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4 Days in Paris with Grandsons

My husband and I will be in Paris with our two grandsons aged 15 and 13, arriving July 31st, departing August 5th 2019. We want to show them the major sites, with visits to the Louvre and Versailles which from past experience we know will take most of a day per location. We would like guided tours for the two locations so that we can get the most out of each visit, having found that the information provided by a guide is invaluable, especially on the first visit, and with so much to see. We are thinking of a hop on/hop off tour on the day of our arrival, with plans to revisit the major sites on our own as time permits. We are thinking about a 4 day Paris pass, but with two days devoted to the Louvre and Versailles respectively, am wondering if it is worth the four day pass, or if a 2 day would suffice. Would appreciate the input of those who have made a similar trip. Thanks!

Posted by
908 posts

Most people on this site prefer the use of the Paris Museum Pass, http://en.parismuseumpass.com, which can be purchased once you arrive in Paris. But, if you are only looking at going to the Louvre & Versailles and no other musuems or monuments then purchaseing directly from them will be a cheaper option.

Chateau Versailles offers a few tours within the palace: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/plan-your-visit/tickets-and-prices

The Louvre also offers guided tours: https://www.ticketlouvre.fr/louvre/b2c/index.cfm/home

I'm sure if you were to get a Rick Steves Paris Guide Book or find one in a library or bookstore, he will have a few local tour guides listed with their information.

Posted by
506 posts

I can't tell you about guided tours, since I didn't use them during my trip.

Make sure you are not confusing the Paris Museum Pass with the Paris Pass:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/france/paris-pass-3e0a61a7-116e-42aa-9562-ddb1e430d885

Personally I bought the Paris Museum Pass and a 10-ride set of Metro tickets (train to Versailles was extra because it's in a further-out zone, 7 euros each way IIRC). That worked out cheaper for me. And instead of a guide I used the Rick Steves suggestions for the Louvre and the audio guide at Versailles. But I wasn't interested in the hop on hop off bus. I'd read in the RS forums that they can make jet-lagged people sleepy and are infrequent and crowded.

I know for the Paris Museum Pass you can wait and buy it after your arrival (I used the Tabac across from Sainte Chapelle). Since it is for consecutive days it can be beneficial to wait until you have a better idea of the weather then plan for your museum days to coincide with any rainy weather.

Hope this helps,
Marty

Posted by
57 posts

Thank you. We are definitely planning on trying to fit in as many of the major sites as we can, on the other two full days that we have, following the hop on/hop tour. I mentioned the louvre and versailles because they are two places our grandsons wish to visit. We have visited both locations in the past and know that they take up most of the day. Other locations that we are hoping to visit on our own; The Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysee, Place de la Concorde, La Chapelle, Notre Dame, Place des Invalide and Napoleon's tomb ... We are still doing our research and realize that trying to pack too much into our time there can detract from their first visit. We want to be able to simply enjoy the sidewalk cafes, a nice meal. I realize that we will need to refine our wish list. Will a two day paris pass be of value for these additional sites I've mentioned. I guess that's what I'm wondering .... Thanks again.

Posted by
1514 posts

Hey Jane,

Here is something your grandsons might like if they are into science and discoveries. It is La Cité des Sciences et de L'industrie. It is a huge science complex in Paris that will keep the kids busy for the day. Also Versailles can be jammed pack in August. The lines will be long. In case you want another option, Chateau Fontainebleau is a quick trip from Paris via the RER line and will be less crowded then Versailles.

http://www.cite-sciences.fr/en/home/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parc_de_la_Villette

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/fontainebleau

https://www.chateaudefontainebleau.fr/spip.php?lang=en

Posted by
652 posts

My kids enjoyed the Cite des Sciences. I especially liked the "revolving room" upstairs where it seems like you are not moving until you throw a ball and it makes a 90 degree curve. I've done it 3 times and would go again. I still haven't grown up.

Posted by
652 posts

Oh, and I forgot to add that the Cite des Sciences IS on the museum pass, so free with the pass.

