Paris is definitely one of the most romantic cities in the world. A lover’s paradise of art galleries, cafes, beautiful strolls along the Seine, architecture…but don’t discount it for the kids!
Last year we took the kids, and I mean kids to Paris. We were 4 moms and 12 kids, all boys, ranging in age from 6 to 14. We found that a week really was not enough for all Paris had to offer…and the kids loved it.
The traditional sights offer a range of interesting things for the kids. Notre Dame is great to climb up to the top of, and outside on the square in front are lots of entertaining acts that can keep the kids attention for an hour or more. Take a break with a baguette sandwich and watch the street entertainers. You can do the same with a climb up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, and a view of the Champs Elysees...then a walk down that magnificent street, and stop for a slice of pizza and a bit of soaking up the people watching and stopping along the way to watch the street entertainers.
Instead of simply walking, biking around Paris is another great option. There are several tour companies that offer bike tours. We chose “Bike About Paris” (bikeabouttours.com) which were excellent. They give a traditional tour of all the main sites, but since we were hitting these anyway, we opted for the back streets tour, which took us around the Latin Quarter, and Place St. Germain, along the Seine, and gave us a great view of Notre Dame before wondering off into the back streets where the Sorbonne is located.
The trick to Paris is really pre-planning. There are different schedules for the museums, and if you don’t plan it out, you may find your destination closed. As a rule, museums are open from 9 or 10am until 5 or 6pm. Others open later and close at 8 or 9pm. Closing day is most usually Monday or Tuesday, with a few exceptions. Some are even open 7 days a week, such as some of the major monuments which can even be visited as late as 11pm or midnight. But check first, and plan accordingly.
We bought the Paris Pass (parispass.com) beforehand. Now, after doing the math, this came out about even for us. It really depends on how active you are and how much you and the kids can do in a day. The Pass is comprehensive, it includes a lot of the main museums entrance fees, boat ride, and the hop on hop off bus. But, buyer beware, many of the museums DON’T charge a fee for kids under 13, so in the end, I found many times I didn’t need the pass to get into the museums we went to. It also didn’t include the Cite de Science, the large Science Museum, or the entry to the Eiffel Tower. And, I didn’t use it consecutively, so lost a day and had to buy entrance fees on our return to Paris, eventhough I paid for 6 days, I only used 5.
Here’s a brief list of what it includes:
1 Day Hop on Hop off Bus Tour, Louvre Museum, Paris Opera House, Grevin Wax Museum, Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise, Palace of Versailles
So, depending on what you want to do, it may or may not be cost effective. You also need to be aware that once you activate it, it counts down from that day, and must be used in consecutive days. Again, with preplanning, you can go to the museums and sites not included either before or after you use it…so plan accordingly.
Now, for us we found one of the highlights for the kids, and the moms, was Versailles. I recommend planning a whole day there. The tip for Versailles is to go on the back of the house tour first, and avoid the long queues to get in. Once you’ve done the tour, then go into the gardens (and then it’s later, and no queues to get in), and do the walk to Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet, picnic on the grounds and enjoy the beautiful ambiance. The tour in the morning is for a couple of hours and for us was sufficient to give the kids a sense of the history and magnificence of the palace, but then we had time for just some running around and a picnic on the beautiful grounds. This was one of our favorite days.