Many of the teachers I know travel frequently and quite a few of them travel with their own young kids. That awareness brought me to want to share some tips of how to travel like a teacher, this time to Paris. If you only have two days in Paris for your kids while they are in elementary school, collective wisdom says to bring them on a river cruise, to the Tuileries Gardens, to the Musée d’Orsay or the Louvre, to visit Notre Dame or the Sainte Chapelle and climb up the Eiffel Tower or (better yet) the Arc de Triomphe. But if you have more than two days total, then this post is for you.
To travel like a teacher, my first piece of advice is to get on the metro and head for a destination outside of the center. Try Parc de la Villette, Republique and Montmartre.
Parc de la Villette is where I saw a couple shows at the Zenith before I had kids. Little did I know before last Monday that there are attractions for families, like fun free playgrounds that work even for older elementary kids, gardens and a canal to explore. The playgrounds were innovative with zip lines and an amazingly long slide and the gardens were unique and compelling with water features and a large tower to climb. I got my younger two slushees from a fair-grounds type truck. And, we had steak haché and salads at La Petite Halle, which has great retro decor.
On the same metro line as the park, pop out at Republique. The Marché des Enfants Rouges has amazing stalls and some seating for many different food options to suit different tastes and all of them looked delicious. It is a covered market with an outdoor feel. Head to the Square du Temple to play on the super creative play structure and on to the Museum of Arts et Métiers, where you can learn a lot about inventions and technology. I would highly recommend the audio guide in English and definitely spending a lot of time in the Transportation and Construction exhibits. For an afternoon snack, there is an outstanding bakery called Du Pain des Idées near the Canal where we chose plain croissants because all the amazing choices made it too hard for us to decide on something else. May you do better. Powered by our snack, we walked along the canal, took pictures from the bridges, explored the great shops along the sides and checked out the locks. For dinner we would have enjoyed eating at so many different places, we settled on the very kid-friendly Acqua e Farina for wood-fired pizza.
Now to travel off in a different direction, my next suggestion of a good kid destination is Montmartre. This will not surprise most readers as it is a super popular destination for tourists. Like all of them we enjoyed looking down on Paris from Sacré Coeur. To explore the other sites in this former village just beyond the border of Paris, we hired an excellent guide from Moontown Walking Travel and I don’t want to give away all of his ideas, but this Conde Nast Traveler article will bring you to many great vantage points where you will get to know the neighborhood better without the crowds. And stop in a café along the way to soak up the vibe. Yet I need to put in a plug for a private walking tour with a guide. Our guide Gil, told my kids anecdotes about the famous inhabitants of the neighborhood, stories of the history of the important events that happened there and summarized pieces of relevant literature. He made Montmartre understandable to an 8 year old, while speaking to my three children as the intellectual small people that they are.
Back in Central Paris, I have a few recommendations as well. Over the years we have loved staying at the Hotel Michelet Odéon. The 6th arrondissement is a quick walk to the sites in the center of Paris and the hotel is located near the Jardin du Luxembourg, which is the best place in town for children to play. The renovated playground was re-opened in June of 2019 and is excellent for ages four to nine. There is a zip line, large sandbox with diggers and a pail on a pulley among other sand elements, swings and a large structure to climb up then take the slide back down. You have to pay to enter, but the fee is minimal. It’s the drinks just outside the playground the are expensive. The other big attraction in the garden is the toy sailboats to let drift across the main basin. For a nearby lunch or drink, I like Le Vavin, a quick walk from the park. Also in the city center, you can walk around the Parc Rives de Seine, Les Halles and the plaza and fountains by the Centre Pompidou, all of which are great with kids. For dinner, stroll along Rue Montorgueil to choose a restaurant.
Our family has loved our three recent trips to Paris and my husband and I have great nostalgia for the three years we lived in Paris when we first got married. I hope that this post has shared my love of the city as a destination with kids. Please write a comment to tell me what you love to visit or are planning to see in your travels.