Planning a family trip to Paris? Try these 15 best things to do in Paris with kids + best day trips. Check our travel itinerary and tips for France travel, with insider tips to have fun and enjoy the city like the locals.
This summer, I went with my family to Paris, France. It was an amazing experience, and I wanted to share all our activities to give you ideas if you plan a visit soon. We have three kids – ages 8, 12 and 14 – and they all did really well on the trip. I’ll post all about our trip, things to do, and the ultimate guide to travel to Paris. I’ll share our favorite day trips from Paris that are family friendly too.
How to Plan Your Travel Itinerary
When planning a trip to Paris with kids, first figure out how long you’ll be there. In my opinion, 3-5 days is a must to see the top sights in the city. There’s a lot to do, but if I had to rate our favorite experiences it was the Eiffel Tower, Paris city bike tour, walking around Latin Quarter and St. Germain (and the croissant tour), and the Paris Catacombs.
We had a 9-day itinerary with 6 days in Paris, 2 days in Normandy, and 1 day in Versailles. If we had to choose one day trip, it would hands down be Normandy over Versailles. My kids really enjoyed learning about WWII and D-Day.
Next time, we’ll likely stay just 2-3 days in Paris, and spend more time in Brittany and Normandy. My kids loved the coastline and the countryside. My husband and I have been to Loire Valley and visited the chateaus (on our honeymoon years ago), and it would be another great day trip or overnight trip with kids too. They would get to see castles in real life.
How to Get Around
We didn’t rent a car while we were in the city. Parking is scarce and driving in the city can be a headache. Public transportation is fantastic. We took the Metro everywhere. Check out the Metro map and routes app. We also took Uber to get around, and walked a lot – about 6-10 miles a day. Paris is a very walkable city.
Where to Stay
Paris has 20 distinct neighborhoods, or arrondissements as the French call it. The 1st arrondissement starts in the middle of Paris next to the Louvre Museum and circles around like a snail, eventually getting to the 20th arrondissement. Each neighborhood has it’s own vibe.
We stayed in the 16th arrondissement (neighborhood) in Paris. It’s about 4 blocks from the Eiffel Tower and Trocadero Gardens in a residential area that’s lined with local bakeries and restaurants. There’s even a shopping mall and cute shops on Rue de Passey nearby. We got a 2-bedroom flat on Airbnb that was perfect for our family. As a family of five, we would have needed at least 2 hotel rooms, so an Airbnb was a better fit and cheaper too. We also loved that it had a washer and dryer so we could do laundry.
There are a lot of areas to choose to stay, so decide on a landmark you want to be near and look for hotels and flat rentals nearby. Other areas to consider are St. Germain (6th arrondissement) and Latin Quarter (5th arrondissement) – both neighborhoods have a lot of restaurants, bakeries and nearby the Notre Dame.
What to Eat
Paris has the most amazing food. From bakeries to local cuisine to ethnic favorites like gyro shops, Paris has it all. But you cannot visit Paris without going to a bakery, patisserie or cafe. Get a croissant, baguette or other local pastries and enjoy!
Though we are gluten free, we actually decided to try food made with gluten. Interestingly, we didn’t get sick or bloated. I’ve heard this from friends who have visited other cities in Europe. The wheat in Europe is different than the United States – likely due to the lack of pesticides and non-hybridization of the wheat. But there are a lot of gluten-free dining options in Paris. It’s easy to ask for gluten free too (just say “sans gluten”).
Local Parisian cuisine is really fresh. The cheese, the salads, the escargot, the meat, the seafood. The food is so good that even our pickiest eater loved it. Italian food is very popular so you’ll easily find pasta and pizza too. One of our favorite meals was a tiny gyro shop in the Latin Quarter.
What we loved best about dining in Paris is that it’s all about enjoying the moment. Parisians dine for hours – eating slowly, people-watching, talking, and drinking wine. There are no TVs with sports and news shows… at least not the cafes we’ve been to. It felt so good to slow down and eat like the locals.
Now this also meant that getting coffee in the morning to go was a bit more difficult. Most cafes serve coffee, espresso, cappuccinos and hot tea at the table rather than a to-go cup (they call it takeaway). So just give yourself more time to enjoy your morning caffeine at the cafe. Most did have breakfast options with a cafe and a croissant for about $5 euro.
All restaurants and cafes add the gratuity for the wait staff, so there’s no need to give an additional tip – though the courtesy is to round up with change. We found the prices to be reasonable and comparable to what we pay for meals (and tip) in the United States.
