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TOURISM

19 of the best child-friendly days out in and around Paris

Whether you are looking for a kid-friendly day trip outside of Paris, or activities to enjoy in the capital, Paris-based journalist and mum-of-two Helen Massy-Beresford offers the best places to visit with children in tow.

19 of the best child-friendly days out in and around Paris
Children set their wooden sailing boats, rented from a stall, in the pond in the Jardin du Luxembourg park (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

In the city of Paris

Batobus 

Taking a river boat is an ideal way to see the sights of Paris without wearing out little legs and if it’s your (or their) first trip it will allow you to get a real sense of the layout of the city and its main monuments.

The Batobus boats offer a flexible formula – the whole circuit of the Seine takes about two hours but with hop-on hop-off tickets you can break up the journey with stops at the Eiffel Tower, Musée d’Orsay and Jardin des Plantes–the lovely botanical garden that is also home to attractions including the natural history museum and a small zoo. You can find ticketing information for the Batobus HERE.

A Batobus disembarks from the dock in Paris (Photo by JACQUES DEMARTHON / AFP)

Jardin du Luxembourg 

If it’s sunny you could easily spend a full day in the Jardin du Luxembourg, the chic Left Bank park that also houses the Senate building. Sailing the little wooden boats (that you can hire from a cabin just nearby) across the pond is just as much fun for the grown-ups as the kids.

For a small fee, you can access the Ludo Jardin, a safely enclosed playground with lots of fun equipment including a huge slide/climbing frame, zip wire and (all-too-rare-in-Paris) swings. There’s also an old-fashioned merry-go-round and a puppet theatre and plenty of food options within the park plus summer concerts which take place in the little bandstand. 

Just make sure you obey the pelouse interdite (no walking on the grass) signs and don’t move the garden chairs a centimetre in the wrong direction (the actual rules remain a mystery) in such a way as to annoy the Senate guards that patrol the park – they won’t hesitate to call out your misdemeanour with an officious whistle.

READ MORE: ‘Section internationales’: How do France’s bilingual secondary schools work?

Parc des Buttes Chaumont

This charmingly hilly park in the north east of Paris is a remodelled former quarry, complete with caves, a lake and a folly perched high above the capital, with truly panoramic views. In the summer, as in many of the capital’s bigger parks, children can go for a pony ride, have a go on the merry-go-round or fish for rubber ducks and win some plastic tat at the fairground-style stalls.

The Sibylle Temple on the Belvedere Island in the Buttes-Chaumont Park in Paris (Photo by JACQUES DEMARTHON / AFP)

If you want to make a day of it, the park is also home to cafés and restaurants–the laid back Rosa Bonheur and the slightly more formal Pavillon du Lac

The Big Museums

In a city as famous for its museums as Paris it can be hard to know where to start even as an adult. If you have children to entertain, the prospect of a long queue and a crowded visit may not appeal but many of the city’s most famous museums make huge efforts to win over younger visitors. Paris highlights including the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée du Quai Branly organise guided visits, workshops, story sessions and more aimed at children (look out for “jeune public” on their websites) that should make sure the little ones become museum-addicts for life. 

The Musée de l’Orangerie combines accessible art – Monet’s water lilies as well as small collection of treasures by the likes of Rousseau, Picasso and Matisse – with close proximity to a large running around space (the Tuileries gardens).

Atelier des Lumières 

The Atelier des Lumières is the ultimate child-friendly cultural attraction, not to mention an ideal rainy day destination.

Images are projected onto the walls and floor of this huge space in the 11th arrondissement – visitors can wander around or just find a spot to sit and watch the immersive exhibition slide by.

Themes range from the expressly kid-friendly (Tintin, Thomas Pesquet’s space mission) to the more artistic, including Klimt, Cézanne and currently Chagall – but children will enjoy a taste of the art world in a truly relaxed setting no matter what. The nearby Square Maurice Gardette has a good playground and lovely shady spaces to let off some steam afterwards.  

