Ah, Paris, France! City of lights to the adventurers, city of love to couples, and city of “what were we thinking?” to parents of small children.
Oh, families, it is not that bad. Or rather, it does not have to be! We took our family of 5 (that’s including 3 girls, 4 and under!) to Paris, France, the week before Christmas. I am here to tell you, a family-friendly vacation to this great and historic city is completely possible! It takes a bit of planning, but I am here to make your life easier (and your trip to Paris more fun!).
There are multiple ways to travel in to Paris: Plane, train, or automobile! We were told by many fellow travel families that driving in Paris is a major headache. Having gone, I can see what they mean. Avoid if you can, unless you are comfortable with narrow streets and vehicles that do not adhere to normal traffic rules! We took the ICE train, from Kaiserslautern, Germany, to the Paris EST train station. If you go this route, be sure to book tickets about three months out (at the earliest) in order to receive the best deals. Our girls loved the train- and were given a special “ticket” and toy by the staff!
Once we arrived, we took a Taxi to our hotel. Whatever you do, do not go with a driver who charges a “flat rate” fee- he or she is most likely ripping you off. The taxi services in Paris are not too costly going from place to place, as most sights are within a few miles or less of each other. It only begins to add up if you get stuck in traffic!
The options to get around the city are rather numerous. We walked often, as the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre were both a easy 15 minute walk from our hotel. If we traveled further, we used taxi’s. However, the metro is cheap and the bus stops are numerous. It was just easier for us to take a taxi, but if you are looking to pinch pennies, definitely take the metro! I would have enjoyed the hop-on-hop-off bus, but seeing as it was the middle of December and freezing, we opted out of that particular form of open-air transportation!
There are parking garages in the city (I noticed them by the Notre Dame and the Louvre), but be warned they may be expensive and a tight squeeze for all but the smallest cars.
As I mentioned already, we did a fair amount of walking. While it can be possible to manage with strollers, I would highly recommend NOT bringing them. Baby wear if you have wee ones, but strollers would be difficult to maneuver the numerous stairs around and in the major tourist attractions and often busy sidewalks.
Speaking of strollers: When we visited the Louvre, we were pleased to discover that they offer FREE strollers for your smaller children! We were able to procure two for Genesis and Jordyn, while I wore Scarlet in my Ergo carrier. It was fantastic. Because the Louvre is so large (I could seriously spend ALL day there), not having to worry about tired, worn-out children was a relief. There are three “wings” with multiple levels in the Louvre, so we arrived in the morning just shortly after opening. After spending time in each wing, we would take a break and have lunch or a snack before beginning with the next wing. If you desire to see the Mona Lisa or other famous works of art, I recommend arriving before opening and heading directly to what you wish to see. The amount of people crowding the viewing area for the Mona Lisa was incredible, and it was difficult to see much of her without fighting the crowd!
Let’s talk tickets. If you will be in Paris for two or more days and plan on seeing multiple tourist attractions, the Paris Pass will be worth your money. Especially because the tickets may include “skip the line” passes. We went the route of pre-ordering vouchers for “skip-the-line” tickets to the Eiffel Tower (tour) and the Louvre (Side note: the Notre Dame is free unless you want to go up in it!). Turns out, the vouchers were not exactly the best way to go- we ended up waiting almost an hour for a sketchy tourist trap shop to give us our tickets! We could have been through the line in that amount of time. Buy the Paris Pass!
For being in Paris 4 days and 3 nights, we were able to see most major attractions. I’ve heard wonderful things about the river cruise on the Seine, but we opted out due to being the middle of December! The shopping in Paris is perhaps the second-most wonderful thing about being there. The fashion districts were interesting just to gaze in the windows and gawk at all the fashions- some odd and questionable, but fabulous, because, well, Paris fashion! The little shops, boutiques, and cafe’s were found in plenty.
My advice for those traveling with two or more children…eat early. There are restaurants found on every corner, but in our experience, so many were only accommodating to groups of 2 or 3 people, rarely more! While it could be possible to pull tables together if the restaurant allows, we also noticed that most eateries are busy from about 6pm, and stay that way until closing. Families, eat early! We found that eating lunch around 11 or 11:30 a.m., and dinner around 5:00-5:30 p.m. was our ticket to finding a dining establishment that was not terribly busy and could accommodate our family of 5! Also, be prepared for most restaurants and cafe’s to not provide baby chairs. I’m getting very good at eating a meal and dodging grabby baby hands because I have to hold her!
I believe that Paris is a city that has something for everyone, whatever your travel tastes are and what you like to do or see. Our girls loved it, even though we did not go out of our way to choose sights that would suit them. Our oldest still frequently asks to go back! A perk of going near Christmas time was being able to visit two of the various Christmas Market’s in the city. There was a small market below the Eiffel Tower, and a large one on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The Arc de Triomphe is located on one end of the Avenue, so we walked from the market to the Arc. There is a Ferris Wheel by the Place de la Concorde on the Champs that was very neat to take a ride in. From the top you can see the Louvre (which is fairly close actually), Notre Dame, the Eiffel, the Arc, and more. A beautiful way to see the city!
Having had just a taste of the city it seemed, as it offers more than we could do in one trip, we would like to go back. Disney Paris is close by, and since we have three girls…wouldn’t that be fun? Not to mention, I need more tea from Mariage Frères and macaron’s from Angelina’s!
Do you have any tips on traveling in Paris or other major cities in Europe? Message me or comment to fill me in on the details!
Until next time,