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Paris - 1 week with a Toddler. HELP!

My wife, son and I are headed to Paris in July for a one week family vacation before heading to Barcelona to meet the family.

I have never been to Europe and need a lot of help!

My wife and I are foodies and love to find the best places to eat. With that said, our son will have just turned 2 years old and officially in toddler territory. While he is well behaved, he is also a toddler and likes to walk a lot and explore on his own two feet (don't worry, I am right next to him).

We are taking our family's advice and we are planning to rent an apartment for the week. Where should we stay that is a short distance to parks and good restaurants?

My wife read that the 7th Arrondissement is the best place for kids since it's filled with restaurants and parks. What do you think?

Posted by
3083 posts

Your son is two I am not sure that any particular arrondissement will be better than any other for him because they all have parks but that being said, maybe the 6th arrondissement or the 5th might be better for you for easy access to Jardin Luxembourg. The 7th is upscale and residential with a lot of museums and government buildings and so is very quiet at night and while close to the Eiffel Tower is not the most central of the single digit arrondissements. I wouldn't mind living in the 7th if I had a child and lived in Paris but for a one-week vacation, I would like to be a bit more central and if given the prices in the 7th you can find something in budget there, you can probably afford something in the 5th and the 6th. As to restaurants, I have not been to any that a toddler would enjoy or where a toddler could wander around even with Mom or Dad following close behind. A cafe or a brasserie would be better for a child. Restaurants don't open for dinner until 7 PM at the earliest so if you plan to try one, lunch would be a better choice.

Posted by
8833 posts

As JHK said, it would be good to be near the Jardin de Luxembourg. It has a tiny toddler play area. There are parks in other neighborhoods, too. The 7th is a very reserved area. Toddlers will not be welcome in the best places to eat in the 7th or elsewhere. It's not customary in France to take children to fine dining restaurants until they can sit through several courses.

OTOH, it would be a good idea to stay near a shopping street with excellent products, so you can have excellent meals at home.

That said, when we lived in France we did take our 2.5 year old to a traditional restaurant one time because the chef knew us and wanted to give us a send-off before we left for the States. Otherwise, the only toddlers I've seen in Paris restaurants were for large family gatherings, such as after a communion. In this case, grandparents are around to help, and the meals are in large brasseries, such as La Coupole. So again, the large brasseries are better with toddlers.

Posted by
11450 posts

Oh dear.. the words "Foodies" "Best places" and "toddler" do not go together , at least not in France.

Most restaurants do not open for dinner till 7-730, and dinners regularily take several hours.
Children are seen and not heard , no one would think it was ok for your child to wander about in a restaurant.. or even a brasserie or café.. French children are not allowed as a rule.. child centric parenting isn't really a thing in Europe.. lol

I think you may have to wait a few years for some real foodie dining out experiences with your child.

The other option is to stay in a very nice hotel that provides a babysitting service.. I was a bit of a nervous nelly that way and didn't leave my kids with hotel sitters till they were quite a bit older .. like 9 or 10 though.

Or bring your parents! lol ( hey we've did that once.. on a cruise, baby was too young for sitting services )

There is however one thing you can do.. which is enjoy really amazing fresh food you purchase and prepare yourselves.. and things like cheeses , pates, rillettes, charcuteries goods, you can visit bakeries and get a special treats, and of course purchase some wine .

A one bedroom apartment where you can put your tot down to bed and then still have a space to socialize .

There really are little parks all over the place.. so perhaps just focus on a few things.

Get an apartment with AC , and if not.. make sure its on a bottom floor.. with good ventilation so you can open windows.. and that you are on a quiet street as if you have to have windows open you don't want street noise. Really though.. get ac.. and its not easy to find btw.. and make sure apartment SAYS they have an elevator .. as if they don't specify it.. don't assume they have one. Also... the first floor in France is our second floor.

