Paris – Willkomen, Bienvenue, Welcome…
The City of Lights isn’t known for its welcoming attitudes towards the younger kind. Chain smoking residents, tutting, unsmiling professionals, no offers of help lifting prams on public transport and the Parisian restauranteurs ritual of placing families with young children out of sight of any ambience or view is well.. pretty well known. Okay so I’m generalising here big time and joshing slightly of course. However these are all things I’ve experienced myself in Paris in the past and also heard direct from my sister who now lives there with her husband and two young children under 5.
In fact, it’s been fascinating to hear about her experiences of Parisian life from behind a pram and at toddler level and then compare this with my experiences of taking my older pre-teen boys of 11 and 9 there to visit her recently.
So YES, Paris can be hostile towards kids (yes that’s YOU skinny businessman in the artisan boulangerie in the 9th Arrondisement who literally couldn’t contain his disdain for my boys who were choosing cakes excitedly behind him). But it can also be THE most exciting and pretty friendly place to visit with children, if you know where to go and what to expect.
Paris – Where We Stayed
- We stayed in the 9th Arrondissement in the Hotel Brésil Opera. It’s a 15-minute walk from Gare Du Nord and short taxi ride away by Uber. The Hotel was great – a good, very clean, three star hotel on a bustling busy street near the Folies Bergere. The staff were lovely too – friendly and accommodating. We had a Triple Family Room on the second floor that wasn’t luxury (as my sons pointed out to me!) but had been recently refurbished in a nice, modern style and most importantly for me was super clean. Now don’t get me wrong – brats my children are not, but we’ve been fortunate enough to have stayed in some lovely boutique and more luxury hotels in places like Puglia in Italy, Vietnam and Croatia. A five or even 4 star hotel with a Triple room was not an option in central Paris – unless of course you want to pay £5k for four nights….Our main remit was that we wanted somewhere near my sister’s apartment and well located generally, so this was right on the money. (I think we paid about £700 for the room for four nights through Booking.com which is great value for Paris). My husband had to stay in the UK for work, so it was just me and the boys.
- The neighbourhood was BRILLIANT – villagey, bustling, full of diverse restaurants and shops (including some seriously good joke and party shops) but also close to the Grands Boulevards. Although it looked nice, we decided not to opt for the hotel breakfast at 14 euros per person per day, knowing that the many stunning artisanal boulangeries would provide and then some. This was a good decision. It meant we got up and out fairly early every day to seek croissants and pain au chocolate and a Cafe au Lait pour maman. The first day we went to a proper Parisian bar right opposite the hotel and for 5.50 Euros each you get a fresh pressed orange juice, patisserie of choice and hot drink all while enjoying the ambience of early morning Paris and its inhabitants. This set menu Breakfast for 5.5 Euros is a THING all over Paris it seems. Also at the end of the street opposite our hotel, was the Artisan Boulangerie Hubert, which sold the most delectable breakfast pastries and whose owner was friendly and helpful. The boulangerie also has an area where you can sit in and have coffee which is roomy and pleasant – so it’s great for kids and mums with prams too when an extra bit of space is needed.
Paris – Where We Played
- Square Montholon – A short 5 minute walk from our hotel and an easy meeting point. A shady Parisian square off the Rue Lafayette with two smaller playgrounds for younger children and a large activity frame for older children plus plenty of areas to run around in and hide. It’s gated, well-kept and has plenty of benches to sit on. It was a god-send when my boys wanted to charge around and the narrow Parisian backstreets wouldn’t allow for it.
- Jardin Des Tuileries, Rue de Rivoli. A mere 10 minutes walk from Place Vendome. Probably the most beautiful city park in the world, surrounded as it is by grand Parisian architecture and dotted inside with sculptures and those elegant and perfect flower beds. Walking through it never fails to thrill. However, look closer and it has plenty for children to do inside. There are lots of wooded areas and a small trampolining area. This was really diverting for a good 40 minutes. It’s 15 Euros for 8 gos but they are spaced apart which actually makes it quite civilised and the children have to sit and wait for 5 minutes between gos (depending on how many other children there are). PLUS just a short walk beyond is a really good, large playground with a huge modern climbing frame and slides that perfectly suits older children – my boys loved it. A plethora of benches around the edge meant that I could sit in the sun and watch them.
