Visiting Paris With Kids
When my husband invited me eight years ago to accompany him on a business trip to Paris, I was over the moon. We had just gotten engaged and while he had been to Paris before, this was my first time traveling to Europe. Like most people, I fell in love with Paris. I fell in love with the opulent architecture, the monuments, the statues, the world class museums and the authentic live music (which ubiquitously consisted of an accordion, a violin or a harp). I fell in love with the iconic buildings (i.e. Eiffel Tower, The Louvre…), the painters selling their art on the streets, the history and culture of Paris, the romantic Seine River, the patisseries, the food and the fashion! Can we talk about the fashion for a moment? Paris has the most world-class high-end boutiques, the most luxurious, yet affordable boutiques as well. And the more “commercial stores” like Zara and H&M are far more glamorous than their American sisters because they have different items in stock that are only available in Europe. To say I was in heaven is a very serious understatement.
Over the last three years, we’ve taken the kids to Paris for a week vacation. I’ve researched the best places to create a family friendly vacation and I’d like to share my favorite picks.
Apartment Rentals are a fantastic option. Here are my top two websites to find a nice family friendly apartment.
My husband and I consider ourselves foodies. We enjoy dining out at laid-back establishments as well as formal establishments—even with our kids. We enjoy trying a variety of different cuisines, especially while on vacation. However, French food is our absolute favorite. And although we appreciate experimenting with our palate, our kids tend to want a slice of home. So we do make it a point to treat the kids to a couple of American meals every time we travel overseas. We’ve found a couple good restaurants that are sure to make you feel like you’re back at home as well as a couple places to find items for a picnic.
Grocery stores to pick up items for cooking at home away from home or to pack for a picnic:
- Monoprix: Comparable to a Big K-mart in the US, Monoprix doubles as a very unique grocery store with fresh produce, freshly baked goods, basic dairy products, French bottled water, pre-packaged sandwiches, inexpensive wine, standard groceries while offering knock-off gourmet snacks and very interesting knick-knacks that can be purchased as souvenirs or as toys for your children. Every arrondissement has at least one large Monoprix store in addition to smaller shops, called Daily Monop’.
- Picard: The store’s modern ice-blue colored Snowflake is powerful enough to catch your eye as you’re perusing the shops on every street. Opening the doors, you are immediately impressed with the frigid, minimalistic white ambience, as staff stroll the corridors in white lab coats, pushing silver insulated shopping carts. You have entered Picard, a grocery chain in Paris selling only frozen foods. These are not your standard American tv dinners. These are the type of gourmet meals that are made in Italy, Spain and various parts of France and flash frozen so the consumer can whip up a delectable meal in two shakes of a lobster tail. It kind of reminds me of Trader Joe’s, but dare I say it: even fancier and more delicious!
- Le Relais de l’Entrecôte: A fantastic family restaurant suited for casual tourists offering impeccable service and steak grilled to perfection. Serving only steak and fries, this is the perfect place for omnivores.
- Drouant: Facing a very pretty city square, the restaurant has been around since 1880. Managed by Antoine Westermann, the menu offers elegantly updated classics with an emphasis on seafood.
- Chez Georges: A popular, old school bistro serving classics like frisée au lardons, jambon persillée, escargot, and tarte tatin.
- Le Petit Vendôme If you really want to lunch as the locals do, visit this old fashioned Auvergnate casse-croute.
- Benoît: Opened in 1912, Benoit celebrated its 100 years anniversary. It’s a venerable age for the only one Parisian Bistro to get starred by the prestigious Michelin Guide. The restaurant has still a lot of vitality and remains the traditional Bistro cuisine in the heart of Paris.
- Le Grand Colbert: Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves and Jack Nicolson made this historic brasserie made (more) famous in the movie Something’s Gotta Give. And if you know anything about me–I’m a sucker for a Hollywood staples.
- Ma Bourgogne: Serving humble French fare in a location that is anything but, Ma Bourgogne brings hearty classics to the Place des Vosges.
- Korcarz: A kosher Jewish deli on Rue des Rosiers offering an epicerie full of nosh and a lovely terrace
- Chardenoux: This is a 100-year-old belle époque bistro with your classic French bistro menu. It’s a quiet neighborhood restaurant, not cheap but worth it, for the food is a cut above. Charming service.
- Le Tournesol: a modern French bistro that serves delicious, light meals at the foot of the Radio France building in the 16th Arrondissement. The crowd is 90% locals with a few tourists lucky enough to find this trendy and chic restaurant.
- Breakfast in America: The owner, Craig Carlson is from Connecticut with quite an interesting story. This is our “go-to” place for breakfast at least once or twice during every trip to Paris. Our kids are reminded that eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal, toast and pancakes can be served anywhere in the world and yes, even in Paris.
Patisseries are like 7 Elevens in America. They’re just about on every single corner. It’s almost impossible to find a bad one. But, these two in particular have been around forever and are two of the most popular patisseries in all of France.
- Ladurée: One of the top premier sellers of the double-decker macarons. 15,000 are sold every day. They are one of the oldest and most reputable makers of macarons in the world.
- LeNotre: This is our absolute favorite patisserie in all of Paris. The pastries are very fresh and it offers a very family friendly atmosphere.
