My first memory of Paris involves walking on cobbled streets after nightfall, looking up above rooftops and intersections, searching eagerly for the twinkling lights of the city’s most famous landmark. I must have been pretty young, as all I remember was being there with my mother for a very short visit during a flight layover – and desperately trying to get a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower while rushing through the City of Lights at night. We didn’t make it all the way to the Tower’s site that night, but I still remember the absolute feeling of awe seeing, from a distance, its elongated shape rising tall, bright and elegant against the Parisian sky.
Witnessing that sense of wonder in my daughter’s face as we stood together for the first time under the timeless presence of France’s “Iron Lady” reminded me of my own childlike wonder. I thanked Paris for the chance to experience that moment through her eyes.
In the days that followed, we shared many special moments that confirmed to me why Paris is a great city to visit with kids. By the way, if you're planning a trip with young ones, I highly recommend getting a copy of Lonely Planet Kids' Paris City Trails which gave us countless ideas and inspiration for our daily city excursions. These are some of our favorite experiences, seen through the eyes of a child.
The Eiffel Tower
By far June’s favorite Parisian sight and perhaps my favorite landmark, too! Regardless of how many times we passed by it, there’s just something about Gustave Eiffel’s elegant tower that simply captivates the imagination. For our first visit, I packed us a picnic that we enjoyed lounging on the Champs de Mars’ grounds while impromptu dancers surrounded us with colorful flags and fabrics flying freely in the wind. I felt so grateful for that very special moment, seeing June run and dance around while shouting, “This is the very best day of my life!”
We went back on a different day to actually climb up the tower. Being the summer and one of the top touristic places in the city, I didn’t want to wait for hours in line for the lifts that would have taken us up to the 1st and 2nd floors, so I told June we could visit only if she agreed to take the stairs up. She absolutely did – all 674 steps to the 2nd floor – and beat me there, too! We were lucky to enjoy the perfect weather and views from above. Our visit also coincided with the 130th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower's inauguration so we took advantage of special exhibits commemorating the occasion.
On our last night in Paris, we went out for dinner in Trocadero and grabbed sidewalk seats facing the Eiffel Tower so we could enjoy the views and the hourly light show while eating. That was such a treat, even with light rain. After paying the bill we walked over to get a few last pictures and seal our new love affair with Paris, framed by the magnificent structure lighted up in the night.
Parisian carousels have a magical draw on children of all ages. No matter how many times we came across one, June rode it, sometimes more than once! The one across from the Eiffel Tower, on the banks of the Seine, is an absolute must. But there were others we enjoyed as well, like the one at the bottom of the Sacré-Cour Basilica’s steps, the one at the Tuileries Gardens’ summer carnival, and others we found in different playgrounds and landmarks around the city. So simple and yet so beautiful and fun for kids!
The Tuileries Gardens and its Giant Ferris Wheel
Summer afternoons before sunset are a perfect time to stroll through the beautiful Tuileries Gardens next to the Louvre. With its classical statues, manicured lawns and bush mazes, June loved running around the grassy areas while I soaked up the sun. A festive carnival also sets camp there in the summertime offering plenty of family-friendly rides and a magnificent Ferris Wheel that gave us a thrilling experience high above the gardens with amazing views in all directions. June loved this place so much that we went back a couple of times during our time in Paris.
Sailboats & Pony Rides at Luxembourg Gardens
The Luxembourg Gardens are an easy way to spend a fun and memorable afternoon with children in Paris. Renting a model sailboat (€2 for 30 min.) and seeing the kids chase after their boats around the circular pond at the center of the park truly felt like the quintessential Paris-with-children moment. Pony rides are also available, as is an enclosed playground with a small zip line, climbing structures, swings, and other fun activities for the little ones. From there, we walked a short distance to Gelateria Grom for some delicious stracciatella ice-cream recommended by a nice family from Seattle that we met and befriended while in Paris.
