Travel Guide: Embarking on a Parisian Family Adventure with a Toddler in Tow

Travel Guide: Embarking on a Parisian Family Adventure with a Toddler in Tow

Ah, Paris! A city where every alley whispers tales of love, every café resonates with echoes of passionate debates, and where art and history are etched into every cobblestone. While Paris has long been the muse for romantics, artists, and historians, can it be the playground for a toddler?

With a bit of preparation and calm, it can!

A toddler and his dad giving each other high five in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris France

Come along with me as I share our adventures and learnings exploring the charming streets of Paris with my 21-month-old son and I my partner, Luke. Together, we spent four days navigating the metro, savoring delicious French delicacies suitable for toddlers, and discovering attractions that were enjoyable for both adults and little ones.

From the logistics of finding appropriate lodging to the pure delight of experiencing Paris through a child's eyes, we learned how to blend the sophistication and hustle of Paris with the impatience of toddlerhood.

So, whether you're an Aussie parent, like me or from any corner of the world, grab a croissant, settle in, and let's unveil the secrets of enjoying the City of Light, toddler style.

 

1. Getting Around on the Paris Metro: Strollers vs. Stairs

Metro station in Paris

a) Elevator Drought in Parisian Metro Stations

While the Paris Metro is a marvel of public transportation, parents with toddlers have a unique challenge to face: the striking lack of elevators. Out of over 300 metro stations in Paris, only a few are equipped with elevators. This makes it a daunting task, especially for those navigating with a heavy pram or stroller. If your accommodation is located on the metro line 14, you are in luck as it is the only line where all stations are fully accessible and fitted out with elevators.

b) Brace for the Climb: Stairs, Stairs and More Stairs

If you think it's just a flight or two, think again. Some stations come with multiple levels of staircases. If you're alone or your stroller is heavier, you might find yourself undertaking an unexpected workout, juggling your toddler, the stroller, and your belongings. Even stations that might have escalators are not always stroller-friendly due to their rapid pace and narrow width. 

A dad waiting with his son for an operator to open the Metro gate in Paris France to enter

c) To Walk or Not to Walk: The Metro Dilemma

Given the elevator situation, there were times when we questioned the convenience of the metro. On multiple occasions, especially for shorter distances of just 2-3 stops, we opted to walk instead. Not only did this spare us the challenge of the stairs, but it also provided a more relaxed pace to soak in the beauty of Parisian streets. Plus, toddlers enjoy the sights and sounds on the streets instead of the metro's underground hustle.

Elevator in a metro station in Paris France

d) Tips for Navigating the Metro Maze

Paris's Metro system is vast, connecting almost every corner of the city. However , this maze can seem more challenging when travelling with a toddler. Here are some tips to help you master the Metro with your little one in tow:

  1. Opt for a Lightweight Stroller If you can, select a lightweight, easily collapsible stroller for your Paris adventure. Not only is it more manoeuvrable on the often steep and long staircases, but it's also much more manageable in tight, crowded spaces. The last thing you want is to struggle with a heavy stroller while trying to board a packed Metro train.
  2. Travel Off-Peak Parisians are known for their rush during peak office hours. If you can, avoid the Metro during these times. Not only will the trains and platforms be less crowded, but you're also more likely to find fellow passengers who have a moment to help you out if needed. Morning and evening rush hours can be overwhelming, so aim for mid-morning to early afternoon and late evening travels.
  3. Use Apps to Your Advantage In this digital age, apps can be your best travel companion. The Paris Metro app, for instance, provides invaluable information on which stations have elevators and which ones are more accessible for strollers. It can save you much time and potential inconvenience, allowing you to plan your route more efficiently.
  4. Consider Alternatives While the Metro is extensive, it's not the only way to get around. Paris boasts an efficient bus system that can sometimes be a better option for those with toddlers. Buses have the advantage of street-level boarding, eliminating the need to navigate stairs. Plus, you get to see the city sights as you travel. If the weather permits and distances are manageable, walking can be a beautiful way to explore, allowing your toddler to burn off some energy between stops.

I won't lie, the Paris Metro system is no fun but it becomes a bit easier when you know what to expect. We saw it as part of the adventure and reminded ourselves when things felt a bit stressful that we aren't in a rush. 

2. Dining in Paris with a Toddler: High Chairs and More

Paris is not just the City of Love; it's also a culinary paradise. But when travelling with a toddler, food becomes less about gourmet delights and more about convenience, comfort, and child-friendliness. Here's your guide to ensuring your little one has a delightful Parisian dining experience.