Posted by
57 posts

Great suggestions. Thank you! Am going to research to passes further (Paris Pass, Museum Pass)., and try to fine tune our activities to best makes use of the passes and time. We are flying out of Paris after a stay in Normandy, so jet lag won't be an issue, but with the proper pass, we may not need to do the hop on/off. Love the idea of the Cite de Sciences and Fontainbleu.. We are concerned about the crowds and that's why we're looking at booking as much as possible ahead of time. Perhaps Fontainbleu instead of Versailles might be a good option. Thanks everyone! Lots to think about.

Posted by
1445 posts

hi jane
Check out Paris-by-tuktuk.com, a few tours there
withlocals.com there is a unique paris ride, the kids may like.
Have a picnic in the gardens, stop and pick up meat, cheeses, baguette and drinks. have napkins and plastic silverware, maybe a corkscrew if you have wine. have the kids help pick out what they want or maybe just sandwiches.
It will be hot and crowded because of summertime, maybe a pool, check if they put sand on the seine and enjoy a beach theme.
Maybe a cooking class with lacuisine.com book early.
There is also a sidecar motorcycle ride thru city.
Book your Eiffel Tower tickets early. Make sure you stop at a cafe for appetizer and drinks just to people watch and relax, compromise with the boys.
enjoy your time and have fun.
Aloha

Posted by
3458 posts

Spent 10 days in Paris, used the 6 day Paris Museum Pass...worth every penny. For your time in Paris, and with everything now on your list, go with the 4 day pass. Look carefully at their evening openings. This will open up daytime visits to other sites. Try to group sites together, this will save you invaluable time. A 10 ticket carnet can be used by all of you. Cost is €14,90
They can be used on busses, metro and trams.

The Eiffel Tower is not included, info and prices here. https://www.toureiffel.paris/en

Purchase as soon as you're further along on your itinerary.

You can go a lot further money wise by using the PMP. The Paris pass is very inflated at €131.

Edit.
We did use this bus tou 2 times, it by far, with four seperate lines, gave us a wide range of sites to see. My 42 yr old daughter loved it, hence the 2nd time. 14 yr old Grandaughter meh. https://www.localparistours.com/paris/paris-sightseeing-hop-on-hop-off-tour_3733

Posted by
57 posts

Thanks princess and Gerri. Great suggestions. The idea of picnicking is great and economical, not to mention feeling like a local. Definitely on our ‘to do’ list. Re the Paris pass, agree it’s pricey and wondering if it’s worthwhile if we’re spending two full days at louvre and Versailles (or Fontainebleau) respectively. Going to fine tune itinerary then compare pricing for venues, transit. Lots to think about. Thanks everyone.

Posted by
9419 posts

A full day at the Louvre seems like a lot. We took a private tour with Paris Muse and found the 2.5 to 3 hours we spent to be enough. Personally, I cannot absorb more than that in one day. We also started our tour at 4 pm which was a terrific time. Only the room with the Mona Lisa was crowded. If you structure your day for a late Louvre tour, you have all day for something else. Maybe a tour with Paris Walks.

Posted by
12099 posts

Hi,

Since you're entertaining the idea of going to Fontainebleau, I would certainly suggest that if your grandsons are interested in Napoleon. See where Napoleon said farewell to the Guard, attended also by the 4 Allied Commissioners accompanying him to exile on Elba. There may even be a special exhibit on Napoleon as 2019 is the 250th anniversary of his birth.

Posted by
4654 posts

The other one for Napoleon fans is his and Josephine's country house, Malmaison, which can easily be reached by bus from La Defense, and is also included in the Paris Museum Pass.

Posted by
57 posts

Thanks folks. Still weighing the merits of the Paris Pass/Pass Lib vs just buying a caret of tickes for each of us, and booking skip the line tickets to the major site. I think once we've 'done the math' in terms of pass vs direct booking, will know better how to proceed. Plans are to stay in the area of the Louvre, Notre Dame, and to walk to some of the venues. Thanks for all the great advice!

