Visiting Paris with Young Kids? Here’s How to Make it Fun for Everyone in the Family

There are plenty of wonderful things to do in Paris with kids, even very young ones.
Eiffel Tower in Paris (Photo: Envato)
Eiffel Tower in Paris (Photo: Envato)
  • I’m an American expat who lives full-time in Italy and writes about my expat life at
  • I planned a family vacation to Paris when my daughter was just three years old.
  • I made some adjustments to my usual travel style and discovered Paris can be a delight even with a toddler (or two) in tow.

Our friends were shocked when they learned my husband and I were planning a trip to Paris with our daughter when she was just three years old. “But isn’t the City of Light meant for couples?” Au contraire! There are plenty of wonderful things to do in Paris with kids—even very young ones. So wonderful, in fact, that we returned often as our daughter grew, and we included a baby son into the mix too.

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We certainly had to adjust to visiting as parents rather than as a couple, but finding things to do in Paris with kids brought a whole new side of the city to life. Kid-friendly Paris takes many forms, and can be a delight for parents as well. Here are my tips for making the most of your time there.

Paris bridge in the evening
Paris is a walkable city with interesting attractions around every corner (Photo: Léonard Cotte on Unsplash)

How I Made the Most of My Time in Paris

Approaching a trip to Paris with kids requires adapting to the local lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean you should stick to your usual schedule at home. In fact, I advise against it.

1) Don’t recreate your schedule on the local time zone.

For our visit to Paris with our three-year-old, we were coming from California and had to deal with a nine-hour time difference. We decided to embrace an amorphous time zone rather than try to recreate our usual schedule on local time. We’d wake up around 11:00, have a late breakfast, do a mid-afternoon activity, go back and rest for an hour or so, and then go out for the long evening when the summer skies were light until 10:30. It turns out, Paris is somehow even more beautiful in the summer evenings than it is during the day.

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This adjusted time-zone approach allowed us to eat with the locals, who often dine at 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening; hang out in outdoor cafes; and take long, memorable evening walks. Everyone still got their normal amounts of sleep and we got to see Paris at its best … and not be as exhausted and jet lagged.

2) Stay at the same Paris hotel each time.

If you plan to return to Paris with kids, finding a hotel that you come back to again and again makes it feel more like home. We’ve stayed in rental apartments as well, which are handy for the kitchen and more space, but I love returning to the same spot that gave our kids a sense of place and the confidence of knowing a small corner of Paris when they were little.

Navigating the Food Scene in Paris with Kids

family picnicking at dusk on the Pont des Arts in Paris
Picnics are the key to culinary happiness when visiting Paris with kids (Photo: John Torcassi)

People go to Paris to eat, but figuring out how to navigate the world-famous food scene with kids can be daunting. Here are two strategies I’ve used to boost my chances of success with my own kids.

1) Picnics are the kid-friendliest dining-out option in Paris.

I’ve learned to travel with a picnic blanket tucked in my luggage. In Paris, most of the city seems to come out at dusk for a picnic. Some favorite spots are the beautiful Pont Des Arts footbridge over the Seine and along the banks at the point of the Ile Saint-Louis.

Dinner picnics in Paris are a relaxed and fun way to enjoy French food with zero restaurant pressure for kids. They’re also a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture—especially in summer, when groups of Parisians meet up for picnics and there’s abundant music and socializing. Along with a memorable meal, the kids can run around and come by for bites in the middle of one of the most beautiful places on earth.

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Part of our afternoon adventures would be to find an array of cheeses, charcuterie, fruit, bread, chocolate or pastries, and of course wine in the many specialty shops, getting our kids involved in the choices along the way. The added bonus is that when we’d return to these small bakeries or cheese stores a day or so later, the staff would often remember us and the children. The kids would ask questions and want to try new things, and would be greeted warmly.

It doesn’t hurt to pack some picnic essentials like a small cutting board, a picnic knife (be sure to put it in your checked luggage), melamine plates, and lightweight but unbreakable picnic glasses so you don’t need to worry about getting anything once you arrive, although any French grocery store is well-stocked with picnic necessities.

2) You can have a great time at restaurants with kids… if you plan it right.

