12 Memorable Experiences in Paris
Paris is a great travel destination for families and offers something for everybody to enjoy. There is so much history, culture and fantastic architecture. There are so many delicious foods to enjoy, so many world class attractions to visit, and so many interesting neighborhoods to explore. The city’s energy is infectious and its traditional, yet contemporary vibe so special. And that particular attitude of the proud Parisians, that makes you love them even though they just told you off…only they can get away with that.
Our family returned home from our visit to the French metropolis recently and we already miss Paris. To help you plan your next family visit, here is our list of the things we liked the most with votes cast by all of our family members.
Top Things to do in Paris with Kids
1. Take a Seine river cruise
A tour on the Seine, the river that cuts through the heart of Paris, is a beautiful, relaxing way to start your visit to Paris. It offers a great preview of some of the city’s most famous attractions, such as the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, all of which you will likely be visiting for a closer look. Cruises are provided by several different operators, and with some offering a variety of add-ons including champagne, meals or music and even dancing, the choice is yours.
Tip: An alternative to a tour cruise is Batobus, a Paris water bus service. It does not offer commentary, but you can hop on and off at any of the eight stops along the river when you purchase a daily ticket.
2. Tour the city… on a bike
Another, more active way to see some of the most famous Paris attractions, feel the pulse of the city and learn some of its history along the way, is to take a guided bike tour. We opted to go with Fat Tire Tours and loved it! Our tour lasted roughly 3 1/2 hours and took us in a loop course from the Champ de Mars by the Eiffel Tower, through several neighborhoods, along the Seine river and across several of its beautiful bridges.
We made a handful of short stops where our lovely guide Alex shared interesting stories about Paris’ past. The tour included a nice lunch break in the beautiful Tuileries gardens just outside of the Louvre. Everybody in our family voted for this to be among their top three experiences in Paris; it was equally interesting and fun for adults and kids.
3. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower!
I know, you are probably thinking “duh,” but several travel guidebooks suggested not to bother. Don’t listen to them…it is worth it! The 360° views of the French capital, including some its other famous landmarks, are spectacular, and standing on the top of one of the world’s most recognized tourist attractions is priceless.
For an extra memorable experience, I recommend taking the stairs inside the tower’s famous frame from ground level to the 1st floor platform and then, after you catch your breath, continuing on to the 2nd floor. From there, a quick, but thrilling ride in the glass elevator will take you to the very top.
4. Climb to the cupola of Sacré Cœur and Notre Dame
If you are planning a trip to Paris, a visit to at least one of these two famous churches will likely be on your “to-do” list, and you will not be disappointed as both of them are magnificent. I highly encourage you take things a step further and climb to the top of each church.
OK, I have to be honest…there will be MANY steps, steep and circular: 270 at Sacré Cœur and close to 390 at Notre Dame, but the experience will be well worth it. The climb to the top of both churches gave us new perspectives on the vastness of these architectural gems and the unbelievable craftsmanship of those who built them centuries ago without today’s modern equipment, tools and technology. And the views from the top are simply breathtaking!
5. Visit a museum, Any museum
The Louvre is, of course, the world’s most well-known and popular museum, and you really should see the Mona Lisa in person at least once. But, Paris has an incredible number of other excellent museums you should consider visiting.
We loved Musée D’Orsey’s fantastic impressionist collection and viewing the city through its famous giant window clocks inherited from the railway station that used to occupy its space.
Centre George Pompidou wowed us with its comprehensive display of modern art, as well as its building design, which was revolutionary and highly controversial when it was built in the 1970s and still unique today. Kids will get a kick out of learning the purpose of each of the brightly colored pipes, all running on the outside of the building to maximize the space inside, as well as riding the series of long glass escalators to the top floor for fantastic views of the city from the museum’s roof top terrace.
Tip: All the museums are free the first Sunday of every month. Kids under 18 enjoy free entrance to state monuments and museums every day. Paris Museum Pass is a great way to save money at over 60 Paris area museums and monuments.
6. Eat in a neighborhood bistro
Great food can be found everywhere in Paris, but it’s worth venturing out just a few streets past the most touristy locations. One neighborhood that is home to many attractions but still has plenty of “off-the-beaten-path” feel is Marais. We enjoyed several fantastic meals here. Au Bourguignon Du Marais and Café Louis Philippe, for example, are two places we cannot wait to return to and highly recommend to anyone looking for an authentic French dining experience.