Posted by
86 posts

I agree with Laurel, a few hours at the Lourve is enough art for one day. We followed Ricks tour for about 2 hrs of art, but our kids were 12 and 9 at the time. Your grandson's of course are older and can handler more, but I think 4 hours is tops. Esp with so much art in the city! Did you think of going up in the Arc de Triomphe? It's interesting for teens because it's active (stairs) and has views that are not just pretty but unique, like the death trap of traffic that surrounds it! And the AdT is also a few hours tops. You might could combine it with your Lourve day and have lunch along the Champs de Elysees.

Posted by
57 posts

Thanks Amanda R. Yes, the Arc de Triomphe is definitely on our to do list. Our hotel is withing walking distance of Notre Dame, with access to Metro close by. We like the idea of visiting the Louvre in the evening, and agree that 4 hours there would probably be all the boys could handle - so are currently looking at an itinerary that will best utilize our time; perhaps Notre Dame and Le Chapelle in the morning, Louvre in the afternoon. Plan to sit down to try an plan out our days making the best use of transportation, and grouping the places we visit to save on travel time and backtracking. Thanks to everyone for the great advice!

Posted by
9 posts

We just returned from a week in Paris with our two teens - 16 & 15. If you're arriving Wednesday during the day, I'd advise visiting the Louvre that evening - they are open late on Wednesday and Friday. We followed Rick Steve's guide from his 2019 Paris book and found it gave the kids a great overview without overwhelming them. I don't see the Orsay mentioned in your post, but if you are interested in that, they are open late Thursday evenings and we used RS for that, too.
Both kids found the Catacombs fascinating. If you decide to add that to your itinerary, definitely book a timed entry as far in advance as you can.
A few logistical notes that made our trip easier:
-We rented a mobile hotspot from Travel WiFi. This enabled all of us to stay connected to the internet for the entire trip. For teenagers, this was invaluable! Roughly $50 for our week, and worth every penny. Extremely convenient to use - you can pick it up at several locations, or they will deliver to your hotel. When you're done you place it in a provided envelope and drop it in any yellow post box. (There's one right before the passport control at CDG.) We picked ours up at a TI booth when we arrived at CDG. (We also purchased our Paris Museum Passes there at the same time.) https://www.travel-wifi.com
-If you plan to climb the Notre Dame tower (which my kids also loved), download the app ahead of time. You have to schedule your timed visit on the same day, using the app or a kiosk at the tower. We visited Sainte-Chapelle first thing one morning, and booked our tower climb for about an hour later. Timing was great.
-Paris Museum Pass - If you do the math with the museums you want to visit, even if it ends up being a tad more expensive, it's worth it to skip the longer lines for those without tickets. But you will still have to wait in line!
-Passe Navigo Découverte - this was also invaluable to us, as we used the Metro extensively. The timing has to work for you since it's valid from 12:01 am Monday through 11:59 pm Sunday. I see you'll be there Wednesday-Monday, so if you plan to use trains/buses often, it might be worth checking out. Even if it's slightly more expensive than a carnet of 10 or individual tickets, the ease of use is worth it.
Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1079 posts

I find the hoho buses to be overly expensive and very slow. It is possible to get a quick overview of the city by taking one of the bateaux mouches or Seine river cruises. You can get reduced priced tickets on line for the Vedettes du Pont Neuf which I find preferable to the other companies.

Avoid the Paris Pass. It´s elements are nothing other than what you can purchase separately at far lower cost.

The Paris Museum may or may not be of value. Your grandsons enter free at any museum. Many people can save money by simply purchasing advance tickets for the museums which interest them. Advance ticket holders use the same museum entrances as do pass holders.

One place your grandsons might enjoy near rue de Bac métro, and which is seldom mentioned, is Deyrolle Taxidermy. It´s free to visit and look at the many types of animals on display.

At the Jardin des Plantes in the 5th arrondissement, your grandsons will probably like the Paleontology museum and the la Grande Galerie de l’Évolution.

