This spring, we decided to spend two weeks traveling around Europe with our kids. This was probably the longest trip taken with our two young boys thus far. We started in The Netherlands, flying into Amsterdam and exploring Den Haag, Utrecht, the flower fields, and all of the beauty that Holland has to offer. We then took the high-speed train 4 hours down to Frankfurt and connected on local trains to land in Wiesbaden, Germany. Wiesbaden was the relaxing bit of our trip–meeting up with family, enjoying the lush parks, shopping at the Marktplatz downtown Wiesbaden, and lazing around at cafes. We had planned one more city for the last stop: conquering Paris with kids.
Paris has always been such a bucket-list destination for me. I meant to visit years ago, before baby, but life got in the way. I had no idea what Paris would be like with two toddlers, but I was up for the adventure. Iceland Air allows you to fly into one city and fly home from another. If not now, then when? This is something I tell myself a lot when deciding to travel with my boys! Follow along as I take you through our adventures in Paris with toddlers.
Here’s how I spent 4 days in Paris with my kids.
The train ride to Paris from Germany was a breeze. It was roughly a 4-hour high-speed train ride, the same distance and length we had taken to get from the Netherlands to Germany just a week before. The kids slept most of the way and I read a book, staying awake to make sure we didn’t somehow miss our stop. We hailed a minivan cab from the station to get to our Air BnB. We were so tired (that exhaustion that comes from keeping your kids happy and entertained) and ready to just unload our things.
As it turns out, the rental apartment was a nightmare! There were three floors of twisting staircases so narrow you had to turn sideways, absolutely no room for a stroller to be carried up or down, and a very cramped and dingy room that was reminiscent of a converted attic more than an apartment. Pictures sure can be deceiving. Thankfully, Air BnB customer service was excellent. They refunded our money right away and I was able to book a room at the Lyric Hotel in the 2nd, just a few blocks away from Jardin des Tuileries.
Lyric Hotel totally fit the bill in such an urgent situation. It can be quite difficult to find accommodations in Paris that are sizable enough and can even legally accommodate two adults and two children in the same room. Family rooms that are affordable require a bit of research. There were a bunch of great options listed in the Traveling with Toddlers to Paris | A Family Friendly Travel Guide I brought along, but none had availability on same-day notice. We got very lucky! Lyric Hotel set up a portable crib in our room and had children’s amenities ready and waiting for us.
Day 1 :
Upon arrival and after checking into our room, I walked over to Monoprix and bought everyone swimsuits so we could swim in the hotel pool. It was raining outside and we were all tired from the days travels, so this was perfect. I was happy to use the espresso machine and just order takeout food for dinner. The boys loved the pool and then splashed contentedly in the bathtub while we took time to unwind and unpack a bit.
Early in the morning, we walked to get a cup of the pudding-like hot chocolate from Angelina Paris before making our way over to the Tuileries.
I let the boys ride the carousel and play on the playground. Make sure you have euros on hand! Most of these types of activities are cash-only. Walking around the 2nd arrondissement, through the 1st, and through the Tuileries took us past the Louvre, the Roue de Paris, Place de la Concorde, and more.
Evidently, as we would discover, it was French Labor Day. Everything–I mean *everything*–was closed, even grocers and convenience stores. Paris felt like a ghost town! We were able to grab a few things from Pret-a-Manger for lunch on-the-go and then popped back by the hotel to let the kids nap and change into warmer clothes.
We headed back out and walked along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower (~45 mins). Woof, our feet hurt. But the kids enjoyed the playground next to the Eiffel Tower, Parc du Champ de Mars. I wouldn’t have known about this little gem without the Paris Travel Guide I brought along. I’m very old-fashioned, so naturally I had it printed out and rolled up in my purse, referencing it for each arrondissement we found ourselves in; of course, most people would access it right on their phone.
We walked around the 7th after seeing the Eiffel Tower and had another carousel ride with unbeatable views at Trocadero Gardens. Our walk home took us through Champs-Elysees.
We had a super peaceful lunch at Aki Cafe while the boys slept, one in the Ergo carrier and the other in the Mountain Buggy Nano. I felt like dining in Paris was a bit more difficult for some reason–whether it be because restaurants serve dinner later, we were simply exhausted from a full day of sight-seeing, or the fact that we didn’t have the energy to manage them both in a restaurant multiple times a day. We caved and had food delivered to the room again for dinner that evening.
