Paris is filled with wonderful sights and museums and you will find plenty for the whole family to enjoy. When visiting Paris with young children it is always best to purchase tickets to the major attractions online in advance to save on queuing. Some of the lines can be very long and restless toddlers will not be happy with the wait. You can buy tickets in advance from your hotel or from a number of online sights such as Paris Pass.
One of the most compelling reasons to visit Paris is its museums and galleries. Most of these are stroller accessible and if not you will be able to store your stroller. If you plan on visiting a lot of museums a baby carrier is very useful. The Louvre is Paris’s most famous museum and is situated centrally on the bank of the Seine. The museum is right next to the Jardin de Tuileries and beyond this lies the Place de Concord and further again, the Champs Elysees, with the Arc du Triomphe situated at the end of this enormous shopping street. The Louvre houses some of the world’s most famous art including da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Many of its exhibits are stroller accessible and there are elevators and changing areas within the building. For information on stroller accessibility in the Louvre click here. Another option is to bring a sling or front carrier with you as this will allow you to manoeuvre more easily throughout the building. Another museum worth visiting is the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, which houses works spanning every artistic movement of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Pompidou Centre is another fantastic museum which toddlers will love. The pipes and escalators are on the outside of the building and the water pipes are green, air-conditioning ducts are blue, and electricity cables yellow. You can take the elevator or escalator to the roof for beautiful views of Paris. Inside there is a permanent exhibition of art, including works by Chagall. There is also an interactive Galerie des Enfants, aimed at kids, and a junior’s cinema that sometimes shows films in English. The area outside is pedestrianized and perfect for kids to run around. There are also some great, baby and toddler friendly restaurants located in this area. The Musee d’Orsay is a must see. Located on the left bank of the Seine, the building previously housed the Gare d’Orsay, railway station. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh. The Museum is stroller accessible and if you are visiting with a stroller you can use the ‘priority Access’ entrance at Gate C. Musee de la Orangerie in a former palace greenhouse and houses Monet’s waterlillies. The lower level houses additional works by Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Picasso, Gauguin and Matisse.
Notre Dame is a remarkable cathedral and the area around it is pedestrianised and there is usually street performers there in the evening. The 800 year old Gothic Cathedral is open from 8am to 6:45pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 7:15 Saturday and Sunday. There is a small playground behind the cathedral with fabulous views across the Seine and during the winter you can go ice skating in front of the nearby Hotel de Ville. You can also enjoy croissants at the Boulangerie St Martin across the street. Across the river from the Cathedral is the Left Bank which is in walking distance.
The Eiffel Tower is a great novelty for parents and toddlers and you can travel up to the viewing platform and look out across the city. You can opt for either the stairs or the elevator. There can be very long queues for the elevator so bear this in mind when going there with toddlers. There is a large park behind the tower which is perfect for a little run around. If there is more than one adult, one could take the toddler to the park and the other could wait in the queue. There is a beautiful old carousel across the street which toddlers will enjoy.
The Arc de Triomphe offers fantastic views of the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees, and the rest of Paris. In order to get to the arch you must walk down some steps and cross the street underground. This is not stroller accessible so take your sling or front carrier with you. There are also lots of steps up a tight winding staircase to get to the terrace on top (there is no elevator). After visiting the Arc you can go to the Belle Epoque Teashop Ladurée, 75 Champs-Elysées, which serves the best macaroons in the city. You can then walk down the Champs Elysees towards the Jardins des Champs Elysées which offers space for toddlers to run around. Turn right here and you will reach Pont Alexandre III which has been described as the most beautiful bridge in Paris.
The Palace of Versailles is a spectacular building but not stroller friendly. The gardens of Versailles offers acres of land to walk around and there is a small train which takes you to the main attractions there which kids might enjoy. There are row boat rentals at the garden’s Grand Canal. Strollers and baby-carriers with metal frames are not allowed in the rooms of the palace so it is advisable to bring a baby-carrier without metal frames for children under a year old. Even with a fold up stroller you will have problems manoeuvring around the palace as there are plenty of steps. According to the official Versailles web site, there is free storage at the palace for strollers, backpacks, suitcases, and umbrellas so a good option would be to bring your sling and stroller and use the sling for seeing the palace and your stroller to explore the gardens after. There are usually huge queues at the palace which form early in the morning and you must go through airport like security to enter. The palace is open from 9am to 6:30pm from April 1 to October 31. 9am to 5:30 from November 1 to March 31. It is closed Monday and public holidays.
Montmartre is a beautiful part of the city and was home to many of Paris’ most famous artists. The Moulin Rouge is also located here. The area is wonderful for a stroll but can be crowded. There are also a lot of cobble stones which may be difficult to manoeuvre around with a stroller and there are a few steps to manoeuvre around at the Sacre Coeur Cathedral. The area around the Cathedral features many small cobble stoned streets, shops, and restaurants. There is a small cable car which can take you up to the Sacre Coeur which is stroller accessible. The gardens in front of the Cathedral have a beautiful old carousel at the bottom and there is also a little park behind the Cathedral. You can also visit the Salvador Dali museum nearby. On Rue St Vincent you can see the Montmartre vineyard (the harvest celebrations take place in autumn).
