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What To Do in Paris With Kids: My Children’s Top 10 List

What to do in Paris with kids? Well there’s plenty, of course, but your children’s favorite activities won’t necessarily be what the guidebooks say. You can wait in line at all the usual suspects, or you can take my tried and true advice, or at least the advice of my fabulous kids.

This summer our family took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris. It was eleven days of pure heaven and I’ve been pining for Paris ever since. We went everywhere and did everything, and the kids were absolute troopers. They loved the experience as much as we did, but their top Paris spots didn’t necessarily include the most popular museums and attractions, like Notre Dame, the Louvre or a cruise on the Seine in a bateau mouche. Not that they didn’t enjoy those places and experiences too, but those didn’t hit their top 10 list.

Here is a list of my kids’ favorite things in Paris, so that if you get the chance to go you’ll know what’s tops for kids in the City of Light. Or is it the City of Love? Whatever.

Bonus: You’ll get one major tip from me on how to avoid lines and make the best use of your money.

  • Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet 1 of 14
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    The actual Palace of Versailles is a pain in the butt. You'll wait in line a while -- we waited an hour -- and once you get inside it's so crowded you can hardly see anything. The real treat is the gardens. Way in the back you'll find the Petit Trianon, and behind that you'll find the Queen's Hamlet, or Hameau de la Reine. My guidebook didn't even mention the Hamlet! It's like a little movie set of a rustic village from the late 1700s, featuring thatched cottages, a pond filled to the brim with fish, gardens full of flowers and vegetables, and a farm with cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, chickens and even rabbits. The Hamlet was far and away the biggest hit of our trip to Paris with the kids -- an absolute delight. They imagined the Queen romping around with her friends, pretending to be one of the "unwashed masses," which is exactly what happened here.

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

  • More from the Hamlet 2 of 14
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    Here's more from the Hamlet, a view of the pond with the Mill in the background. Don't miss it. Really. It's not hard to get there. Just hop on the RER C line and head to the Versailles-Rive Gauche station.

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

  • The Lights of the Eiffel Tower 3 of 14
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    You can see the Eiffel Tower during the day, and if you're willing to wait in hellish lines on the way up and on the way down, you can get a view of Paris from the top. Or you can climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to get a view of Paris, like we did, and not have to wait at all. Instead, go to the Tower at night so you can see it light up with thousands of twinkling lights. My cellphone picture doesn't begin to do it justice. The kids loved this.

    Just know in the summer it doesn't get dark until 10pm, so you'll be out late.

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

  • The Deyrolle Menagerie 4 of 14
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    Deyrolle is not a museum or an attraction and it's not on too many top ten lists, but it's a must do as far as my family was concerned. It's a taxidermy shop, so you may groan and think it's macabre, but it's a wondrous place. I've never seen so many varieties of butterflies, beetles -- some the size of my hand -- birds and mammals, all in one tiny place. You have to make the trip to this shop. Trust me. You'll be so glad you did, and your kids will thank you. 

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

  • A Passion for Pastries 5 of 14
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    It's a given that there are pastries in Paris, but you need to make a special trip to one of the best. It's called Gerard Mulot, and you can find it in the St. Germain neighborhood (6th arrondissement). We went there every day for breakfast, where the kids had pains au chocolat and I had a peach tart and a cafe creme and my husband had something different each morning, often involving pate or sausage. 

    We ate the macaroons. We tried the cherry clafoutis. We inhaled the gruyere and jambon sandwiches for lunch -- you'll never eat a better sandwich in your life -- and sometimes even for breakfast. And on the last night of our trip we bought a large box of pastries and chowed down on everything from millefeuille to meringues with chantilly cream. The kids loved this little shop, because you can't get food like this at home. We thought it was better than oft-cited patisseries Laduree and Angelina.

    You're in Paris, friends. Don't eat at McDonald's. Eat pastry.

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

  • Forget the Hotel Buffet 6 of 14
    Breakfast at Gerard Mulot

    This is what you want for breakfast, NOT the hotel buffet. And you'll likely pay less for this and feel like a genius. Because you are a genius. 