I knew I wanted to see Luxembourg Gardens. Another Bebe Voyage mama had told me about the adorable wooden sailboat rentals. It didn’t disappoint! This was the highlight of our trip, because it was so simple yet authentically Parisian and my kids were in heaven. For 3 euros or so, you get to rent a wooden sailboat and race it around for 30 minutes. We chose to represent the Netherlands, as we had totally fallen in love with the country having just visited. It was so serene and just such a beautiful day.
Luxembourg Gardens has a gated playground with tons of equipment for various ages, including a sandbox that all the kids were gravitating to. There’s a small entrance fee, but it’s well worth it. The kids were able to burn off some energy and we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the benches surrounding the perimeter. They both slept again in the Ergo and in the Nano on the walk back, so we stopped by the Notre Dame. We were really running out of energy, so we ended up hailing a cab from the 4th back to our hotel in the 2nd.
After a bit of a rest, I decided to take the afternoon to myself. My oldest son’s 4th birthday was the next day and I wanted to pop out to pick up a few surprises for him. I can’t enjoy shopping with two kids; it’s the one activity I prefer to do alone. Galeries Lafayette is truly heaven on earth! I also found the most adorable toy shop along the way, which I added to our Paris Travel Guide. Truthfully, Paris was a little bit difficult to navigate not knowing French. The Bebe Voyage travel guides include a section of useful words and phrases for each destination, which helped me to get by, but in retrospect I wish I had spent some time learning basic French in preparation.
My grand plan for this day was to take a big picnic to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont to celebrate my son’s 4th birthday. I was frankly quite done with all of the extensive walking at this point, so we called an Uber as this park was quite far from our hotel. We popped into Galeries Lafayette on the way and let him pick out some Pierre Herme macaroons in lieu of cake. I’ve never celebrated a birthday abroad, so I was trying to navigate convenience while also making him feel very special on his big day.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont has the most dramatic landscape in Paris. It was the perfect place to spend a warm, sunny day with my beautiful children. I totally spaced the fact that we didn’t have a proper picnic blanket, but we made the best of it. We were quite overdressed for the hike of sorts that this park entails, but I wanted to take some lovely photos to commiserate his birthday in Paris.
If you’re into photography, this is a must-see location. We spent the rest of the day playing with the things that I’d gifted him, like the Jeu l’oie boardgame by Janod and a cute wooden rocket ship.
Thoughts on Paris…
The biggest mistake we made was trying to do too much in two weeks time. By the time we got to Paris, we were tired! There was a ton of pressure to see and do everything, but we only had 4 days to do it. I felt like–“Oh my gosh, I’m finally in Paris!”–and then stressed over whether I was doing enough every day. We had been to 3 countries and countless cities in just two weeks time. Downtime was very much needed among all of my family members. Looking back, I do feel like we made the best of the time we had. Here are some tips and advice on visiting Paris:
- Make Paris a destination itself and not a stop along the way. There is so much to see and do. Give yourself 6 or 7 days. It’s also a short train ride (~2 hours) from London, so you could easily do London and Paris on the same trip.
- Take out enough cash for cab fare. The metro is not stroller friendly, as there are stairs to get down to each station. It’s lovely to walk around the city, but when your feet are tired and your kids are hungry, you’ll be happier to fold up your travel stroller and hail a cab. Uber is also available in Paris.
- Be aware of restaurant hours and have a game plan for feeding the kids each day. Picking up snacks from Pret-a-Manger and the grocery downstairs in Monoprix saved my sanity in between mealtimes. I’m also known to stuff loads of snacks into the mini fridge in hotel rooms, taking out the paid items and putting them back before we check out.
- Schedule and book ahead for cultural activities like marionette shows and museum tours. I didn’t plan well enough in advance and basically ran out of both time and energy after sightseeing each day.
- The lesser known spots seemed to be the best. We highlight the best hidden gems and local favorites from Parisian mamas in our Paris Travel Guide. This information was invaluable to me.
Take a trip to Paris with your children! You’ll be blown away by the culture, the history and the beauty of this city. Let me know your favorite parts of Paris. Share your travels with us on social media at #bebevoyage and #BBVParis.