For travel around the city, the ticket t+ allows access to the buses, métro, funicular, and tramways. Cost is 1.90€ each or 10 individual tickets for 14.90€.

Kids always love crêperies and there is a huge selection of them near Montparnasse on rue du Montparnasse and along rue d´Odessa. You should include at least one lunch/dinner at one of these crêperies, my favorite being Crêperie Plougastel.

Posted by
11738 posts

For the Louvre, two half days (or a little under a half day) would be more fun than one full day. There is too much to see in even a full day and by the end you'll be too tired to enjoy it.

Posted by
235 posts

I'd skip the second visit to the Louvre and go to the Orsay instead. Our daughters much preferred it.

Posted by
28 posts

Jane,
I took a bus tour of the city. The place was next to the Louvre on the Rue de Rivoli. I don't know if they have hop-on, hop-off, but the one I took had headphones that plug into the back of each seat so it tells you about the sites and areas as you drive by. I would recommend this tour. That way, you can at least see a lot of things, even if you don't get back to them on foot. It also helps decide on whether you want to take more time to visit some places. Doing it the first day that you arrive, if you have a significant change in time zone, can be risky (by possibly sleeping through most of it :-)
Some of the churches in Paris are worth a visit. Notre Dame goes without saying-tell them about The Hunchback of Notre Dame to prep them for it. Sacre Coeur is on the north side of Paris on a hill overlooking the city. It has an angled railway (a funiculaire), that take you up and down the hill. It is a beautiful spot to see the sun go down over the city. You could take a river boat ride on the Seine. Paris also has some wonderful parks. The Tuileries Garden is right beside the Louvre and you can find a couple of good places to grab sandwiches for a picnic. We were there this year in July and there was a carnival with rides and activities on one side of the Garden. The Metro city trains (and buses) are very convenient and a little planning in advance makes them ideal for getting around Paris. I hope that you all have a great time!

Posted by
3439 posts

Let the teenagers show you around. They can dive into the Internet now, finding huge amounts of information on this most visited of cities. Start them on this website's Destination pages. Also expect them to study the public transit system. The 15-year-old should be mature enough to travel alone, towing the younger. You can add guidance and your own research, sharing the experience. The more responsibility they take, the more responsible they will become. They could return knowing more about Paris, and even more about themselves.

PS: I never let a pass restrict what I visit. Obsessing over passes is a higher stress cost than whatever money is saved. A bus tour is fine for the first-day orientation but in general hop on/off buses are a slow means of transport. If you take a tour, look for one with the narration through headsets. Because these tours are usually multi-language, guests often get chatting when different languages are on a public address system.

Posted by
3 posts

May I ask which hotel you are staying at in Paris? My husband and I will be traveling to Paris in July with our 18 year old nephew. We are looking for a hotel with 3 beds; prefer not to have to use a sleeper sofa. Since there are four of you traveling, I thought you might be able to help me. Looking for a hotel is a daunting task
Thank you

Posted by
951 posts

We purchased the museum pass on our last visit (May 2018). I'm not sure it actually saved us money, but it was nice being able to skip the regular line. We actually went to eight different museums during our stay. Another good thing about the pass is that you don't feel like you have to spend all day at one place. In addition, you can go back again to the same place if you really like it. The Louvre is not one of our favorite museums - we like the Musee d'Orsday, L'Orangerie and Rodin museums.

Posted by
125 posts

A refinement on another's suggestion: take a boat tour on the Seine at night. When the various monuments are lit up by the spotlights, it is quite impressive. I also second another's suggestion that you let your grandkids get involved in planning what they want to do. We took our then 13-year-old son to Paris some years ago, and he got extremely bored at the museums. Peter

Posted by
129 posts

Glad to see you are considering Fountainbleu or Malmaison rather than Versailles especially considering what the crowds will be like at Versailles and the time spent. No doubt you will tour Napoleon’s Apartments while at the Louvre for a glimpse of the glitter one sees at Versailles, Fountainbleu is lovely, Malmaison was amazing especially with the exhibit upstairs of items associated with his campaigns and his incarcaration. (suggest check to see if that is a permanent exhibit or not). i found that Malmaison offered a more intimate picture of their lives including the tree they planted and, Josephines amazing rose garden. It’s also a relatively quick visit from Paris allowing you more time for other things. One transfers at La Defense which might be a good place to lunch with your grandsons, a different vibe! How nice to be doing this trip together at such a formative time for your grandsons!

