farm are more rugged than you might expect.

Play in Paris Parks

Paris parks are full of fun things to do and provide a taste of everyday Parisian life. They will separate you from your money than your local town park more than you might expect. 

Be prepared to stumble upon carousels everywhere and to sometimes pay for public playgrounds and bathrooms.

On the upside, the bathrooms are well-kept and you can find good espresso, sandwiches and pastries, and even wine and beer to enjoy while your kids run around. 

one of the best local and free things to do with kids in paris is to see a guignol puppet show in the parks.

Puppet Tip: You’ll find Guignol puppet theaters in most parks, and the shows are usually free. All the stories follow a similar narrative and it’s visual enough that kids will get the jist even if they don’t speak French (though it helps). Just know every show has a bad guy trying to trick Guignol. And they always end with our hero turning the tables and usually beating the bad guy over the head with a stick. 

The Can’t-Miss Jardin des Tuileries

Given its location, across from the Louvre and at one end of the Champs Elyssé, we found ourselves in the Tuileries Gardens a few times. 

one of the best, cheap things to do in paris with kids is to take them to the trampolines in the tuileries gardens.

This was Tiny Traveler’s favorite park because of the Trampoline Garden, where kids can bounce their hearts out for a full five minutes for just a few euros.

There’s a carousel inspired by Charles Perrault’s fairy tales and a huge, nicely done, free playground where Tiny Traveler encountered several other English-speaking kids.

Lush Luxembourg Gardens

The Jardin Luxembourgis a worthwhile detour if you are exploring St. Germaine, Montparnasse and even The Latin Quartier. 

There is an amazing, huge playground where tourists and local kids all mix together. There is a good-size area for little kids. And we actually saw quite a few middle-schoolers thanks to cool swings and climbing structures that were made to appeal to them. 

You have to pay for both adults and kids to enter, but I noticed that local parents pay to send their kids in while they sit on benches just outside play area. 

nearly every park and square in paris has a carousel. they're rarely free but their usually cheap. this one, in luxembourg gardens, has horses that rock instead of going up and down.

There’s also a beautiful old-fashioned carousel where the horses swing instead of going up and down. Small kids love it; just get their horses swinging for them before the ride begins. Older kids tend to sit on an outside horse and try to catch gold rings with a stick.

Kids can also ride real horses, rent sailboats to launch in the large central fountain and see a puppet show in a nice-looking theater.

The very Urban Parc de La Villette

The Parc de la Villette, an example of very clever urban renewal, is filled with performance spaces, places to eat and outdoor activities as well as play spaces for kids. 

It’s gotten a revamp for the 2024 Olympics and parts of it will be closed during the Games but there will be even more to see and do once they’re over. 

park de la villette in paris has some of the most innovative playgrounds anywhere and is a must when exploring the city with kids.

The undulating Wind and Dunes playground looks like it was designed by Dr. Seuss and is not like any other playground we’ve seen. In addition to innovative play structures, it also has comfortable chairs in the shade for parents.

The dragon playground, with a giant dragon slide at its center, was closed for renovation. We all looked in at it longingly.

It was too nice a day for the Science Museum that’s there, so after the playground we wandered paths, bridges and lawns, coming upon classes and concerts that were a mix of official and impromptu.

on a walk along the paris plage with kids you'll see colorful activities, people and buildings.

The park sits at the far end of a canal where they create Paris Plage in the warm months. It was fun to walk along people-watching and seeing all the assorted activities and creative endeavors that were happening. Plus, we found the only free carousel in Paris (score!).

Notre Dame’s Hidden Park

After we were suitably awed by Notre Dame and our child had asked for the third time, “Can we leave now?” we walked around to the Square Jean XXIII, directly behind the cathedral. 

notre dame dragons

This small, gated garden had a good quality playground crawling with kids from all over the world. Tiny Traveler romped with a girl from Italy while we ate sandwiches on a shaded bench nearby.

She had enough fun that she was even willing to hit more churches and museums afterward. It’s also a good vantage point for appreciating some of the cathedral’s outdoor details.

The garden has been closed while Notre Dame is being rebuilt and there are plans to expand it into a larger green space before it opens again. That plan includes removing elements that Parisians want preserved, like the gates that date to the early 1800s. But there will be more shade and more for kids to run around. 

Jardin D’Acclimatation

The Jardin D’Acclimatation is not a public park, as we expected. It’s really an old-fashioned Fun Park set on the edge or the sprawling Bois de Boulogne.

Basic park admission gives you access to playgrounds, climbing structures and water-play zones, plus a good Guignol puppet show and a petting zoo. 

the jardin accimitation in paris has a fun water play area, one of the activities that are included with park admission.

