One of my favorite cities in the world is Paris.
I loved it in my youth when I lived in France for a year in high school and a semester in college. I loved it as an adult in the 90s when I was lucky enough to have a few business trips that brought me back. And I loved it as a parent in 2001 when we brought our then one-year old son on a two-week trip to Switzerland, Strasbourg, Paris and London. Hopefully, I’ll get back there again sometime in the next few years.
One of the reasons I love the city is that you don’t have to be wealthy to have a good time in Paris. In my experience, it is much easier to live and eat well in Paris on a shoestring than it is in other major capitals like New York and London. Don’t get me wrong, I adore New York and London. But I find that I enjoy them much more when the money flows a bit freer than I do when on a tight budget.
In Paris, though, like in the US capital Washington DC (also a planned city), there’s so much that can be enjoyed for free. It’s also a very walkable city. And the cheap food is good food, not fish & chips (which, while good, do not make a healthy steady diet) or cardboard hamburgers (although there is a McDonald’s on the Champs-Elysée).
It’s also a great city for families. Here are three things that should be on your must–see list when visiting Paris with kids.
Tour Montparnasse – The lines to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower are long. Nearly all the time. When you have young kids, waiting in line can be murder. So instead, see the Eiffel Tower from the ground, and then make your way over to the Montparnasse train station and the Tour Montparnasse. It’s an ugly iron and steel modern office building, but the views of Paris from the top are amazing. According to some, it’s the best place from which to see Paris, because you CAN’T see the Tour Montparnasse.
Le Jardin du Luxembourg is the jewel in the crown of the Paris parks. Just walking through it, at any time of the year is a treat. What makes it so great for families with young kids, however, is the children’s playground. There’s a small entrance fee — just a few francs when we were there in 2001. It’s a great way to break up a day of sightseeing.
Montmartre – It takes a while to get there, from wherever you are in Paris, but it’s worth it. It’s fun to ramble through the narrow, unplanned streets, and the views of Paris from the Basilique du Sacré Coeur are terrific. The best part for kids though is the Carousel.
If you have time on your trip to Paris, a visit to Versailles is also fun to do with kids. I’ve been four different times, at various points in my life, and each time, the experience was amazing and different. It’s an easy trip by train (about an hour), and a short walk from the train station to the Château de Versailles. Warning: there are two principal train stations in Versailles, each corresponding to a different train line (Rive Gauche, Rive Droite). Both are in walking distance of the Château.