The Non Touristy Guide to Paris with Kids
Updated: Mar 6
I was lucky enough to live in Paris for five and a half years and it honestly was like living the dream. It still feels like home whenever I go back to visit. I love it. I got to experience the elegant city of light BK (before kid) as well as AK (after kid). Both were wonderful for entirely different reasons - but perhaps slightly more elegant BK!
Since then, everybody has asked me for recommendations for their own trip to my city. So voilà, here is my latest version of hot spots, according to moi! Oh, and one more thing - if you’d like some more inspiration see my Paris prints (s’il vous plaît!).
Note: Restaurant and museum details can be found at the end of the article.
Perfect Paris Places . . .
The Marias is a great area to wander around (Rue des Rosiers and environs). The streets are small and quaint with cute artsy shops and lovely little places to eat. It’s a good example of the old pre-Haussman city, before the grand boulevards took over. Le Loir dans La Théière is a perfect little lunch spot with the best desserts.
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.” — Thomas Jefferson
The epic street art of the Marias is fun to look out for too. There are everyman masterpieces displayed on most walls - my son is always fascinated with finding ‘Space Invaders’. Invader is the artist responsible for installing small mosaic space invader icons all over the city (and many other cities by now). Yes - there’s even an app for that - FlashInvaders is the official app that will propel your kids to traipse around the city for hours and hours to search and collect invaders - think Pokemon Go with an arty edge - genius!
The Place des Vosges is arguably the most beautiful residential square in Paris. It was the home of Victor Hugo and the garden in the square is lovely, as are the surrounding galleries with restaurants and cafes dotted under the archways.
The Marché des Enfants Rouge is the oldest covered market in Paris located in the Haut Marais. Established in 1615, it’s a great place to wander through and stop for a bite at one of the stalls. A short 6 minute walk from the Marché will take you to one of the coolest shops in Paris, ‘Merci’, with its artisanal approach, it’s much more than a store - and the two restaurants attached to it are gorgeous as well.
“Paris is a place where, for me, just walking down a street that I’ve never been down before is like going to a movie or something. Just wandering the city is entertainment.” — Wes Anderson
St. Germain / Latin Quarter
St. Germain is a great wandering spot, as is the Latin Quarter right next door. On the left bank in the shadow of Notre Dame, there are a few restaurant boats which are great places to have a drink on the Seine with the best view of Our Lady of Paris (not too pricey either). Go up to the top of Notre Dame (the queue is to the left of the building - and can take a while) for amazing Parisian views and that famous gargoyle shot (for a great photo , remember that the sun is behind you in the morning).
Note: due to the Notre Dame fire, these areas might not be currently accessible.
Shakespeare & Co. book store on Rue de la Bûcherie is right opposite Notre Dame and they have a cool cafe attached now. It’s a fantastic English book store with a rich history (buy the book - even if you don’t read it, it’ll look cool on your coffee table). Just behind is another lovely little cafe called Odette. There’s also a nice local restaurant next door called Le Petit Chatelet - get the snail starter.
The restaurants in St.Germain's main area are a bit touristy (don't go in anywhere where they try to grab you off the street!). A good little road with cute restaurants, cafes and people watching in this area is Rue de Buci. There is another little bar just off that street called La Palette which used to be the hang out for Picasso, Cezanne, Hemingway and Jim Morrison - good company.
Jardin Des Tuileries
The Jardin des Tuileries is a large park in front of the Louvre. It’s beautiful and good for strolling, sitting and people watching. There are many little cafes dotted about and sometimes a carnival park is set up (might be seasonal). There is a merry-go-round all year round anyway and a cool kids park with a huge slide (bit of a death trap for the tiny ones though - you’ve been warned).
The Orangerie Museum housing some of Monet’s best is at the end of the park near the Place de Concorde (as are some of the loveliest public toilets in Paris - you’ll pay a Euro, but it’ll be so worth it).
Montmartre is great once you climb up to the top of the hill (or cheat and get the funicular if you don’t fancy the 222 steps). You can additionally climb to the very top of the Sacré-Coeur church for the most amazing tip-top views of the city. The small square up there is full of working painters showcasing and selling their work. La Bascule is a fab spot on the way down the other side to get a well deserved drink. It’s friendly and has a great atmosphere and good food too.
Along the Seine
An ever evolving area along the Seine centers underneath the Pont Alexandre III (the bridge with the golden statues). There are restaurants, cafes and bars all with wonderful views (and no cars - which is a bonus). It’s perfect for a stroll along the river with drink stops. Rosa Bonheur is a floating bar/restaurant where you can grab a bottle of Rosé and some appetizers. There is also a kids climbing wall built into the quay wall and little park areas - oh and free public toilets!
Champ de Mars / Eiffel Tower
The Champ de Mars is the large park behind the Eiffel Tower. There are a few kids play parks and great photo ops of the tower. The 'Creperie and Kiosk' by the Playground du Champ de Mars sells good crepes and coffee and makes a welcome pit stop while the kids play . There’s a gorgeous 1913 hand cranked, merry-go-round right next to the cafe, and a little area for kids to ride pedal cars. Le Petit Cler restaurant on the old market Street of Rue Cler is nearby. It’s also my favorite restaurant in Paris.
“I only drink champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not.” — Coco Chanel
Jardin de Luxembourg
A simply beautiful, quintessentially Parisian park where the kids rent little boats and push them across the pond like it’s 1920 or something! There’s a good kids play park there too - you have to pay a small amount to enter the little park but I guess it keeps the riff-raff out.
Jardin de Acclimatation
An amazing old-school kids amusement park that is cheap to enter, and you only need to pay per ride once inside. The park manages to still retain the elegance of a bygone era. There are nice spots to eat once inside too - no fast food cafeteria here! It’s charming for parents and fun for kids - win win.
"There should be a name for the syndrome that occurs when you're in Paris and you already miss it." — Rosecrans Baldwin
Bois de Boulogne
If you need a little green space, the Bois (which means ‘woods') is a good place to stroll and there’s a large lake in the center with rental row boats. (Note: the Jardin d’Acclimatation is in the Bois de Boulogne).
The area around the famous Palais Garnier Opera House is great for shopping. The two big department stores, Galleries Lafayette and Printemps are located almost next door to one another. Galleries Lafayette’s roof deck offers great views, and there’s a beautiful restaurant, the Brasserie Printemps, under the huge stained glass dome of Printemps - a perfect resting spot for coffee and dessert, un coup de champagne, or a light lunch.
I lived in two different apartments during my time in Paris and Parc Monceu was just down the street from one of them. We spent many a lazy afternoon with a bottle of something and picnic there. There is a little play park, a vintage ‘Jules Verne’ merry-go-round, pony rides and the best pistachio ice-cream ever, sold from the kiosk.
Clingnancourt Flea Market
If you love flea markets - you should go to Clingnancourt. It is an amazing place and there are all kinds of characters there - it's a bit like walking into a Toulouse Lautrec painting. If you happen to need an antique crystal chandelier while you are there, so much the better. Only go if you have time though as it’s a bit out of the way.
Paris Manageable Museums / Brilliant Bike Tour . . .
Walk over the Pont Des Arts, now stripped of it’s ‘lovers locks’ that used to weigh the bridge down, and through the archway. You’ll find yourself in the rear courtyard of the Louvre. Walk through another archway and you'll find the famous Pyramid. This is most amazing at night ( and probably one of my fave spots in Paris). It’s magical. If you venture into the Louvre, do the intro guided tour - it's really interesting, highlights the good stuff and isn't as overwhelming as using google maps to get you from Egyptian relics to the Mona. Or, if you’re on a mission - just head for the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and The Winged Victory of Samothrace.
The D’Orsay is a slightly smaller museum that’s less overwhelming than its neighbor, The Louvre. There’s tons of art of course, but the coolest part is looking out at the view from behind the huge clock on the top floor. Cafe Campana sits right behind the gigantic clock face and is a fab spot to watch the time go by (ha ha!).
The Orangerie Museum is at the end of the Jardin des Tuileries by the Place de la Concorde and houses Monet’s waterlilies (supersized ones) and a lot of noteworthy, familiar art. It’s a really small, manageable art museum - if you want to be in and out and not dawdle.
"Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love." — Claude Monet
Atelier des Lumières
The Atelier is a super cool artistic show featuring giant, immersive projections of art on the walls. It’s kid friendly (unless you have a grumpy old French lady tutting at you - insert eye roll - in which case you can move around the room to a friendlier spot). The Gustav Klimt and Van Gogh exhibitions were amazing - you’ll need tickets.
I loved going to the Rodin museum with friends when we had toddlers in tow. You can just get ticket for the garden and wander freely around Rodin’s masterpieces which are dotted all around. No toddler was ever reprimanded for touching (climbing on or licking) said masterpieces either - result! Bien sûr, theres even a lovely cafe as well.
Le Jardin des Plantes
The Zoo, The Gallery of Evolution, and the Paleontology Museum surround the jardin providing any kid who loves animals with hours of entertainment. The thunderstorm, featuring lots of lights and noise, in the Gallery of Evolution is a kiddie crowd pleaser.
Bike About Tours is highly recommended. They go off the beaten track and show you some different stuff. They are pretty cheap and you cover a lot of ground (and some bakeries!).
Paris Restaurant Review - Just a Few! . . .
Sola in the Latin Quarter - amazing dining experience with a 10 course tasting menu - you have to book! It’s expensive and should probably be enjoyed sans kids! It’s up there with the best restaurants I’ve ever been to.
Le Loir dans La Théière is a little cafe / restaurant in the Marais for lunch with amazing desserts all displayed to include the biggest most delish slice of lemon meringue pie ever - totally worth every calorie!
"Pain is just the French word for bread." — Anonymous
Le Petit Cler is my fave restaurant in Paris. It’s very casual, reasonable and friendly on Rue Cler, a small old market street in the 15th near to the Eiffel Tower. It’s lovely if you are in that area for lunch or an easy dinner. Get the chicken with the curry sauce (that comes on the side) with baked potato - and the 'petit pot au chocolat’ is simply delightful for dessert.
Le Scossa is one of the nicest places that was right in our old neighborhood (Place Victor Hugo, near the Arc de Triomphe). I never had a bad meal there, and they are always friendly. They also serve the most amazing hot chocolate (seriously amazing).
La Bascule is a cool spot for a drink if you are in Montmartre. It’s a really nice casual restaurant too. One afternoon when I was there with friends, the whole place spontaneously erupted in song. Magic memory. There’s another cute bar across from it as well.
Kong is a funky cool restaurant which has good food and better cocktails. It overlooks the Pont Neuf on the Seine. It's uber hip and trendy, with fun decor. It is on the pricey side and random fact: they filmed the last episode of Sex & the City there. Ask for the upstairs dining room for the remarkable view when making a reservation.
Rosa Bonheur is just one of the floating restaurant/bars along the Seine under the Pont Alexandre III. There are also three other locations - a great one in Buttes Chaumont, a lovely hill top park in the 19th arrondissement.
Shu is set in the old caves under St.Michel in the Latin quarter. It's Japanese but untraditional. The food mostly comes on little bite-size skewers which makes for a very cool, different culinary experience. The door to the restaurant is sized for Hobbits - my parents still talk about it.
Ladurée on the rue Bonaparte (not the one on the Champs-Élysées) is a quintessential tea room famous for macaroons.
Le Perchoir Menilmontant is a rooftop restaurant and bar. It’s outside the touristy area but worth the trip for a memorable dining experience. You’ll feel hip and trendy, for an evening at least.
"By and large, the Mexican food in Paris is horrible." —Rosecrans Baldwin
Le Perchoir Marais is an awesome rooftop bar in the Marais overlooking the Hotel de Ville. There’s a wonderful view and atmosphere to match.
Le Petit Châtelet is next to Shakespeare & Co. bookstore near Notre Dame. It’s feels like you are in a cosy country cottage with the specials all written in chalk. Get the snail starter - it’s amazing - it comes in a bowl topped with puff pastry (and you can’t tell the snails from the mushrooms in the cream sauce).
Brasserie Printemps is a beautiful restaurant under the huge legendary stained glass dome of the Printemps department store in Opéra - a perfect resting spot for coffee and dessert, un coup de champagne, or a light lunch.
Need a teeny bit more inspiration?
And finally, one last (important) thought - there's nothing better than Champagne and fries in the city of lights for some serious joie de vivre . . .
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-This in not a sponsored blog post. All opinions are my own. -