Our family-friendly guide to Paris
With its busy metro and crowded pavements, Paris may not seem too child-friendly at first but think again. Paris is packed full of things to do and not just for the romantics and pastry lovers but for families too. Fearful that the little ones may struggle with the crowds? Not to worry, hire a car from Charles De Gaulle and become the master of your own destiny, travelling where you want, when you want.
1. Eiffel Tower
Visiting the ‘Tour Eiffel’ is a quintessential experience for every visitor to Paris, whether young or old. While the queues for the lifts during the day are long, it’s worth it for the spectacular views over the city. If you have time, you should definitely come back at night to see the tower lit up in twinkling lights. It’s worth noting that it doesn’t get dark until 10pm during the summer months.
2. Arc de Triomphe
Situated in the middle of Place de l’Etoile, the Arc de Triomphe is the meeting point of twelve grand avenues. From the viewing platform at the top you get a great perspective of the structure and layout of the city. It also offers one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower from afar. You can look down at the bustling traffic below, which is actually a sight in itself!
3. Centre Pompidou
With over 50,000 works and multiple temporary exhibitions, the Centre Pompidou is one of Europe’s premier cultural centres. The design is something to behold, with the building wearing its skeleton on the outside. Exterior escalators and bright colours draw the eye. While inside there’s something for everyone. The National Museum of Modern Art is housed here and should keep the adults entertained, while les enfants are being amazed by the children’s gallery, perfect for ages 2-12 years old.
4. Chateau de Vincennes
What trip to France would be complete without a visit to a French castle? It is a short drive from the city centre, and will take you down one of the main Parisian boulevards. The Chateau de Vincennes is just east of the city limits and is well worth a trip. Its over-the-top grandeur is the draw, boasting a magnificent hall of mirrors and incredible gardens, all of which are free to under-18s. Paddle boats, a butterfly farm, bike paths and even a working farm are all close by and can easily be included for a great day out.
5. Disneyland Paris
After soaking up the culture, food and hustle of France’s capital, head to the magical Disneyland Paris. The theme park lies approximately twenty miles east of central Paris and is a forty-minute drive from the city centre. You can forget the stress of losing the car by using the first app featured in this blog post. Disney certainly is a crowd pleaser, with everything from high-speed rollercoasters to gentle carousels. You’ll meet all your favorite Disney characters strolling around the park. A great day of family fun and excitement is guaranteed.
Getting around and other useful information
While London’s system of Boris Bikes proved more popular than most had originally thought, it is unlikely to ever receive the level of affection that has been granted to Paris’s bicycle network by the city’s inhabitants. It is known as the Vélib’, a portmanteau of vélo (bicycle) and liberté (freedom).
Outside China, it is the world’s largest bike-sharing system and has the world’s highest penetration with one bike per 97 inhabitants. It is a great way for tourists to tour the city, allowing you to witness the iconic and impressive streets as you pedal around. As well as allowing you to experience more of France’s capital, Vélib is also very reasonably priced. Find out prices and more information here.
Driving in Paris certainly isn’t for the faint hearted. But for those who brave the roads, expect a thrilling adventure and a true window into the Parisian life. It would be advisable to get a little city runner, as parking spaces are of a premium and you will fit better into the crowd.
Famous for it’s food (and rightly so), the choice of eateries and restaurants here can be overwhelming. Backstreet bistros that don’t overtly advertise in English are usually a good bet for a more local experience. There are plenty of great restaurant guides to choose from online but the ‘Timeout: 50 best restaurants in Paris’ (which divides up the choices by type and location) is a good place to start.
If it’s green space you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place. The most notable and significant parks are the Tuileries, le Jardin de Luxembourg and the Jardin des Plantes. The Palace des Vosges is quintessentially Parisian. It is the oldest planned square in the city and straddles the line between the 3rd and 4th arrondissements (similar to boroughs) blending elements of both. The Pere Lachaise is also worth a visit. It is the largest cemetery in Paris but provides a breath-taking two-hour walk. You won’t find many places that are so steeped in atmosphere and history.
Looking to take in a show or concert? Check Lylo, an extensive agenda of Paris spectacles and gigs. Everything worth knowing about can be found here.
If you’d like to experience the local Paris rather than the tourist façade, take a look at this photo below. The blue dots represent a location where a local has taken a photo, while those in red show the locations that are snapped by tourists. Why not go and see the sights valued and captured by Parisians and experience the real Paris? The data was compiled by Eric Fischer.