How to plan a one-to-one trip to Paris with your child

Introducing your children to some of your favourite places is one of the thrills of being a parent. It’s wonderful revisiting those places you’ve loved with your own children and seeing them for the first time through their eyes.

I took my 11-year-old son, Edward, with me to Paris a few months ago. It was his reward for working hard for his exams but we both got a lot out of the trip. Travelling one-to-one can be a great way of bonding with your child as you get to spend some time alone together and create some really special travel memories. Here are some tips on how to make the most of the experience.

Let them get involved in the planning

how to plan a trip to Paris with your childGet your child involved in planning what you do and see while you’re there. Going on a one-to-one trip with a child will be a very different experience to going on your own, with a partner or with girlfriends. I know Paris really well – I’ve lived there and visited on numerous occasions – but this was my son’s first trip and he had very clear ideas about what he wanted to do. Edward was desperate to do all the touristy things I hadn’t done in years: climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower, go down the Seine in a boat and visit Notre Dame.

Don’t plan every minute of your trip

You should definitely do some research before you go, make lists of the things you want to see, check out opening times and book tickets for sights like the Eiffel Tower to avoid queuing when you get there. But don’t plan your days so rigidly that you don’t leave any spare time for doing something on the spur of the moment or wandering around and getting a little lost in Paris’s enchanting streets and alleyways.

If you’re open to possibilities you might discover some wonderful place you haven’t read about. It’s these chance discoveries that can be the highlight of your trip. Don’t just follow the guidebook either. Often the best way to get to know a place is to listen to the locals once you’re there. Where do they eat? Where is their favourite place to visit?

Choosing where to stay

You’ll want to travel all over the city and visit sights in lots of different areas during the day but I didn’t fancy venturing too far away from our hotel at night so it’s a good idea to pick a base – whether hotel or apartment – in an area which has a lot going for it so that you’ve got restaurants, cafés and sights right on  your doorstep.

This isn’t difficult in Paris, where so many areas have an individual, villagey feel to them. Good areas to look at include the Marais (where we stayed. Take a look at my guide to the Marais for more information), the Latin Quarter and Montmartre.

Don’t try to do too much

Don’t try to fit too much in. It’s better to see one or two things well with an engaged and interested child than rush around all the sights with a child who is tired and grumpy. You won’t see anything properly and you will both be miserable. Travelling should be a pleasure, not an endurance test. If you’re going to a museum, plan something relaxing to do afterwards like finding the best ice-cream in Paris (try Berthillon on the Île Saint-Louis) or head to Angelina’s on the rue de Rivoli for the most divine hot chocolate you’ll ever taste. Don’t just rush from sight to sight.

Choosing the right place to stay

It can get pretty tiring spending the day sightseeing even when you’re having lots of treat stops for ice-creams and hot chocolate so it makes sense to base yourself in a hotel or apartment that is nice enough to provide a much needed sanctuary when you need an hour’s break before going out again.

We chose to stay in the wonderful Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais which has all the charm of an 18th-century Marais town house with its antiques and chandeliers. Edward and I delighted in returning here to put our feet up after a day’s sightseeing with a pot of tea from room service and a parcel of cakes from the local pâtisserie before heading out again for the evening.

Make getting around part of the fun

how to plan a trip to paris with a childMost cities are best experienced on foot and Paris is an absolute joy to walk around. You’ll find unexpected delights every time you turn a corner. But when you need to travel that bit further, make getting there an event in itself. On our first afternoon we took a boat trip down the Seine from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame and back, past many of the most iconic sights in Paris. It was a great way to get our bearings on our first day and see some of the sights before deciding which we’d like to explore further.

The other great way to get around is by bus. There’s no need to pay for a sightseeing tour when you can go on a local bus for a fraction of the price. The number 69 bus route is particularly scenic as it takes you past the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides, Saint-Germain-des-Près, Pont Neuf, the Marais and Bastille.

Try to avoid queueing

Long queues can sometimes spoil a good trip, particularly when you’ve got children. Try to avoid queues by booking online for sights like the Eiffel Tower. There are also clever ways of avoiding the very long queues for museums like the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. Follow the wonderful tip I was given: Go to the Cour Napoléon, the main courtyard with the Pyramid in front of the Louvre, and head for the shopping centre downstairs. Here you can buy tickets for most of the museums from a small tobacconist and then join the much smaller queue at the museums for people who already have tickets.

Don’t overdo the museums

Like a lot of first-time tourists to Paris, Edward wanted to see the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. I managed to convince him to go to the Musée d’Orsay instead. The Musée du Louvre is rightly one of the world’s most famous museums but it is massive and you need a whole day to do it justice which wasn’t an option for us on a weekend trip. Plus, the Mona Lisa is always surrounded by tourists and it’s so small when you actually get up to it that it’s almost a let down after battling through all the crowds.

The Musée d’Orsay, while still huge, is more manageable and there were enough famous paintings in there to satisfy Edward: Van Gogh’s Self Portrait and Starry Night, Manet’s Olympia and Monet’s Rouen Cathedral to name just a few.

