Things to Do in Paris, France
Paris was my first international destination when I was seven years old, and we’ve taken our kids to Paris several times – as a family of five and as a leg of an around-the-world trip. I’ve also traveled to Paris with friends and solo over the years. There are thousands of things to do in Paris – we could live there for years and we would barely make a dent. So take this list with a grain of salt. These are simply our favorite things to do based on our experiences. Do all of them or none of them! Make Paris your own.
I should note that I’ve written about Paris several times, but always for other websites. I’m including as much as possible from those posts here, so that you don’t need to click around. As always, if you have any questions just ask.
Our favorite things to do in Paris:
Rent Boats at Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg)
I still remember doing this as a kid, and we’ve taken our kids several times as well. Definitely explore Luxembourg Gardens. There’s a great playground (with a small entrance fee). There’s a carousel. There are pony rides. But our highlight is always the boats at the fountain in front of the palace. As of 2021/2022 it costs 5 Euros for half an hour. Choose a boat, put it in the fountain and give it a shove with a stick. Then run around the fountain to wherever it ends up and do it again. Easily the best 5 Euros you’ll spend in Paris.
Stop at Every Carousel
There are roughly 20 carousels in Paris. Every one is different, and our kids have loved all of them, so we never say no when we’re passing one. Plus it’s a nice chance to take a break if you’ve been walking a lot. The brass rings are particularly fun because you don’t see them in the U.S. anymore. We’ve found that the best carousels for spearing brass rings are at Luxembourg Gardens and at Champs de Mars park, near the Eiffel Tower, but most have them.
Have a Picnic at the Eiffel Tower
We always have picnics when we travel – they’re far more relaxing, and fun for kids, than 2-3 hour meals in restaurants. And Paris is the absolute best place to have picnics. There are boulangeries and markets everywhere, and the evening scene in front of the Eiffel Tower (in Champ de Mars park) between May and September is perfect – Parisians relaxing with wine while kids run and play. There’s even a playground nearby.
We typically bring 1-2 thin linen blankets (Turkish towels) from home, and then buy disposable plates and utensils at the market. We’ve used plates and glasses from rental apartments, but stopped since the risk of breakage is too high.
Do a Treasure Hunt at a Major Museum
The major Parisian museums aren’t inherently kid-friendly, so if you want to go, I highly recommend doing it in a way that’s fun for kids. We did a treasure hunt through the Louvre with Paris Muse and the kids loved it. And we saw all the highlights, so it’s also perfect for adults who haven’t been to the Louvre before. That Muse does similar treasure hunts, and Context Travel has several family-oriented museum tours as well. An added benefit: when you book a private tour, you get to skip the lines.
Search out Smaller Museums
When we’ve been in Paris and we’ve woken up to rain, we’ve had to scramble and come up with indoor things to do – and not the major museums, since those get crowded when the weather’s bad, and you’d get wet waiting in line to get in. Two of our favorite discoveries: the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature and the Musée Marmottan Monet. They’re a lot less crowded than the big museums and just as interesting, and being smaller they’re automatically more kid-friendly. The Musée de la Chasse is fun and quirky for kids, with interactive animal-related displays straight out of a Wes Anderson film. The Monet Museum lets kids get up close to amazing Impressionist art and to see Monet’s progression as an artist—something you don’t necessarily see at large museums that focus on major works.
Do Kid-Friendly Walking Tours
Beyond museum tours, there are a lot of walking tours for families. We’ve done excellent guided tours through Notre Dame (currently closed of course), the Marais and Montmartre with Paris Muse and Context Travel. Tip: book tours for the beginning of your vacation, since you’ll have places you want to return to.
Visit an Authentic Amusement Park
We’ve never been tempted to visit Disneyland Paris given that Paris has old-school amusement parks like Jardin d’Acclimatation that are more fun, less expensive and less crowded. We’ve visited every single time we’ve been to Paris and it’s never gotten boring for our kids. And the summer ferris wheel and carnival at the Tuileries Gardens are always fun for a couple hours.
Walk, Walk, Walk!
The first time we spent three weeks in Paris, we came up with a fun way to see the city. Every morning we took the Metro to a random stop (as far away as Montmartre), we explored the area, and then we slowly walked back to our apartment. We always stay in the 7th arrondissement, near the Eiffel Tower, and you can see the Eiffel Tower from almost everywhere in Paris, so we would simply aim for the tower, seeing new and different things along the way. It’s the single best way we found to avoid the trap of simply taking the metro from famous site to famous site and missing the details, and the transitions between arrondissements, that make Paris so fun.
Find Farmers Markets
One of the other perks to staying in the 7th arr. is that Rue Cler, with all of its markets, is just minutes away. However we still search out farmers markets to get an even better selection of fruits and vegetables (mostly for our picnics) and hot food like galettes. Marche Raspail is one of our favorites – in the 6th arr and walkable from the 7th on a nice day, or easily accessible via Metro. It’s generally open 7am-2:30pm Tuesdays and Fridays, and with organic produce Sundays 9am-3pm.
Take a Cooking Class
One of our favorite things to do in Paris, or anywhere, is to take a cooking class. Our favorite class was making macarons with Cook’n With Class in Montmartre – they have all sorts of other classes for adults and kids as well.