For the amusement park rides you can buy an unlimited admission ticket that gives you access to all the activities. Otherwise, individual tickets are a few Euros each, and the better rides require two tickets. If a child is too small to ride alone, it’s two tickets for you, as well.

Tweens will like the mild thrill rides including swings and mid-size roller coasters. Little kids will go for the boat ride, train and steeplechase. Aside from a couple of VR experiences, teens will be bored.

Check out the offerings before you visit to judge which admission type is better for you.

Dive into a Paris Pool

Paris has nearly 40 public pools, which means that no matter what arrondissement you are staying in or exploring on a given day, there’s a pool nearby.

They are handy if you are staying in an apartment or a city hotel with no pool, especially during the summer. It cost less than €10 for our family to swim, plus you usually need a refundable €1 coin for a locker. 

The locker rooms are co-ed, which might seem startling, but is actually handy for families. Don’t worry, there are changing stalls that lock and people are modest.

The pools we tried varied in size, age and quality. They all had several lanes for lap swimming and one single or double-wide lane reserved for anyone who wants to flat and bob more than swim.

paris's josephibe baker pool is on a barge. it's one of 40 public pools in paris and a cheap, easy place to have fun with kids.

The Josephine Baker pool is small, but had plenty of room for splashing and jumping in, as well as a wading pool for very little kids. 

Best of all, it sits on a barge on the seine, with lots of funky waterfront cafés around it where you can stop for a drink or snack after your swim.

We also liked the Art-Deco Pontoise, near the Sorbonne, for its style, family changing cabins, large family lane and kids’ hour, when they offered toys, obstacles, a small slide and a platform for jumping.

For a spiffier experience, try the large Neuilly Aquatic Center near the Bois de Boulogne. It’s more expensive than the others, but offers a kiddie pool, a lap pool, an indoor-outdoor pool with Jacuzzi jets and hot tub, and a slide.

Where & What to Eat With Kids in Paris

We were on vacation and ate as many meals out as we cooked. We quickly learned the ins and outs of eating in Paris restaurants with kids. 

a bakery in paris' jewish quarter has a menorah and several kinds of bread in its window. the neighborhood is a cheap and fun place to eat with kids.

• We had an inexpensive lunch in the Jewish Quarter, near the Marais, one afternoon. Tiny Traveler happily dug into our shared plates of hummus, pita bread, falafel and shawarma-style meat. Its numerous tempting bakeries make it a good place to stop for breakfast, too.

• We also ate lunch a few times in creperies, which are easy to come by all over town. Tiny Traveler stuck with lemon and sugar, a favorite with French children, while we had ham and cheese or vegetables, equally French and tasty. 

this bretton cafe in the marais serves rosé cider in tea cups, along with fresh crepes.

• We returned a couple of times to the Cidrerie du Marais on Rue de Sevigne, near Carnevalet. They sell crepes and Breton hard cider, and that’s about it. When we needed an afternoon respite, we’d head here and Tiny Traveler would have a dessert crepe while Rich and I drank rosé cider, served in tea cups.

• Tiny Traveler was very interested in trying new things in all the patisseries. Don’t leave Paris without sampling some macarons and eclairs as well as other assorted puff pastries and tarts. 

The macarons, generally less expensive than in NYC bakeries, are the right size snack for kids and the bright colors are irresistible. Lemon and raspberry quickly became our child’s favorites, which Rich and I liked the coffee and pistachio ones. 

The chocolate éclair at Ladurée, an upscale patisserie with a few shops around town, was probably the most heavenly thing I have ever eaten. It’s almost too good (and too expensive) to give to kids.

The macarons here are pricier than you’ll find around town, too, but they have some unusual flavors like pineapple or mango-cardamom. And they will keep your kids happy while you enjoy your eclair.

Allergy alert: Macarons usually have almond flour and frequently have hazelnuts.

• Most green markets have someone selling rotisserie roast chicken that you can smell all across the market. Tiny Traveler loved it. If we found a market near whatever we were doing on a given day we would buy some chicken, plus summer tomatoes, fruit, cheese, bread and maybe a pâté or dried sausage for a picnic lunch.

Brasserie Lipp was not an inexpensive meal, but not nearly as expensive as we feared, and it provided more value for money than some other places we wandered into. It has an old-fashioned elegance and is part of French history. It was just the place for a classic French lunch on a rainy day.

brasserie lipp serves up classic french bistro food and a bit of paris history.

