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Paris is an overwhelmingly child-friendly city. Many of Paris’s principal sights are concentrated geographically so it’s quite walkable with young ones. An ideal day in the capital includes a requisite pastry and macaron stop and looks something like this for me and my three daughters, 5, 8 and 10 years old:
We head out of the apartment I’ve rented around mid-morning, usually in the Saint-Germain district, and walk towards Jardin du Luxembourg. I’ve used Airbnb.com to book flats the last few trips; it’s user-friendly and confirmation is nearly instant. Luxembourg is an elegant garden paradise for children––an elaborate playground (it even has a small but thrilling zip line), indoor marionette theater, Charles Garnier’s vintage carousel, pony rides and model sailboats in the Grand Bassin, all make it easy to idealize life in the capital.
My daughters’ first request is always Luxembourg’s vast playground for children up to 12 years old, Le Poussin Vert. Top-notch play structures make it a perfect place to while away a couple of hours. The snack bar sells candy and ice cream for kids, and espresso for parents (closest entrance, rue Guynemer or rue d’Assas). If there’s a puppet show performance, we’ll catch it in the historic theater next to the playground. Afterwards, my girls like to try their skill at capturing small rings with a baton as they spin on Garnier’s weather-worn carousel that dates from 1879.
Before entering the park, however, we stop into Boulangerie Marc Rollot, a neighborhood bakery just off of rue de Vaugirard (48, rue Madame, 6th arrondissement). It’s become our family favorite for viennoiseries––especially their apricot pastry (oranais) and pain aux raisins. Treats tucked neatly into my tote, we head into the park, find an empty bench and dig in.
After a long morning in the gardens, we’re ready for a break; we walk to the apartment for lunch and a chance to relax. I recommend parents make room for downtime in their travel schedule––it helps to calm and re-energize kids. We may make a brief detour to the charming Il Était une Fois toy store at 1, rue Cassette, just a few minutes from the park, for a souvenir. This basement-level boutique brims with kids’ favorites: Petitcollin dolls, puzzles, Papo figurines and snuggly infant toys like those from Moulin Roty.
I like to stop at a neighborhood café in the afternoon for a drink with my daughters when there are fewer people (between 3pm-6pm). Perrier menthe (sparkling water with sweet, mint syrup), a citron pressé (fresh, mix-it-yourself lemonade) or a hot chocolate is their drink of choice. It’s a win-win for all––adults have their café fix without the time commitment a meal would typically require and the entire family shares a quintessentially Parisian moment together.
And then we’re off to the Musée d’Orsay for a bit of culture. Orsay, like most of Paris’s principal museums, is open late once during the week–until 9:45pm on Thursdays. Jet-lagged children are awake and tourist traffic is lighter. We spend a few moments admiring the glorious architecture of this former train station, then an hour or so in the galleries viewing the work of Renoir, Monet, Manet, Degas and Van Gogh.
Seeing Paris through children’s eyes offers a fresh perspective and makes even familiar places seem new.
Lead photo credit : Bubbles in front of the Louvre by Kim Horton Levesque