A man looks at a projected painting by French painter Louis Valtat during a digital exhibition at the Atelier des Lumieres in Paris (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

Get Reading 

From the classic Madeline series by Ludwig Bemelmans to the more recent A Lion In Paris, there’s no shortage of children’s literature about Paris. Why not get creative and plot out a literary route. The lovely A Walk in Paris by Salvatore Rubbino follows a little girl and her grandpa as they tour the city in one long sights-and-pâtisserie-filled day.

Like them, you could visit a market, spend some time in the Tuileries gardens (not least because there are trampolines) and end up by the Eiffel Tower after dark to watch the lights sparkle.

La Villette

There really is something for everyone at La Villette, the vast park and cultural centre in eastern Paris – the Cité des sciences et de l’industrie is a vast temple of scientific knowledge and interactive exhibitions and there’s a concert hall, the Philharmonie des Enfants (a fabulous interactive music exhibition), the Cité des enfants, a child-centred space for exploring science through hands-on games, an aquarium, adventure playgrounds and huge expanses of canal-side grass that you’re actually allowed to run around on.

Oh, and a real submarine to explore. From April until November 2024, if you have children aged between 6 and 11 years to entertain you should check out the Métamorphoses exhibition, which is billed as dialogue between science and imagination.  

Musée en Herbe

The Musée en Herbe bills itself as the only museum aimed at 3 to 103 year olds, where visitors are encourage to touch and interact with the exhibits and get a fun treasure hunt sheet to guide them through the rooms. Themes range from street art to Manga and beyond. Its latest exhibit, En Avant La Musique!, runs until May 2023. 

Aquaboulevard

If you’ve exhausted all the cultural Parisian options and your kids just want to do something unashamedly fun and splashy, you could do worse than Aquaboulevard, a vast indoor and outdoor water park in the 15th arrondissement, with water slides (including one that involves climbing up inside a giant fibreglass whale – more fun than it sounds), a sandy outdoor beach and garden and a wave machines. It’s tacky and fun but frighteningly expensive (children’s tickets are around €22) – look out for special offers and opportunities to buy tickets in advance.  

READ MORE: 14 places to visit and festivals to enjoy in France this Spring

Paris Plages 

In the month of August, the banks of the Seine in central Paris and the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement are transformed into “Paris Beach” – Paris Plages, with swimming and other sports, merry-go-rounds, deckchairs, sandpits, boules and other outdoor games, beach bars and more. It’s a fun way to spend a few sunny hours and many of the attractions are free. 

A view of the Bassin de la Villette on the opening day of the 19th edition of the “Paris-Plages” (Paris Beaches) summer event in 2020 in Paris. (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

Just outside the city

Parc Zoologique de Paris, Vincennes

From some high vantage points in the city you can see the 65m tall artificial rock that towers above the Parc Zoologique de Paris out to the east, in Vincennes. It’s well worth the trip to explore the five “biozones” represented in the huge and recently refurbished site – Madagascar, Africa, the Amazon/Guiana, Patagonia and Europe – where the priority is providing an environment close to the animals’ natural habitat.

If touring the site, home to around 180 species and more than 2,000 animals, isn’t enough, the huge expanse of the bois de Vincennes is nearby for a run around too. 

Jardin d’Acclimatation/Fondation Louis Vuitton

Head west for a day out that will please adults and children alike: first stop, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, which houses an impressive permanent collection as well as carefully curated exhibitions. I thought my 7-year-old had enjoyed the recent must-see pairing of Claude Monet and Joan Mitchell but she later confessed that the escalators were her favourite part.

To be fair, the Fondation is housed in a remarkable building designed by the architect Frank Gehry – the views from the top are breathtaking. And the good news for children just tolerating the art is that just outside the doors, is the Jardin d’Acclimatation, likely to be much more up their street.

This huge park is a kids’ paradise of rollercoasters, climbing frames, fountains to splash in and animals to visit. Check out the options on the website to pay in advance for the rides – paying for them on the spot adds up quickly. If your children still need to burn some energy after all this, the Bois de Boulogne is close by. 