Posted by
3 posts

We have visited, and enjoyed, the Crypte Archeologic on the plaza in front of Notre Dame. Pre-Roman and Roman City ruins. Excellent hands on explanations. Our 16 year old granddaughter loved it. High tech displays. Seldom crowded even when Notre Dame has a long line!

Posted by
57 posts

Thanks everyone. Some great suggestions. While wanting to show our grandsons as much of the key sites as we can, we don't want to overwhelm them. Will definitely take in the Louvre in the evening, when crowds are less, and which will allow us to make best use of our day. Beanier7, we are staying at the Hotel du Levant, 18 rue de la Harpe, 5th arr, 75005 Paris, which is in the Latin Quarter. We stayed in that area once before, and it was perfect in our view, for visiting many of the main sites. Like you, we did not want the pull out couch option, and so were lucky to obtain a double and two single beds, with breakfast included. Good luck! Again, thanks to everyone for your recommendations and advice!

Posted by
5435 posts

I would be wary of taking two teenage boys for an entire day in the Louvre, although if either or both of them is/are a huge art fanatic, the calculus obviously changes. Same thing for Versailles. You're very generous to be taking your grandsons to Paris; please make sure also to take into account places/sites that teen boys might enjoy, such as the Catacombs, Arc de Triomphe, etc. I realize that I am making an incredible generalization about teenage boys and their interests, and obviously you know your grandsons best! Again, it's a wonderful opportunity you're offering them. Just be sure to keep in mind pacing.-- as others have said, i myself would find an entire day in the Louvre tough going.

Posted by
57 posts

Thanks Kim. You're spot on - we have been to both places before and are thinking 4 hours might be a maximum at each place. One grandson is a history enthusiast, while the other is more interested in the arts (has specifically indicated he wants to go to the Louvre), so we will be very mindful to try to not overdo things, both in terms of how much we see, and how much we we to pack into each site we visit. My husband and enjoy the experience of just meeting and interacting with people, sitting and enjoying a drink or meal at a sidewalk cafe. There is SO much to see, and are hoping that this will be a trip that plants the seed of interest in travel for them. Prior to our 4 days in Paris, we will be in Normandy with them, visiting the battlefields where their Great Grandfather fought in WW2, so Paris will be a time to relax and enjoy while still seeing some of the major sites. Our hotel is in the Latin Quarter, so we will be able to walk to much of what we want to see. Thanks for your input!

Posted by
57 posts

Thanks epj. We are currently looking at long distance plans that will allow us to bring our own phone. In the past we have always bought the throw away kind, but these proved to be problematic at times. Love the idea of purchasing and having wifi available during the course of our time in Paris, so will check this out. Thanks!

Posted by
47 posts

I'll add a couple of more to consider....the museum of natural history, musee curie, the roman amphitheater ruins (close to the natural history museum), luxemborg gardens & the statue of liberty, and Shakespeare & Company bookstore!

Posted by
111 posts

When we took my two boys to France we paid for a private tour of the Louvre and it was so worth it! One of my boys is a huge history nerd and the other loves art. We emailed Paris Walks and they set us up with one of their tour guides (Cerise) and then they asked us what we were most interested in seeing and she tailored to tour to our interests. The boys still talk about our experience there 2 years later. It was also the least expensive private tour of the Louvre I could find. At the time it was 180 euros for a two hour tour for our family of 4. Saw more in those two hours with valuable info than we would have in 4 on our own.

We also spent time in Normandy and the D-Day beaches. Complete highlight of the trip for us. Also the best food. We had lunch at the Creperie Montoise which is on the round about in Sainte Marie du Mont. Steamed mussels in wine, amazing galettes and crepes. We still talk about that meal.