Posted by
47 posts

If you're a foodie, you're after my heart! And you're in luck, because the entire city is rife with restaurants and parks, not just one area. Agree with the other posters re restaurants not always being terribly child-friendly in France, especially if your little one won't sit still...French restaurant meals last quite a bit longer than we're used to in the US. Never fear -- because you'll have an apartment you can still eat like kings and queens! (Just make sure the apartment has an oven. Sounds funny, but trust me -- some rentals in Paris only have a small countertop toaster-type-oven.)

I would, however, tell you to consider an area other than the 7th. You'll find much livelier neighborhoods elsewhere, with better food shopping. There are small parks with playgrounds all across the city (literally every few blocks) so don't feel like you'll miss out on that if you are elsewhere. One of my favorite areas is near the Bastille -- 11th/12th. Lots of families around. You can get incredible food (some prepared, some you'd prepare yourself) at the Richard Lenoir market, the Marche Aligre, the Monoprix / Picard supermarkets -- and there are also some really great and fun bistros and restaurants in the area. (Picard is your best friend if you want to have some easy and extremely French food at home! Think of it like a French Trader Joe's... Everything from bouef en croute to escargot to duck confit, and it's all easy to prepare because it's frozen. And, it's actually REALLY tasty. Supplement that with some great wine, produce/cheese from the street market, a trip to the boulangerie and you are practically French!)

Enjoy.

Posted by
2466 posts

Here's a legal apart'hotel which will probably have a much better kitchen than the typical Parisian rental apartment. It's right in the middle of two outdoor markets, the Bastille and Popincourt, and there is a park with playground equipment for your child:
http://www.citadines.com/france/paris/citadines-bastille-marais-paris/index.html

In addition, you'll be right near loads of small restaurants with market-to-table food. Transportation is convenient and you can walk to several attractions easily from this area.

Posted by
8833 posts

Michelle's advise to stay in the 11th/12th is excellent. It's become the Brooklyn of Paris.
And the advise to use Picard is excellent too. That doesn't come up on this Forum often, but I've had some very good dishes from there. One secret in France is that some restaurants use "pre-prepared" foods that come from industrial kitchens, but the quality is quite good. Of course, I prefer a dish prepared by an independent charcutier for multiple reasons including supporting my local business, but Picard is a good product and substitute.

Posted by
11450 posts

MrsEb.. glad you took it in good humor.. hope OP did too.. we've all ( mostly ) been just where they are...

I also third the suggestion of Picard.. I know it sounds weird.. but it is a very French cheat.. we stayed with my dads best friend for a few weeks once( he lives there) .. and his wife had passed away the year before.. so he was not used to "entertaining" and he couldn't cook worth a darn.. so almost every dinner featured a Picard dish.. he'd whip up a green salad ( which came after the main) and serve cheese after.. and that was dinner,, and they were almost all absolutely delish !!

I don't know if they still do.. but Picards used to sell some of their meals in real dishes.. I STILL have one that I use all the time.. its oven safe , dishwasher safe.. a white oval dish perfect for some many things.. had it at least 10 years now!! So whatever that meal was worth the dish was worth it. !

Posted by
2466 posts

pat - too bad that Picard has gone to plastic dishes!
Most people who work use Picard in a pinch - things like chopped vegetables might make more sense, when you consider the prices, effort and waste of cleaning and preparing your own from the markets.
Frozen fish, frozen chicken are all a little cheaper than the fresh products which come from the markets - but who comes to France to eat frozen stuff?
I've never been a fan of their pre-prepared meals, soups or desserts.

