Paris with your enfants terriblesComment on this story
What's the attraction?
Paris may be the capital of style, but the city is more child-friendly than you might imagine. Its many of cultural institutions and attractions will keep young visitors occupied, while the French capital's countless green spaces come into their own for games and picnics in spring and summer. And if you really must venture out of the city, Disneyland Paris (0844 8 008 898; disneylandparis.co.uk) is celebrating its 20th anniversary with special events, while the Parc Astérix (020-8792 9715; parcasterix.fr) has opened an ancient Egypt kingdom and new rollercoaster. For affordable family friendly accommodation, see parisinfo.com.
The City of Light is one big film set. There are several themed film trails around the city including Martin Scorsese's Hugo and animated comedy Ratatouille, where you can visit the 150-year-old Aurouze rat-catching shop in the 1st arrondissement. For downloadable self-guided itineraries, go to ind.pn/JgrdHk.
The Forum des Images (00 33 1 44 76 63 00; forumdesimages.fr) is a museum dedicated to all things celluloid. It has an extensive program for children, as well as a corner where youngsters can discover a huge array of films and animations.
Several of Paris's luxury hotels are surprisingly family friendly. The welcome at Le Bristol, the epitome of Right Bank chic (00 33 1 53 43 43 00; lebristolparis.com), extends to a family mascot: Hippolyte the bunny. There are interconnecting rooms, children's welcome gifts, baby equipment and a children's menu as well as a Hippolyte kids' club next to the spa. A rooftop swimming pool and a small garden are bonuses. The concierge will even devise a treasure hunt around the hotel. Le Bristol also has a resident Burmese cat, Fa-raon, to play hide and seek with. Doubles start at €850 (about R8500), room only.
Take a tour of the city in that most classic of French cars, a vintage Citroen 2CV - 4 Roues sous 1 Parapluie (four wheels under one umbrella) (00 33 667 322 668; 4roues-sous-1parapluie.com) offers a selection of tours in the company of one its Breton-striped-sweater wearing guides.
Its Cartoon Paris tour is designed for children and takes them on a whistle-stop journey through the city, taking in sights associated with classic cartoon characters such as Tintin and Astérix & Obelix. Tours start at €60 per person with up to three people per vehicle.
The Jardin du Luxembourg (jardins.paris.fr) has plenty to offer visitors, with its pony rides, merry-go-round and large playground the Parc de Jeux (00 33 1 44 07 28 29; €2.50 per child, €1.20 per adult). Also inside the park is the Jardin de Roseraie, which has a fenced-off lawn and sandpits. On the Right Bank, the Jardin des Tuileries has trampolines, a playground, merry-go-round and a pond with miniature boats. Admission free. The Jardin d'Acclimatation (00 33 1 40 67 90 85; jardinacclimatation.fr) is a sprawling park in the Bois de Boulogne with rides, animals, walks and diversions for all ages. Admission €2.90 (under threes free).
The Egyptian mummies in the Louvre (00 33 1 40 20 53 17; louvre.fr) are captivating for older children. The Musée du Quai Branly (00 33 1 56 61 70 00; quaibranly.fr), with indigenous art from far-flung corners of the globe, offers a children's trail in English on its website. There are also family audio guides in English. The Galeries des Enfants within the National Natural History Museum (00 33 1 40 79 54 79; galeriedesenfants.fr) is dedicated to children aged six to 12. On 19 May many Paris museums will take part in the European Nuits de Musées (nuitdesmusees.culture.fr), opening to midnight.
Who needs the Côte d'Azur, when you have Paris Plages? This year, Paris's urban beach along the banks of the River Seine opens on 20 July to provide a sandy escape for citizens and visitors until 19 August (paris.fr/parisplages). It is the 10th anniversary of the city beach. The first stretch reaches 3km along the Seine from the Louvre to the Pont du Sully with deckchairs, a swimming pool, lots of activities for children, food stalls and palm trees. Another stretches from the Bassin de la Villette to the Magasins Généraux in the 19th arrondissement; it features a watersports centre with canoes, rowing boats and dinghies.
Brasseries, found on many street corners, serve up plenty to keep children happy - croque monsieur, pommes frites and fresh orange juice. If you are travelling with smaller children, it's wise to pack a seat that will fix to a chair; highchairs are the exception in Paris, not the rule. The stylish Bonpoint flagship clothes store at 6 rue du Tournon (00 33 1 40 51 98 20; bonpoint.com) has a children's café in the basement. In the Marais district, the Breizh Café, 109 rue Vieille du Temple (00 33 1 42 72 13 77; breizhcafe.com) in the Marais, serves savoury galettes and sweet crêpes from Brittany. Berthillon Glacier, on the L'Ile Saint-Louis at 29-31 rue Saint Louis en L'Ile (00 33 1 43 54 31 61; berthillon.fr) is the city's most celebrated ice-cream maker. And À la mère de Famille, 35 rue du Faubourg Montmartre (00 33 1 47 70 83 69; lameredefamille.com) is Paris's oldest sweetshop.
Who said that?
“What do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France” - Pablo Picasso
“Paris is a moveable feast” - Ernest Hemingway
“I love Paris in the summer, when it sizzles” - Cole Porter
“We live in Paris, so we've been to pretty much every child-friendly destination in the city. The location my kids ask to go back to, on any given weekend morning, is my favourite too: the Jardin des Tuileries. They like the in-ground trampolines, the wooden merry-go-round, the giant sculptural slide, and the toy boats on the basin. My kids may talk about the ice-cream cart, but I think they're also affected by the park's perfect proportions. It's the kind of place that makes you happy to live - or just be - in Paris.”
Pamela Druckerman is the author of “French Children Don't Throw Food: Parenting Secrets from Paris” - The Independent