For the Christmas holiday, we decided to have a family trip to Paris, France via a home swap through HomeExchange.com. We had a great time in Paris. It is such a family-friendly city and so easy to navigate via le metro. I wanted to share with you the things we did, plus some tips that will help you in your Paris travels.
Getting around: Since we were there for seven days, our HomeExchange.com family suggested that we purchase the Paris Train Metroweek Pass Navigo Decouverte for both me and Michael. It cost 5 Euros for the card fee + 18.85 Euros for unlimited use within zones one and two in Paris. The girls were able to ride along with us on the Navigo pass (although I’m not sure if this was following the rules, but no one said anything.)
Just a quick tid-bit about the time difference. Because Paris is ahead by 6 hours, the time difference actually worked well for us. Our daily schedule consisted of the following, and if you are on Eastern Standard Time, the schedule will definitely work well for you, too:
- 10am-12pm: Wake up and walk to the local boulangerie for our daily breakfast of un baguette, trois pain au chocolats, and deux croissants; eat breakfast and get ready for our day! Out the door by noon.
- 12:00pm-2:30pm: First Activity
- 2:30pm: Lunch at someplace casual and easy – or even better: street food!
- 3:00pm-6:00pm: Second Activity
- 6:30pm: The girls eat a casual dinner at a brasserie or someplace kid-friendly while we have a snack
- 8:00pm: Dinner for me and The Hubby at a nice restaurant with the girls. The girls munch on an appetizer or bread and then have dessert with us.
- 10:30pm-11:00pm: Home and in bed!
- Rinse and Repeat
Activities + Tips:
- Go to the Top of The Eiffel Tower. On our first full day, we tackled the Eiffel Tower and went to le sommet (the summit). It was a beautiful sunny day so we were able to see everywhere. In person, it is so magnificent and HUGE! I couldn’t believe we were there. Going up the elevator was a little scary for me but the girls and The Hubby handled it really well. Tip: Purchase and print out your tickets before you leave your hometown. This will save you several hours of waiting in line. Seriously, I mean several hours. There’s a carousel across the street for 2 Euros per child and is a great “reward” for the kids after waiting in line.
- Go on a One-Hour Boat Tour of the Seine. This is another touristy thing to do, but it gives a good overall view of the city and highlights the major points of interest. We used Bateaux Parisienne which was pretty good and had commentary. Plus, the main guide spoke SIX languages; French, English, Spanish, Italian, German and Russian! Truly a highlight. Tip: Similar to The Eiffel Tower, purchase and print out your reservation ahead of time! Do this the same day as your trip to the Eiffel Tower since the boat dock is right across the street.
- Visit the Toy Department at Le Bon Marche. The store is elegant and beautiful and especially around the holidays, dripping with lights. The toy department downstairs is like a mini FAO Schwarz so be careful – the toys are very pricey. The do however, have a lot of toy displays that kids can play with, so you can easily spend a good hour here. Tip: Give your kids a small allowance for this activity, say 7 Euros. They actually do have a little table where you can buy small trinkets and most of them are under 10 Euros. That way, you can minimize the whining
- Visit the Louvre. An absolute no-brainer, but just be forewarned that it’s tourist central and is very crowded. We went late in the afternoon on a Wednesday, when it stays open later and is a little less crowded. We saw the famous Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo plus the dungeons that were underneath the Louvre – excavated when IM Pei created his glass pyramid. Tip: Instead of waiting on the huge line at the Louvre to buy tickets, go to Le Bon Marché’s Concierge (or any other place that sells tickets to the Louvre) and buy your tickets there. The Concierge Desk is located on the main floor by the men’s department. Doing this probably saved us a good 2-3 hours of waiting in line!
- Go to the Jardins du Luxembourg. This is one of the most kid-friendly parks ever and is a MUST especially if you have kids! Going here is a good balance to all the sightseeing that you’ll be doing.
- Visit the playground. It costs 2.50 Euros per child but is totally worth it. The playground has two sections: one for the 7-12 year old set and one for the 6 and under set. You can easily spend several hours here. It’s good for the kids to let out some energy, especially after going to all the museums and doing some site seeing.
- Watch a puppet show at the old theatre. We saw Puss in Boots and it was fantastic. It was like taking a trip back in time in this small theatre with puppets in the style of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (do you know what I mean?). It was in French but the girls got the gist.
- Go on the antique carousel. It’s a merry-go-round and kids love it.
- Ride the Little Buggy Cars. When the playground closed, we passed by this open area and to the girl’s delight, it was a place where you can “rent” little buggy cars for 1.50 Euros per ride. The girls had a blast riding around.
- If you have girls, you must go to The Doll Museum – La Musee de la Poupee. This museum was one of the girls’ favorites. They enjoyed seeing dolls from the early 1900′s and comparing and contrasting the kind of dolls they have today. Tip: Google map the location because it is on a teeny, tiny road that you can easily miss. It is one block away from the Centre Pompidou, so you should do both activities in one day.
- Check out the Centre Pompidou. This is all about modern art and is a museum that isn’t so crazy like The Louvre. I stayed in the Galeries des Enfants with our 4-year old in “La Blobterre” – a kids exhibition while The Hubby and O toured the rest of the permanent exhibitions seeing the Chuck Close, Rauschenburg, Schnabel, and other of their favorites. Tip: The museum opens at 11am, so get there as soon as it opens so you don’t have to wait in the lines. The first line is for bag-check/security. Once you get in, head straight for the shorter and quicker automatic ticket line instead of the teller line.
- For Kids Big and Small: The Magic Museum – La Musee de la Magie. Another kid-friendly museum that features the history of magic with some hands-on exhibits plus a 30 minute magic show throughout the day. In the same building, but for an additional fee, is the Museum of Automations – La Musee des Automates, an exhibit of old automated robots that also has hands-on exhibits. The girls LOVED both museums because they were able to touch (almost) everything! We easily spent two hours here. Tip: Buy the combo entrance fee for both museums. You won’t regret it. Our girls had a blast. If you are clamoring for some American food, head over to nearby Breakfast in America.
- For a Great View of the Eiffel Tower go to the Trocadero. Take some great pics of the Eiffel Tower and from here, walk to the Arc de Triomphe, then down the Champs Elysée. Tip: At the bottom of the Champs, reward yourself with a crepe du Nutella from one of the many crepe vendors.
Obviously, I highly suggest a family trip to Paris. Even when the weather was a little rainy and overcast, the city is just beautiful and there are so many things to do. Do you have any must-sees when you are in Paris? Let me know!