The French capital is actually a very child-friendly place to visit. Most Parisian kids don’t have garden apartments, so the city ensures there are plenty of things to do for youngsters outside the home. Every arrondissement has spaces with playgrounds, and in the big parks like the Jardin du Luxembourg and Buttes-Chaumont, pony rides, sandpits, swings, puppet shows and boating ponds fill the childhoods of Parisian kids with beautiful memories. For your visit this summer, we’ve compiled a list of the best family-friendly activities. If you go to Paris, let us know what you did that was great and we can add it to the list!
There’s no denying that the River Seine is bordered with some of the world’s most beautiful monuments, and her tree-lined quays are irresistible. By far the best way to drink it all in is from the panoramic deck of one of a Paris’s Bateaux Mouches riverboats. Yes, they’re touristy, but who cares?
Companies offering boat trips include: Vedettes du Pont Neuf (http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.fr), Vedettes de Paris (http://www.vedettesdeparis.com/) and Bateaux-Parisiens.
Parc de la Villette
Dotted with red pavilions, or folies, the park was designed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi and is a postmodern extravaganza (guided tours 08.03.30.63.06, 3pm Sun in summer). The folies serve as glorious giant climbing frames, burger bar and children’s art centre. Kids can shoot down a Chinese dragon slide, and a suspended path follows the Canal de l’Ourcq.
As well as the lawns, which are used for an open-air film festival in summer, there are ten themed gardens with great names like the Garden of Mirrors, of Mists, of Acrobatics and of Childhood Frights.
Bois de Boulogne
The Bois de Boulogne is a large public park located along the western edge of the 16th arrondissement of Paris. It is the second-largest park in Paris, slightly smaller than the Bois de Vincennes. It covers an area of 8.459 km2 which is 2.5 times larger than Central Park in New York.
Within the boundaries of the Bois de Boulogne are an English landscape garden with several lakes and a cascade; two smaller botanical and landscape gardens, the Château de Bagatelle and the Pré-Catelan; a zoo and amusement park in the Jardin d’Acclimatation (see below); The Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil, a complex of greenhouses holding a hundred thousand plants; two tracks for horse racing, theHippodrome de Longchamp and the Auteuil Hippodrome; a tennis stadium where the French Open tennis tournament is held each year; and other attractions.
Founded in 1860, this amusement park and garden has animals, a Normandy-style farm and an aviary, as well as boat rides, a funfair with mini rollercoasters, flying chairs, the Enchanted House for children aged two to four and two playgrounds. There’s also a place to steer radio-controlled boats and mini golf. Many of the attractions cost €2.90 a go; others are free. A miniature train runs from Porte Maillot through the Bois de Boulogne to the park entrance, and has space for pushchairs (€2.70 return; €4.15-€5.60 with entry included).
Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes
The fascinating thing about this collection of animals is that the French Revolution left many an aristocratic collection of exotic animals without a home. This ménagerie was born in 1794 as the solution to placing the animals that belonged to the aristocrats who were not fortunate enough to survive their animals. Nowadays, its inhabitants include vultures, monkeys, orangutans, ostriches, flamingos, a century-old turtle an extraordinary red panda and lots of scary spiders and snakes. There’s a petting zoo with farm animals for small kids, and older ones can be fascinated with the world of microscopic species in the Microzoo.
The French are big on Astérix, so of course there is an Astérix’s park! It is split into Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Land of the Vikings and the indomitable Gaulish Village. Thrill-seekers can defy gravity on Goudurix, Europe’s largest rollercoaster, while younger kids can get wet on the Grand Splatch log flume. Roman-bashing Astérix, Obélix and friends wander around shaking hands with the kids while a jamboree of live acts adds to the animated atmosphere. On a sunny day, head for the Théâtre de Posédion or live dolphin shows.