Paris – What We Saw
- Arc du Triomphe. Planned more by mistake than design. We tried to buy a trip up the Eiffel Tower online about a month in advance of our trip but the ‘Skip the Queue’ tickets were fully booked. As were the Paris Catacombs! Next time! So we decided on a ticket to go to the top of the Arc Du Triomphe and visit the museum inside. We purchased our tickets through Get Your Guide – a great resource for buying tickets in advance, We decided to walk from our hotel (55 minutes according to Google Maps) to the Arc du Triomphe. Aside from the vague whingeing and complaints about tired feet, it turned out well as the weather was mild and we were able to see Paris on foot. There were some exciting detours along the way. Namely: The Church of St Augustin (and the statue of Joan of Arc nearby), and also a delicious lunch at Monceau near Parc Monceau – a fab proper French restaurant. See below more details. The view from the top of the Monument is wonderful and well worth the climb. The Eiffel Tower can also be seen from the top and is only a short distance away, so a brilliant photo opp for children as it never fails to please.
- The Army Museum. I booked an advance ticket for this, again a week before our trip from the UK. The website is easily navigable and full of useful information. My brother in law kindly offered to take the boys there on his own one morning during our stay, so my sister and I could spend some time together. I booked one adult ticket for the Napoleon Exhibition which also gave access to the rest of Army museum. It was a snip at 12 Euros and children under 12 go FREE. All in all an ideal place for budding historians!
Paris – What We Ate
- Hubert Boulangerie – See above. We got a few things from here during our stay, as it was almost opposite our hotel and such great quality breads and pattisserie. You could easily buy a delicious lunch baguette, quiche or small pizza here too for lunch on the run if you wanted.
- Bistrot de la Banque. Such a GREAT FIND and again near to our hotel and the big BNP Paribas Bank building, hence the name. We wanted somewhere near our digs for dinner one evening as we’d walked miles that day. My boys can be fussy at times and the eldest was insisting on steak frites. I wanted a small carafe of red wine to de-stress (after supervising two squabbling boys and walking 15,000 steps around the streets of Paris all day, I think I’d earned it). I’d recommend this place in a heartbeat. It’s full of French locals either eating alone or with their families and friends. It was lovely inside with modern, warm and atmospheric decor. The staff couldn’t have been nicer or more professional and easy going. No snootiness here. We were also seated near a large screen playing a big international football match that night. It wasn’t loud nor obtrusive and was a good diversion for two tired boys. I had a really nice, fresh goat’s cheese salad and the boys some steak frites – all well made and just the ticket after a day of sightseeing.
- Creperie L’Artisan on 15 Rue Sainte-Cecile, just two minutes walk from our hotel in the 9th Arrondissement. Another great find and reasonable too. Lots for the boys to look at inside and wonderful crepes. Had an easy-going, unfussy vibe that is great for children. Service was quick too. Recommend.
- Le Monceau on 37 Rue de Monceau near Parc Monceau. This was our food stop on the way to the Arc Du Triomphe. At first we were worried we’d been hidden away at the back of the restaurant, but how wrong we were. We were just a little early and after 20 minutes of sitting in a empty dining room, the area started to fill up with French business workers coming in for lunch. It was a wonderful experience for the boys to be in a proper Parisian bistro and nice to be amongst all the chatter. Our waitress was fab and so kind to the boys. It was nice to see them treated with respect and they behaved well as a result.
If you have any questions about our trip or thoughts on taking children to Paris or on city breaks in general – then please DO drop me a line below – I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by. Until next time. xxx