Of the major European cities, Paris is by far our family’s favorite place to go. We particularly love Paris as a spot to adjust to the time change when traveling from the United States. From its sprawling boulevards to romantic side streets, there is nearly an infinite amount of things to visit and do. We know how important it is to know what your plans are when traveling in Paris with family, so we are excited to help you plan! While we can’t dive into every possible thing you can do in Paris (that would be a book), we are excited to share our favorite parts of the City of Light with you.
Where To Stay in Paris
Paris Perfect Apartments
Paris Perfect is a company that has carefully curated and managed a set of apartments through Paris since 1999. The company gives tourists the ultimate opportunity to live like a local in any neighborhood of Paris they wish. Plus, each apartment is carefully decorated and offer stocked kitchens so you can cook, if inspired at a Parisienne market.
Units range from studios to four (or even more) bedrooms, so families small and large can find the right fit. We personally have stayed in 1-3 bedroom apartments with Paris Perfect, allowing us to comfortably fit six people. Make sure to check each unit’s unique amenities, listed on the websites description pages (i.e. laundry, air conditioning, or elevators). Most of these amenities are not very common for European apartments, but many Paris Perfect apartments do have them.
Also make sure to check which neighborhoods of Paris your chosen unit is in. Our favorite neighborhood in Paris is the 7th Arrondissement, as it is close to the Eiffel Tour. However, we also like staying near the Île de Cité and the St. Germaine district as well.
Hotel Henry IV Rive Gauche
Alternatively, for those who prefer hotels or are only spending a couple of nights in Paris, we suggest Hotel Henry IV Rive Gauche. The hotel is perfectly situated across from St. Germain, and half a block from the Seine River. With quaint and clean rooms, and a friendly management, its a perfect place to stay while in Paris.
Where To Eat in Paris
There is no one “perfect” French café, so don’t try to search it out. If you find one that has nice outdoor tables and shade, and has a reasonably priced menu, enjoy it! Personally, we prefer to find a cute café near where we are rather than spending time looking for another. However, make sure to check prices, and if you are splurging for a fancier meal (i.e. Italian food, fondue, or fine French cuisine), make sure you check the restaurant out first.
However, if you are looking for a special experience during your meal, here are a couple of our favorite neighborhoods:
A pedestrian only street near the Eiffel Tower. Rue Clare is known for its fruit stands, cafés, and crêpes.
St. Germain: (known for its nightlife as much as its food, although for us it’s the food we care about.) The neighborhood boasts restaurants that have cuisine ranging from Greek food to Swiss fondue. It’s a fun area to find something a bit different for dinner. Also, St. Germaine is close to the Notre Dame and Île de Cité if you’re in that area.
Things To Do in Paris
From any spot in Paris, you could find ten things to do in a ten meter radius. Therefore, making a list of “things to do” in Paris is impossible. However, here is a Reader’s Digest version of our favorite activities in Paris:
Visit the Champ de Mars
This is the park the Eiffel Tower is located in. The Park was originally a military training grounds, but was repurposed for the 1889 World’s Fair to become the exhibition grounds for the Fair. Grab a croissant from a Pâtisserie in the area, and enjoy breakfast in the park.
- Climb the Eiffel Tower: While long lines and expense has always deterred our family from this activity, some people swear this is a must-do event every time they visit, thus it makes the list.
Fun Fact: Did you know the Eiffel Tower was built to be temporary? It was actually going to be torn down after the World’s Fair, but ended up being kept when enough outcry came to support it after people realized it was such an icon of the city.
Daytrip to Versailles
Known for its impressive grounds, beautiful gardens, and stately importance in history, the Palace of Versailles is a subway ride away from downtown Paris, and offers guests the opportunity to walk in the shadows of French Royalty.
We visited Versailles on a Fat Tire Tours daytrip, and loved it: the company took us out in a small group by subway to Versailles, where we picked up bikes and rode to the market. Each family got to pick up food for a picnic lunch at the market, and then we continued on to bike along a guided tour of the Versailles grounds. After eating our picnic lunch next to the lake and overlooking the Palace, we returned our bikes and were given free time to tour the Palace. Fat Tire Tours made it easy and enjoyable to maximize our day at Versailles.
Fat Tire Tours also has tours for other Paris highlights, such as a Paris Bike Tour, or a walking tour of Montmartre. While we have only experienced the Versailles tour, we are excited to try some of Fat Tire Tours other offerings in the future.
Visit the Art Museums
Or, more realistically, pick a museum to visit. Top museums in Paris include Musée D’Orsay, the Louvre, and the Musée de l’Orangerie in the Tuileries Garden. We usually go to Musée D’Orsay, as they have a magnificent (but manageable) amount of exhibitions, but we suggest you pick which is best based on your family’s interests:
- Musée D’Orsay: Located in what was once a train station, Musée D’Orsay houses a large variety of exhibits, but can be fully seen in half a day.
- The Louvre: The most famous of the Paris museums, the Louvre is located in the castle that the French royal family lived in prior to moving to Versailles. The Louvre is huge, and has everything from Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to ancient sculptures. Plan on not visiting every exhibit if you go to the Louvre in order to enjoy the exhibits you do see rather than rushing through.
- Musée de l’Orangerie: Best known for housing Vincent Van Gogh’s Water Lily paintings, this smaller museum has art from each of the major European impressionist era artists.
Tip: Buy the Paris Museum Pass if you plan on visiting many museums, as it will allow you to skip the often (very) long ticketing lines, and will save you money as well.
Visit the Île de Cité
The Île de Cité is the island in the middle of the Seine River, and is the home to many of Paris’s main attractions. Make sure to walk the streets of the island, as they are fun, but also visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, and (if you have time), Sainte Chappelle.
- Notre Dame: Besides the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral is probably the most recognized symbol of Paris. The Catholic Cathedral is an architectural wonder from its time, artistically adorned with detailed sculptures. It is also the burial place of major individuals from French history. Simply visiting the Square in front of the Cathedral allows visitors to see the impressive façade, and will give your family a sense of the grandness of the Cathedral. We have also been inside, which can be impressive (but admittedly, we don’t think its worth the admissions fee and line, compared to other great Cathedrals of Europe).
- Sainte Chappelle: Much smaller than Notre Dame, Saint Chappelle was once a chapel for French royalty, and is located within the Palace grounds on the Île de Cité. It is most known for the impressive stained glass windows that cover nearly every wall of the chapel. Particularly famous is the Rosary window in the back of the chapel. For a small fee, you can visit the inside of Sainte Chappelle to see the intricate and colorful stained glass for yourself.
Sitting on top of a hill that overlooks the rest of Paris, Montmartre offers scenic views of the city, romantic winding streets, a center for painters to work and sell their pieces (in the “Place du Tertre” Square near the Basilica), and the dramatic Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
Get Lost in the City
Paris is a massive city, and cannot really be understood until one begins to wander. One of our favorite things to do in Paris is plan a general direction (ex: head towards the Île de Cité from the 7th Arrondissement), and then just wander the streets. If we get lost, it’s easy to ask a local for directions or map it on our phone, but in the meantime, it allowed us to get immersed in the back streets of Paris.