The Best Things to do with Kids in Paris

The Best Things to do with Kids in ParisParis is top of most people’s travel wish lists and with good reason – it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But how easy is it to visit with children?

The good news is that the city has more than enough to entertain every member of the family, whatever their age. You can easily combine visits to the cultural sights with trips to the numerous parks and those all-important stops for ice cream and hot chocolate. The trick is finding those activities that children will find fun and engaging. Here’s my guide to the best things to do in Paris with kids.

Paris, like most big cities, can get very busy, with long queues at many of the most popular sights. With this in mind I’ve included tips on avoiding queues wherever possible.

Look for the gargoyles at the top of Notre Dame

The gruesome monsters at the top of Notre Dame are some of the most famous gargoyles in the world. If you climb all 387 steps of the tower’s spiral staircase you’ll be able to see them close up and be rewarded with spectacular views over Paris. This is the world made famous by Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Don’t miss the chance to go inside the 800-year-old Gothic cathedral where Napoleon had himself crowned. Arrive before it opens to avoid long queues to climb the tower.

The cathedral of Notre Dame is open every day and visits are free. The tower can be climbed every day from 10am until 6.30pm. It is open until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays in July and August. Adults, €12; under 18s, free.

Watch a puppet show at the Jardin du Luxembourg

The beautiful Luxembourg Gardens are home to the oldest puppet theatre in France – there are shows three times a week and every day during the school holidays. These grand gardens, complete with statue-lined promenades, fountains and old men playing chess under the trees, are a Parisian institution and the perfect place for children to let off steam. There’s a good playground, sandpits, a vintage merry-go-round and pony rides. You can even hire model boats to sail on the pond.

Visit the bird market on Île de la Cité

Every Sunday, the flower market near Notre Dame is transformed into a bird market. You’ll hear the squawking and singing of the birds well before you arrive and your children will love seeing all the parrots, canaries, budgies and mynah birds for sale. You can cuddle rabbits here too.

Find the best hot chocolate in Paris

The hot chocolate in Paris is thick and creamy and more like melted chocolate than the watered down version we get in the UK. It’s usually served in a jug, with extra cream to make it even more indulgent. It’s fun for kids to embark on a quest to find the best hot chocolate in the city.

We like the Belle Époque splendour of Angelina’s near the Louvre where Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn used to come. Another favourite is Un Dimanche à Paris on a cobbled passageway on the Left Bank. The rich hot chocolate here comes with the very welcome addition of three miniature cakes.

Brave the underground tunnels of the Catacombes

The bones of over six million people have been carefully arranged along the walls of the underground tunnels which run under the city. These are the bones of the victims of the French Revolution, the Plague and the guillotine. There were so many deaths that by the late 18th century the public burial pits were overflowing and so millions of bones were transferred down into these old mineshafts.

The 45-minute tour takes you down a spiral staircase and along some of the tunnels. You’ll only see a fraction of what is down here – the tunnel network is 200 miles long and during the Second World War they were used as hideouts by both members of the Resistance and the Nazis.

The Catacombes are open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10am until 8.30pm. Adults, €12; children, €5. To avoid the queues, get here before it opens or book a guided tour – these cost more but you won’t have to queue.

Watch a magic show in the Musée de la Magie

Best Things to do with Kids in ParisThis quirky museum in the Marais is a must for aspiring magicians. Down in its 16th-century vaulted cellars you’ll find a treasure trove of tricks, props and illusions from the 18th century to the present day. It’s all brilliantly interactive, with distorting mirrors, secret boxes, handles to turn and illusions to figure out.

All kids will love the magic show which is included in the price of the ticket.

The Musée de la Magie is open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 2pm until 7pm. Adults, €9; children, €7.

Take the bus around some of the best sights in Paris

Why pay for a sightseeing bus tour when you can go on a local bus for a fraction of the cost? The number 69 bus takes you past the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides, the Louvre, Pont Neuf, Saint-Germain-des-Près, the Marais and Bastille and finishes at the Père Lachaise Cemetery where famous figures like Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Chopin and Jim Morrison are buried.

Be a news presenter in the TV Studio at Cité des Enfants

This science and technology museum is widely considered to be the best museum in Paris for children. It’s crammed with fun and interactive activities to help children explore scientific phenomena. In the area for two to seven-year-olds you can work with other children to build a house or fix a car, take part in circus acts or find objects using your senses.

The five to 12-year-olds can head to the TV Studio to present the news and learn how to use a camera. They can also measure how fast they run and play water games.