Just remember that eating out in Paris is a bit different. It’s not about eating fast and leaving. It’s about enjoying the experience. The wait staff is usually attentive and friendly. We found everyone in the city to speak English, but we always made an effort to say “please” and “thank you” in French.
15 Things to Do with Kids in Paris
1. Eiffel Tower
This is a must-see Paris landmark. But it gets so busy that if you show up the day-of you might end up waiting hours in line. Either go early when it opens at 9:30 am or get front-of-the-line tickets. I recommend getting the summit tickets (top floor) for a birds-eye view of the city or the 2nd floor tickets (which I actually think has better views for picture-taking).
The Eiffel Tower closes at 12:45 am and definitely worth a visit both during the day and night for a different experience. We ended up in an Airbnb just 4 blocks from the Eiffel Tower and walked around at night to see it light up every hour. It was so magical. The kids absolutely loved it.
2. Trocadero Gardens
This is a beautiful square surrounded by a garden and water fountain that the locals dip their feet to cool off. It’s the perfect spot to get those drool-worthy photos right in front of the Eiffel Tower. We enjoyed taking photos along the stairs (go early – like 8 am before the crowds) and all over the gardens. We actually booked a photo shoot through Airbnb and it was a wonderful experience.
3. Seine River Cruise
We got an Eiffel Tower and Seine River cruise combo that was so worth it. The cruise is just an hour and can be used anytime. We decided to do a night tour and it was a breathtaking view of the city and the Eiffel Tower. There are some Seine River cruises that offer a dinner service, but we opted not to do it.
4. Paris Bike Tour
We did a bike tour of the city on our second day in Paris. It was a great way to learn our way around the city and see the major landmarks too. We took a 4 hour bike tour around the city, and racked up 8-9 miles and walked another 5-6 miles too. It was a fantastic experience for our whole family. Even our 8-year old got to experience it. He went on a tandem bike with my husband.
We went through the Latin Quarter, Champs de Mars, Champs Elysees, Rue Cler, among the Seine River, Tuileries Garden and the Le Marais district. We even got to see Notre Dame, we couldn’t go inside because the of the construction. It could be another 5-10 years before it opens again.
Fun Fact: The spot where the Notre Dame is considered to be the center of Paris. But centuries ago it was almost torn down because it wasn’t kept up. Victor Hugo wrote the Hunchback of Notre Dame hoping Parisians would fall in love with the church again and save Notre Dame. And it worked. Now years later when the burning happened a couple months ago, over $1 billion was donated to help with reconstruction.
5. Rue Cler
On our Paris bike tour, we spent some time meandering through Rue Cler. It’s the cutest area in Paris. There’s a different shop for different foods, like the la fromagerie (cheese shop), creperie (crepes shop), boulangerie (bakery), vins (wine shop), and patisserie (pastry shop).
We sat in a lovely cafe and enjoyed a cafe (coffee and tea) and some croissants while we watched people go by.
6. St. Chapelle
If you’re around the Latin Quarter or St. Germain, stop by the St. Chapelle. It’s a gorgeous church with stained-glass everywhere. It’s similar to the Notre Dame (which is currently closed and going through major repairs – we heard for at least a few years). You’ll be able to walk to the top to see views of the city, and walk around the church to see the architecture and stained-glass windows. It’s a great alternative to the Notre Dame.
Travel tip: Now the lines get really long (as do pretty much any museum or attraction in Paris), so I suggest getting the Paris Museum Pass. You can order online but you’ll need to pick it up (actually just around the corner from St. Chapelle) and skip ahead to the front of the line. The wait is usually at least an hour to get in, but we went straight to the front of the line. The Paris Museum pass will give you access to the Arc de Triomphe, Panthéon, Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and other museums and landmarks.
Right next to St. Chapelle is the Conciergie. If you get the Paris Museum Pass, you can skip ahead to the front of the line to get in. Conciergie is the former prison where Marie Antoinette and other prisoners from the French Revolution were held). You can do a self-guided tour with an iPad, but the line was so long we decided to skip it and walk through on our own.
Tip: Most of the museums had self-guided tours with iPads and portable electronic devices. However, the lines to get them were so long. For instance, at Versailles, the line to get the portable electronic devices for the self-guided was over an hour long. To save time, we just went on Wikipedia to get some basic facts about each museum and did our own self-paced tour.
8. Le Marais
We did a croissant and bakery walking tour in the Le Marais district of Paris. Basically, we walked to different bakeries and tried a selection of croissants and pastries. We leaned about some of the local culture too and walked for 2 hours around the city.
Here are just some of the pastries we tried:
- Kouign Amann – comes from Brittany, the coastal region in the north of France. Its main ingredients are butter, bread dough and sugar, so very much a treat pastry. It tastes like a crunchy croissant or palmier.
