Believe it or not, Paris is a great city for kids.
Ah, Paree: The City of Love. Hang on, what’s that annoying, whining, screeching sound?
Oh, children. Well, that just ruined the mood.
While the capital of France is known for its stunning architecture, rich history and fabulous food, believe it or not, it’s also a great city for kids.
*Most of the art galleries run classes for children. The Palais de Tokyo has the Tok-Tok program, focusing on contemporary art, while the Centre Pompidou is free for under-18s. Near the centre is the Fontaine des Automates, with 16 quirky sculptures that spout water. For a romantic dinner without the kids, book a table at the hippest joint in town, Monsieur Bleu, inside the Palais.
*Go through the Porte Des Lions entrance at The Louvre (opening hours for this gate are on louvre.fr/en). The line should be shorter here. Once inside, hire a Nintendo 3DS interactive guide for each child. Then, let them guide you through this wondrous space. Like most museums it’s free – but crowded — on the first Sunday of each month.
*Download the Monument Builders app before visiting La Tour Eiffel. It’s a fun game that teaches kids about how the tower was constructed. They can play it while waiting in the abominable queue. Try to buy tickets online, as the queue is much shorter.
*Check the website of Notre Dame to find the times of the free English language tours. Arrive an hour early, because the groups are quite small. Walk behind the cathedral to find the ‘love lock’ bridge, Pont de l’Archeveche.
*Buy fresh croissants and baguettes every day from the local boulangerie. The former is for a cheap and cheerful breakfast; the latter can encase cheese, ham and tomato from the supermarket for lunch.
*Grab a couple of carnets (books of 10 tickets) for the Metro. Beware: During peak hour it’s a teeming mass of humanity. Hold tight to your children’s hands. And get on and off quickly. My mother-in-law got caught trying to squeeze through one of the doors, which opened for barely 20 seconds.
*Trawl the vintage shops in Le Marais. You can find some real gems – and it’s cheaper than the department stores. Grab fresh falafel rolls from one of the many cafes.
*Try ice-skating in front of the famed l’Hotel de Ville. It’s free to enter and about A$10 for skate rental. Just remember – there are no helmets. There’s a smaller area for children and beginners.
*Play on the carousel, or a game of giant chess, in the glorious Luxembourg Gardens. There’s also a fun little amusement park, Jardin d’Aclimatation, in the northern part of the Bois de Boulogne, with a petting zoo.
*Book self-contained accommodation, so you can use fresh produce from the markets for dinner. Try airbnb.com, but make sure you check previous guests’ comments. Follow these top tips and you’ll certainly have no regrets.
Is that Edith Piaf I can hear in the background….?