My confit-style duck breast was moist with a crackling skin and potatoes that were fried crisp in the duck fat. Rich had velvety brandade de morue, salt cod mixed with mashed potatoes. Tiny Traveler had a plain omelet, but the highlight, as far as she ws concerned, were the trio of profiteroles we shared for dessert: Chou pastry filled with vanilla ice cream and served with a pitched of warm chocolate sauce to pour over them.

• We found casual brasseries and bistros near our apartment that we liked enough to eat in them more than once. A la Tour Eiffel in particular was kid-friendly and had good casual French fare at reasonable prices. Its kids’ menu, which was typical, offered a small entrée, soft drink and ice cream. The meal options were basic foods like steak haché (hamburger without a bun) with pasta, fries or green beans.

The soft drink was always club soda with flavored syrup, a favorite treat among French kids. Tiny Traveler enjoyed discovering raspberry and grenadine syrups. 

• When we were in the more central, touristy areas, there usually wasn’t a kids’ menu. If we asked there would be a dish they did for kids. This dish was always expensive and mediocre. 

At a café in the Latin Quarter, we paid more for her kids’ dish of cold sliced ham and French fries than we did for the two-course set lunch we each ordered. 

one of the restaurants in the musee d'orsay is accented by a giant train station clock. it's picturesque but lacks a kid-friendly menu.

In the very cool café in the Musee D’Orsay we ordered plain pasta with butter for her. They entered it as one of the menu’s pasta dishes, hold the sauce. And so we paid more than €15 for buttered ziti. To add insult to injury, while she was eating her very expensive plain ziti, the French kids around us were happily scarfing down salads, pâté and pasta with sauce

The upside of this was that we outlawed buttered pasta in restaurants and told her she would have to find something on the menu that she would eat. It saved us money and forced her to start eating more adventurously.

What To Pack for Paris

Clothes: There’s a reason why French women love their scarves. Even in the summer, Paris can be cloudy and chilly. During our August visit Tiny Traveler wore the fleece I packed “just in case” for part of almost every day. 

In addition to your summer clothes, pack a cardigan, a mid-weight fleece, one or two long-sleeve shirts and a pair of jeans. Also pack a light scarf, or plan to buy one when you get there; a practical and stylish souvenir. 

Remember, Paris is still the style capital of the world and less casual than we’re used to. Leave the yoga pants, cargo shorts and hoodies at home. 

Pack casual skirtsblouses and dresses. Go for shorts that are neat and a not too short. Men will want neat shorts, summer khakis and jeans.

Shoes: You want shoes that are comfortable and look good. If you’re really attached to your sneakers, at least pack cute ones. Husbands attached to their sneakers will want stylish ones, too. 

Swim Gear: The public pools are awesome but they have rules about attire. Everyone needs a swim cap, so buy them for both adults and kids before you leave home.

They also required snug swimsuits for men and women; no board shorts or baggy swim trunks. Pack Speedo-style suits for dads and sons.

I thought the Tuga Swim shorts Tiny Traveler preferred would be OK but not her rash guards. So I found a tankini top she could live with. 

A Kick Scooter: Rich thought I was out of my mind, but I disassembled Tiny Traveler’s Micro kick scooter and packed it into my suitcase, along with a helmet.

But the day we arrived, we walked more than four kilometers from our apartment to the Eiffel Tower and then to the Tuileries Garden.

We didn’t hear a single, “How much further?” and he had to admit it was a good idea. 

We had many long walks during our stay (some not on purpose) and she was happily still scooting when my feet were done for the day. Without it we would have had to take a lot more Metros, pay for cabs, and would probably have done less.

a micro kick scooter is an excellent way to get around paris, if you're a kid.

eSim cards: I wish that when we did this trip we had the option to use eSim cards. Instead, I paid a daily $10 roaming fee. Rich bought a physical sim card with a local number, which was cheap, but he couldn’t receive any calls or texts on his home number. And he had to make sure he didn’t lose his regular sim card. 

With an Airalo esim we could both have had 2 weeks’ worth of data for a total of $15. It would have given us more than enough data to access maps, WhatsApp, OpenTable, safari and other apps we want when we’re out and about on vacation.

Books: The classic M. Sasek book, This is Paris introduces major sights, landmarks and cultural touchstone with stylized 1950s illustrations and the kind of trivia kids love.

this is paris

Tiny Traveler insisted we carry our hardcover edition in my backpack so we could take it out to read each time we came to a place it mentioned.

As a teen, she still loves M. Sasek’s retro travel books. We have them for NYC, Venice and London as well.

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paris has more kid-friendly things to see, do & eat than you might expect. here are the museums, parks, foods and even churches  my family loved on our visit.