Top 3 things to do in Paris and 3 places to avoid

by: Lydie Thomas

Paris is a wonderful city: so many things to see and do. I lived in Paris, my husband is Parisian and we take the whole family to visit every year. Yet, I always discover something new. As your plan your trip, these are the 3 best and worst things to do with your kids in the City of Lights. You can see that the Obamas were on the same page since they took their kids to the same three locations.

Top 3 things to do in Paris

Visit the Eiffel Tower at night

This sounds like a no brainer, but I believe it is not enough to see it from here or there in Paris. You actually HAVE to go to its feet to see it at its best. Even better, take the elevator and go to the third floor (second floor for the French) and admire the view. Visit it at night and experience the City of Lights from the brightest light of all. Your kids will remember that moment for life. Live the life of the Obamas and take the kids to the Jules Verne restaurant located in the Eiffel Tower. Lunch is at $85 and dinner is priced at $200 so do not get your children too excited about the possibility of dining at the Eiffel Tower if this is out of your budget.

Tour the Seine on a river boat
You’ve gotten to enjoy Paris from atop the Eiffel Tower. Now discover what Paris looks like from below. Take your children on a Seine River boat ride. In less than 60 minutes, your kids will be able to see all the major monuments and weave under bridges all throughout the city. Believe me, this is not a tourist trap! Malia and Sasha’s grandmother took them for a 90 minutes boat ride, but 45-60 minutes rides are more than enough. They are several companies along the River, but my favorite are or

You can even ride and dine:, a less expensive option than the Eiffel Tower and that the children may enjoy more.

See the Mona Lisa at Le Louvre

Going to Paris and not seeing La Joconde (or Mona Lisa) is like coming to San Francisco and not riding the cable car. It is the most famous painting in the world and even the little ones need to see her. You look at her, behind her glass protection, surrounded by dozens of tourists and you wonder: what is she thinking?

The Obama family entered the Louvre by the Glass Pyramid and did not have to wait in line. Well, unless you are an Obama, you will probably have to wait in line. If you get a Museum Pass (available for purchase at any participating museum), you can skip the line and live like an Obama. If the line is too long, just skip it and come back another day, or try one of the alternate entrance by the side of the museum The Louvre is an enormous museum and you do not want your children losing it before entering it.

Reward your child for his patience with a gift from the store ‘Le Ciel est a tout le monde’, a toy and decoration store with typical French characters like Babar, le Petit Prince, Barbapapa and more. The store is located in the shopping mall under the pyramid.

3 places to avoid in Paris with children

Montmartre is beautiful; do not get me wrong about this. Once you are past the metro, the pee-smelling stairs, and the beggars, oh and did I mention the pickpockets, you arrive to a lively area full of coffee shops, restaurants, and cabarets.

But it is hilly, crowded, and more for the adult eyes than the kids’. My children loved hanging out by the Lapin Agile café with the view of the only vineyard in Paris, but if you are a week in Paris, you can skip it.

Moulin Rouge
Think twice about taking your children to see a Moulin Rouge show. Shows happens at night (first show is at 9:00 pm), children have to be older than 6, dinner starts at 100 Euros (roughly $135, children less than 12 pay half price), and proper attire is required (even for children). Be aware that dancers are nude, only dressed by the light. It is not the most kid friendly outing in the City of Light.
If you want to see the Moulin Rouge from the outside, be aware that the surroundings of the Moulin Rouge are not for the children’s eyes: the avenue by the Moulin Rouge showcases adult shows and shops.

Science museums, zoos, and aquariums.
We have better ones in the US and chances are, everything will be written in French. And as much as I believe traveling is about learning, it is also about discovering new places and new feelings, not doing in French what you can do in English at home.

Lydie Thomas is a Travel Whisperer and mother of two little avid travelers. She is sharing her tips and tricks on visiting the San Francisco Bay Area with children. She also loves to share her French culture and tips on vacationing in France with little ones. Subscribe to her blog or follow her on twitter @lydiethomas.

updated: July 23 2009 by Lydie

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