The children and sightseeing combo is a tricky one to get right. To enjoy a tourist attraction, kids need to be impressed … and kids are hard to impress. What’s more, if they’re not enjoying the experience they will make sure that no one within 10 feet is either.
As the children of a travel writer, my kids are experienced city breakers and by trial and error we’ve worked out a formula that keeps everyone happy most of the time.
• Stick to one tourist attraction a day. If you have children in their teens, you might squeeze in two.
• Stay near to public transport. Kids quite like riding on foreign boats, buses and trains, but they hate walking a long way to get to them.
• Choose to stay close to a park so your kids can run around, kick a football (soccer ball) and let off steam, just as they would do at home.
• Make sure that there are plenty of restaurants and food shops nearby so that you don’t have to traipse miles to eat. If there are shops within walking distance too, that will keep teenagers happy.
• Consider staying in an apartment rather than a hotel. When you’ve been out at a museum, art gallery or zoo all day, you want your kids to have a place where they can relax, play or nap without being interrupted.
• As it takes longer to visit anywhere with children in tow, give yourself longer to do everything you want to do and stay at least a day longer than you would if you were visiting without them.
With this in mind, we set off for Paris.
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When I visit a city on my own I like to wander around it. If I’m on my way to a museum and I spot an interesting gallery en route, I’ll make a detour to investigate it. Kids are exactly the same. Whilst walking through the Tuileries Garden on the way to the Louvre, we found ourselves in an area of the park made out of hedges with gaps just small enough for my children to tunnel through. So we stopped and sat on the grass for half an hour whilst they did all the hide-and-seek that they needed to do.
Ask them what their favourite bit about the Louvre was and they will say those tunnels. The Mona Lisa won’t get a look in. They had a bit of a giggle at the amount of nudity in the other paintings we saw, but after half an hour they were done with the place.
If you aim for one major attraction a day you should all be able to enjoy it. Any more and crankiness will set in. For Paris, put these on your to-do list:
• The Eiffel Tower (kids generally love heights)
• La Cité des Sciences — Europe’s biggest science museum, full of interactive elements
• A Batobus hop-on/hop-off boat ride along the Seine
• The Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay
• Luxembourg Gardens
If you want to do Paris’s museums and galleries, time your visit for the first Sunday of the month, when many of them waive their entrance fees. If you’ve spent nothing and you’ve seen one painting and the toilet, it doesn’t matter so much.
TIP: Commerce hasn’t hit Paris quite as much as it has in cities in other parts of the world; they actually have days of rest here. The Louvre, for example, shuts every Tuesday, and the Musee d’Orsay is shut every Monday. Restaurants are often closed Sunday nights until Tuesday lunchtime, and many shops are closed Sunday and Monday too. If you’re planning a mini-break, opt for Thursday until Sunday.
We chose to stay in a house in Boulogne — Jean Jaurès in the upmarket 16th arrondissement, 20 minutes into the centre by Metro. It turned out to be the perfect place for introducing children to Paris and the Parisian way of life. That first morning we set off with them clutching a handful of funny new money: euros to buy croissants at the lovely boulangerie around the corner and then fruit and cheese at the market. We went back to the house to eat it all, and then they didn’t want to leave. The owner of the house must have had children of a similar age, and they would have been happy playing with their novel French toys all day.
Ciao Bambino also manages a list of vetted family-friendly properties and rental agencies in Paris and throughout France. Connect with a Family Travel Advisor for one-on-one booking help.
Editor’s Note: Anna’s trip to Paris was sponsored by HouseTrip. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino.
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