Restaurants in the 15th arrondissement in Paris France

a) Experiencing Authentic Parisian Cafes and Restaurants

While many tourists flock to the big-name restaurants or cafes next to major attractions, you often find the real Parisian charm when walking through less touristic streets, discovering hidden gems. From the scent of fresh pastries wafting in the air to the chatter of locals, these spots offer an authentic dining experience and likely save you a few Euro. If the weather is good, ask for a "terrasse" seat; outdoor seating can be less crowded and more relaxed with a restless toddler.

b) High Chairs: Not Always a Given

Unlike many other cities, not all Parisian restaurants have high chairs or changing tables. However, the trend is changing, especially in more tourist-friendly areas. It's always a good idea to call ahead and check if the restaurant you're heading to has a high chair available or changing table. They're generally in decent condition when they offer one, but carrying a portable seat harness can be a lifesaver in places without.

c) Discovering Kid-Friendly Menus

Parisian restaurants increasingly offer "menus enfants" (children's menus), often including smaller portions of popular dishes or familiar kid favorites like pasta or chicken. While not as diverse as adult menus, they're tailored to be less rich and more palatable for young taste buds. If a kids' menu isn't apparent, don't hesitate to ask – many chefs are accommodating and can whip up something simple and delicious for the little ones.

d) Finding the Best Child-Friendly Eating Spots

Several Parisian neighbourhoods are particularly welcoming for families. For instance, the Marais and Saint-Germain districts boast numerous child-friendly cafes and restaurants. Places like "Le Pain Quotidien" are dotted around Paris and, apart from their delectable organic menu, also offer high chairs and kid-friendly dishes. The Latin Quarter is also filled with affordable and kid-friendly eateries, given its proximity to universities and schools.

e) Dining in Paris: Tips for Parents with Toddlers 

Opt for smaller, local eateries for a genuine Parisian experience. Seek outdoor "terrasse" seating for more space and fresh air.

  1. High Chairs and Changing Tables: Not all places offer them, so always call ahead to check. Consider carrying a portable seat harness for emergencies.
  2. Kid-Friendly Menus: Look for "menus enfants" for child-friendly dishes. If not listed, ask staff; many are happy to customise simple dishes for kids.
  3. Finding Child-Friendly Spots: The Marais and Saint-Germain districts are known for family-friendly dining. "Le Pain Quotidien" has multiple branches and offers a child-friendly menu. The Latin Quarter has affordable options due to its university and school crowd.
  4. General Tips:
  • Always keep snacks on hand in case of unexpected waits or menu surprises.
  • Dining earlier can help avoid peak crowded times, making for a more relaxed meal.
  • Familiarise yourself with basic French phrases to effectively communicate your child's needs.

Dining in Paris with a toddler might require a bit more planning. Still, it’s entirely possible to enjoy the city's culinary offerings without compromising the experience for you or your little one. Embrace the Parisian dining culture, be prepared, and bon appétit!

3. Food on the Go: Snacks and Quick Bites for Toddlers

Navigating the culinary lanes of Paris with a toddler by your side adds a unique twist to the city's renowned gastronomic experience. With their unpredictable appetites and specific preferences, finding the correct bites to satisfy those tiny tummies is crucial. Here's your go-to guide to ensure that your little one doesn't miss out amidst the pastries and escargots.

a) The Quest for Toddler-Friendly Treats: What's the Drill?

Paris's food scene is vast and varied, but not everything on the menu will suit the young palate. The challenge lies in finding meals and snacks that are both toddler-friendly and nutritious.

b) Health First: Sussing Out the Goodies

While croissants and éclairs can be delightful treats, relying solely on them might not be the healthiest choice. Hence, diversifying your toddler's food options becomes essential. But fret not, Paris offers more than just sugary delights.

Supermarkets and Stores: Your Foodie Treasure Map

Paris has many grocery stores, from expansive chains to quaint corner shops. These can be lifesavers when you need to grab something on the go.

  1. Dive into Local Markets: Parisian markets, like the Marché Bastille, often stock fresh produce and local snacks. It's a vibrant spot to pick up fresh fruits or cheese, both toddler favourites.
  2. Chain Stores for the Win: Stores like Monoprix or Franprix are dotted around the city. They offer a range of packaged and fresh foods, from yoghurts to pre-made sandwiches, that can be handy for a quick bite.
  3. Local Delicacies: A Toddler's Take
  4. Paris isn’t just about gourmet meals for adults. There are plenty of local foods that your little munchkin might find delightful.
  5. Baguette: Freshly baked, soft on the inside, and crusty on the outside, these are a hit with kids. Slice them up and add a smear of mild cheese or sugar-free peanut butter.
  6. Crêpes: These thin pancakes can be found at street stalls across the city. Opt for savoury fillings to keep that toddler sugar high at bay.
  7. Fromage Blanc: A soft, creamy cheese similar to yoghurt, it's a refreshing snack.
  8. Quiche: These savoury pies, with various fillings, can be a wholesome and delicious snack for toddlers.