- Financier – a small French almond cake, and the one we had also contained pistachio. It tasted like a Chinese almond cookie to me.
- Choquettes – bite-sizes puff pastries with pearl sugar on top. We had it served to us when we ordered coffee and tea.
- Mararons – we didn’t have them because we were so full but they looked amazing. They’re huge – like 4 times the size of a regular macaron with berries in the middle.
- Croissants – we sampled 4 different ones and our favorite was the one from Au Petit Versailles du Marais. It was soft and buttery inside and crispy and flaky on the outside.
As we walked around Le Marais, we noticed the bridges all over Paris have locks on the railing. It’s couples who come here and put a lock on the bridge to symbolize their love. Ah Paris… always the romantic.
9. Paris Catacombs
This is a must-see landmark for the whole family. It may be a bit scary for kids under 5. Our 8-year-old son actually begged to go here and wasn’t scared at all. So it’s important to know your kids. Definitely get a front-of-the-line ticket, otherwise you’ll be waiting at least an hour but upwards of 3-4 hours to get in. We preferred this small group tour as it allowed kids (some front-of-the-line tours don’t) and had a maximum of just 19 people per tour.
For many attractions, we decided to skip the guided tour, but I was so glad we didn’t do that for the Paris Catacombs. We learned so much from our guide.
History Lesson: So hundreds of years ago when the Romans still occupied Paris they dug deep underground for limestone. They had a whole network of underground caves. It was like Swiss cheese under the city. Then it was kinda forgotten.
In the 18th century, there was a problem. The cemeteries in Paris became overcrowded. There were 500,000 living residents in the city and 3 million people buried in overcrowded cemeteries… to the point where some areas were 3 meters high and getting into people’s yards. It was becoming a health issue for the living.
Someone had the idea of moving the bones from the cemeteries into the old Roman tunnels now called the catacombs. There are 7-8 million people now buried there, including people from the French Revolution.
The men who worked on the catacombs sometimes made pattens and designs with the bones. The Paris catacombs is the largest boneyard in the world. There are similar catacombs in other parts of Europe.
Now Parisians can no longer be buried here and the current cemeteries in Paris are full, so they must be buried outside the city.
10. Sacre Coeur
The Sacre Couer is a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus in the Montmarte district. The architecture is gorgeous with stained-glass windows and a dome (300 steps upstairs) with the most beautiful views of the city.
The Paris Museum Pass works at the Sacre Couer but if you want to go to the top you’ll need to pay small fee. It’s about 300 steps up a windy staircase, so it’s a trek but so worth it for the views.
11. Latin Quarter and St. Germain
The Latin Quarter (5th arrondissement) and St. Germain (6th arrondissement) neighborhoods are the quintessential Parisian city life that’s great for the whole family. We meandered through the streets and picked up a few souvenirs and had the best gyros ever. It’s easy to spend the day and walk to the nearby Notre Dame and take photos from the outside.
12. Père Lachaise Cemetery
The Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Paris with more than 3 million visitors a year. Why is it so popular? There are a lot of famous people here, including composer Frédéric Chopin, artist Georges Seurat, author Oscar Wilde, writer Gertrude Stein, musician Edith Piaf, and singer Jim Morrison (of the Doors). It’s free to enter the cemetery and walk around, but be prepared for a lot of walking. This cemetetary is huge! It takes more than mile to get from Jim Morrison’s grave all the way to Oscar Wilde’s grave. We used Google Maps to find their graves.
It was so interesting to walk through and see the crypts for families, and the tombstones with lots of gothic influence. It’s a great companion to see after the Paris Catacombs.
13. Musee d’Orsay
In my opinion, if you can only do one museum opt for the Musée d’Orsay. It’s got one of the largest collections of impressionist art, which is our all-time fave. Even the kids love Vincent Van Gogh.
We walked through and saw Monet, Renoit, Cézanne, Degas, Manet and Seurat. The kids also liked the modern furniture exhibit and French Revolutionary art.
Again, you can use the Paris Museum Pass to get access. I suggest stacking all visits to the museums and attractions together. For instance, get a 2-day museum pass and see the Musee d’Orsay, St. Chapelle, Conciergie and other landmarks on those 2 days to save money.
14. Louvre Museum
If you really have your heart set on the Lourve, do it. But I’ll be honest this is not the museum for young kids or really any kids under the age of 12. It’s huge (it’s the biggest museum in the world) and the lines are really long. We used a Paris Museum Pass to get in, but there was still a long line to get through security (even first thing in the morning). Luckily, I knew about this and got a timed ticket to bypass the long security line.