Walking Tour of Montmartre
Perhaps no other neighborhood is as representative of old Paris as Montmartre. With its cobblestone streets, artistic bistros, romantic cafés, and supreme views, a walk through this picturesque hilltop village is a truly Parisian delight. We allocated a whole afternoon to our self-guided tour, giving ourselves permission to indulge in croissants and espressos at cozy cafés, as well as playground stops while searching for old windmills, a secret vineyard, Instagram-worthy photo spots, and the imposing Sacré-Cour Basilica. For a complete description and to see pictures of our walking tour, check out Self-Guided Walking Tour of Montmartre.
Situated in the Bois de Boulogne next to the Louis Vuitton Foundation, this children’s amusement park has an interesting history dating back to the times of Napoleon III when it opened as a zoo showcasing flora and fauna from France’s colonies. Later, in the 19th century, it became what was known as a “human zoo” where people from foreign and exotic countries were “exhibited” in anthropological expositions. Today, it offers a wide array of leisure activities including children’s rides and mini-rollercoasters that both kids and their parents can enjoy. We went on a playdate with my friend and her daughter and had a total blast. Sharing June’s first rollercoaster ride was totally worth it and so much fun for the two of us. There are many different ticket options and packages to choose from. I recommend purchasing the Unlimited Pass (€28 if you buy at least seven days in advance, otherwise €32 onsite) vs. buying tickets for individual rides. It will save you time and money once inside the park.
The Palais Royal Columns
Found in the inner courtyard of the Palais Royal close to the Louvre, the 260 black-and-white striped marble pillars by French artist Daniel Buren create a fantastic space for children to play, climb and otherwise imagine fun games surrounded by both history and modern art. Also known as Les Deux Plateaux or the Colonnes de Buren, the truncated columns vary in height, providing endless jump scenarios for the kids – because good times are often found in the simplest things, even when in Paris.
One of the great things about Paris is the number of public playgrounds and open spaces where children can run, play and let their imagination go wild. We found many of those around the city, often without even looking for them. The one at Les Halles was a perfect stop after enjoying a classic American lunch (burgers and fish-and-chips) at Indiana Cafe next door. Having a Metro station entrance steps away, it was easy to head back home once we were done with playtime.
Palais de la Découverte
This science museum housed in the Grand Palais in the center of Paris was a total hit with June. We spent a whole day exploring its fascinating temporary and permanent exhibits, and hands-on experiments. With many interactive displays, the exhibits aren’t necessarily as flashy as some of the modern science museums one could find in the U.S. but definitely engaging and educational in an “Old World” kind of way. Tickets are €9 for adults and €7 for those under 25. Visit their website for more information on times, current exhibits and Planetarium shows.
Chateau de Vincennes
Located in the 12th arrondissement on the east side of Paris, this French fortress is an easy Metro ride from the city's center and a great place to visit with kids without the crowds of Versailles. While lacking interior decorations and furnishings, its impressive dimensions (its donjon tower measures 52 meters/170 feet high) and medieval architecture make it an interesting and delightful visit for both children and adults. Next door, the Bois de Vincennes and its tranquil lake make for a lovely place to take a stroll on a lazy afternoon. Entry to the castle is free for children under 18. Adult tickets are €9 and can be purchased onsite.
With so many great places to visit and things to see in Paris, I wasn't sold on the idea of taking a day off to visit Disneyland Paris, but June kept seeing posters featuring the beautiful Cinderella castle and asking if we would be able to visit. In the end, I caved in, and I'm glad I did. We spent our last day in France at "the happiest place" on that side of the world and enjoyed every bit of it. I found the park's dimensions to be very manageable compared to the California park, and it wasn't nearly as crowded even though we went in August. To make the best of our time there, I booked us a room at the Best Western Hotel Grand Parc Marne La Vallé for the night before our visit and took a quick Uber ride in the morning to the park after taking advantage of the hotel's breakfast buffet (included with our reservation). There are plenty of day tours offered from Paris, too. Follow this link for tour and ticket options!
While most kids will frown at the idea of spending half a day confined inside the walls of a museum, Paris offers plenty of opportunities to introduce even the younger ones to its rich artistic heritage – and it makes it affordable for parents with free entrance for children under 18! In addition, most of the main museums offer great kid-friendly resources that families can take advantage of when planning a visit. To learn more about this, check out my blog post about Making the Best of Paris' Museums with Kids.
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