Further Afield

READ MORE: Ten of the best day trips out of Paris

Versailles

Even the most culture-weary youngster will be able to get on board with the extraordinarily over-the-top aesthetics of the famous Château de Versailles, home of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The good news is that entry is free for under-18s (with some date restrictions for the gardens – best to check on the website) – let them visit castles! 

Fontainebleau

A slightly longer train ride from Paris will take you to Fontainebleau, where there’s a huge forest and an equally huge castle just waiting to be explored. You’ll be far from the enormous crowds that flock to Versailles and the little town itself is a nice peaceful place for a wander and a lunch-stop. 

Provins

The medieval ramparts of Provins, around 1.5 hours away from Paris by train, are ideal for wannabe knights. Even better, the town organises spectacular shows that include birds of prey displays. The show took the adults’ breath away but is probably best for children aged five and above. My then-two-year-old’s verdict after half an hour or so of dramatically swooping eagles: “What are those pigeons doing?”

Giverny

Why not follow up on your Paris museum visits with a complementary trip to Monet’s house (which you can visit) and stunning garden? Seeing the actual bridge and lake the great artist painted still there and the garden in full bloom, today, makes a fun way for art to come alive, and only around 1.5 hours from Paris by car. 

Ferme de Gally 

Head out of the city for a taste of country life at one of the Fermes de Gally, all close to the city (although you’ll probably need a car) for farm visits, Easter Egg hunts, pumpkin patches during the autumn, pick-your-own and more. 

EuroDisney 

You don’t have to take your kids to Disney … but they’ll love it if you do. Check out the EuroDisney website for more details and to book in advance. You can stay on site or it’s an easy train ride from central Paris, to Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy station which is only a few minutes’ walk from the theme park entrance. Make sure you book in advance. 

Parc Astérix

Thirty four hectares of theme park dedicated to everyone’s favourite Gaul – and only 40 minutes from Paris.

Rides at the Asterix amusement park in Plailly, outside of Paris (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

The second-biggest theme park in France will be a fun day out for everyone but bear in mind smaller children will not be allowed on all of the rides. You can find ticketing information in English here.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Is start date for EES biometric passport checks set to be delayed again?

The EU's new EES system of biometric passport checks at borders has already been repeatedly delayed, but now there are reports that it could be pushed back again amid concerns that transport terminals - especially in the UK - are not ready.

Is start date for EES biometric passport checks set to be delayed again?

After several postponements, the new EU border security system known as the Entry & Exit System (EES) is due to go live in the autumn of 2024.

The European Commission has never officially confirmed the exact start date, but information sent to airports and other transport terminals indicated Sunday, October 6th as the likely start date.

However, now the British newspaper The Independent has reported that it has been delayed again, albeit only for a few weeks, with the likely new start date Sunday, November 10th.

At the time of writing the Commission has not released a firm start date, but The Local has requested further clarification.

The Independent also reports that the EU is considering allowing a ‘soft launch’ which will allow transport operators to be excused from collecting full biometric data on all travellers if there are significant delays at a border crossing point. The Local has asked the Commission for clarification on this point.

The system is causing a major headache for ports and rail terminals in the UK, with fears of long tailbacks at entry points such as the Port of Dover or the Eurostar St Pancras terminal. 

The problems are particularly acute at the UK-France border because of high travel volumes, the juxtaposed borders and the fact that Brits are no longer EU citizens and are therefore subject to EES checks.

READ ALSO Why is the UK-France border such a problem for EES checks? 

The EES system was designed prior to Brexit, when UK travellers were still EU citizens and would therefore not have been required to complete EES pre-registration.

You can read more about exactly how EES will affect different modes of transport on the links below;

The first time that passengers cross an external EU/Schengen zone border after the introduction of the system they will be required to provide biometric data including facial scans and fingerprints.

These must be collected on site, and there are fears that the extra requirements will lead to long queues at border crossings.

The checks only apply to non-EU citizens, while non-EU citizens who are resident in an EU country are also exempt.

Find full details of the new system HERE.

Once EES is (finally) up and running it will be followed by another new system – ETIAS which will require tourists and short-stay visitors to the EU to pay €7 in advance and register for a visa waiver. Under 18s and over 70s are exempt from this payment – full details HERE.

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