We took a slow travel approach to our trip to Paris – which is really just a fancy term for not trying to cram everything in. We also have a friend with a son close in age to ours, and seeing them was as important to me as seeing the sights.
If you’re travelling with children under 10, I think it makes sense to look at your itinerary realistically. There needs to be playgrounds and unstructured downtime, as well as grown-up sight seeing. Picnics as well as meals in restaurants.
I think it’s impossible not to have a bit of a meltdown at some point, because traveling is a stressful experience at any age, and it takes time to learn how to do it. I’m sure you’re a better flier, car tripper, and tourist now than when you did your first trip. Only by traveling with your kids regularly can they get better at it. But the bottom line is this: Paris with kids is totally doable.
We have been to Paris a couple of times before, and will go again in the near future as we don’t live that far away. This takes the pressure off, in terms of making it meaningful. However, even if you’ve saved for this for years and it’s a long flight and everything else, some of the best moments on our trips have been unscripted ones. Leave some room in your days to just explore, or hang out. The Parisian kids yours will meet in a playground, the view over the crest of a hill that time you get a bit lost, the little cafe that becomes your temporary homebase – these things are what make a trip for me.
What really worked for us this trip:
Bus tour and the Batobus
Those hop-on hop-off bus tours are a quick way to get an overview of a city, with the added benefit of saving small peoples’ feet. There are several of these, and lots of deals online, so check before you go. A snack stop afterwards is a good time to get everyone’s priorities for where they want to visit. We love the hop-on hop-off Batobus for seeing things from the river, but not tying you down to a 2 or 3 hour tour.
Not just a drink, but the concept of having something to eat in a relaxed manner in the late afternoon. Nicely accompanied by a ‘Spritz’ (Aperol, Prosecco, and a splash of soda), but not necessarily required, it’s mainly about hanging out from 4pm onwards. Maybe with a spread of fancy food, or just bits from the fridge cabinets at Franprix and a bottle of wine with plastic glasses (ahem) in a park – it’s an excellent way to feed everyone who needs to eat at an earlier dinner time.
Exploring the banks of the Seine
There are little strips of grass, tiny windows serving beer and coffee, mini playgrounds, ice cream carts, and more all along the river. In 2013, this collection was significantly expanded with the Promenade des Berges de la Seine between the Pont de l’Alma and the Musée d’Orsay. There are little huts, play structures, and more. We spotted them from the river, but didn’t have a chance to explore them. If you’re visiting during late July to mid-August, you can also catch Paris Plage, where the city puts out great big sandboxes along the river, along with loungers and sun umbrellas.
All of this means you can wander along, without much of a plan, and find something fun to do.
Go a bit further out
Our Parisian friends took us up to Parc de Belleville with its awesome hillside playground, over to Parc des Buttes Chaumont with its fairytale bridge and lookout point, and finally to the canals and the Parc de la Villette up up in the 19th. I had never been up there, and what a great place to spend a few hours. We picked up our snacks (see Aperol above) and waited while our sons raced down the truly giant Dragon. We watched people put-put down the canals in cute little tugboats, and my son even pulled out some dance moves with the local b-boys and b-girls. There were little bars and cafes all along the canal, and it was much calmer than central Paris.
Bonus tip: Atelier Fratelli
Our friends took us to one of their favourite pizza places, Atelier Fratelli. A local food truck and now a restaurant right between the 19th and 20th, this friendly spot serves pizza and focaccia sandwiches for very reasonable prices. Every focaccia and pizza is served with a side salad. ‘1Part’ pizza is a slab of their good stuff with a thick bread crust, and is plenty for one person. The ‘focaccia’ part of the menu are all sandwiches, again on their locally baked bread. I can hear you wondering why I’m suggesting Italian food in Paris. Well, one can only eat so many Croque Monsieurs, and it’s a kid-pleaser. It’s walking distance from Père Lachaise and a small hike from the Parc de Belleville.
26 rue de la Chine,
Looking forward to our next visit – do you have any recommendations for us?