The Cité des Enfants is open from Tuesday to Sunday. Adults, €9; under 25s, €7. Sessions last for an hour and a half.

Take a boat trip down the Seine

how to plan a trip to paris with a childMake the getting around part of the fun. Taking a boat trip down the River Seine is a great way to get your bearings on your first day. The boats, which travel from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame and back, go past many of the most iconic sights in Paris. The tours usually last an hour and the audio commentary tells you more about what you’re seeing.

There are several companies. We liked Bâteaux Parisiens.

Ride on a merry-go-round

Your children will be delighted to find old-fashioned carrousels scattered all over the city, many of which are over 100 years old. Quite a few of them are in front of some of the most famous sights in Paris – the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, the Hôtel de Ville – so they make a great reward for tired little legs while you’re out seeing the sights.

Make it even more fun by copying the French children and playing the jeu de bagues. You’re given a stick and you have to try and spear the metal rings as you spin around.

Climb up the Eiffel Tower

how to plan a trip to paris with your childMy own children have assured me that you can’t go to Paris and not go up the Eiffel Tower. If you really want to impress everyone back home then you should climb up the stairs instead of taking the lift. Not only much more fun, it’s also cheaper and the queues for the stairs are much shorter than those for the lift.

The stairs will take you to the second level and you can get the elevator to the top from there. To avoid the longest queues, book tickets in advance from the website. You can only book tickets online for the elevator. Tickets for the stairs are sold at the Tower.

The Eiffel Tower is open every day from 9am until 12.45am from mid June to early September, and from 9.30am until 11pm for the rest of the year. 

Do a treasure hunt around the Louvre

Paris has some of the best art museums in the world so it’s a great place to get your kids excited about art. If you’re going to one of the big galleries, be sure to take it at their pace. Work out what you’re interested in seeing and just do those. That way you won’t get museum fatigue and you can spend time looking at what you’re most interested in.

My kids loved the Impressionists and the clock at the Musée d’Orsay and then we headed to the wonderful Musée de l’Orangerie to see Monet’s spectacular series of waterlily paintings. This is a particularly good museum for children as it’s less busy and has more space for you to sit and gaze at the massive paintings.

For modern art, head for the Pompidou Centre. Children will love its crazy, colourful exterior and the interactive exhibits in the Children’s Gallery. Be sure to go up to the top floor for panoramic views over Paris and then spend time enjoying all the street entertainers in the square outside.

If you’re going to the Louvre, I’d recommend taking a fun tour like the Treasure Hunts offered by THATLou. In teams of two to four you follow the clues to various works of art in a scavenger hunt around the museum.

Eat lots of cake

With an amazing pâtisserie on virtually every street corner you can feel justified in indulging your sweet tooth while you’re in Paris. You’ll find macarons in every colour of the rainbow, lemon tarts, éclairs, Baba au Rhum and Paris-Brest. They’ll come beautifully wrapped in a pyramid parcel ready for you to enjoy beside the Seine or in one of Paris’s wonderful parks.

Cuddle a cat in the Café des Chats

The Best Things to do with Kids in ParisCat lovers will adore the Cat Café in the Marais where you can find over a dozen cats wandering around, curled up on chairs or sleeping in corners while you enjoy lunch or afternoon cake.

The cats have all been rescued and have been specially chosen for their sociability. They can all be cuddled (unless they’re sleeping) but young children will need to be supervised.

Le Café des Chats is open on Tuesday to Sunday from 12pm until 10.30pm. 

Have an ice cream beside the Seine

Berthillon on the Île Saint-Louis serves some of the most famous ice creams in the world. When you’ve bought yours, follow the steps down to the banks of the River Seine. It’s a lovely spot to eat your ice cream while you walk beside the river, stopping to look at all the barges along the riverbank.

Learn how to make éclairs in a cooking class

Children can have a lot of fun learning how to create their own sweet treats by taking a cooking class. At Cook’n With Class in Montmartre, six to 12-year-olds are taught how to make molten lava cakes and French jam shortbreads. The whole family can take part in a two-hour choux pastry workshop at L’Atelier des Sens and learn how to make éclairs. Both classes are in English.