Posted by
3784 posts

Plenty of places to find prepared food in Paris, even some of the Monoprix chain and certainly street markets, although you likely will buy individual dishes rather than the frozen-dinner style of America. Often the butcher shops have spit-roasted chickens in glass ovens outside the front door with potatoes roasting in the drippings. A microwave can replace an oven. And a washing machine may be useful. It likely will be a one-machine combo so make sure it has complete operating instructions. It is easy to find laundromats ("laverie automatique") where you can join the neighbourhood residents washing kids' clothes. I also like that eastern area where the 11th and 12th meet, although prefer to be a few blocks away from the hectic Place de la Bastille.
While children are not common at bistros in the evening (except for some ethnic restaurants) the big traditional Sunday mid-day meal is where families gather. At all times, the dining room is not a playground and kids should be as serious at the table as their parents. Any place that offers a kids' menu is probably looking for tourists. Nevertheless, if asked politely and patiently, the servers may try to accommodate with portions that can be divided or otherwise adapted to small appetites. When all else fails, pretend that pate is meat loaf.

Posted by
5901 posts

I certainly understand that not everyone has the same travel budget that I do. But I always feel sorry for people who rent an apartment to cook their own meals anywhere. It may make it possible to go on the trip at all, but it excludes a huge slice of local life. Learning how people in other countries live is a vital lesson (often discussed by Rick ... ) for Americans. And even a different way of dining is educational.

Parisians have children too. You will not be without resources. Of course, that country also has long had government-provided, high-quality daycare as what we call, bitterly, an Entitlement!

Posted by
47 posts

@Tim, this is where we part ways :-) To me, staying in an apartment and having the ability to cook or assemble a meal on demand is a question of comfort and ease, not budget. (Especially with a small kiddo -- I can only imagine trying to dress and get everyone out the door every day before eating breakfast or having coffee? WHEW!)

I completely agree that dining is a huge part of experiencing Paris. But if food is a priority for you and you have other constraints where it may not be super practical to have each meal at a restaurant, you can eat incredibly well in Paris if you have access to a basic kitchen. Cooking in Paris is a foodie dream, with easy access to the incredible ingredients that we would consider exotic or specialty items at home... not to mention gaining a deeper experience of the culture and most people's day-to-day lives there.

Posted by
646 posts

Don't feel sorry for those renting and cooking. We do indeed go out a couple times for dinner, more often for lunch, and daily for coffee. And we often see more local life in groceries, fresh markets, and bakeries. We buy bread, dessert, and breakfast rolls or crescents every evening. We try a new cheese and meat every lunch.

Posted by
3083 posts

Renting an apartment to cook your own meals can have very little to do with budget. When my children were much younger, we rented apartments when we went to Paris because as much as I hated giving up hotel cleaning and bed making service, I needed to be able to feed my children at something close to 6 PM. Plus, meals in French restaurant just took too long for my children until they reached age 7 or 8. Budget had nothing to do with it. Boy was I happy when my youngest reached 7, because it became all hotels all the time so I could get away from cooking and clean up. I have a friend who has Celiac Disease and so do her two children and budget is of no concern for them and they rent apartments so they can cook meals. They literally never eat out unless the place is 100% gluten free because they are extremely sensitive to gluten. So, many reasons other than budget to get apartments and the OP is in a phase in their lives when an apartment is ideal even if it costs more than a regular hotel room.

Posted by
11450 posts

I think we all agree eating out is part of the fun and a good way to enjoy the culture of Paris .

Facts are , unfortunately , that if one is a foodie and enjoy nice dining experiences then a two year IS going to cramp your style

Parisians have children . They don't take them out to fancy dinners until they can sit still and behave . It's not reasonable to expect 99 percent of pre grade school children to sit quietly for two hours . It's not accepted to let them wander about like they are in a pizza joint back home .

Posted by
2466 posts

Depending on which week in July you'll be visiting, you will want to have air-conditioning, especially if you're used to living with it.
The vast majority of rental apartments do not have a/c, or might have just a portable unit in one bedroom. Opening windows at night will be noisy, and most rentals prohibit using the a/c and other machines after 10PM or so.
Hotels always have a/c, and some legal apart'hotels do, too.

Posted by
8833 posts

Chexbres has brought up an important point--the windows. They can be low on the wall, and they don't have screens. They open inwards, like doors, not up and down like the sash windows in the States. So toddler beware!