Tip: Pretty much every bistro, café or brasserie offers one or a few daily specials, often as a two- or three-course meal for a set price. They are a great value and the chefs often take advantage of local, seasonal ingredients to artfully prepare simple, but splendid meals.
Read more >> Tips for Eating in Paris with Kids
7. Sample the city’s most famous ice cream
A short stroll from Notre Dame is Île Saint-Louis where you will find Berthillon, a famous maker of luxury ice cream and sorbets since 1928. While several shops in the neighborhood claim they sell Berthillon ice cream, there is only one original, located at 31 Rue St.-Louis-en-l’Ile. Don’t let the long line deter you, it moves rather quickly and the wait is worth it! The shop offers more than 30 varieties, but make sure to try some seasonal flavors like candied chestnut…très délicieux!
8. Take the metro everywhere
Paris has a remarkable public transportation system comprising of trains, buses and trams. Because the city is known for heavy traffic and aggressive drivers, we quickly learned that the metro was our best option to get around efficiently. The system is easy to navigate and the trains are frequent, fast and clean. True, the metro rush hour in Paris can be crazy, but this will only allow you to experience the everyday energy of the city.
Many metro stations have a unique design or decor. Our favorite was Abbesses in Montmartre, famous for being the deepest metro station in Paris. You will have to climb 200 steps to get out, but they are so beautifully decorated with images of the streets of Montmartre, it pays to forgo the elevator. When you reach the top, you can admire the beautiful art nouveau style glass covered entrance designed by the famous architect Hector Guimard, one of only two remaining today.
Tip: Depending on your plans, it may be a better deal to buy a one-day or multi-day pass versus buying single-ride tickets. Kids under 4 ride for free and kids under 9 ride for half a price (older kids count as adults).
9. Visit the “I love you wall”
Here is a little tip for a less famous, but quite memorable Paris attraction. Just behind the Abbesses metro exit is Le mur des je t’aime, the “The I love you wall.” Located in a cute little garden, it is designed with 612 blue tiles which carry the words “I love you” 311 times in 250 languages. A great family photo spot or selfie opportunity! After all, Paris is not only the city of lights, but also the city of love.
10. Have a picnic in one of the city’s beautiful parks
For a nice break from your sightseeing schedule, grab a baguette or some pastries from one of the boulangeries or patisseries you can find in any neighborhood and head to a nearby park. Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower, Jardin de Tuileries by the Louvre Musuem, or Jardin du Luxemburg in the Latin Quarter are some of Paris’ most well-known green areas, but there are plenty of other places such as Place des Vosges where you can chill, take in the local vibe, people watch and plan your attack on the next Paris attraction.
11. Take a cooking or a pastry class
French cooking is the foundation of western cuisines and taking a cooking class while in Paris is bound to be a memorable experience. I suspected Le Cordon Bleu lessons on how to make a perfect béchamel sauce or the lightest soufflé might be a bit much for our kids.
Instead, we opted for a three-hour macaron class with Cooking with Class, located in Montmartre. It was super fun, hands-on and appropriate for anybody. The best part: we made delicious dark chocolate raspberry, milk chocolate hazelnut and vanilla olive oil macarons, which we got to take home (and devour) after our session.
12. Get a one-of-a-kind souvenir
Stay away from the ultra-touristy and congested Champs Élysées and avoid the souvenir shops with cheap and overpriced merchandise in other touristy areas. While there are plenty of great shops all over Paris where you can get quality items to bring home memories of your trip, consider a family photo session in Paris as a truly special and lasting souvenir.
We did just that and booked one with Flytographer in Montmartre, one of the most picturesque areas of Paris. Our local photographer Krystal led us to several places we likely would not have found on our own and she created fantastic photos for us that beat any other souvenir we could have possibly bought. Bonus: Our Christmas cards will be done early this year.
Wondering where to stay in Paris? We loved Hilton Paris Opera with its central location to all of these top things to do in Paris, super friendly staff and wonderful free buffet breakfast for all guests!
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Know Before You Go
- The Jardin des Plantes is the most popular garden in France, housing over 200 species of plants. The garden also has a zoo that is open daily.
- There is another Statue of Liberty on the Ile aux Cygnes (also known as Swan Lake).
- The Pere Lachaise Cemetery holds the graves of the famous Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Frederic Chopin. A stroll through this cemetery is a nice free escape from the chaos of the city.