So get the Paris Museum Pass and the timed ticket, otherwise you’ll be in line for hours just to get into the museum. When we left around 3 pm, the line to get into the Louvre was at least 2 hours.
Once you’re in the Lourve, you can opt to see the Mona Lisa, which is another wait. It was just about 45 minutes first thing in the morning but by the afternoon it’s easily 2-3 hours. So definitely plan ahead for your Lourve visit.
To be honest, the Mona Lisa was anti-climatic. I’ve seen it before when we visited years ago, but now so many people come to see it that they time the viewing. There were about 40 of us at a time who could look at the Mona Lisa for about 30 seconds, and then we were escorted out for the next group. If you’ve always wanted to see it, do it but otherwise skip it.
We were supposed to do a scavenger hunt in the Lourve, but the kids were impatient and just not into it. The concept was great but just wasn’t a good fit for us. We got lost trying to find some of the artwork, and it just lost the appeal for us. Your family may love it, but it was exhausting for us. So we ditched the scavenger hunt and decided to take silly photos in front of the paintings and sculptures. We loved the ancient Egyptian and Far East exhibits from Persia and Mesopotamia. But we missed an entire building because we were done.
15. Jardin des Tuileries
After the Lourve, we walked around the Jardin des Tuileries. It’s a huge garden right next door and so beautiful. In the summer, there’s a carnival with fun rides and food. After a long day at the Lourve, it was nice to have the kids enjoy some free time with games and rides.
16. Pont Alexandre III
One of the advantages of the Paris city bike tour was we got to visit a lot of sights without spending a ton of time at each place. Traveling with kids is amazing, but they don’t always have the endurance to see all the city sights. We rode our bikes though to see the next four sights so we took in a lot without it feeling overwhelming.
The Pont Alexandre III is a bridge over the Seine River. It’s really extravagant with ornate fixtures all over. There are amazing statues surrounding it.
17. Place de la Concorde
The Place de la Concorde is a public square in Paris. It’s right next to the Champs-Élysées. So here’s the most interesting thing and history lesson for the kids… It was known as the Place de la Revolution during the French Revolution, and the spot where 1,300 people were publicly executed with the guillotine – including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Wow! Hard to believe that happened in this very spot.
18. Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is one of most famous monuments in Paris. It’s located right next to the Champs-Élysées. It was built in honor of those who fought for France during the Napoleonic wars. You can use your Paris Museum Pass to go to the top of the Arc to get amazing views of the city.
The Champs-Élysées is a beautiful street lined with restaurants and shopping stores, so it’s perfect for an afternoon stroll. It’s fun day or night to visit. We took our Paris city bike ride through the Champs-Élysées and it was so beautiful.
20. Place de la Bastille
The Place de la Bastille is a square in Paris where the Bastille prison was located. The prison isn’t there anymore as it was torn down during the French Revolution. It’s an important part of history for the French. Ask your tour guide or one of the locals about the Bastille and more about the French Revolution. We loved that our Paris city bike tour guide talked so much about the significance of the French Revolution.
What Else Did We Want to See
We wanted to see so much more but just didn’t have the time, and while I can go, go, go all day I had to realize that my kids had already walked 6-10 miles a day and just needed a break. But there were other attractions that we wanted to see, including:
- Les Invalides
- Grand Palais
- Luxembourg Palace
We’ll make a point to visit next time, so I’m saving these to my list.
What Not to See in Paris
The Moulin Rogue is a musical theater where the can-can dance was created and they do a lot of cabaret shows. It actually looks interesting, but the shows aren’t really appropriate for kids. And the neighborhood it’s housed in is not great for kids either. I had to cover their eyes as we walked by adult shops. So just take caution if the Moulin Rouge is on your list.
Paris Day Trips
There are a lot of areas nearby Paris to get away from the city life. France has someone for everyone.
On our way to Normandy, we traveled through the adorable town of Bayeaux. It’s about 3 hours from Paris. We rented a car in Paris first thing in the morning, and got to Bayeaux by lunch time, and then walked around for a bit. We rented a car so we had more flexibility to see what we wanted to see. But you could take a train out to Bayeaux and rent a car from there to visit Normandy beaches, or you could book a tour that includes a coach bus. We preferred going on our own.
Bayeaux was the first town to get liberated during Operation Overlord – the D-Day landings. Thankfully, this quaint town was untouched during WWII, but other areas weren’t so lucky. It was the perfect launch point for our WWII tour.