Feeding a toddler in Paris doesn't have to be a daunting task. By mixing traditional Parisian foods with the convenience of local stores, you can ensure your little one gets a taste of Paris without compromising on nutrition. As with any adventure in the City of Love, it's all about finding the right balance and savouring every bite.

 4. What Attractions to Choose and Their Costs

The allure of Paris is undeniable, with its iconic landmarks, fascinating museums, and charming neighbourhoods. However, when you're exploring with a toddler, considerations about attractions take on an added layer: the costs. Let’s delve into the financial aspect of enjoying the City of Light and some money-saving hacks for the family on the go.

a) An Overview of Costs: Landmarks to Hidden Gems

Paris houses some of the world's most sought-after attractions, but there’s a price tag attached. While monuments like the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre Museum might strain your wallet, the city also boasts hidden gems waiting to be discovered at little to no cost.

b) Balancing the Famous with the Budget-Friendly

The city's stalwarts like the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower come with entrance fees. And while they're absolutely worth it, these expenses can quickly add up, especially with a family. Conversely, Paris is also peppered with lesser-known delights like quaint neighbourhoods, art-laden streets, and green parks, offering good times without hefty fees.

Picture of the Louvre in Paris France

c) Stretching Your Euro: Maximising Value

Parisian attractions, even the paid ones, offer many experiences. The key is discerning which ones provide the most bang for your buck. For instance, while the Louvre's vastness is mesmerising, with a toddler, you might get more value from smaller, interactive museums or attractions that hold their attention. By saying that, my partner Luke really wanted to see the Louvre, so we picked that attraction as an afternoon family outing and we had a great time. Our son was fascinated by the ancient statues and artworks. And with the support from some snacks, we could stretch our visit to about 2 hours.

A toddler and his dad at the Louvre in Paris France

d) Getting the Most Out of Every Euro: Tips and Tricks

Paris’s expansive list of attractions offers something for everyone, including budget-conscious families. Here are some strategies to experience the magic of Paris without burning a hole in your pocket:

  1. Bundle Up with Tourist Passes: The Paris Pass or the Paris Museum Pass grants access to multiple attractions at a bundled rate, offering significant savings if you plan to visit several sites.
  2. Choose the right Metro ticket option: The flat rate tickets for the Metro network aren't cheap. In order to get better value from this option, you have to travel between 5 and 7 times a day, otherwise, single tickets are more economical.
  3. First Sundays are Golden: Many Parisian museums open their doors for free on the first Sunday of every month. While it might be a tad crowded, the savings are considerable. Find more information here.
  4. Tap into Child Discounts: Always inquire about child rates. Many places offer reduced fees or even free admission for younger children.
  5. Don't Overlook the Lesser-Known: Attractions like the Montmartre funicular or the Paris Sewer Museum provide unique experiences without the hefty costs. Additionally, local markets, lesser-known museums, and public gardens can enrich and be economical.

    e) Top Family-Friendly Attractions that Don't Break the Bank

    Paris, often called the City of Light, isn't just a haven for lovers and art aficionados; it's also a treasure trove of family-friendly attractions. For those touring with toddlers, balancing the budget without compromising on fun can be top of mind. Here's a roundup of must-visit spots that'll offer heaps of enjoyment for both the adults and the little ones without leaving your wallet feeling too light.

    1. Parisian Playgrounds: A World of Fun for the Littlest Tourists The city might be brimming with historical sites, but it's also home to countless playgrounds that offer the perfect setting for some free family fun. 
      Toddler with his dad at the playground in Paris France
    2. Luxembourg Gardens: Not only is it a picturesque spot to relax, but the gardens also house a fantastic playground, vintage carousel, and even puppet shows. Small fees apply for some attractions within the park.
    3. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont: This sprawling park has caves, waterfalls, and bridges, making it an adventurous spot for curious toddlers. Entry is free!
    4. Museums for Minis: Cultivating Young Minds Who said museums are just for grown-ups? Paris boasts several museums that are engaging for all age groups, and many have days when entry is free or discounted.
    5. Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature: It’s a museum of hunting and nature with intriguing exhibits that'll fascinate young minds. Check out their family workshop days!
    6. Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie: This science and industry museum has interactive exhibits suitable for kids. There's a small entry fee, but it's worth every cent.
    7. Cruise on a Budget: See Paris from the Seine A boat ride along the Seine can be an enchanting experience. Opt for the basic cruise options without audio guides or meals to save a bit.
    8. Bateaux Parisiens: Offering a delightful experience, these cruises provide a unique perspective of Paris. Prices vary, but budget options are available.

