Even short city breaks in Paris with kids let you do a lot, if you know where to go. Ellen Himelfarb shares a few of the places her children make a beeline for on any Paris holidays.
Deyrolle makes city breaks in Paris wildly exciting
If savage beasts are your kids’ style, hunt down Deyrolle. The old-world shop and museum is dedicated to vintage taxidermy from the French colonies: the kind you couldn’t, and shouldn’t, get away with today.
All the big cats are represented, and anything with an animal print you might spot on a fashion runway. All look suitably fierce, naturally, except for the white winged unicorn someone has fashioned a from an old stuffed horse.
The main floor boutique also has browse-worthy cases of bugs and butterflies, plus unusual books to peruse.
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Eiffel Tower lighting up time is not to be missed
Kids find staying up after dark thrilling on Paris city breaks (even when the dark arrives at 5pm). Staying up to see the Eiffel Tower after dark is an indelible adventure framed in twinkling lights and glamour.
Little ones get butterflies going up in the lift – and a frisson when the LEDs put on their hourly razzle-dazzle light show. Of course the panoramic views are beyond all expectations. Have phones at the ready, Paris photographs surprisingly well at night.
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Fondation Louis Vuitton is a perfect fit for city breaks in Paris
More family-friendly than it sounds, Fondation Louis Vuitton resembles a blooming lotus flower in stained glass. Step inside and you’ll find an astounding collection of colour-pop art and interactive sculpture. The current Monet-Mitchel exhibition runs until February 2023. It features massive, flamboyant canvases by the French master and his 20th-century American disciple.
However, younger kids may prefer the outdoor water feature with stepping stones. Not least because it flows into surrounding parkland where the Jardin d’Acclimatation funfair runs year-round.
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Discover a secret side to the Centre Pompidou
The surreal Stravinski Fountain is an homage to Russian composer Igor Stravinski and to the city’s freakiest avant-garde art. You’ll find it on Place Igor Stravinski, in Modernist primary colours to complement the Centre Pompidou next door.
A year ago the fountain ran dry while the hydraulic systems were overhauled. At the same time its resin sculptures, by modernists Niki de Saint-Phalle and Jean Tinguely, were also refurbished. If you visit Paris from April 2023 you’ll be able to see it shinier and frothier than ever, with a new and improved soundtrack.
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Where to bag bargains on city breaks in Paris
The birthplace of haute couture isn’t known for bargains, but your kids don’t ever have to know. Take them to C’est Deux Euros, France’s answer to the pound shop, and then let them loose on the trove of magnifying glasses, sticker books, paint sets and puzzles, all reassuringly €2.
As an alternative, you could pop over to the Saint-Germain-des-Près Monoprix. The slick French supermarket chain carries adorable kids’ fashion, homewares and gorgeously packaged cosmetics at Tesco prices.
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Add La Villette Basin to your Paris holiday
A broad water channel just beyond trendy Canal Saint-Martin, La Villette Basin is walkable, swimmable and abounding with cultural. Arty narrowboat-cafés tether to the shore and “beaches” stretch end to end with playgrounds and courts for boules.
Outdoor sculpture and floating bookshops break up the route to the planetarium at the City of Science and Industry, suitable for children as young as two. Or detour up to Centquatre-Paris, a cavernous hall filled with contemporary sculpture and stages for live dance and music.
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The best kept secret on holidays to Paris
Seek out the block of dramatic, darkened warehouses in the city’s east to discover Musée des Arts Forains – or “fairground arts”. This is where Belle Epoque amusements come for a new, charming purpose.
A fanciful Victorian-era carousel twirls to a rendition of “Murder on the Orient Express” on the digital grand piano. Penny farthing cycles and a Zoltar booth create a steampunk vibe right out of Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge. All visits are guided and require pre-booking. Although, if you come between Christmas and New Year, the museum hosts its free-for-all Festival du Merveilleux.
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Catch a flea market on city breaks in Paris
Sophisticates love the Saint-Ouen flea market for the five-figure designer étagères and sofas. But children are also catered to, particularly in the covered arcades which fan out for half-a-mile off Rue des Rosiers.
Kids love to root around in old fruit crates for vintage tin toys, action figures and comic books. Costume jewellery, collectable old glass beads and funky watches feel like real treasure. To get to Saint-Ouen, hop on the No.4 metro to Porte de Clignancourt.
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Start city breaks in Paris with an early rise
Up before the birds? Wander over to Reine Elizabeth II market, near the (closed for restoration) Notre Dame Cathedral on Ile de la Cité. On Sundays it transforms into a wild kingdom of pets: mice, ferrets, dwarf bunnies and hundreds of birds, which fill the air with French warblings from inside temporary cages.
If a canary passport isn’t on your city break schedule, you could pick up a handcrafted bird house for your British flock instead (free). Place Louis Lépine
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Fab family stay: hotels we recommend for city breaks in Paris with kids
The well-priced Hotel de Sèvres, near Luxembourg Gardens on the Left Bank, has three and four-bed family rooms.
Book a stay at Hotel de Sèvres
The Novotel between the Seine and the Bastille, features an indoor pool and offers executive rooms with a queen bed and double convertible sofa.
Book a stay at Novotel Paris Gare de Lyon
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