 

For more tips and ideas on travelling to Paris with kids, take a look at

How to make City Trips Fun for Kids: The Leap & Hop Travel Guides

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

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72 thoughts on “The Best Things to do with Kids in Paris

  1. I LOVE the Jardin de Luxembourg but I never knew that about the puppet shows! And my kids would love the catacombs. Such a great informative piece-one to bookmark for future reference! #citytripping

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  2. OMG I love allll of these suggestions even if I don’t have kids! haha I was expectially excited about the Angelina! Audrey Hepburn is my idol and I love anything to do with her so I quickly went to that website and pinned it! I’ll be pinning this one as well for my future return to Paris one day! #CityTripping

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    • I agree they’re not just for kids. So often, the things I write about doing with children are just fun for everyone. As you’ve probably noticed, I always like to put in a few sweet treats in-between a bit of sightseeing. I can see the Audrey Hepburn connection! Thanks too for your super lovely tweet.

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  3. Amazing post Clare. I always appreciate the quirky additions in your posts like the Magic Museum. Cant wait to take our two to Paris soon. My son and I share a love of the beautiful French carousels so we will be seeking them out.

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  4. brilliant round up! ive never been to Paris and really want to go 🙂 the cat café sounds great. not so keen on the bird market – I remember wandering round the ones in Hong Kong and just feeling sad for the birds :/ #citytripping

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  5. That’s brought back some brilliant memories of when I took my two boys to Paris at Easter. They loved being TV presenters and musicians at Cité des Enfants too on a really rainy day. My 7 year old ordering snails to try and impress everyone else was another great memory!

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    • Love the story of your 7-year-old ordering snails! My kids love trying the local food when we’re travelling, some goes down better than others… Places like the Cité des Enfants are brilliant for rainy days!

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  6. Leaving for Paris tonight, so this blog post comes at a great time for me! Definitely adding the hot chocolate to my list and the bird market! I don’t even have kids… 🙂 #citytripping

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  7. Great list Clare – so much to do – and many actvities I’d never have thought of. I’ve never been down to the catacombs so would like to do that one day and I’ve not heard of the cat cafe – great if you are a feline fan. The eclairs cooking class sounds brilliant and good knowledge about the bus! We need to go as a family soon so this will come in handy! Thanks for linking to #citytripping

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    • Thanks so much, Elizabeth. I like to try and find a good range of activities in a city so that there’s something for everyone. I love doing the culture but wouldn’t want to spend the entire day doing it – especially with children in tow! Good to be back on #citytripping

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  8. Such a great list Clare! You’ve listed so many unique ideas – have never heard of the bird market – looks fantastic! My girls really want to go to Paris. Not sure when we’ll make it but when we do – the key word being when and not if – I’m definitely saving this. Lots of interesting ideas and facts (as usual:)). #citytripping

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  9. I love Paris – I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve visited (though am still yet to manage to get to the catacombes) but it was fantastic going back with my daughter when she was a toddler. It was like discovering a completely different city… We saw a lot more parks: the Jardin d’acclimatation is also a great one with younger kids, and the little zoo at the Jardin des plantes. I would love to go to the Cite des Enfants with her as well, definitely on my list for our next visit. #citytripping

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    • You really do see a familiar place with different eyes when you’re travelling with children. It was exactly the same for me when I took my oldest to Paris on his own a couple of years ago – we went to places I’d long dismissed as too ‘touristy’ and we both had so much fun. I love all the parks in Paris. There are so many wonderful things to do with kids in the city that I couldn’t put everything in! Never mind, I’ll just have to write another post in the near future…

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  10. This post has made me want to take by son back to Paris ‘tout suite’! The catacombs are a must, and I think those puppet shows DNS magic museum would be such a unique and fun thing for little ones to enjoy! Thanks for putting this amazing list together – once again, I am pinning and sharing this. Love your work Clare!

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    • Thank you so very much, Ali. You write such lovely comments. Thank you! I literally had to drag one of my children out of the magic museum at closing time – he wanted to see absolutely everything.

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  11. I love this! Making eclairs would be at the top of my list. I love doing things that are different from the usual travel guide recommendations like that. The first thing that came to my mind was whether the classes were conducted in English and you read my mind! How awesome that the classes are in English! #CityTripping

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    • Thank you so much! Me too – I don’t want to read about all the most obvious things to do in a place (although sometimes I feel the need to go to the most touristy attractions as well!) but I do love finding out those things that are a bit more quirky and fun.

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  12. I remember going to Paris as a kid and being scared to death of the elevator at the Eiffel Tower, but loved the view was I got to the top.

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    • It’s a great view, isn’t it? Last time I went it was pouring with rain and there was a massive gale – I swear the Tower was rocking which was slightly disconcerting! I’ve got such strong memories of my first trip up the Eiffel Tower. Think it’s a Parisian rite of passage.

