Paris: Top Attractions

The River Seine, Paris
The River Seine, Paris  (Weststock)

Paris isn't just for lovers—it is a wonderful family destination that will delight your children and bring out the kid in you. There are a plethora of sites and views, from the Eiffel Tower to Sacré Coeur, and patisseries, boulangeries and cafés on every street corner. Steeped with attitude and confidence, this city is a wonderland of cultural and social phenomena.

Champs-Élysées
Stroll down the Champs-Elysees—one of Paris' great avenues—for window shopping and people watching. Start at the Place de la Concorde, near the Louvre, and head towards the Arc de Triomphe. Your kids will be fascinated. There are dogs in the cafés and people taking tea with their pet pigeons. Motorbikes take to the sidewalks, bicyclists cruise by in the road, and mimes act out comedy routines on street corners. And every block has a bakery or sweet shop for a snack. Lance Armstrong knows this stretch of road very well; it is here that the Tour de France traditionally culminates with a victory ride by the winner.
Additional Info: 410.286.8310, us.franceguide.com

Centre Georges Pompidou
Visual arts aren't hampered by a language barrier. That's why it's easy for kids to react to the pieces by Picasso, Braque, Miro, and Matisse at the Musée National d'Art Moderne (National Museum of Modern Art), part of the great Centre George Pompidou. Spend time outside the museum, especially on a Saturday, when organ grinders, musicians, clowns, mimes, and other street performers hold forth in the plaza. Treat your kids to hot chocolate at a nearby café and enjoy this uniquely Parisian show.
Centre Georges Pompidou: +33.01.44.78.12.33, www.centrepompidou.fr

Tuileries Gardens & Jardin du Luxembourg
Plan a visit to the fountains of the Tuileries Gardens, en route to the Louvre, and spend an afternoon at the Jardin du Luxembourg, where the kids (and grandparents) are likely to find new friends. No words are necessary to share sailing a toy boat across the pond, playing in the sandbox, or scampering on the climbing equipment. There are also pony rides and puppet shows.
Additional Info: 410.286.8310, http://us.franceguide.com

Musée du Louvre
There are centuries of art at the Louvre—an enormous museum with some of the world's most famous paintings, sculptures, and cultural artifacts. It is home to the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Egyptian tombs, just to name a few. But despite the temptation, don't attempt to see more than a few galleries with your kids. Younger ones (for some reason) like starting out at the bottom in the crypt which showcases the history of the building, including 12th-centure battlements and a model of the Louvre from its castle days. Then head to the gift shop, where your kids can pick out postcards of such noted works as the Mona Lisa or any of the Rembrandts, a fun way to turn this trip to one of the world's great art museums into a treasure hunt.
Musée du Louvre: +33.1.40.20.53.17, www.louvre.fr

Cruise the River Seine by Boat
How to end a family day in Paris? Quiet the kids down with an after-dinner boat ride on the Seine. It doesn't matter that they might not understand the commentary. Paris in the evening casts a magical glow, with its twinkling lights, pacific ambience, and gorgeous facades. The boats pass all the right places. In the moonlight, the Eiffel Tower is laced with golden sparkles and the spires of Notre Dame shimmer in the night sky.
Bateaux Mouches: +33.1.42.25.96.10, www.bateaux-mouches.fr

Paris Plage
Palm trees, sand, deckchairs and a small swimming pool transform a section of the Seine's right bank into a beach when the city sizzles from mid-July to mid-August. Refreshment stands, dance areas, a kids' rock climbing wall, and maybe even some live music, add to the beach party atmosphere.
France Tourism Office: 212.838.7800, us.franceguide.com

Eiffel Tower
Standing tall and upright against the backdrop of ornate architecture is the best way to view the Eiffel Tower from a distance, but the best way to experience the landmark is by going for the view. You can climb the stairs to the second floor for a look over the city's rooftops, or line up for the elevator ride to the top for a panoramic shot. If your kids still use snail mail (explain it to them if they're strictly email-centric), at the first floor post office they can send a letter home stamped with the special "Paris-Tour Eiffel" post mark.
Eiffel Tower: +33.0.1.44.11.23.23, www.tour-eiffel.fr

Cathédral de Notre-Dame
Standing on Ile de la Cité, the Cathedral de Notre-Dame is piece of gothic magnificence and an historical artifact. "Our Lady" had seen rough days and been the center of religious conflict and the prayer site of warriors battling the Crusades. But even if your kids only know about Notre-Dame for its hunchback legends, the massive Gothic structure with its art and crypts should hold their interest, at least for a quick tour. Your kids, however, might be more enthralled by the street mimes and artists selling their watercolors and handmade bracelets just outside the cathedral.
Cathedral de Notre-Dame: +33.01.42.34.56.10, www.cathedraledeparis.com/EN/0.asp

Musee de L'Orangerie
Take time when exploring the Tuileries Gardens to visit the Musee de L'Orangerie, whose small rooms don't intimidate kids, and the art is spectacular. A series of Claude Monet's water lilies are among the highlights of this collection, where you can also see paintings by Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, and Cezanne.
Musee de L'Orangerie: +33.1.53.10.37.00, us.franceguide.com

Chateau de Versailles
Versailles, the overly-extravagant palace built by Louis XIV, is a daytrip from Paris, but—especially for teens learning about European history—is worth the time and expense. The ornate Hall of Mirrors remains closed for renovations, but the gardens delight with their terraces, groves, and fountains. The grounds hold dances to classical and baroque music on summer Saturdays and Sundays during the Grande Eaux Musicales (Musical Fountain Displays).
Chateau de Versailles: +33.01.30.83.78.88. www.chateauversailles.fr

Published: 11 Apr 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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