Older kids and teenagers will love the endless museums, galleries and famous monuments. Huge parks and gardens are packed with activities for children of all ages. And, if you steer clear of the obvious tourist traps, it’s surprisingly easy to work a basic budget here and still have a fantastic time.
Direct daily flight can be found from many East Coast cities.
Paris is Europe’s most visited city and always busy. Visit in spring or winter for fewer crowds, avoid late autumn when it’s rainiest and, if you can’t resist summer, try to aim for the first two weeks in August when Parisians take their annual holiday.
The heart of the city’s made up of 20 arrondissement and they’re all connected by the historic Paris Métro.
City center hotels are expensive but small, independent hotels and guesthouses in several central districts are good value alternatives.
A wonderful city for cafés and restaurants, wander off the beaten track to find cosy, local places to eat and opt for the plat du jour at lunchtime – best value, fresh, seasonal.
A Paris Museum Pass gives adults free entry to over 60 city museums and galleries including The Louvre.
Most of the city’s museums are free for kids under 18 — remember to carry ID.
Paris can be an expensive city to stay in and the closer you are to Île-de-la-Cité and La Louvre the pricier it becomes. That’s the theory anyway. In practice it’s perfectly possible to find places to stay close to the city centre which won’t swallow your family holiday budget in one night.
Try modern French value brands like Mercure, Première and IBIS for three star hotels in central districts. Or look at cool but lower cost new French hotel brands such as Mama Shelter, Timhotels and Happy Culture.
As far as arrondissement are concerned, don’t be seduced by the idea of staying on the Champs-Élysées or Place Vendôme, unless money is no object. Instead opt for areas like Montparnasse, Bastille, Batignolles, Opera, Montmartre and don’t dismiss La Defense: it’s the largest purpose built business district in Europe and good for inexpensive hotels and low weekend room rates.
The world’s largest museum could fill an entire holiday all by itself. If you only have a few hours, take one of the excellent guided tours. Try to see The Louvre in the morning and buy tickets online in summer to avoid queueing.
To climb or not to climb the Eiffel Tower? Unless you’re very lucky there will always be queues for Paris’s most famous monument and the view from the top isn’t the best in the city (you want the truly ugly Tour Montparnasse for that). But it’s an icon and even just seeing it from the Champ-de-Mars is exciting for kids.
32km east of the city centre, Disneyland Paris is everything you expect from the world’s leading theme park brand. It’s another attraction to book in advance online during summer.
Reopened in 2014 after three year’s of design and restoration, Paris Zoo is now one of the most interesting in Europe. Over 2000 animals from 180 species now live in adapted biozones and the experience is focused as much on conservation and education as kids getting close to lions and tigers.
The inside-out modern art museum doesn’t seem as revolutionary as it did back in 1977. Not to architecturally aware adults, at least. Kids on the other hand still think it’s pretty amazing. The Children’s Gallery’s great fun and has family workshops and events all year round.
If you imagine the skeletons of over six million Parisians is off-putting, prepare to be astonished by queues for the catacombs. Not anywhere near as ghoulish as they sound, the guided tour’s fascinating and most kids over eight are intrigued rather than horrified.
One of the world’s art museums housed in the vast and magnificent shell of the city’s 19th century Gare d’Orsay. Musée d’Orsay has the world’s largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works and believes in getting kids interested in art as early as possible – like most French museums.
You can hire a Vélib city bike and try to tour Paris independently. Alternatively book a Fat Tire Paris Day Tour and really see the city. The guides are great fun, the pace is easy going enough for kids and you’re almost guaranteed to see every big hitter and then some.
Yes it’s touristy, but a bateaux mouches (covered boat) cruise is also one of the easiest and peaceful ways to see the city with younger kids.
Paris is in the process of creating an entirely car-free city centre, so don’t drive. The fabulous Métro will take you anywhere you want to go from the first to the 20th arrondissement and beyond. It’s inexpensive, efficient and the stations are often works of art in their own right. Paris is surprisingly walkable too so, if you have time, wander round as much as possible: tired feet are only the perfect excuse for cafés.