I have visited Paris more times than I care to remember, what I have never been is a tourist or a mum in Paris. This guide is a sort of mix of the two a local mums tourists guide if you will.
I go on and on about how you shouldn’t over schedule your trips and that you need the time to enjoy the experience not just tick boxes. This is sometimes easier said then done. I really felt that on our most recent trip to Paris. We were there for just a week and I wanted to do so much. On top of that we were visiting a good friend who incidentally also has a 5-year-old son. I had to get the mix right. Something for me, something for us and something for them! Here are some of the highlights of the trip which took place in the winter so a lot of activities are weather permitting. We were lucky to have some great sunny and bright but still wintry cold days. To start of here are some general Paris with kids observations.
– Baby changing facilities in Paris are rare, museums and (some) department stores were the exception. This merits a whole other post I think and some reader contributions for sure!
– Paris Metro (subway) with a pram or buggy was not easy. Every Parisian who helped me up and down the millions of steps told me it was the worst and was sort of embarrassed. To be honest though, out of all the major cities we have been in Parisian’s were THE most helpful. I would recommend walking if you can or baby carrying if that’s an option. Otherwise smile and hope for the best.
– Paris has UBER. Cabs are affordable but this service just rules. All my drivers were awesome and friendly and super helpful with my child and buggy. Thanks!
– These were my two go to guides to Paris that I used. Hip Paris and My Little Paris which also has a great kids section. I also always love Time Out and this guide was a good starting point. We also now have a brand new interactive map courtesy of the lovely guys at Air France on our site. Check it out here.
A mums guide to Paris in winter
I’m always drawn to these marvels, I’m not sure if it’s the gold and sparkle or the vintage atmosphere of the mesmerizing plinky plonky music. Maybe its all of the above. We have seen a lot of carousels on our travels in NYC and in Montpellier but the Parisian ones are so far my favorite. They are always in these iconic and exquisite locations like the two pictured by the Eiffel Tower at Trocadero and the Sacre Coeur. I didn’t get to see them all but these were magnificent and well worth a ride. We later found out there is a great seasonal exhibition on carousels at the Musee des Arts Forains. Check it out and let us know your thoughts. Looks magical.
BELLEVILLE – THE 19th DISTRICT
This is Paris’s biggest municipality and the birth place of Edith Piaf (72 Rue De Belleville). If you truly want to see how Paris lives and breathes this is a great place to visit. Stepping off the subway you might think you have found Paris’s answer to China Town however further exploration will surprise you, to say this neighborhood is diverse is an understatement. We were lucky enough to stay here with a local and of course her insight was invaluable. Thanks Elisa!
Buttes Chaumant Park
This Park is vast and simply beautiful. Its name means bald mountain and with its limestone cliffs strutting from the greenery you can see why. I once heard Central Park in NYC described as the lungs of the city and now every time I visit a city park I have this vision of giant heaving green lungs pumping crystal clear air into the crazy dark city. This park was no exception. In true French style though the park also has some sophistication thrown in there with three restaurants one being the Pavillion Du Lac pictured. The view here was amazing and although we didn’t get time to eat I’m told it’s a great place.
A fantastic rainy day activity. You can spend a whole day exploring this place. The interactive exhibitions were fantastic and although I found them a bit tired looking the kids (my son a toddler and 5-year-old friend) absolutely loved them. There are flight simulators and giant sculptures a small aquarium a 3D cinema (Geode) and masses of running around space. Their was also a circus visiting which was not yet open but looked interesting so please let us know if you visit it!
Lets be clear here this aint no culinary master piece, it’s a kids cafe and in Paris they are not that easy to find don’t let the negatives put you off because your kids don’t care. The service is typically Parisian i.e. cold but the place is 100 geared to the little ones. Upstairs has 2 play areas, lots of toys to use and a chalkboard wall to get creative on. The menu is geared up for families and the adorable lollipops at the end were a nice touch. I’m told there is a story hour and other activities best to check the site for those. On the cold and rainy day that we were there it was a lifesaver. Pin it and save it to you google map now!
The rest of the 19th is your oyster, there are excellent restaurants, cosy cafe’s, and lots of cute boutiques but as usual I don’t want to spoil the adventure of finding something new for yourself!
I love the Rive Gauche (left bank) and have stayed here many times in the past. My two favorite hotels are here the Hotel Bel Ami and L’ Hotel where Josephine Baker famously danced and Oscar Wilde took up residence. At Christmas and in the winter there are some wonderful markets (locally known as Marche De Noel) to visit, rich with the smells of roasted chestnuts and of course crepes, my favorite. The merchandise was a bit tatty in my eyes but the atmosphere and food are worth it. You can see more info about Paris Christmas Markets here.
Of course no trip to Paris is complete without a few patisserie’s and the left bank is home of one of the branches of Laduree the eponymous macaroon maker. They sell 15000 every day. Wow. They must be good. As we were feeling festive we went for a take on the traditional buche de noel otherwise known as a Christmas log. It was just as fantastic as it looks! I know this is an obvious choice for some but I do think this place is still excellent and their scrambled eggs were my guilty pleasure for years and years of hectic business trips.
If you want to see a fantastic Christmas window with your children and not be jostled by the crazed crowd this is the place to go. It’s magical, peaceful and festive. Perfect. This stunning department store is like a day trip in itself. Some things I loved are in the pictures below. You have to visit the kids department here and its also a great place for them to have a little run around. Its big and there are lots of toys to have a play with too. The shopping here is insane and the shoe department to die for. Once you have done all that head to building number two’s basement and eat yourself silly. The place is less touristy then the other major department stores and full of locals. A sign you’re in the right place for sure!
The wall of water
The kids department
The basement food hall OMG!
The crazy escalator
Other highlights which I have visited in the past and are well worth going to are Brasserie Lipp for their fries and beef tartare, Cafe Flore for the people watching and amazing facade, Jardin du Luxembourg and the St. Sulspice church organ.
Of course a lot of people forget this but the Eiffel Tower is actually on the Left Bank and yes you should go and see it. Buy your tickets in advance rain or shine this is a once in a lifetime experience so get on with it. I didn’t and I’m still VERY annoyed with myself. The line was giant and we rode the beautiful carousel but still I haven’t made it to the top. Next time Paris next time!
I can’t believe I have never been here before either. This is really Paris at its most amazing. The view is spectacular and the whole area breathtaking. We loved the funicular ride too. I have decided that seen as we this is our third funicular ride in as many months we now have to visit them all. There is lots of room for kids to run about here and of course the carousel. You can also climb to the top of th tower for even more breathtaking views. As I travel alone sometimes these options just aren’t possible. No one to babysit the buggy boo hoo. Make sure you visit the Montmatre Cemetery while your here the burial-place of Degas and other French greats.
MY NEW DISCOVERY’s
I had my first night off from my nearest and dearest, my son Oscar Chang. I know its crazy, how I let 14 months pass I have no idea but I did and I lived to tell the tale. What better place for this momentous occasion to take place then Paris. The city of well-behaved children who allow their parents bountiful free time, right? Well anyway social commentary aside I went out to meet a great friend and her charming husband who happened to be in town from NYC. Hi Jen and Mark. I was recommended a new restaurant in the Marais and I have to share it with you it was excellent! LA PETITE TABLE.
La Petite Table, 27 Rue Saintonge, 75003, Paris, Tel +33 1 74 64 00 36
A brand new route with Air France has also opened up between Manchester and Paris making it easier for all you northerners to get over for a few days. I wish it had been open when we went! For more info as well as additional scheduling on London to Paris flights take a look at the Air France site.