Headed to the City of Light with kids? Great! Paris may be the world’s most sophisticated city, but that doesn’t mean the French capital lacks when it comes to kid-friendly sights. Put these five sights on your to-do list. And I'm including an extra “bonus” sight at the end, for good measure!
Note: In keeping with the spirit of our kids’ travel books, I’ve included a “mission” for some sights, something your kids must do or must find at the landmark. Everything’s more fun when there’s a game involved!
1. Eiffel Tower At Night
Did you know that it’s a violation of French law for tourists to come to Paris and not visit the Eiffel Tower? Sorry, that was a bad attempt at humor! While that’s not really the case, it is true that no visit to Paris would be complete without a stop here. However, the Tower holds the title of France’s Number One Tourist Attraction, and that comes with a price: long lines. Waiting in long lines is difficult for adults…and downright intolerable for kids.
So, my advice: skip the lines, and wait until night when the Eiffel Tower illuminates the Parisian sky with sparkling lights. Yes, the kids will have to stay up a bit late (9:30 to 10pm in summer), but it’s worth it!
And as your alternative for that panoramic view of the City of Light, but without the hordes of tourists, head off the beaten path, to one of the best kept secrets in Paris, the…
click 'read more' below
2. Ballon de Paris
This tethered helium balloon rises up 500 feet, just by the banks of the Seine, for breath-taking views of the city and its famous monuments. On windy days the balloon doesn’t fly, so check the balloon’s website and if at all possible, call first!
-Kids’ Mission: How many Parisian monuments can you spot from the balloon?
3. Tuileries Gardens
Located beside the Louvre, this park is absolutely perfect for kids because of all the activities: a carousel, playgrounds, trampolines, and a pond for toy sailboats. Plus, in the summer there’s even a carnival, complete with bumper cars and a “big wheel” (ferris wheel).
-Kids’ Mission: Find the in-ground trampolines and jump up, up, and up!
4. Luxembourg Gardens
Like the Tuileries, this park, situated between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, has a great selection of activities: playgrounds, a toy sailboat pond, and even a puppet theatre with classic fairy-tale shows. You’ll find the theatre (the ‘Marionnettes du Luxembourg’/’Theatre du Luxembourg’) beside the playground near Rue Guynemer. The shows are every Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday, and some holidays. (Check the newsstand entertainment publications like 'Pariscope' or 'l’Officiel des Spectacles' for details on this and other shows around town.)
And if you really want to be “Parisiens,” head to a sporting goods store, pick up a set of “boules” and experience the park local-style, with a family game of pétanque.
5. Notre Dame
This is one monument kids will love – as long as the tour isn’t too long! This massive, stained-glass filled cathedral is “guarded” by creepy and quirky gargoyles as well as famous religious statues like Saint Denis, the headless statue on the façade of the main entrance. There’s even a playground around the back for kids to burn off some energy.
-Kids’ Mission: Locate “Point Zero” in front of the cathedral. Stand here, and you’ll be standing at the official center of Paris.
Bonus: If you decide to venture out to Versailles for a day trip, check out…
6. Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet at Versailles
Looking for a break from the chateau crowds? Take a cue from Marie Antoinette and escape to this miniature country village, the “Hameau de la Reine” (the Queen’s Hamlet). Antoinette, the French royal who declared “Let Them Eat Cake,” when French commoners were starving for bread, would retreat to her hamlet and “play peasant.” Kids love running around in this space, complete with thatch-roof cottages, farm animals, flower gardens, and a fish pond.
-Kids’ Mission: Find the old mill, with its own wooden wheel.