Welcome to Paris
Pushed out by rising property prices, Parisian creatives have fled the narrow streets of the Marais for the edgier districts of the 10th, 11th, 19th and 20th arrondissements to the north and east of the city. Although recovering from the shocking attacks in November 2015, here, away from the tourist-choked centre, there remains a gentle, family-friendly side to the capital. When in Paris with kids, pootle along the city’s ‘other waterway’, the Canal St-Martin in the 10th, an area brimming with funky shops. From there, head to La Villette: this cultural hub in the former meat- packing district is full of diversions for kids of all ages.
Meanwhile, in the west of the city, the upmarket Bois de Boulogne offers up the contrasting delights of the gleaming Fondation Louis Vuitton against the backdrop of the enchanting 19th-century Jardin d’Acclimatation. Tots as young as two can whizz round à vélo, thanks to P’tit Vélib, part of Paris’ pioneering bike-sharing scheme.
What to see
Le Musée Gourmand du Chocolat
Tell the kids they’re going to learn about history, farming and branding and they’ll run a mile. Tell them you’re taking them to a chocolate museum and it’s a different story. Set over three floors in the 10th, this family-owned attraction reveals the 4,000-year history of the much-loved confection, with a chocolate-making demo and, bien sûr, tasting. For something more hands-on, your junior chocolatiers can sign up for one of the monthly workshops.
Museum entry: From £7.70pp, museeduchocolat.fr
Philharmonie De Paris
The vast Parc de la Villette to the north-east of the city, dotted with bright red follies, is home to a dozen themed gardens (don’t miss the giant dragon slide), the Cité des Sciences, and now the stunning aluminium-clad Philharmonie 1, a 2,400-seat concert hall. Weekends, often based around a theme, are geared towards families, with shorter events and workshops designed to develop musical appreciation in even the tiniest tots.
Fondation Louise Vuitton
A visit to this contemporary art gallery, designed by Frank Gehry (of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao fame) and likened to an immense glass cloud, is a must for any budding architect. Not only can they explore the 11 galleries and multiple terraces that make up this extraordinary building, but they’re encouraged to draw their own, thanks to the dedicated app installed on special
iPads available at reception.
Entry: Adults £10; children £3.60, fondationlouisvuitton.fr
This charming amusement park, founded in 1860 on the northern tip of bucolic Bois de Boulogne, is a kids’ paradise parents will love, too. Roaming peacocks, old-fashioned puppet shows, the delightful narrow-gauge railway, and dozens of rides and attractions set in 50 acres of landscaped grounds, dotted with play areas and picnic spots. There’s even a branch of Angelina, famed for the best hot chocolate in town. Although the entry fee is just a few euros, it’s easy to splash the cash on anything from pony rides to the hair-raising zipline.
Entry: £2.20 (aged three-plus), jardindacclimatation.fr
Where to sleep
These boutique serviced apartments, a stone’s throw from über-trendy SoPi (south of Pigalle), in the 9th, feature designer furniture, slick kitchenettes and a separate living area. Proper sofabeds mean most can accommodate a family of four, and there are cots and highchairs for younger guests. The concierge can arrange anything from breakfast to babysitting.
Price: Apartments from £160 per night, mrandmrssmith.com
This budget designer hotel in the up-and-coming 20th may feel remote, but the 76 bus from Gare du Nord drops you at the door. All-day pizza and free films will appeal to older kids, while adjoining rooms are available for younger charges.
Price: Doubles from £64, room only, mamashelter.com
Commer Chez Vous
Stay in a stylish Parisian home and live like the locals. One Fine Stay has a collection of gorgeous pads, including the four-bed Rue d’Amsterdam II (from £270). Rentals include use of an iPhone loaded with tips from your hosts.
Price: Two bedroom apartment from £180 per night, onefinestay.com
There’s a uniquely Gallic slant to the menu at this funky Franco- American pizza joint near Canal Saint-Martin. Try a Poulidor, topped with slices of duck breast and apple and anointed with goat’s cheese. There’s even a sweet version, slathered with Nutella. Squeeze into the diner-style restaurant or, in fine weather, enjoy your pizza on the banks of the canal. Simply order at the counter and leave with a hot-pink helium balloon. Your pizza will be delivered by bike straight to your picnic spot.
Find out more: pinkflamingopizza.com
Le Creperie Bretoone
Visit this charming slice of Brittany in the 11th for sweet lacey crêpes in a small room stuffed with nautical maps and knick-knacks. Kids can round off with simple lemon and sugar, while parents have theirs flambéed in calvados.
On the steep climb up to Montmartre, this relaxed deli-cum-restaurant is a hit with diners young and old. The house speciality is black-leg Challans chicken, though for a grown-up treat it’s hard to beat the croq’homard, a decadent lobster sandwich.
Find out more: jeanne-b-comestibles.com
Spend a morning exploring the streets either side of the canal, stopping off at picture-postcard bakery Du Pain et Des Idées for a chocolate and pistachio ‘snail’ (look for the queue snaking out the door). Wander up the Rue de Marseille for home-grown fashion brands such as APC and Agnès B. The pastel-fronted Antoine et Lili shops on Quai de Valmy are full of quirky gifts for all ages, as is Pop Market on Rue Bichat, just over the footbridge (time it right to watch a boat in the lock).
This family concept store in Rue du Cherche Midi, Saint-Germain- des-Prés, serves up the very best designers and exclusive lines. Its Eiffel-inspired loft offers an interactive experience, tablet computers giving access to the Smallable catalogue.
Find out more: smallable.com
Le Petit Souk
Attached to the back of bookshop Librairie de Bandes Dessinées on Rue de Charonne is one of the prettiest toy stores in town. Le Petit Souk on the Rue de Charonne is an Aladdin’s cave of colourful clothes, gifts and homewares for les enfants.
Find out more: lepetitsouk.fr
How to get there
Eurostar runs up to 18 services daily from London to Paris, from £72 return (children under four go free). Journey time: 2 hours 15 minutes. eurostar.com
Save money by booking with Trainline online.
Flybe flies to Paris from Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh from £34.99 one way. flybe.com
Easyjet flies from Bristol and Belfast from £27.49 one way. easyjet.com
Flying time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
All ages, though the Métro is tricky with a pushchair
How to get around
A two-day Paris Visite card costs £14.50 adult/£7.25 child aged 4-11, and offers unlimited travel on public transport (zones 1-3).
Best time to go
Spring and autumn are ideal, when temperatures are mild. Avoid August when many places are closed.0