Hire a Photographer
I’m never in my photos, since I’m always behind the camera. So we’ve hired Flytographer around the world for hour-long photo sessions, where we’ll walk to uncrowded and/or iconic spots and be photographed as we go. It’s literally the only reason we’ve had family photos for Christmas cards several years! And in Paris recently I hired a photographer (Krystal Kenney) to take photos of me for an Instagram campaign for Unbound Merino. I’m not a model, but it was fun walking around the Île Saint-Louis area with Krystal, and ending up with photos so much better than if I had asked strangers or friends to take them. Get some photos of yourself next time you’re in Paris, even if you’re traveling solo!
Wake Up Early (and Stay Up Late)
I love walking around cities before sunrise, and Paris is perfect for exploring early – even if you’re not jet-lagged! The Eiffel Tower is always a fun sunrise destination with very few people around, but you can head almost anywhere on the Metro early and then wander back to your hotel as the sun is coming up, stopping for pastries and coffee along the way. Likewise, we love walking around late. Paris is a late-night city and it’s fun to be part of the action. We’ve always felt safe wandering around early and late, but be aware of course.
Go to the Top of the Eiffel Tower
What kids don’t want to be able to say that they’ve been to the top of the Eiffel Tower? We always book the first tickets of the day. There’s virtually no line for the elevator up, there are no crowds at the top yet, and if you want to take the elevator back down there’s no wait. We usually prefer to walk down though – always fun.
Visit Paris’s Passages
Paris’s covered passages are famous, but you could easily spend a month in the city and never see them. So search them out! We’ve been to a few (we love Passage des Panoramas and Passage Jouffroy) but definitely not all, so use this post to guide you to the best of the best. The passages are particularly perfect when it’s cold or rainy outside.
Bohemian Montmartre is one of the most popular sections of Paris – I’ve frequently heard “if I ever move to Paris, I want to live in Montmartre”. There’s the Sacré-Cœur basilica, the central square with artists and cafes, cobblestoned streets, Instagram-friendly spots like Le Consulat and La Maison Rose, and the best views in Paris, but the district also extends down the hill to a decent-sized area of the city – where you’ll find Moulin Rouge. Take the Metro to Abbesses, climb the steps to the center of Montmartre, and then slowly wander down towards the Seine.
Buy a Book at Shakespeare and Company
Maybe the most famous English-language bookstore in the world, Shakespeare and Company (just across the river from Notre Dame) is always worth stopping into. Browse and buy, and then head next door to the café.
Visit the High Line of Paris
If you’re over in the Bastille area, take a walk on the Coulée verte René-Dumont – the Paris Highline (the world’s first highline, beating New York by 15 years). The path is 4.5km long and it’s definitely not necessary to walk all of it, but it’s an elevated green space through the city that’s a nice break from the streets down below.
Get Lunch on Rue Montorgueil
Rue Montorgueil is one of our favorite streets in Paris – kind of the best of Paris all in one place. Head over for lunch at an outdoor cafe, or stop by Stohrer, the oldest pâtisserie in Paris, for a baguette sandwich.
Tips for Paris
- Get Navigo Metro Cards
- At ATMs, always choose to have your transaction go through in Euros, not your home currency
- Learn a little French. Always say Bonjour (or Bonsoir) when entering a store and Merci when leaving.
Where to Stay in Paris
We’ve rented apartments a few times, either through local rental agencies, Airbnb or VRBO, and have had great experiences. We have a lot of picnics, but if we’re in Paris for several weeks it’s nice to have a kitchen for other meals.
For a hotel, we’ve always been happy with three-star (moderately-priced) hotels in the 7th arr. Two of our favorites:
Hotel de Londres Eiffel
The Hotel de Londres Eiffel can’t be beat. It’s a family-run boutique hotel just a few minutes from both Rue Cler and the Eiffel Tower (and Starbucks if you love your Starbucks). The upper-floor rooms have a view of the Eiffel Tower. Most of their rooms sleep two, but they have some larger options for families of three or four – not something you can ever assume about Parisian hotels! TripAdvisor reviews are here.
Cler Hotel is right on Rue Cler, so a few minutes farther from the Eiffel Tower than Hotel de Londres Eiffel, but very similar prices, room sizes and excellent service. Their top-floor rooms have Tower views. Their largest room sleeps three. TripAdvisor reviews are here.
Where to Eat in Paris
We don’t have many favorite restaurants in Paris. As noted above, we have a lot of picnics, and if we have an apartment we’ll cook often. One restaurant that we return to often is Gusto Italia, in the 7th arr at 218 Rue de Grenelle, just a couple minutes from both Hotel de Londres Eiffel and Cler Hotel. The Italian food is very good, but more importantly they’ve always been accommodating when we’ve shown up with a large group, or with very small children and a stroller. We’ve found service to be excellent, and if we want to eat and leave quickly (because kids), it’s easy to pay quickly.
Otherwise we dine wherever we are in the city, when something looks good, or an outdoor seating area looks inviting. We’re rarely disappointed. We’ll usually check TripAdvisor before entering just to make sure it’s not a poorly-rated tourist trap – we’ve learned the hard way a few times around the world!
What are your favorite things to do in Paris with kids? Where do you like to stay? Where have you had amazing meals? Please comment below to help other families.
Before you head to Paris with (or without) kids, think about getting travel insurance. We regretted not having it on a recent trip, so learn from our mistake! We went with G1G based on price and coverage. Well worth looking into for a little peace of mind while you’re enjoying the City of Light.