I post this list begrudgingly, because creating a respectable guide for a city with 10,000 things to do is an impossible feat! (not to mention I’m the 1,543,000 person to do so) . But alas, because I continue to receive at least one request per week for ideas from families visiting Paris (as well as several requests to put my list on the blog for easier reference), here it is. These ideas are for families and first-timers ... it’s the more iconic vs insider stuff. If I get really super motivated, I’ll do another one for more experienced visitors/a girls trip that is more shopping-focused.
And I promise to write a separate post for restaurants. Merci et voilà!
- Eiffel Tower: Go to top w/ fast pass (or theatrical tour on viator if wanna go deep). I actually enjoyed a glass of champagne at the top – cheesy, but fun! I would also recommend going at night – the lines are shorter! And be sure to dine nearby one night so that you can see it sparkle on the hour.
- Arc de Triomphe: Make sure to make your way to the top, it’s a lovely view! The kids loved this stop.
- Pantheon dome: I believe this is the best “insider’s” view of Paris, because unlike the other monuments, the Pantheon is actually in the heart of Paris. Trek up to the dome and enjoy the spectacular views. The pendulum and crypt are also cool to check out.
- Palais-Royal – For some reason, most tourists miss this spot, and it is literally my favorite! Surprising art installation (say hello to your future IG post), fountain, gardens, AND great shopping. What’s more to like?
Before you Start:
- I would pick 1-3 and call it a day with kids. Personally, if it were my first time I’d do the Louvre, d’Orsay, and Versailles. If you’ve seen these, you can start to work your way through others that appeal to you.
- If you’re looking for a tour guide, let me know. I have a fabulous one I can share with you upon request.
- Buy a Paris Museum Pass so you have flexibility on where/when to go during your stay. Check opening days/hours before heading to any museum, they vary.
- Musée du Louvre: Of course I have to mention this. My best tip is go closer to the end of opening hours to outsmart the crowds. It is open late a couple of nights each week. Do some research beforehand on what you want to see so that it feels more like a scavenger hunt for the kids (eg Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace, Mona Lisa, etc). When in doubt, consult the Jay-Z and Beyoncé thematic trail for inspo!
- d’Orsay: My favorite museum … chock full of greatest hits. Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Delacroix, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Rodin, Gauguin… + more. The special exhibits are sublime as well. I would recommend a guided tour or audio guide to really immerse in the stories behind the pieces. Our kids love to lounge around near the clocks (it was originally a train station!) which makes for a great photo opp.
- Chateau Versailles – I recommend going for a guided tour of the palace to gain context beyond the bling and beauty – the museum hosts a great English tour. In addition to the palace, the gardens are stunning and a must-see as well. Go for an experiential outdoor experience with the rowboats or fat tire bike tour of versailles (loved that! -It was perfect for the kids and we got to see some unusual things). I would recommend also making time to see Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet!
- Centre Pompidou: I love modern art, so this is another favorite for me… and the “inside out” building alone is worth a stop-by. Be sure to pop into the gift shop if you make it there – it’s amazing – and consider a snack and wine at Georges (6ème étage) to soak in the view. But modern art isn’t for everyone, so tool through the website if you’re unsure.
- Les Invalides/Musée de l’Armée – This is my 11 year old son’s go-to museum (and amazing for anyone who studies WWII). It is the museum of military history / war, and is fascinating if you like history in general (or military costumes over time!). Napolean is buried there. The best part is the Musée de Plans-Reliefs – this contains a room of military models depicting historical french fortresses. It’s pretty rad.
- YSL museum for fashion lovers. My daughter loves this museum too
- Rodin Fantastic permanent repository and the sculpture garden/grounds are lovely. Camille Claudel has a room here too!
- Marmottan This “insider” museum houses a massive collection of Monet but is digestible & easy to get through in about 1.5 hours including the audio tour. It’s in the 16th arr so is off the beaten path, but if you’re into Impressionist works, then this will be your jam!
- l’Orangerie The sheer scale of the Water Lillies installations makes this a quick but dramatic stop and worthwhile
- Gustave Moreau
- Jacquemart-André: The Winter Garden is super inspiring!
- Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature – Very cool for creative types, children, and lovers of taxidermy… but is in french.
- Sacre Coeur – go up to the Bell tower
- Saint Chapelle – Stunning and a very quick spot
- Notre Dame Highly recommend going up to the bell tower. Don’t miss the gardens in the back!
Kids Energy Burners/Treats
- Luxembourg gardens
- Parc de L’ile Saint Germain
- Macaroons, Ladurée on the Champs
- Angelina for hot chocolate
- Ice Skating in the Grand Palais
- Trampolines in the Tuileries
- Rides, trampolines and more on a hot day in the Jardin d’Acclimatation. Stop by the Fondation Louis Vuitton next door while you’re there
Fun Activities to Try
- Cooking Class: Check Atelier des chefs to see what’s next on their schedule. Another good name droppish option is Alain Ducasse’s école de cuisine school
- Wine Class: ô Chateau Grand Cru tasting is fun. I also did a DIY wine tasting at lunch w friends at Musée du Vin once while on a tour nearby
- Macaroon making class:La cuisine Paris has bread & patisserie classes that are great! Cook ‘n with class is another option I hear good things about.
- Food tour: la cuisine paris, Paris by Mouth
- Opéra Garnier or Bastille
- Foire de Chatou: Seasonal brocante, if you are a shopper and can catch it timing-wise, go!!
- Salon des Vins des Vignerons– If you’re in town for this and love wine, it’s a fun, surprisingly personal tasting experience from very special, independent winemakers with whom you wouldn’t typically have access. Although it takes place in a giant expo center, trust me it is worth it. That said, this is not an appropriate event for kids – adults only.
Places to stay:
- Marriott/Starwood points: Westin Vendôme
- Multiple bedrooms with a kitchen that won’t break the bank: Alma-Marceau
- Apartment: One fine stay
- Hotel du Temps
- Le Roch Hotel and Spa
- Left bank: Relais Christine , Hotel Duc de Saint Simon (smaller, SUPER charming … love both)
Happy to provide one upon request!
Half Day Trips
- Versailles – see above
- Château de Chantilly
- Auvers sur Oise (follow the painter’s path)
- Giverny: Monet’s gorgeous home & garden
That’s a solid list to at least get you started. By all means, if you stumble upon a great recommendation as well that you think is a must-have for this list, do share! I’ve barely scratched the surface. Enjoy your trip!