The French have fairly high standards around children in restaurants (French kids are well-schooled in not misbehaving in restaurants), but we found that with a bit of attention and prep we could comfortably eat almost anywhere. It helps to dress up a bit, make a reservation, come on time, and have some activities for your kids. If my kids got antsy between between courses, one of us would take them out for a walk around the block and return in time for the next course—hardly a hardship in Paris.

It also helps if the kids are not picky eaters, which is the stereotype of American kids in particular. Being blessed with adventurous eaters almost guarantees you a warm welcome at restaurants in Paris. When she was three, my daughter decided that her favorite food was escargot, largely because of the copious amounts of butter and garlic. When she ordered a dozen in halting French and then eagerly consumed them all, she earned the admiration of the entire brasserie, both staff and patrons.

Things to Do in Paris with Kids

young boy walking through Musee de l'Armee
Let your kids’ interests decide which Paris museums you visit (Photo: John Torcassi)

There are so many things to do in Paris with kids. Kid-friendly activities abound, and while you may have to adjust your pre-kid Paris dream itinerary, you’ll be rewarded by adventures that are fun for the whole family.

1) Visit the museums of Paris, but do it strategically.

When planning things to do in Paris, many people put Paris’ amazing museums at the top of their list. But museum visits can be a huge challenge with kids. If you’re willing to be flexible, though, you can boost your chances of the whole family having fun when visiting museums in Paris.

Get a museum pass. At larger museums, I found it best to get a museum pass and to not spend too many hours in a museum. Instead, my family would return more than once (easy enough to do with a pre-paid museum pass) and take in a small amount each time—a tactic that works for adults as well.  

Make each museum visit a treasure hunt. Take the kids to the museum bookshop at the beginning of the museum visit and let them pick out a few postcards of art they like, then turn the visit into a treasure hunt during which they search for the art on their postcards.

Choose your museums wisely. Paris has museums dedicated to topics that might be closer to your children’s heart than, say, Mannerism at the Louvre. My son loves swords, so we spent a morning at one of the best collections of armor and swords in the world, the Musee de l’Armee. He was three at the time and we let him take the lead in showing us around. He walked with a confidence and purpose I hadn’t seen in him before, like this was the first place he’d been in his life that truly made sense to him. It’s one of my favorite memories. Plus, lesser-known museums tend to be much less crowded than the Louvre.

2) Discover the many Parisian parks that are a wonderland for kids.

Paris is a city of fantastic parks that are perfect for kids. I’ve spent hours at the Luxembourg Gardens, which features a fountain where you can rent tiny sailboats to push out into the water, go on pony rides, watch puppet shows, and ride a tiny carousel on which kids can try to hook rings with small lances to practice their knight skills.

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Beyond that, there are hundreds of gardens in which to take a break and let the kids run around, although take care to respect off-limits areas like many carefully groomed grass lawns. To combine a museum visit and a picnic, try the Rodin Museum garden grounds. The Jardin des Plantes (literally the Garden of Plants) features a small zoo, and kids will find endless delights at the the Tuileries and Palais Royal parks.

Pro tip: Most Paris parks feature little cafes where you can relax and enjoy a coffee or snack while the kids run around.

4) Take the metro with your kids.

The metro sounds like an odd attraction, but my kids found it pretty fascinating. And when they were slightly older, I taught them the basics of public transit navigation and let them help plan journeys and lead the way underground.

5) Enjoy one of the Paris summer festivals as a family.

Paris has a rich variety of summer festivals. One very popular Paris one is Paris Plage. Paris closes the expressway lining part of the Seine and turns it into a beach, complete with sand, bands, outdoor chairs, and food.

The Summer Solstice brings the Fete de la Musique, when bands and singers are out on every corner. It can get crowded, so you might want to consult with locals on where the best neighborhoods are for families.

On the night before Bastille Day in July, the local fire stations host balls called Bals des Pompiers, with dancing from around 9:00 p.m. until the wee hours of the morning. It is very local, great fun, and exactly when you’ll be glad you didn’t try to get on local time so that you were in bed at 10:00.

We’ve had some of our most relaxed, pleasurable, and memorable family moments traveling with babies and kids in Paris. It’s totally possible, and easy, to create your own family memories and treasured time in this magical city.

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Nancy Raff
Nancy Raff is an American expat who now lives full-time in Italy running her creative agency and sharing Italian adventures, destination advice, and recipes at