For our family’s first vacation since the start of the pandemic, we did it up big and went to Paris. We hadn’t seen our beloved French cousins in several years and yearned to spend time together, even if it meant just two days in Paris this time around.
It didn’t take much nudging for us to make a short stop in Paris before heading to the French countryside for our family reunion. Vaccination cards in hand, we hit the City of Light for 48 hours of fun. If you’re planning a short stopover or weekend trip in the French capital, here are the can’t-miss things to do in Paris with kids when time is of the essence.
What to Do for 2 Days in Paris
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic still a concern, we prioritized spending as much time as possible in the open air. This was no problem, of course, because Paris is filled with some of the best tourist attractions in Europe, including its beautiful public gardens and parks.
Located in the very center of Paris, the Jardin des Tuileries looks like it belongs in a fairytale. We took a spin on the carousel and ate sticky cotton candy called Barbe de Papa or Santa’s beard. The highlight was watching the resident goat nibbling the grass. Yes, a live goat acts as a four-legged lawn mower in this Paris park, trimming the lawns in a low-tech manner throughout the warmer months.
We explored the Marché aux Fleurs, a daily flower market. Though we didn’t buy flowers, it was a joy to smell the sweet scents and soak in the beauty of the delicate blooms. Visit on Sunday and you’ll be treated to a weekly live bird market.
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The hop-on, hop-off double-decker Big Bus Paris is an excellent way to enjoy the panorama of the city’s famous monuments and sites without tiring your legs. You can sightsee at your own pace, getting on and off when and where you want. The open-top bus breezes by the Louvre, Place de la Madeleine, Arc de Triomphe, and more. There’s an individual audio guide in a score of languages and Wi-Fi on board. We bought a one-day ticket and saved 10 percent by booking online.
In a city that defines iconic, the Eiffel Tower may be the most iconic site of all We rode the glass-enclosed elevator to the top of this signature spire and marveled at the beauty of Paris from high above its famed boulevards. Book your ticket online and connect to the user-friendly visitor’s guide on your smartphone for up-to-the-minute information.
Paris has so many great museums, but as our time was limited to two days in Paris (and our desire to be indoors as little as possible), we visited only one. The Musée d’Orsay has the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, housed in a fabulous Beaux-Arts former train station on the Left Bank. The vivid colors, natural light, and open-air scenery in paintings by Van Gogh, Renoir, and Monet were enjoyed by all.
Where to Eat When You Only Have 2 Days in Paris
Paris’s culinary scene is a melting pot of flavors representing the diverse cultures that call this city home. The oldest overseas Vietnamese community in the world is here, so we couldn’t resist takeaway banh mi sandwiches at Miss Banh Mi. There’s a robust community of people of Moroccan descent, prompting us to feast on couscous, the national dish, at Au Bon Couscous in the Latin Quarter.
The city’s more traditional cuisine is alive and well, served at hundreds of casual bistros clustered in every arrondissement. We enjoyed an informal supper with a view of the Eiffel Tower at Au Canon des Invalides on Rue St. Dominique in the ritzy 7th arrondissement. The menu leans towards classic bistro fare such as fresh salads, charcuterie platters, steak tartare, and homemade French onion soup adorned with a thick topping of gloriously gooey cheese. They offer a very affordable children’s menu for under 10 Euros, a rarity in Paris. It includes a choice of chicken, ham, or sausage, plus a beverage and dessert.
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Even with just a few days to visit, no trip to Paris is complete without sampling delectable desserts at the fine array of patisseries. Try the dainty macarons in jewel-tone colors that look lifted from a box of crayons at Ladurée, with numerous locations sprinkled around Paris. You won’t be disappointed with the mouth-watering selection of seasonal cakes, fresh fruit tarts, luscious eclairs and pastry at Tapisserie in the 11th arrondissement.
If you’re traveling with a food allergy to gluten (or even if you’re not), head to Chambelland’s, also in the 11th arrondissement. They bake a selection of organic gluten-free breads and pastries, prioritizing sustainable methods. The breads are made with naturally gluten-free rice and grains such as buckwheat, and ground in their own mill, assuring a completely gluten-free product. Don’t miss the cakey cocoa bread and the luscious sugar bread delicately flavored with orange water.
Where to Stay in Paris
We usually seek budget accommodations, but a pandemic splurge was in order. We prioritized staying at a hotel that was both luxurious and centrally located. The five-star Castille Paris was a fine choice. It’s on Rue Cambon in the 1st arrondissement, right next to the Maison Chanel and steps from numerous other prestigious boutiques. If you happen to be traveling with a teen fashionista, that alone should score you points. It’s a few blocks walk to the Tuileries, the Louvre, the Pompidou Centre, and many other top Paris attractions.
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The staff was welcoming from the moment we dragged our jet-lagged selves through the front door and inside the chic lobby with its opulent sofas. The reception area offered a surprise, a delightful housecat named Heliot, who added to the warm atmosphere that is so rare at such a refined hotel. The family suites are spacious enough for four, with two children up to age 16 staying free. Practical amenities include cribs, bath toys, high chairs, strollers, and potty seats, available on request.
Our favorite thing about the Castille was the outdoor courtyard patio with delicate frescos adorning the walls. We ate breakfast here, an elegant repast with home-baked pastries, cheeses, meats, eggs, cereal, and fresh-squeezed juice. We thoroughly enjoyed listening to the soothing sound of water in the Roman-style fountain as we dined, a perfect way to start our day in this incredibly beautiful city.
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