- PAUL: is a French chain of Bakery/Café style restaurants established in 1889 in the city of Croix, in Northern France. It specializes in serving French products including breads, crêpes, and sandwiches, macarons, soups, cakes, pastries, coffee, wine, and beer.
There isn’t a shortage of beautiful, elegantly landscaped and solidly built playgrounds in Paris.
- Jardin du Luxembourg
- Jardin de Tulleries
- Parc Du Champ-De-Mars
- Jardin Des Plantes
- Square Du Temple
- Square Du Trocadero
- The Marais Playground
- Le Halles
Cultural Enrichment (thru Sight Seeing)
- The Louvre
- Musee D’Orsay
- Notre Dame
- Eiffel Tower
- Champs Ellyse
- Arc De Triomphe
- Sacre Coeur
- Center Pompidou
- Pont De Arts (Love Lock Bridge)
Rue Vavin is the shopping mecca for stylish moms. Near the Luxembourg Gardens, this quarter mile long narrow street has more than a dozen children’s clothing boutiques, including Catimini, Jacadi, Petit Bateau, Froment LeRoyer (kids’ shoes) and Marese. At the top of the street is a FNAC Junior, packed with French educational toys, books and DVD’s. Make sure to stop in for a gelato at Amorino, 4, rue Vavin (our absolute favorite gelato place in all of Paris).
Rue Cler, a cobbled pedestrian street in the seventh arrondissement, is packed with small shops for the perfect picnic (wine, cheese, bread, olives and French specialties), is truly a sensory experience for the entire family. Children will be drawn to the colorful macaroons in the windows of LeNôtre, as well as the sweet-smelling crêpe stand, where a Nutella and banana crêpe is only 3.50 euros.
- Du Pareil auMeme
- Tartine et Chocolate
- Finger In the Nose
- Sonya Rykiel Enfant
- Baby Dior
- Petit Bateau
- Tara Jarmon
- The Kooples
- Agnes B
- Isabel Marant
- Comptoir des Cottoniers
- Autour du Monde
- Wolford Lingerie
- Etam Lingerie
- Zadig & Voltair
- Repetto Shoes
- Galleries Lafeyette Shoe Department
Getting around Paris is very easy! The best way is to walk. Paris is surprisingly easy to navigate on foot and it is only in the Montmartre district that there are any hills. Walking is the best way to see the city as you go from arrondissement to arrondissement. Paris is a compact city, no more than six kilometers at its widest point. However, when the kids begin to get tired, there are several transportation options including: Metro, Buses and Taxis. The Paris metro is one of the oldest in the world which also means that only very few of the stations have lifts or escalators for strollers. Buses are easy to access with a stroller but much slower depending on traffic and you are above ground and can really get an awesome tour of the city without the stress of driving. After living in the DC area for the last decade, we’re quite spoiled with the modern escalator and elevators. The Paris metro system is just as nice, but prepare to lift the scrollers. I recommend baby carriers if you can get away with that. The final option is to hire a taxi. The prices are very comparable to those in any major U.S. city and quite worth it.
What to Pack
Paris may be considered the fashion capital of the world. But, it’s certainly nothing to get anxious over when packing. I’ve noticed that most Parisians have a kind of “uniform” formula that they use to get dressed every morning creating a very polished, chic and classic look. It consists of: 1. A Blazer 2. a Button Down, Turtleneck or Classic T-shirt 3. A Scarf 4. Jeans 5. Flats This look is standard for both men and women throughout almost all four seasons. For Summer: Dresses, dresses and dresses with very pretty feminine flat sandals is the perfect go-to outfit for women as well as little girls. A neutral colored tee and black or colored shorts with masculine sandals is the best go-to outfit for men as well as little boys. Here are a couple more tips:
- Black is The New Black: It doesn’t matter what season it is, black is always in style in Paris. Black is awesome because almost everything looks dressier in this color. The kids spills and dirt don’t show up as easily and black goes with everything.
- Wear Comfortable Shoes: Parisians do a lot of walking. Contrary to American culture, the fashion set in Paris wear flats over heels, especially during daylight hours. Ballet Slippers, Gladiator sandals, and dressy shoes with a low heel are great. The kids can wear absolutely any footwear and get away with it.
- Think layers. The weather in Paris is fickle; temperatures can swing wildly during the day, particularly in spring and fall, while the sun plays peekaboo. Blazers, light cardigans, sweaters and hoodies are great items to pack for the whole family. And bring socks and a light anorak.
- Jeans: Yes! Skinny jeans are very popular, especially in colors. Cherry and mustard are especially popular. And yes, even the men wear jeans in skinny cut and in colors.
- Dress Up A Little: What’s considered dressy in the states could be considered casual in Paris.
- Carry a Cross Body Bag with Zipper: There are tons of signs around touristy sections of Paris warning you to be aware of pick-pockets. Wearing a small cross body bag with a zipper closure is one of the best ways to ward off these petty criminals. Men and women would do better only carrying one credit card, just the necessary amount of cash for the day and only one form of identification. Leave all the extraneous credit cards and passports in the hotel safe.
- What Not to Wear: Workout Clothes or Yoga/Pilates GearParisians never go out in workout clothes or yoga wear. I don’t even think Parisians even know what Lululemon is. And white sneakers just screams “frumpy Americans”.
If you have any questions or tips about Paris that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!