Sure, it may best be known as the romantic City of Love, but Paris with teenagers is also a great getaway, offering the opportunity to discover hip, up-and coming-spots and view beloved classics in a new way.
Recently, I visited the City of Lights with my 15-year-old son and it was a completely different angle on a city I thought I knew relatively well already. We hit up some cooler new things I would have missed without him, including the new Ateliers des Lumieres, an immersive art and light installation in an old foundry in the 11th that he discovered on Instagram(!), and ate our away around the Canal District known as hipster, or in this case, BoBo, central. And we also did some super touristy things he was interested in, which I have to say I liked more than I thought I would, including walking UP the Eiffel Tower and taking a bus tour (I can't lie, it was my first time and I actually enjoyed the experience and our guide quite a lot). Best of all we rented an apartment instead of getting a hotel, which was made us feel like locals. Here’s how to DIY a trip to Paris to delight both your teen and yourself.
Get ready for your trip by giving your big kids a hand in preplanning. Instagram, where, lets face it, they spend a great deal of time already, is a top source for what’s currently trending, and get a few guide books to find out about perennial favorites, too. Then create an itinerary that lets them lead the way for at least one full day of activities before you add your own favorites.
The Ateliers des Lumieres, which replaces static museums with an immersive art, sound and light installation in a massive, vintage foundry is a great choice for a new take on classic art. The Ateliers uses cutting edge technology that makes it look as though the entire building’s interior, including floors and ceilings, are spinning into master works (we saw a golden-hued Gustav Klimt show, the current offering focuses on Van Gogh). It’s perfectly acceptable to sprawl out on the floor and take in the 360-degree show for as long as you like. We found it the perfect way to get over jet lag while taking in art. Bonus: it’s open late, so you can visit after dinner if you need a nighttime entertainment option.
The BoBo (bourgeois bohemian – Paris’ answer to hipsters) Canal District in the upper reaches of the 10th arrondissement is an up-and-coming neighborhood where you can both check out Insta-ready street art and style-setting boutiques and relax in fun spots like Fric Frac, a tiny shop that only serves croques monsieur (try the goat cheese and hazelnut version!).
Tip: If you don’t want to find your way around the hood on your own, the foodie-focused Paris Eats tour strolls through the Canal District and into the Marais, only hitting small streets and hip eats. We tried out the 4-hour tour and were dazzled with enough food that we were still full at dinnertime. Favorite spots included a cheese cellar, a gourmet wine and charcruterie stop and an authentic tagine of North African cous cous, a true taste of the diverse part of Paris. Our tour guide also pointed out historical spots, local art and cool shops, which was a great perk.
Speaking of food, always hungry teens may not necessarily want to dine at Michelin starred spots where dinner stretches over several hours and they have to wear a jacket and tie. Instead, focus on more casual bistros and brasseries where it’s acceptable to order a single course or small spots that offer modern cuisine but don’t require a reservation months in advance. We loved Café Constant, the relaxed bistro of celebrity chef Christian Constant, which was near our apartment. Frenchie To Go, the laid-back neighbor to popular Frenchie, is another option with teens.
Now that you’ve lured the big kids in with new stuff they can SnapChat to their friends, show them the classics. You’ll get more out of your visit, and less eye rolling, if you can skip the long lines. The Paris Pass is a pay-one-price ticket that not only gives you admission to most of the museums in Paris, but also front-of-the-line access to heavy hitter museums like the Louvre, Pompidou and d’Orsay as well as smaller gems such as the Picasso and Rodin museums.
If you purchase a ParisPass, there’s an additional teen pleaser built in: The hop-on hop-off BigBus. I can’t say it would have been my first choice on a romantic getaway, but honestly, using kids as an excuse to act like a tourist is pretty awesome. The selfie ops from the top of the bus were unparalleled, and the opportunity to sit back and not negotiate where to go and how to get there is truly an awesome perk for family travel.
Another tip for traveling with teens: Let them lead the way. When you’re not on the bus, consider walking, embracing the Paris flaneur tradition. And if you’re heading to the Eiffel Tower, skip the lines waiting to take the elevator to the second floor and walk up instead – we did it and it was a highlight of our trip! You’ll save money, avoid the crowds and have fabulous photo ops of the interior structures as you ascend up the stairs (it’s really not that bad, I promise).
Finally, give your young adults a private place to lay their head at the end of the day; you’re all too old to be sharing a single hotel room (and Paris, as in most of Europe, doesn’t offer many rooms that comfortably fit more than two adults). Instead, opt for an apartment where you can all spread out, but still spend time together. ParisPerfect cuts out all the unknowns of Airbnb by providing a handpicked portfolio of vetted apartments with great layouts for families in key neighborhoods, whether you want a view of the Eiffel Tower or to be in the heart of happening Marais, for not much more than you’d pay for you to all fit in a hotel. Added bonus of an apartment stay, says Madelyn Byrne, the founder of Paris Perfect: A kitchen to stock with local treats so your hungry teens can enjoy a local taste of the city and truly living as a Parisian.
Hard not to fall in love with that.
By Melissa Klurman