    You can find Gerard Mulot at 76 Rue de Seine.

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

  • Flower & Bird Market 7 of 14
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    My children loved all of the markets we saw in Paris, mainly because the sights and sounds are so much more interesting than our local Publix. Their favorite, though, was the Flower & Bird Market. It's held every Sunday at the Place Lois Lepine on the Ile de la Cite, and you can wander among all the colorful flowers, chirping birds and the occasional rabbit and enjoy getting leered at by the merchants who don't appear to appreciate you taking pictures of their wares. 

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

  • Where The Real Tweeting Happens 8 of 14
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    Colorful birds at the Flower & Bird Market in Paris. They also have chickens. And mice. 

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

  • Inventive Minds 9 of 14
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    The Musee des Arts et Metiers is a fascinating science and industry museum featuring inventions and machines of all shapes and sizes. You'll see all sorts of funky cool scientific instruments, including some of the very first cameras, calculators, clocks and even bicycles. Most of the signage includes English translations, which is super helpful. If you have a budding scientist, mathematician, engineer, architect or astronomer, this is the place for you. It's at 60 Rue Reaumur in the 3rd arrondissement, right near a handy-dandy Metro stop.

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

  • Romance & Bridges 10 of 14
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    The Pont des Arts bridge gleams and sparkles in the sunlight thanks to all the lovers who have affixed padlocks to the railings to symbolize their eternal love. All the bridges in Paris are beautiful but this bridge was the biggest hit with the kids.

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

  • Young Love 11 of 14
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    Yes, she's only seven, but Madden insisted on adding her own lock to the Pont des Arts, featuring her initials and those of her first grade boy crush. 

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

  • Impressionist Masters 12 of 14
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    The entire family enjoyed the Musee d'Orsay, housed within an old train station. It features the arts between 1848 to 1914, and we were thrilled to find that the top floor had an exhibit of the most impressive gathering of Impressionist paintings I've ever seen. We were treated to gallery after gallery of Monet, Manet, Pissaro, Renoir, Cezanne, Degas and more, and they were all right there in front of you, such that you could reach out and touch them if you were interested in spending the night in a Paris jail. The Musee d'Orsay is much smaller and more compact than the Louvre, which makes it a lot easier to get through without feeling like you need a place to lay down for a while.

    The kids also liked the Pompidou Museum, featuring modern art, the Rodin Museum, with a garden full of sculptures, and the Louvre, especially the Egyptian Antiquities'  mummies.

    Parent tip: Do yourself a MASSIVE favor and buy a Paris Museum Pass. This pass gets you into pretty much every museum in Paris, and it allows you to go to a special line and not have to wait in the long line that most tourists find themselves in. Plus, you only need to buy the passes for the adults in your party, not for the kids. We happily breezed past lines at the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, the Arc de Triomphe and elsewhere. 

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

  • En Garde! 13 of 14
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    I wish I had a better picture, but this shot will give you an idea why the kids loved the Musee de l'Armee, or Army Museum, so much: Armor. You'll find row upon row of medieval swords, maces, crossbows, shields, chain mail and knights' armor, including custom helmets like this mustachioed one. Perfect for young people who like to imagine themselves jousting. By the time we left this museum, my kids had conjured up their own country with an anthem and a banner and coat of arms. 

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

  • Not-So-Free Play 14 of 14
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    After a long day of walking, jostling among museum goers and negotiating Metro maps, there's nothing better than a park. Any park will do, but my kids' favorite was the Tuileries Garden. This large park near the Louvre has everything you need, except bathrooms of course. There are cafes, ponds, flowers, statues, pigeons, places to run free, and in one corner (the one closest to the Place de la Concorde) you'll find a carousel, children's playground, and trampolines. Just be sure to have a few euros on hand if the kids want to jump or ride the carousel. Nothing is free in Paris. 

    Photo credit: Katherine Stone

 

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