Unless you plan on spending most of the day in a particular museum it’s always a good idea to decide which painters and paintings you really want to see and just do those. That way, you and your child won’t get museum fatigue and you’ll be able to spend time looking at the things you’re most interested in. Edward was keen to see the Impressionists so we did the large gallery on the fifth floor and a couple of other bits and pieces on the other floors. Obviously we had to see the clock too.

The advantage of pacing ourselves and just seeing a few chosen things in the Musée d’Orsay meant that after a lovely lunch in a café in the middle of Jardin Tuileries we felt up to wandering over to the Musée de l’Orangerie to gaze at Monet’s wonderful series of Water Lily paintings in their specially designed gallery.

Bond over books – or whatever the two of you have in common

It’s great when you share an interest with your children. Edward and I both love books so it was always a must for me to take him to my favourite bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, which is tucked away beside the Seine on the Left Bank. We spent ages wandering through the book-lined rooms and up the winding stairs where we found a white cat curled up on one of the beds. Edward loved the idea that book lovers and aspiring writers can sleep in the beds here amongst the bookshelves on the condition that they read a book a day. He nearly moved in there and then but eventually settled himself down with a book on one of the comfy day beds.

We even managed to find a bookshop to have our dinner in one evening – the wonderful La Belle Hortense in the Marais, which doubles up as a wine bar at night.

How to plan a trip to Paris with your childPlan something that’s especially for them

Make your trip even more special by finding an activity perfectly suited to your child’s interests. Edward’s really into magic so we visited the Musée de la Magie which is a fantastic museum for kids whether they’re aspiring magicians or not. There’s a live magic show and an impressive display of props from famous magicians like Robert Houdin. It’s a brilliantly interactive museum too, with lots of handles to turn, magical mirrors to look through and illusions to figure out.

 

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31 thoughts on “How to plan a one-to-one trip to Paris with your child

  1. Hi from the #AllAboutFrance link up! Some great advice especially the Louvre tickets and ice-cream tip! 🙂 I definitely agree not to cram too many things into an itinerary, it’s nice to have space to just go with the flow. What a wonderful trip for you and your son to share. My eldest son would love the Magic Museum too, so I’ll bookmark that for the future. Becks

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  2. Hi from the #AllAboutFrance link up! Some great advice especially the Louvre tickets and ice cream tip. I definitely agree not to cram too much into an itinerary, its nice to leave some space to just go with the flow. What a wonderful trip for you and your son to share. My eldest son would also love the Magic Museum, I’ll bookmark that for the future. Becks

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  3. Also joining you from the #AllAboutFrance link up! I remember feeling super-daunted to tackle France with kids, but you’ve hit all the important things I wish someone had told me before our trip. Except for maybe exercising extra caution with strollers on the subway – we almost got separated from our son when the doors closed on the pram – though I’m pretty sure you don’t have that problem with your son 😉

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  4. I love travelling with my kids and seeing places through their eyes but funnily enough I’ve never done a trip away with just me and one of them. However that is about to change as I’m taking my son to Naples for his 16th birthday in a few weeks. He is a pizza fiend and we’re focusing on that! Your advice is excellent especially about not trying to do too much but rather concentrate on a few things. Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance

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    • Thanks so much. One-to-one trips are a rare treat for us too, which is partly what makes them so special. Hope you have a brilliant time in Naples with your son – I fell in love with the city and would love to take my children there. I’m loving #AllAboutFrance although sadly running out of French posts to link. I will definitely have to return soon…

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  5. I’d love to take my two to Paris but think I’ll wait until they are a bit older so they appreciate it more. The hotel that you stayed in looks amazing! That bedroom is to die for. #CityTripping

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  6. What a great trip – I love Paris and despite the number of times I’ve visited, I love that I can always find something new there. A lot of my trips with my daughter are one on one (for now) and we saw the toddler-friendly side. Lots of walking involved (for me). I totally agree about the Louvre and Mona Lisa too. Thanks for joining up with #citytripping

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    • Paris is the perfect city to walk around although it must have been nice seeing it from a pushchair too! I’m hoping to go again this year – without the children – so it will be a different Paris again. #citytripping

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  7. What a wonderful trip! So great to share the experience one on one and I totally agree about seeing the city again through their eyes. Great tips for The Louve and getting them to chose what they’d like to do. Fab that he’s so into his art – sounds like he got a lot out of it (and you too). Thanks for linking to #citytripping x

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    • Oh do go, it’s a magical place, and if you limit yourself to just seeing a few things you might not feel so overwhelmed. Getting the bus was so easy and convenient, plus we got to do a good bit of sightseeing along the way!

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  8. We took the boys to Paris a couple of years ago – they started the weekend with a rugby match and continued with site seeing. We were too late to book the Eiffel Tower online so we didn’t go up but instead went up the Montparnesse Tower where we did not have to queue at all …. and you get the best view of the Eiffel Tower! #CityTripping

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  9. Pingback: A Guide to Visiting Paris with Kids – RubiosWander
  10. Pingback: The Best Things to do with Kids in Paris | suitcases and sandcastles

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