Posted by
57 posts

I can’t thank you all enough. Will get back to you when I have our itinerary together. Thanks so much to everyone for the great suggestions.

Posted by
3 posts

Hi! I'm going to Paris with two 15 yr old boys in June- so I'm in the same boat. We're doing a few days at the Paris Air Show, but planning other things the rest of the time. First question: are your grandsons moderately used to big cities, transit, crowds, etc? Do they ride metro buses where they live? Have they travelled abroad and thus are comfortable with other money and languages they don't know? That will make for a much easier trip! And much more independence for them.

A few things I've found:
Airbnb experiences has quite a few graffiti and street art related things, from tours of street art to actually making graffiti with an artist. They look pretty good and get good reviews. I think a lot of teens would be interested in that.

I'm still trying to decide whether to do a Segway Tour or a Fat Tire Bike tour. I might send the boys on a bike tour of Versailles and just browse the palace on my own on foot, because I'm a bit scared of biking among the hordes of tourists in the gardens. But an active non-walking tour of some type would be great for that age kid. (I've never used a Segway but my 70plus yr old mother has done two Segway tours, so I think I can! I'm leaning toward Segway in Paris, bikes in Versailles) Honestly, even if you can't accompany them, kids that age are perfectly able to go off on a guided bike tour by themselves and meet up with you at the end. You'll just have to find one that will take a 13 yr old or lie about his age. And choose one that provides helmets!

We're absolutely doing Cite of Sciences. We'll also be doing the Air and Space museum out at Le Bruget, but that's part of our Paris Air Show stuff. Catacombes or sewer tour might be very interesting. And probably cooler temp if it's hot. I'm going to have my boys pick between Rodin or Picasso Museums. I think a single-artist museum is a good choice for that age group -- and both artists have such famous images that your grandsons should be familiar with something they see.

Also, I've taken my kids to many major museums and they love museums, but I honestly can't imagine them wanting to do more than 3 hours at the Louvre, or imagine me wanting to do more than that when I'm with them. It's a very different experience going with them vs going on my own -- having to manage and explain context and art history is exhausting, and their pace is so different from mine. Have you done huge museums like this with them before? Museum cafes! I have to feed those boys ALL THE TIME. I'm looking at possibly a scavenger hunt for either Louvre or Orsay thru THATLou / THATMuse, or one of the Airbnb experiences with a guide who specializes in teens. We did several of the kid "Trails" at the British Museum a couple years ago, and it made it fun, so I'm looking for similar things for the Louvre but with more tech since they're older.

My two are incredibly transit savvy -- they ride metro and trains to school, and fly alone regularly -- so I'm setting up some transit challenges for them in the afternoons. I plan to do my own thing, maybe a watercolor painting class along the Seine, while they chase the transit obstacles I set for them (ie, ride in the first car of a driverless train on route #1 or #14 and take photos; ride bus route 69 and take photos at each end, that sort of thing). I realize many people don't let kids go off on their own as much as I do, but I was an exchange student to an Asian country at age 15, and was quickly riding the trains -- and in our state, kids can drive at age 15, which is way harder and way more dangerous than riding a bus or train. So I hope you'll consider letting boys that age have the independence to do some things on their own. (And do they know how to use a credit card?) Brothers will bond that way too.

Have fun!

Posted by
18 posts

One additional idea if you are going to Cité des Sciences : during summer months, there is open air movie theater at La Villette parc, which is the parc that surrounds Cité des Sciences.

Each night there is a different movie, some are blockbusters some are old classics. The 2019 schedule hasn't been released yet.

V.

Posted by
143 posts

Hello,

I think that that two teenagers will be bored with a hop on, hop off bus tour. Why not do something active instead like a bicycle tour instead for example:
https://www.parischarmssecrets.com/homepage-an

These are electric bicycles, so you can decide how much assistance you want. And of note, as a teenager I did not like sitting in cafe or restaurant people watching... even in Paris! I would want to have an active schedule.