Ah Paris, the city of lights and romance! When you think “Paris,” you probably conjure up visions of you and your significant other at the Eiffel Tower, with good wine and all the carbohydrates you normally eschew. But Paris is a culturally rich destination that offers plenty of fun options for all your family members, both big and small alike. Read on to learn about our family vacation, with all its triumphs and tribulations, in my daily trip itinerary:
Sunday, April 1st, 2018
We arrived in Paris at 8:30 AM on the non-stop flight from Seattle; highly recommend! If you cannot book first class, upgrading to Delta Comfort is the next best thing. Two words: bulkhead seats. Luckily, the kids did really well with the journey, phew!
We booked our stay in the 6th Arrondissement, at the Le Saint Paris, which also conveniently can arrange for a driver to pick you up from the airport—Alex came to get us and gave us a French lesson, too; très bien!
When we arrived, our room wasn’t quite ready so we ate a much-needed breakfast after the long flight, after which we were shown up to our quarters. I can’t recommend Le Saint Paris enough. With a perfect location on the Left Bank, just across the Seine from the Louvre, it felt quaint without being too touristy. It’s also great for families, because they have connecting rooms that are spacious and well appointed.
After unpacking and freshening up, we headed out to the Eiffel Tower. Pro tip: purchase tickets ahead of time so you don’t have to stand in line. During our visit, the grounds were under major construction, but that didn’t take away from how much the kids loved seeing such a famous landmark.
We then hopped onto a bike taxi, bringing us to the Jardin des Tuileries. We checked out the trampolines and walked around to keep ourselves awake and adjusted to our new time zone. The kids enjoyed the fresh air, and Ryan and I got a chance to people watch.
Unfortunately, we ended up having dinner at a not-so-special bistro near our hotel. Note: Not all French bistros are created equal!
Monday, April 2nd, 2018
We woke up and dined downstairs at our hotel, which had a great breakfast consisting of omelets, French toast, pancakes and yogurt. Added bonus? If the kids forgot something, or we thought better of bringing something up in our room, we could easily run back before heading out for the day.
Prior to leaving Seattle, I made a reservation for the Paris Muse Clues: A Louvre Family Tour. We met our tour guide, Henry (who was English and great with kids), just outside the Louvre and he snapped a few photos of us before entering the museum. He had scavenger hunt books for each kid to fill out and then find treasure at the end. It was one of the kids’ favorite activities, and us adults learned a lot, too! It made me want to go back to school and study history.
Post-hunting, we had lunch. If you’re looking for a particularly special spot in the area, and don’t mind shelling out a few extra Euros, I recommend eating at Le Café Marly, where you can see inside the Louvre!
We then walked towards the 3rd Arrondissement, where you can find stores Supreme and Merci nearby (note: double check closed days/hours before you go). We shopped around a bit and then grabbed a drink from the Merci café and sat outside.
We continued walking through the streets of Paris, which, surprisingly, turned out to be one of our favorite activities on the trip. Looking at the architecture and just being present in a new city was also fun for our kids. Believe it or not, we didn’t hear one complaint about walking so much – even from our 6-year-old, Oliver. We took in the view of the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral, across the Île Saint-Louis, and along the Seine towards our hotel. We stopped at the Golden Goose store, which was conveniently located right near our hotel. After all, you can’t resist looking at shoes in Paris, right?
I also learned a valuable lesson that day: it’s impossible to do everything. I repeat, don’t be a hero; you can’t do everything! For example, I really wanted to take the guided/private tour of Notre Dame, but it started at 9 AM, and with the jetlag and having to get everyone up in the morning—I just decided against it. After our trip, my mom also pointed out that we missed the world-famous ice cream on Île Saint-Louis called Berthillon. . . shhh don’t mention it to my kids—they’ll never forgive me.
We did, however, have a great end to our day dining at Les Antiquaire. It really hit the spot and we enjoyed the roasted chicken and profiteroles for dessert!
Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018
Before our trip I had schedule a private bike tour for the five of us from Fat Tire Bike Tours. I chose this bike tour because they had child-sized bikes for Hudson and tandem bikes for Helen & Oliver. It was great! We went by the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, where the tomb of Napoleon is located, the Musée de l’Armée, Petit Palais, Grand Palais, the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre. It was really fun for the kids and helped keep their energy levels up, being in the fresh air.
After our bike ride we were ready for lunch. We ate next to the bike tour office at a great little Italian spot: Firmine. The food was fabulous and a welcome change after solely dining on French meals.
Once full, Oliver really wanted to go inside Les Invalides to see the actual tomb of Napoleon, so we wandered over and got some fun pictures of the kids with the Eiffel Tower in the background. After seeing the tomb, we went inside the Musée de l’Armée. The museum was really interesting and well laid out—though I do admit to taking a little cat nap on a bench while the rest of the family explored. BUT it really was impressive and the refurbishing of the outside of the building was absolutely pristine with its limestone façade and courtyard with old canons (the kids were climbing all over them, having a great time). After the Musée, we did a little shopping at Le Bon Marché—one of my favorite places to shop in Paris where I can always find the perfect pair of shoes. Following our shopping excursion, we ate dinner at Chez Fernand. The kids loved it! Oliver and Hudson devoured the beef short ribs and of course we ordered dessert—chocolate lava cake, divine! The dessert was served while Oliver was in the restroom and was completely gone by the time he returned! Luckily, he settled for ice cream on our walk back to the hotel, oops!
