We went by Eurostar rather than flying. This makes things much easier as you arrive right in the middle of the city to start with, rather than having to transit in from the airport, and you don't have to arrive so early, or check in baggage. This means you always have everything at hand too, so any accidents, toy requirements, or nutritional demands can be easily catered for. BB also loves trains, so it was a definite winner.
We rented a great little apartment in the 11th arrondissement, which was just a hundred metres or so from a metro station, making it easy to get anywhere, and also meaning we had our own kitchen and could get our food at times that suited us. Though it was a relatively quiet part of the city, there were several great restaurants and a supermarket nearby.
To make getting around easier, we left the pushchair at home and used a child carrier instead. It took BB a few days to learn how to sleep in it, so some practice before you go on your holidays might be a good idea, but on the whole it was great - well for me and BB anyway - DD did all the hard work of actually carrying it!
|Our annual family photo - and the child carrier.|
Here are some of the things we did which we would recommend to others.
On our first day BB, his Dad and our visiting guest went for an adventure without me. That was a little hard I must admit - though I want them to have time to themselves and I needed to get some work done, I still find it hard to miss out on little moments of BB's life like this. They went for a walk along Promenade plantee, (a converted railway line, and apparently the first elevated park in the world) and stopped off at a children's play area in Jardin de Reuilly along the way.
In the afternoon we headed out to Notre Dame, which is free to enter with a fast moving line. BB was quite happy looking at all the things inside though we didn't stay in for too long. There is a also a great children's play area in the grounds. We then went for a walk, via an ice cream seller, to Place de vosges, which also had a play area and sand pit for children.
|Sand pit at Place de vosge|
Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes
On our second day we went to the Zoo - Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes. It wasn't my favourite zoo, (though I am a bit particular about zoos, preferring generally larger and more interesting spaces for animals), but it was OK and BB enjoyed it, which is what it was all about. The zoo is located in the Botanical Gardens which would also be a great place to spend some time with a toddler, but we didn't have time on the day we visited.
No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. We recommend arriving via the Trocadero, which is not only stunning in its own right, but also gives you a great view of the tower. You can then walk down through the gardens to the tower itself. There is a great little childents park at the base of the tower and BB and I played here while DD headed off to source a picnic lunch from a supermarket on Ave du Suffren. Again we didn't go up the tower, but I think this could have been possible with the back pack.
|Play area at the base of the Eiffel Tower|
|Picnic at the base of the Eiffel Tower|
Paris for train enthused toddlers
BB is a BIG train fan. He sees tunnels and train tracks in almost everything. If you have a train enthused child yourself there a couple of things we would recommend. Firstly, if you ever travel on Metro line 1, it is worth knowing that this train is fully automated so there is no driver. Therefore, if you go into the front carriage it is possible to stand right at the front and look out of the window at the front and see the train going through the tunnels, trains travelling in the opposite direction, train tracks and stations. BB also spent some time one morning watching the trains at Gare du Lyon.
This museum was originally a railway station, Gare D'Orsay. It is quite a beautiful building on the bank of the Seine. It mostly houses French Art, in particular there are lots of original works from impressionists, including 86 works by Monet. The museum has free entry on the first Sunday of each month, which was the day we chose to go - there was a long line but it moved quite fast. It was busy inside, making me think that maybe it would be worth paying to visit on another day, however, there was also the risk that BB would not enjoy it so we chose the free option. He did enjoy it. He liked pointing out things he recognised in the paintings and sculptures, including trains, train tracks, chickens and boobies! Due to staff fears about the child carrier coming into contact with one of the works of art should the carrier suddenly turn, we were restricted in some of the galleries. We just took BB out of the chair and let him walk or be carried, but they do have pushchairs which you can borrow if you wish (I don't think that would be good on a busy day though - as well as the hazard of others tripping over the push chair, the child would see nothing but people's legs and bums).
Opposite the Musee D'Orsay, on the other bank of the river Seine, the Tuileries Garden provides a great space to run around, some shaded walkways (tree tunnels!) and a children's play area. There are also some great little outdoor restaurants with fast service for hungry toddler. This is also handy for the Louvre should you be visiting there.
|View of the Sacre Coeur from the top of the Pompidou Centre|
The Pompidou centre is well known for having the inside outside. We took advantage of the escalators on the side of the building (accessible without paying an entry fee via separate entrance to Georges, the roof top cafe, which can be found to the left of the main entrance) to take in the views of the city and went right to the very top where we enjoyed an expensive but refreshing drink. There are also sculptures and fountains and may street performers in the are just outside.
Places we didn't get to but hope to visit next time include
- Jardin de Luxemborg the second largest park in Paris which has many activities and facilities for children such as puppets (weekends and school holidays), rides and slides.
- Aqua Boulevard an indoor an outdoor water park with everything from pools and slides to saunas and jacuzzis - under threes are free
- Children's City sounds like an excellent place too - it has two separate spaces for children aged 2-7 and 5-12. The 2 to 7s space is divided into 5 seperate areas: "I Discover Myself," "I Know How," "I Find Myself," "All Together," which are focused on child development, and "I Experiment" which is devoted to a child's first scientific discoveries.
|BB on one of his morning walks with Dad|
Parc de Bercy
We can also recommend an excellent little book, Fodor's Around Paris with Kids. It's small enough to pack and take with you, and full of ideas for things to do in Paris with kids.