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  13. Those eclairs look really good! I’d definitely go for one of those classes even though my childhood is long gone… also, what I wouldn’t give to have a cup of that heavenly-looking hot chocolate right now! Yum! The magic museum is something I’d be interested in as well – my boyfriend is an amateur magician and we’ve attended a few magic conventions around the UK (Blackpool and Lincoln are the ones that spring to mind). Also, if you’re ever in Pennsylvania, the Houdini Museum is fascinating.

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    • I think the cooking classes are a fantastic way to learn more about what we’re eating – and maybe even recreating them at home. My kids love to cook but are much less good at clearing up afterwards, sadly. The Houdini Museum sounds great – my oldest son would absolutely love that. Thanks for the tip!

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  14. We found the Jardin du Luxembourg on our last morning in Paris, it is so beautiful! Perfect for little ones and my one year old had a great time playing there. I would love to go back one day so thanks for sharing this list!

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  15. Great selection of activities with children in Paris. I am surprised that you chose the Catacombs to take your kids to. It’s kind of a sinister place, don’t you think so?

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    • Thanks Galanda. Yes, the Catacombs are a bit sinister – probably too much so for very young children – but get to a certain age and most kids love that kind of ghouly, creepy stuff!

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  16. I love this post! I’m a relative newcomer to Paris (I’ve only been for two very short trips) but this is a great starting point for my next visit and it’s not just for kids!

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    • Thank you SO much, Mandy! Definitely not just for kids. When I’m travelling somewhere I always try to find activities that I’m going to enjoy rather than just something for the children.

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  17. I don’t think muy kids would cope with the catacombs, but the ice creams, cakes, hot chocolate, cats and carousels sound right up their street! We haven’t been to Paris with the kids. I think a long weekend trip beckons!

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  18. Great ideas Clare. I’ve never really been a great fan of Paris (sacrilege) but I’d be tempted to visit now just so that I can go to the catacombs.

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  19. This is such a great list. You’ve covered such a good variety of options! I don’t have children myself but I’d like to do quite a few of these myself – the catacombs, cat cafe, bird market, and definitely a cooking class. I love Paris so much!

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  20. Such a terrific post! My dream vacation is to take my 4 kids (2yr-12yr) & my husband to Paris!! I love your blog! Had to reblog this it is terrific! Wait, did I already say that?

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    • Thank you so very much for your wonderful comments. I’m really delighted that you’ve reblogged the post. I just love Paris and I do think there’s so many wonderful things you can do there with kids. I hope you get to visit with yours one day.

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  21. Pingback: The August Chronicles | suitcases and sandcastles
  22. This is such a great round up of ideas for fun times in Paris. I lived there for 10 years, 8 of them with kids from new born to 8 (surprisingly enough) and have since been back many times (oldest now 17) and would have to say you have a fantastic knowledge of Paris. Our all time favourite when we lived there was the Cité des Enfants and boating in the Luxembourg gardens (when they were toddlers), but I never knew about the magic museum. I know both my boys would love that even now and I’ll be bookmarking it for our next trip. My additions to this list would be to use the metro (especially if you don’t live in a city at home as I find kids love taking public transport like this), particularly line 14 which is driverless so the kids can sit right up the front. Also visit the Grand Galérie d’evolution in the jardin des plantes (where there’s a little zoo too as MumyTravels mentions) and the jardin d’acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne (also mentioned by MummyTravels!) Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance

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    • Thanks so much, Phoebe. I discovered the magic museum quite recently when I was looking for activities for my magic-mad son – I have to say he loved it and I almost had to drag him out at the end of the afternoon! Love your tip about driving at the front of metro line 14 – I shall definitely try and remember that one. I’m loving being back on #AllAboutFrance

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  23. Hi Clare, I don’t have young children myself any more but these sound like excellent suggestions for my nephews next summer. Bus 72 is my favourite, along the Seine from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower (not sure where it goes afterwards), with the best photo of the Eiffel Tower from the Bir Hakeim bridge. I’m going to share on FaceBook so my brother can see it.

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  24. What a fabulous selection of ideas and I am bookmarking this for when I next make it to Paris with my boys. Last time we wanted to visit the Catacombs but the queue was just too long. We did do a boat ride but opted to go up the Monparnasse Tower rather than The Eiffel Tower (no queues!). And I am so glad you can cuddle the cats. I read about a similar cat café somewhere else and you are not allowed to touch the cats. I would find that too hard! #AllAboutFrance

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