What to Do With Children in Paris
Paris is a child-friendly city
Atmospheres in this tip:
Paris' multiple clean and tidy parks with functioning playground equipment are for everyone to use, and are proof of Paris's child-friendly nature. Some of the parks and gardens are large and well known, but there are many little “pocket parks” always around the next corner. The most famous places to visit, like the Louvre, also offer kids' programmes, with activities suitable for youngsters.
Apart from these relatively obvious ideas, here are a few others to enable your family to make the most of the French capital.
- The Cité des Enfants
Split into two separate exhibitions (ages 2-7 and 5-12), the Cité des Enfants is an adventure playground designed to awaken children's curiosity, letting them explore a variety of rich and diverse discoveries. The Parc de la Villette, a large child-friendly park, just outside is a bonus.
- The Parc de la Villette
A reclaimed industrial landscape turned into a futuristic park, it is the largest urban cultural park in the capital. Most of the playful structures were designed by Bernard Tschumi with a child’s imagination in mind, and the enormous dragon slide or the bamboo maze won’t tell you otherwise.
- The Jardin d’Acclimatation
This children’s park was designed in the 19th century and, although it’s been updated with lots of cool rides and equipment, it still has an air of the old Paris. Most of the equipment is designed for the park itself (instead of purchased off the shelf and put there), which makes it far more intriguing and original. One should definitely arrive on the “petit train” that leaves from the Porte Maillot, a narrow gauge train that chugs through the perimeter of the Bois de Boulogne before dropping you off at the entrance. This place has it all: a zoo, a sprinkler park and a boardwalk-like section of rides and junk food stands.
- Paris Plage
“Plage” means beach, and in addition to the sand that is set along the banks of the Seine in an artsy effort to create an urban beach, this July and August festival includes food stands, bouncy castles, concerts, water features and games.
From December to March, the city sets up ice rinks in several locations around the city including one in front of the Montparnasse tower and at the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, from which you can enjoy views of Notre Dame while trying not to fall over! Skates cost 5€ to rent, the ice-rink is free.
- The Jardin des Plantes
Along the Seine in the 5th arrondissement, the Jardin des Plantes is a large botanical garden in the middle of the city. There’s also a ménagerie (small zoo), large greenhouses full of tropical plants and a Natural History Museum with huge dinosaur bones and other fun exhibits.
- The Palais de la Découverte
The Palace of Discovery is the city’s second science museum and is really oriented towards younger kids (under 12). It’s located in a beautiful 19th century building, another leftover from the World Fair, but is decked out with all the latest technology. Although everything is in French, the topics and presentations transcend language.
- The Tuileries Garden
Not only is it central-based and a great place to exhale after visiting the Louvre, it’s also a great place for kids. With its fountain in the middle where you can rent a model sail-boat, you are guaranteed to spend an enjoyable hour or two in Catherine de Medicis’ garden. There is also a summer carnival with a Ferris wheel that gives the best views of Paris.
- The Jardin du Luxembourg
The south-west corner of this Renaissance garden is devoted to kids, including acres of slides and swings. It costs 1.50€ to enter and an espresso is an extra euro. Apart from its famous carousel, you can also enjoy the hundred-year-old puppet theatre.