Bonjour, mes amis! Last month, we took our first trip to Europe as a family of three. We went to one of my favorite cities, Paris, which was the perfect destination for our first family Eurotrip. It was a place I had been to before and was eager to revisit, and because it wasn’t my first trip, I didn’t feel like I needed to run around the city trying to see every landmark (I’ve found that not overscheduling is key when traveling with a baby or toddler 😉). And we could fly there non-stop from our home airport – also key! Here’s how we spent our five full days in the City of Light.
We stayed at Hotel Le Littré in the 6th arrondissement, and were happy with our choice. I think this hotel is especially great for families, since they offer suites at a very reasonable price, the location is convenient to most of the tourist attractions in central Paris (and less than half a mile from the very family-friendly Jardin du Luxembourg), and the buffet breakfast is likely to have something for everyone. I especially enjoyed the public areas of the hotel, which were very spacious by European standards and beautifully decorated.
My favorite thing to do in Paris – or any European city, really – is just to walk around the city as much as possible, and fortunately that activity is very doable with a toddler in a stroller. I don’t have an official count, but I’m pretty sure we logged several miles each day.
As I mentioned above, our hotel was very close to Luxembourg Gardens and we headed there most mornings after breakfast. This is a really lovely spot – by no means off the beaten tourist path, but also a place where you will find many Parisian families spending time together. Older kids will enjoy sailing the toy boats that can be rented for a small fee, and it’s a great place to stroller walk with littler ones.
Another public garden that we really enjoyed walking through is Jardin des Tuileries. It stretches from The Louvre to the Place de la Concorde, where the Champs-Elysées ends, so it’s a great place to walk before or after you visit these famous Parisian landmarks. From Place de la Concorde, you can see the Eiffel Tower pretty well too.
Musée D’Orsay is my favorite museum in Paris. In addition to the impressive collection of impressionist paintings, I love the museum itself, which is a former train station. From the wall behind the famous clock on the top floor, you can see all the way to Montmarte and Sacré-Coeur. (Pro tip: Admission to the Musée D’Orsay – and a lot of other museums in Paris – is free the first Sunday of the month, but I would expect fairly long lines to get in.)
The Rodin Museum is another great museum to visit with young kids. Admission is affordable (only 12 euros for adults) so you won’t feel guilty if you don’t stay long, and many of the most famous works, including The Thinker, are in the stroller-friendly gardens. Note that you do have to check your stroller when you go through the inside collections, so I would recommend either bringing a baby carrier or planning to go through those relatively quickly.
If you’re looking for a stroller-friendly way to get a view of the Paris skyline, I recommend a trip to the observation deck of the Tour Montparnasse. Unlike the Arc de Triomphe or Sacré-Coeur, the tower itself isn’t a particularly notable part of the Paris landscape, but the view from the observation deck is fantastic. From the 56th floor (which you can ride an elevator to) you have an enclosed 360 degree view of the city, and if you walk up three more flights of stairs, there’s an outdoor viewing deck.
We lucked out and had pretty pleasant weather for most of our stay, but when it was rainy, I loved heading to Le Bon Marché, which was right near our hotel. I rarely shop for clothes when I’m on vacation, but I figured if there’s any place to make an exception to that rule, it’s Paris. Despite the name, this is a high-end department store, but the store itself is beautiful (just look at the women’s shoe section!) and the shopping experience is lovely. I especially loved that they have an entire floor devoted to kids’ toys and books, and this floor even features a playroom for the little ones.
Of course, no visit to Paris is complete without strolling along the Seine. Since my last visit in 2013, the banks of the Seine have undergone additional revitalization and are now home to open air restaurants, floating art museums and walking paths. We especially enjoyed walking on the right bank for views of the Eiffel Tower.
One thing that makes Paris a nice city to visit with kids is that you don’t have to dine at Michelin-starred restaurants to enjoy great food. Paris is filled with boulangeries, creperies and bistros all offering great food to-go or in a casual setting. The two biggest challenges to dining with toddlers in France that we encountered were: 1) restaurants don’t usually have high chairs (we brought this “portable” one with us, which worked really well but was a bit of a pain to lug around every day) and 2) most restaurants that aren’t aimed exclusively at tourists don’t open for dinner service until at least 7 pm, which isn’t compatible with a typical toddler bedtime. As a result, we had a couple of uninspiring dinners, but the croissants, crepes and macarons we consumed during the daytime more than made up for them :)
The gourmet grocery store La Grande Épicerie is an excellent place to pick up ingredients for picnics or take-away meals. Our first meal in Paris was a hotel room picnic of a baguette, smoked meats, brie and macarons from this store, and it was splendid. Speaking of macarons, if you’re a fan, this was by far my favorite place to get them. I tried a whole bunch of the famous shops, and the ones here topped my list (they’re also slightly cheaper here).
I was on a quest to have macarons every day, and succeeded. My favorites were from La Grande Épicerie and La Maison du Chocolat, but I also really enjoyed the ones at Pierre Herme and Angelina. I think Laduree is really overrated! Don’t miss the hot chocolate at Angelina, as well.
Creperies are the exception to the rule that local restaurants aren’t open until late. Our hotel was right around the corner from the Rue du Montparnasse, a small street filled with creperies. I don’t really think you can go wrong on this street, but we particularly enjoyed Creperie de Josselin. Make sure to try their chocolate and banana crepe for dessert!
One night, we decided to mix it up and go to Croccante for pizza and pasta. I loved it, especially the gnocchi in black truffle cream sauce.
And of course, we started every day at our hotel’s buffet breakfast, where I ate my weight in croissants and pain au chocolat.
Paris may be best known as the city of romance, but we discovered on this trip that it’s a pretty great family travel destination too. Until next time, Paris!