    With its myriad attractions, Paris doesn't require a lavish budget to enjoy. With intelligent planning, informed choices, and an openness to explore off the beaten path, the city offers boundless treasures. It’s not just about the famous landmarks; sometimes, the most memorable Parisian moments come from the unexpected, cost-effective finds that delight parents and toddlers alike.

    Toddler with his dad on a slide in Paris

    5. Airbnb vs. Hotel Rooms: Accommodation Options for Families in Paris

    As with any major city, Paris offers many accommodation options, ranging from grand hotels to quaint Airbnb listings. For families travelling with a toddler, the choice between the two isn't merely about cost but also convenience and comfort. Let's deep dive into the pros and cons of each.

    a) Hotels: Luxurious but Limited?

    Staying in a hotel often brings with it a certain level of luxury and convenience. Think daily room cleaning, room service, and a concierge service. However, when travelling with a toddler, certain hotel living aspects might be challenging.

    The Hotel Hurdles for Families:

    1. Space Constraints: Unlike apartments or homes, hotel rooms, especially in a city like Paris, can be pretty compact. Without a separate bedroom, parents might tiptoe around after putting the toddler to bed or waking up at dawn with their early riser.
    2. Limited Cooking Facilities: Hotel rooms typically lack proper cooking facilities. Every meal must be sourced outside or from the hotel’s restaurant, which can be costly and not always toddler-friendly.
    3. No Laundry Facilities: Extended stays might require laundry services. While hotels often offer this, it can be at a premium price.

    b) Airbnb: A Home Away from Home?

    Airbnb or similar rental platforms offer travellers the chance to stay in a home setting, which can be a game-changer for families with toddlers.

    Airbnb Advantages for Families:

    1. Separate Sleeping Areas: Many Parisian apartments listed on Airbnb offer one or more bedrooms. This means your toddler can have their own sleeping space, and parents can relax or watch TV without disturbing their sleep.
    2. Kitchen Access: This is a lifesaver. Having access to a kitchen means you can prepare quick meals, store snacks, and cater to the fussy eating habits that toddlers sometimes have. It's also budget-friendly as dining out in Paris can quickly add up.
    3. Laundry Facilities: Many Airbnb listings come equipped with a washing machine, which, for longer stays or unexpected messes, is invaluable for families.
    4. Experience Local Living: Staying in an apartment can give you a taste of local life, helping families immerse themselves in the Parisian culture.

    Both hotels and Airbnb have their own sets of advantages, but when travelling with a toddler, the convenience of space, kitchen access, and laundry facilities often tilt the scales in favour of Airbnb or similar platforms. However, the final choice will always boil down to individual family preferences, budget, and the kind of Parisian experience you're seeking.

    c) Navigating Parisian Apartments: How to Find the Right Apartment for Your Adventure?

    Finding the right spot to lay your head can make all the difference when holidaying with a toddler. Paris, with its rich tapestry of neighbourhoods, offers a plethora of accommodation choices. Here's a guide to navigating the ins and outs of Parisian Airbnb apartments, keeping the unique needs of families front and centre.

    1. Compact But Cosy: The Parisian Way Don't let the smaller square footage throw you off. These apartments, though compact, are often rich in  character. They boast high ceilings, wooden floors, and quaint balconies overlooking bustling streets or serene courtyards. For families, it's crucial to check apartment layouts to ensure there's enough room for everyone, including the littlest members and their gear.
    2. Location, Location, Location: It's All About the Spot In Paris, like in many cities, location can be everything, especially when toddlers are in tow. Being close to attractions, parks, and essential services can make your trip smoother and more enjoyable. 
    3. Staying Central: The Benefits Opting for a central location means many of Paris's iconic attractions are just a short walk or quick metro ride away. This can be a lifesaver, eliminating the need for long commutes, which, let's be honest, aren't a toddler's best mate. Additionally, these areas usually have essential services like pharmacies, supermarkets, and laundromats.

    d) The Best Suburbs for the Fam

    When you've got a little one with you, some neighbourhoods stand out for their family-friendly vibe and amenities. Here's where to set your sights:

    1. Le Marais: A historic district with cobblestone streets, this area has shops, cafes, and parks. It's central, vibrant, and brimming with character.Cafe in Le Marais Paris France
    2. Saint-Germain-des-Prés: This neighbourhood offers a mix of culture, with its art galleries and museums, and relaxation, thanks to its proximity to the Luxembourg Gardens – a perfect spot for toddlers to run about.
    3. The 15th Arrondissement: A bit more residential and away from the tourist hustle, this area is great for families wanting a quieter stay. Plus, it's close to attractions like the Eiffel Tower and has several parks.