Side note – there are two Chez Fernand’s. I prefer the location on Rue Christine, which is like sitting inside a cave with beautiful limestone walls. The staff is also incredibly friendly, which always makes for a fun evening.
Wednesday, April 4th, 2018
We decided to venture onto the Metro, and it was so easy to take. Having an iPhone made it super simple—as soon as you land in Paris, Apple Maps updates to the transit maps for the bus and Metro. I highly recommend taking the Metro instead of taxis—especially with five of us. The taxi drivers weren’t keen on piling four of us in the back with Ryan in the front, so taking the Metro was a convenient solution.
We had the concierge of our hotel schedule a bakery tour for us at Le Grenier àPain Caulaincourt in the 18th Arrondissement. It was amazing to me how small their space was where they made bread. We learned that in all Paris bakeries bread making has to be separated from pastry making. They can make a tremendous number of baguettes, up to 1,000 a day if needed. We sampled several tarts and breads; everything was delicious.
We walked off our carbs, heading up the hill to Sacré-Cœur. The line to enter was really quick! There was a mass going on at the time, but it’s a gorgeous church with a stunning view of Paris from the front steps. Not to be missed!
Taking the subway back to Le Marais, we revisited the Supreme store (ahem, hence my note above about double checking closing days/hours). The kids thought it was cool—Hudson especially! They all bought a hat and Hudson bought a sweatshirt. I’m not sure I understand what all the hype is about, but I can tell you the founder, James Jebbia, has done an incredible job creating a brand. He’s been able to collaborate with some very famous and influential people that have helped propel Supreme into a $1 billion dollar business—pretty genius if you ask me! I also think the key to their success is producing products in very limited editions and tightly controlled releases.
After shopping we treated ourselves to croque-madame and –monsieur sandwiches at the charming Carré Pain de Mie then headed to the Centre Pompidou. It turns out I’m a bigger fan of Modern Art than Ryan and the kids, and some of it was quite out there, but I did mention to Ryan, “It definitely does get you talking.”
The kids were tired, so we headed back to the hotel and ordered them room service while Ryan and I went out to dinner at Le Voltaire. It is lovely and very typical French, not to mention so fun to have night out just the two of us! Never underestimate having a little time to yourselves on a family trip.
Thursday, April 5th, 2018
The concierge at our hotel purchased “skip the line” tickets for us to the Catacombs, which was essential (Are you noticing a theme here about booking ahead?) We only waited about 20-30 minutes to enter, whereas, if you didn’t have tickets, the line was three hours long! The Catacombs was a lot more entertaining than I imagined. All of us enjoyed learning the history behind the famous burial spot and the city of Paris.
Such underground fun definitely called for a drink afterwards, and we discovered a great place called L’Ecir. We should have stayed for lunch, but decided to keep going and eat later. The food here looked amazing though, and, three hours later when we were wandering around searching for a restaurant, we really wished we would have eaten there.
We decided to go check out the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle and the zoo. Here’s another pro tip: skip the zoo. Fortunately, in between the zoo and museum we had one of the best meals of our trip at a café called Chez Léa. Everything on the menu was to die for and we were so hungry I think we did order almost one of everything!
Next, we made our way to the Jardin du Luxembourg. We stopped at several places along the way, such as the candy store, Le Bonbon Au Palais, on Rue Monge and Aux Merveilleux de Fred that had the most DELECTABLE cakes! It might be the best cake I’ve ever had. With a vanilla or chocolate whipped cream over a meringue, they were light, sweet and delicious!!! After a few treats we walked past the Pantheon and took several photos before strolling to a toy store around the corner, Bass et Bass.
We then arrived at Jardin du Luxembourg and found the playground. The kids had a great time running around on the beautiful grounds before heading back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. We ended up at this great Italian place, La Locanda, near our hotel. The owners were marvelous, taking the kids back to the kitchen to meet the chef and asking them lots of questions while showing them around the back of the restaurant.
Friday, April 6th
For our last day in Paris, we decided to take the kids to the Arc de Triomphe. We were able to get “skip the line” tickets again from the concierge, which saved a ton of time, enabling us to enter the staircase right away. There are about 200 stairs to the top and the view was breathtaking. There was a bit of a chill in the air, so make sure to bring jackets.
Soon following, we went to the Picasso Museum—my absolute favorite. I loved the building and, of course, the art. It was so special to see all of the artwork in person. I could’ve spent hours in there.
After a quick lunch, we headed back to Jardin du Luxembourg as it was such a beautiful day and the kids just wanted to run around and blow off some steam. Then we walked back to our hotel, stopping at the renowned Café de Flore for a drink.
For dinner the kids ate room service and Ryan and I headed to Fish la Boissonnerie. Despite lovely décor and great reviews, neither Ryan or I particularly cared for it (I’ve included some other recommendations below for restaurants that I’ve been to in the past that I would highly recommend), but it was nice, all the same, to end the trip with just the two of us.
Like all travel experiences, some things can be hit or miss. But overall we had an amazing time together learning, seeing and doing new things, as well as old favorites. I hope this guide will help inspire you to navigate your own family trip to Paris. If we can do it with our family of five, so can you!
Further Restaurant Recommendations: