I fell in love with Paris on a brief trip with my high school French class. The vibrant energy and the sheer beauty of the architecture were mesmerising. I couldn’t get enough of the language and culture that were so different to everything I’d known growing up in the Midwest, and yet I felt at home.
I moved to France nearly 15 years ago and it still blows me away. Raising young children in Paris is very different, however, to what I experienced as a tourist. Most days we keep to our local parks like Le Square Gardette and Le Square Trousseau, which are strategically located near my favourite cafés and bakeries. My husband owns a coffee shop in the Marais, so we also spend a lot of time in Place des Vosges and enjoying the recently transformed promenade along the Seine, complete with swings, climbing walls, and play structures.
Still, there is always an urge to get out and really explore the extraordinary places in Paris. My A-list is a collection of spots that spark curiosity and encourage imagination, including child-friendly museums, extravagant playgrounds, and places that enable hands-on exploration.
• Domaine National du Palais Royal
When we’re looking for a secure place for the children to roam free, this hidden gem is the front-runner. Tucked behind the Conseil d’Etat and surrounded by Paris’ most iconic covered arcades, it’s a world apart. The perfectly manicured trees and sumptuous fountains bring a touch of drama. Add in Les Deux Plateaux and you’ve got the perfect stage, whether children are playing at Olympic races, super hero battles, dance recitals, or theatrical performances. While you are at it, I highly recommend popping in Design et Nature taxidermy shop; it truly is a chamber of curiosities!
• Jardin d’Acclimatation
This theme park offers a great deal considering its modest size, including free access to the playgrounds, water park, farm, and puppet theatre. Some 200 birds are also on display in the aviary and my children love looking for the chickens and peacocks that roam free on the grounds. While the attractions in Le Village des Manèges are fantastic and we love catching the Petit train, walking around the Foundation Louis Vuitton is always a highlight even if we don’t make it inside.
• L’Opéra Garnier
We visited for the first time after seeing the film Ballerina. I recommend wandering through the vast halls on your own rather than doing a guided tour. As one would expect from the place that inspired Phantom of the Opera, it is absolutely enchanting. Our personal favourites are the grand staircase, the miniature set models in the library, and the gallery lined with mirrors akin to Versailles. My daughter hasn’t stopped talking about it ever since and I’m certain she’ll be dressed head-to-toe in sparkles when we return!
• Musée du Louvre
As the Louvre can be quite daunting with kids, we stick to the rooms that exhibit the art most appealing to children. My children enjoy roaming the Denon wing with its ornate ceilings and massive paintings. We also love visiting the majestic outdoor statues in the sprawling Marly and Puget courtyards. Also keep in mind that wandering through the Cour Carrée or Tuileries Gardens is a fairytale in and of itself.
• Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
This museum is housed in an extravagant private mansion, reminiscent of the professor’s house in Narnia. It showcases hundreds of taxidermy animals and trophies, a fascinating collection of hunting themed paintings and sculptures. Everything about it is utterly captivating, especially the secret cabinets full of antique weapons and hunting accessories.