A boat trip on the Seine River is a novelty for young kids and will allow you to sit and take in the beauty of Paris from a covered in boat. Batobus offers a day ticket for trips on the Seine in a glass enclosed boat. A ticket allows you to jump on/jump off at 8 different stops along the Seine, close to sightseeing spots. You could take the Batobus to one area, then walk around and then take the Batobus back to your hotel from another batobus “stop” which is great for keeping toddlers entertained or if your children are tired from sightseeing. The Batobus also stops at the Jardin des Plantes which has one of the oldest most charming zoo in Paris. This is a great option if you are travelling with a child who is walking or have a backpack stroller or baby carrier. Taking a full size stroller the Batobus may pose some difficulties as there are generally steps up to street level and the banks of the river are cobble stoned. (Prices – 13€ for adults, 9€ for children between 4 and 16 and free for child under 4).
If you like shopping then you’ll love Paris. Galeries Lafayette Department Store is a shopper’s paradise and also has excellent nursing and baby changing facilities on the 5th floor. It also has baby friendly restaurants within the building. It is located at 40 Boulevard Haussmann. Printemps department store located at 4 Boulevard Haussmann is also a must see for those interested in shopping in the world’s fashion capital. It also has changing facilities.
Toddler Friendly Activities
Parks and Gardens
The Jardin de Tuileries and the Jardin du Luxembourg are Paris’s most famous parks. These have gravel paths so keep this in mind if you are travelling with a stroller. The Jardin de Tuileries has a fountain in the centre where you can rent a model sailboat. There is also a playground and a trampoline park for kids. In the summer there is a carnival with a ferris wheel that gives the best views of Paris. The Jardin du Luxembourg has a Renaissance garden for kids and has slides and swings. It costs €1.50 to enter and you can buy a coffee there. There’s also a hundred-year-old puppet theatre which holds puppet shows in the afternoons and a famous carousel. Parc de Villette is also a wonderful place to take toddlers and is a futuristic park, designed by Bernard Tschumi with a child’s imagination in mind. Some of the attractions include an enormous dragon slide and the bamboo maze. The Jardin d’Acclimatation is another must see with kids. This children’s’ park was designed in the 19th century but has been updated and contains modern play equipment. There’s still an air of old Paris about the park. This park also has a zoo, a sprinkler park and a selection of rides and food stalls.
The Jardin des Plantes and the Natural History Museum are located along the Seine. The Jardin des Plantes is a botanical garden where you can allow toddlers to walk around and smell the flowers. There’s also a small zoo with monkeys and a natural history museum with huge, dinosaur bones. The museum is not modern or interactive but is definitely worth a look, particularly with older children who are interested in dinosaurs. After the park you can head to Rue Mouffetard, a cobbled street that was once a Roman road, where you can find a selection of cakes, cheeses, and ice cream shops. The Mosquée de Paris opposite the Natural History Museum has an oriental café where you can sample North African fare.
Science lovers can’t miss the Cité des Sciences which has so many special events and some great exhibitions for kids. You can buy tickets in advance and arrive at a prescheduled time to save on queuing. The museum is located in La Villlette and is the largest science museum in Europe. Attractions include a planetarium, a submarine, an IMAX theatre (La Géode) and special a are for children.
Le Cite des Enfants is located within the science museum. This wonderful children’s museum where everything is fun for toddlers and kids is smartly designed and interactive. There are special exhibits for kids ages 2 to 5 within the museum which incorporates themes focusing on the development of children and their physical, cognitive and spatial skills. Your child can test their flexibility and their senses, watch themselves in the mirrors, listen to their emotions, play with balance, sounds and letters, and explore pathways and mazes. They can also work with other children to build a house or participate in a collective performance of a circus act. The fantastic Parc de la Villette is just outside and is worth visiting either before or after the museum.
Across the bridge from the Eiffel Tower in the Trocadero is the Aquarium de Paris, a small aquarium which has some wonderful exhibitions which will captivate even young babies with their colours and relaxing visuals. It also offers a break from the bustling city where kids are welcome. Cineaqua is a state of the art aquarium with over 500 species, including sharks. One of its huge tanks forms the backdrop to the aquarium’s onsite Japanese restaurant, Ozu.
Paris Plage (Summer Only)
The Paris “Plage” (or Paris Beach), is an effort to create a beach on the banks of the Seine. This late July and August festival includes food stands, bouncy houses, concerts, and games.
Paris in Winter
From December to March, the city sets up ice rinks at various locations around the city including in front of the Montparnasse Tower and at Place de l’Hôtel de Ville (City Hall). The latter is close to Notre Dame. If you decide to visit Paris in the run up to Christmas you will find plenty of Christmas markets which sell hot food and have plenty of stalls selling leather goods, jewellery and other crafts. One of the best Christmas markets is on the Champs Elysees. The area is illuminated beautifully and older toddlers will love the excitement and the Christmas decorations. The Christmas tree in Gallerie Lafayette in the Opera District is 5 stories tall and is a must see for toddlers.
Disneyland Paris can also be a good place to visit with your children while you are in Paris (You can travel there by train on the RER A line). You can spend a day there or you can opt to stay in one of the many hotels in and around the area. There are plenty of rides and parades which toddlers will enjoy and the colours and Disney characters will appeal to younger babies also. If you decide to visit during French holiday, school holidays or at the weekend, you might have to queue for a long time so travel there mid week if you can. The food in Disneyland is a little overpriced and the selection is not great so if you will be there for a few days fill up at breakfast and eat out after you are finished in the park. Better yet, bring a picnic and eat on the grounds. There are baby changing facilities and kids meals are available throughout Disneyland.
See the Disneyland Paris Website for full details on parks and hotels: http://www.disneylandparis.ie/. The Disneyland Hotel offers great facilities for people travelling with young babies and toddlers, from bottle warmers to a babysitting Service. There is also baby and kids menus available.