Entertaining kids in Paris can feel like an exercise in futility, but the French capital actually has loads of activities kids will love.
At first glance, it might seem that Paris is a less-than-ideal spot to visit with kids. French people eat late, so restaurants don’t open until 7 p.m. (or later). There are long lines into crowded art museums and public bathrooms are few and far between. But contrary to what you might believe, Paris can be the ideal place to visit with children—especially if you plan some special activities just for them. Here are just a few of our favorite ways to enjoy Paris with les petits.
See a Traditional French Puppet Show
Les guignols are the traditional Punch-and-Judy-style marionettes that you used to find in pretty much every French park. These days, they’re a trickier to locate, but you can still find them at parks like Georges Brassens in the 15th arrondissement and even on the Champs-Elysées. The slapsticky antics will more than make up for the language barrier.
Sail an Old-Fashioned Boat on the Pond at the Luxembourg Gardens
The Luxembourg Gardens have attracted kids (and parents!) for over 100 years with old-fashioned push boats on the central pond. A small fee allows kids the opportunity to rent one of 31 different boats which are navigated not by remote control, but rather with a stick that allows little ones to push their boat off the edge of the pond. Just watch as the sail does the rest!
Do a Scavenger Hunt Through the Louvre
Visiting the Louvre can seem ho-hum for kids, but what if you turn it into a game? That’s what THATLou has done, with scavenger hunts that make visiting the Louvre into a real adventure. A variety of themed hunts, including a few specifically designed for children, will make the Louvre an enjoyable and educational experience for the whole family.
Visit One of the World’s Best Science Museums
Discovery doesn’t stop at art in Paris. At the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, the biggest science museum in Europe, kids of all ages will explore and discover via specially designed exhibits. The museum is home to a planetarium, an IMAX theater, a submarine, and more.
Enjoy Some Excellent Playgrounds
Sometimes kids just need a break to be kids, which is why it’s good to have a list of the top playgrounds in your back pocket. Both the Tuileries near the Louvre and the Luxembourg Gardens have great ones, but nearly every one of Paris’ over 400 parks has at least a jungle gym!
Visit a Red Panda at the Zoo
The Jardin des Plantes is at once home to a gorgeous botanical garden and a zoo—the second-oldest in the world. Here, kids can visit leopards, elephants, panthers, birds, pythons, and an adorable red panda. The garden also plays host to the city’s museum of natural history—perfect for dinosaur fans.
Explore Monet’s Gardens
Just a quick train ride from Paris is Giverny, Claude Monet’s former home. The house has been converted into a museum and the expansive gardens—complete with flowers, water lilies, and the infamous Japanese bridge—are all ripe for exploring. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy in the small village after your visit.
INSIDER TIPTake kids to the Museé de l’Orangerie after your visit to let them see even more of Monet’s “impressions” of his garden.
Walk Through the Park Above Paris
Paris used to be home to a rail line leading towards the Vincennes park and chateau. Now defunct, the line is slowly being converted into a series of parks, of which the Couleé verte René-Dumont is one of the best. With beautiful views over the city, this little bit of park stretches several meters above the area around Bastille and Gare de Lyon.
Take a French Pony Ride
If your little ones are horse fiends, consider introducing them to a French pony! At the Luxembourg Gardens, little ones can meet les poneys and have a ride around the park (led by a tether, of course). This experience makes for a perfect photo op, so be sure to bring your camera.
Ride on a Merry-Go-Round
Paris is home to dozens of beautiful antique merry-go-rounds all around the city. Two of our favorites can be found within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower and Sacré Coeur, so be sure to save some time when visiting these neighborhoods for a ride (or two) on these gorgeous carousels.
Glimpse Bones in the Catacombs
If your kids aren’t squeamish, a trip down into the Catacombs might be the perfect adventure. Here, kids will walk past the skeletons of six million Parisians, organized into macabre decorations through the miles of underground tunnels beneath the city. An optional audio guide (in English!) will introduce them to the history of this maze of bones.
INSIDER TIPLines into the Catacombs tend to be long, so consider booking a skip-the-line tour or ticket online.
Play Like a French Prince or Princess at Versailles
The chateau of Versailles was once home to the kings and queens of France and it can be a wonderful place to explore. Instead of trying to visit all of the ornate rooms, however, consider a wander through the luxurious gardens, where kids can expend energy (and play at prince or princess for a day!).
See Paris from the River
The river Seine is the heart of Paris, and it offers some extraordinary views of the entire city without tiring out little legs. Cruises depart from both the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, the simplest of which last just one hour. English-language commentary is available, or you can just people-watch from the deck.