      Finding a suitable apartment in Paris isn't just about budget or aesthetics; it's about convenience, comfort, and ensuring a memorable experience for the whole family. With some research and an understanding of what Parisian apartments offer, families can enjoy a homey base that makes exploring the City of Light with a toddler a breeze.

      5. Handling the Hustle and Bustle: Navigating Crowds with a Toddler

      Shops close to Notre Dame in Paris France

      Wandering the lanes and boulevards of Paris with its mesmerising history and culture is a dream for many. However, throw a toddler into the mix, and the bustling streets can become a tad more challenging. From managing the unpredictable moods of a little one to ensuring their safety in crowded spaces, here's a guide to keep your Parisian adventure smooth and enjoyable, even with the littlest member of the family.

      a) Popular Attractions: When's the Right Time to Swing By?

      The allure of Paris's iconic landmarks is undeniable. Still, with their popularity comes a sea of visitors, making the experience potentially overwhelming for both toddlers and parents.

      • Early Birds Get the Peace: Consider visiting famed spots like the Louvre or Notre Dame early in the morning. The crowds are generally thinner, and the atmosphere is calmer.
      • Opt for Weekdays: If your schedule allows, plan your visits during weekdays. Weekends and holidays tend to draw larger crowds.

      b) Manoeuvring Toddler Meltdowns amidst the Masses

      Even in the most picturesque settings, toddlers have their moments. Navigating a tantrum amidst a bustling crowd can be daunting but not insurmountable.

      1. Pack Their Favourites: Whether it's a toy, snack, or a beloved book, having something familiar can be a quick distraction and offer comfort.
      2. Find a Quiet Corner: If you sense a meltdown brewing, try to locate a quieter space or corner. A brief respite from the sensory overload can do wonders.
      3. Stay Calm and Composed: Your child looks to you for cues. Maintaining a calm demeanour, even if you're stressed, can help reassure and soothe them.
      4. Safety First: Keeping Tabs on Your Tiny Explorer
      5. In crowded places, a toddler's curiosity can sometimes lead them astray. Here are some ways to ensure you always have a watchful eye on your little one:
      6. Child Safety Harness or Wrist Link: Some parents find these tools invaluable in busy areas. They allow toddlers a bit of freedom while ensuring they stay close.
      7. Dress in Bright Colours: Outfit your toddler in vibrant hues, making them easier to spot in a crowd.
      8. Take a Snapshot: At the start of your day, snap a quick photo of your child. In the unlikely event you get separated, you have a current image to show and describe what they're wearing.
      9. Set a Meeting Point: If travelling with multiple adults, set a designated spot to regroup if the adults get separated.

      Concluding Our Parisian Family Adventure

      Exploring Paris with a toddler seemed daunting at first glance. The city's hustle and bustle, the complexity of getting around and all the toddler gear in tow made me worry that we bite more than we could chew.

      However, with some preparation, a sprinkle of patience and a tiny bit of luck, the City of Light is a great experience for a toddler as it is for an adult.

      Paris isn't just about the Eiffel Tower, croissants, or the Seine. It's about the little moments: the joy of discovering a hidden playground in Le Marais, a spontaneous Seine-side picnic, the fascination in a toddler's eyes as they get to ride on one of Paris' old carousel rides. It's in these moments that families find the true joy of travel.

      The practicalities - from navigating public transport with a stroller and finding that perfect family-friendly apartment to ensuring your little one has a sumptuous (and tantrum-free) meal - are all part of the journey. 

      So, to all families dreaming of a Parisian escape, I'd say, go for it! Embrace the challenges, celebrate the wins, and remember that every cobblestone, every croissant, and every carousel ride adds to your family's memories and stories.

      In our case, we took our time, didn't pack our four days with a full schedule and had a fantastic time.

      Paris awaits, with all its charm, for families bold enough to dive in. Bon voyage!

       

       

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