With so much to see and do it can be tricky to decide how to spend just one day in Paris with kids. Maybe you only have a single day to explore Paris as part of a trip to Disneyland Paris, or a camping trip in the countryside nearby, as part of a road trip or interrail adventure through Europe, or a daytrip from London. Whatever your reason, you’ll want to make the most of your single day in Paris.
City breaks with kids can be daunting. With so many sights to choose from it’s important to have confidence you’re choosing the most child-friendly options, not spending too much money, not wasting time queuing and not exhausting every member of the family trekking from one side of a city to another.
We visited Paris as part of an interrail holiday in Europe in August 2019. Access to tourist sites may have changed since our visit due to Covid-19. Check France’s current regulations and individual attraction’s websites before you travel.
Paris is a relatively large city. If you have just one day to explore the ‘City of Light’ we recommend an itinerary which focusses on exploring three key areas – the Eiffel Tower and the 16e Arrondissement, the Jardin de Tuilleries in the 1er Arrondisement and, on the left bank of the River Seine, St Germain and Luxembourg neighbourhoods.
A family-friendly tour
A popular option for many first-time visitors to a city is to take a sightseeing tour, and there are plenty of kid-friendly options out there too, like the treasure hunt tour we took in Venice. We believe that one of the best ways to start your first day in Paris with kids is to join a Fat Tire Bike Tour. Whether your kids are pedalling along themselves, sitting on a tag-along or in a trailer, they will love whizzing around the city on a bike. The 2 to 3-hour tour stops at various key sights, including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, where the guide will give a brief history lesson. We thought our kids would lose interest at these points, but the stories were told with such enthusiasm that all of the kids on our tour, who ranged from ages 4 to 14, were transfixed.
The Eiffel Tower
If you only have one day to spend in Paris with kids you will definitely want to include going up the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower is a ten-minute walk from the Fat Tire offices, so it’s the perfect place to head to after your bike tour. Having got your bearings on the ground, it’s great for the kids to spot where they’ve cycled around from above. We recommend booking your Eiffel Tower tickets at least one day in advance to walk up the steps (our 6yo and 8yo were fine walking to the 2nd floor), or be more organised and book a few days or more in advance to grab a place in the lift.
Visit a museum
A trip to Paris wouldn’t feel complete without a visit to a museum, but with only one day in the city is that feasible? Absolutely. While the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay will probably be at the top of your list (you may also have had the Pompidou Centre suggested for visiting with kids), if you’re short on time we recommend going to the Musée de l’Orangerie. With small, or even no queues to enter, it’s not crowded and is very child-friendly. The ground floor is designed to display huge Monet paintings (the kids will love peering up close then walking backwards to see how the seemingly random brush strokes make up a picture). The basement floor showcases other artwork with a mixture of permanent and temporary exhibitions. You’ll also find a children’s activity area on the basement floor where kids can get creative. This is a great place to spend a calm hour away from the crowds while introducing your children to some iconic art.
Located in the Jardin des Tuilleries, the Musée de l’Orangerie is perfectly placed to enable your kids to break out into the gardens and burn off excess energy after their quiet museum visit. While you’re in the gardens treat the whole family to a flower-shaped ice cream from the nearby Amorino stand.
As you near the end of your day in Paris you’ll probably want to build in some time to just kick back and relax. One option would be to take a boat tour on the Seine. We recommend the Vedettes du Pont Neuf company, but there are hundreds of different options to choose from. As always it’s a good idea to book tickets in advance, but if you’re happy to queue and wait for about 45 minutes you should be fine to pick up a ticket on the day. Our top tip is to bring drinks and snacks with you – when we were last in Paris without kids we bought a mini-bottle of champagne to enjoy on a sunset cruise!
If you’ve had enough of tours, tourists and crowds our top tip would be to head to the Luxembourg Gardens. Wander through the atmospheric St Germain neighbourhood to reach the gardens where you’ll find a fantastic playground (small entrance charge fee, but allows for repeated visits throughout the day) and the famous boating lake where, for a small price, your kids can push sailboats around the lake for 30 minutes.
City Breaks with Kids Top Tips
Going on a city break with kids can be fantastic, but it can also be exhausting. We recommend breaking up the activities with free-play time in a park or playground, including a family-friendly tour in your itinerary and allowing the kids to choose one or two of the activities. In Lisbon, for example, we spent an afternoon at the beach in Cascais and on a weekend in Berlin we planned walking routes around playgrounds. In Berlin, when the kids were 4 and 6, we brought scooters to make it easier for the children to cover long distances on foot – something often unavoidable on city breaks. In Venice I’d read about the many images of lions that are visible throughout the city, so spotting those was a great way of passing the time while walking from one location to another. We also highly recommend taking advantage of ‘skip-the-queue’ tickets. Nobody wants to spend hours in a queue with kids, especially if it’s hot, or raining!
While you’re out and about exploring a city with kids we suggest you carry a bag with snacks, water bottles, plasters (for accidents and blisters), wipes or tissues (for accidents and food spills) and anti-bacterial gel – this all may seem obvious, but the amount of times we’ve had to dash to a local pharmacy for plasters is proof that we usually forget these basics! With accident-prone boys I really should know better. We also bring paper and pens and the odd travel game in our bag to keep the kids busy in restaurants and on longer journeys.
Have you visited Paris with your kids? Where are you favourite spots to take them? What’s your favourite city to visit with kids?