The food was so good with lots of seafood with the coast close by. And we discovered we love the local cider. Normandy is known for their cider. It’s so good! Definitely grab a couple of bottles to take with you. We preferred the brut cider.
D-Day Beaches (Omaha Beach)
After we had lunch and walked around a bit in Bayeaux, we drove about 30 minutes to Omaha Beach (one of the D-Day landing spots for the United States). You can do a Normandy day tour from Paris, but we wanted to take our time and stay the night in Arromanches Les Bains (in Gold Beach).
During WWII, the coast of Normandy was divided up by the Allies. The United States took Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. The British took Gold Beach (just a bit north of Omaha Beach) and Sword Beach, while the Canadians took Juno Beach. These are known as the 5 beaches of D-Day. It strategically chosen by the Allies to overthrow German-occupied France on D-Day (June 6, 1944). The Allies had run several operations to create a diversion in the town of Calais (near Dunkirk) in Upper Normandy, including setting up a fake base, fake paratroopers and fake operation so the Germans thought that’s where they would be coming in.
You can drive up to see all 5 beaches, starting with Utah Beach in the south and driving up to Sword Beach in the Upper Normandy. We knew it was going to be a lot for our family, so we decided to focus just on Omaha Beach. In lieu of a tour guide, I downloaded this Normandy D-Day 1944 app and we were able to drive to the different spots and learn about each one. It was so easy because I bookmarked the spots we wanted to visit (I based it off a tour I had seen).
We started at Pointe du Hoc (the southernmost area of Omaha Beach). We started there and worked our way up north to eventually end up at Arromanches Les Bains (in Gold Beach). Operation Overlord took place in Lower Normandy. They brought in hundreds of thousands of soldiers, tons of equipment and artillery on artificial ports. There’s still remnants of these ports in the ocean.
We toured around Pointe du Hoc where US rangers took on Germans who were in bunkers on seaside cliffs. The beaches are so beautiful… it’s hard to believe this was a site for war. The German bunkers are still there.
We then went to Omaha Beach where the bloodiest battle occurred. 4,000 US soldiers lost their lives there… it’s so hard to imagine. Now kids wade in the ocean and people hang out on the beaches.
We also saw tanks, artillery shells and other remnants from WWII. It was such a great way for the kids to experience history in person and understand what happened.
Arromanches Les Bains
After touring around Omaha Beach, we eventually ended up at Arromanches Les Bains (Gold Beach). It’s a cute seaside town with WWII artificial harbors in the ocean. There’s at least 25-30 of them just sitting in the ocean. You can’t go on them but you can swim right next to them.
The town is so cute, and a great place to unwind after the heaviness of visiting Omaha Beach. It was the best landing spot to stay in Normandy. There are cafes, coffee shops, seafood restaurants and a yummy gelato shop. There’s also a WWII museum here.
We stayed at the Hôtel L’ideal le Mountbatten. They have family suites to fit up to 6 people or you can get separate rooms for larger families. It was perfectly situated just a couple of blocks from the beach and the main thoroughfare for restaurants and shops.
We all agreed we want to come back and stay here.
Another day trip outside of Paris is the Palace of Versailles. It’s just 30 minutes from Paris, and easy train ride on the Metro to get there. We decided to do a Versailles bike tour. The palace is huge, so a bike tour is a great way to cover a lot of ground and get the experience of shopping in an open farmer’s market to get food for a picnic in the gardens.
The Palace of Versailles was built by King Louis XIV in the late 1600s. He wanted to have the biggest, most extravagant palace in the world and outside of Paris (now 30 minutes by train but back in the 1600s it was half a day by horseback). He did that in case there was an uprising he was far enough away to be prepared for it. But as we know it was King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who retreated here when the French Revolution started and the monarchy here ended shortly thereafter.
The Palace itself is extravagant and so overly done. Some of the outside window frames are said to be outlined in gold and every nook and cranny of the rooms has something ornate. It’s overwhelming for this minimalist.
Apparently, when Marie Antoinette got tired of the Palace (it as too much even for her) she went to her hamlet (small village) that she had specially made on the property that mimicked everyday village life. She went there with her kids to garden, milk cows and just feel like a regular person rather than a queen. She also had amazing parties down at her hamlet with music, dancing, games, and gambling.
Even when Napoleon took over the Palace, he didn’t like staying in it. He stayed in a separate residence here at Versailles.
We found we loved the bike tour outside and Marie Antoinette’s hamlet. Once you get to the Palace it’s more crowded than Disneyland in the summer. Each of the rooms is shoulder to shoulder with people. So we got out as soon as possible and just walked the outside gardens.
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Photo credit: Bigstockphoto.com / azgek