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Struggling with how to spend our few days in Paris

I have two full days scheduled in Paris plus an additional half day on our arrival day and departure day. I'm struggling how to fill our time, at the moment the only thing I have booked is the Eiffel Tower.

I am looking at doing the following things but had some questions, will be going with 11 and 14 year old.

Jardin des Plantes - Confused about this place, looks like one "thing" but you need to buy tickets for the various attractions there such as the paleontology and ocean exhibits. Does anyone know what is free there and what I would need to buy tickets for? Is there a ticket I can buy to get into everything?

Arc de triomphe - I would like to do this, should I buy the tickets to do this? If so how long would you suggest I budget for it?

Luxembourg Gardens - This has been recommended as well, any idea how long I should slot for this one?

Sainte-Chapelle - How long should this place take and I think I just need a ticket for myself?

Canal Saint-Martin - Is this worth the time/money?

Lourve - I'm not sure if we are going to do this or not, my son and I don't have much interest in going here but my daughter does. We will actually be there on the first Saturday of the month which would get me in for free so we might stop by there at 6PM for a few hours.

Musée de l'Armée - This has been recommended a couple of times, primarily for my son.

Posted by
3290 posts

My two cents:

The Canal St. Martin is my favorite area in Paris. While you're in the neighborhood, you could walk to the Pere LaChaise cemetery for a nice shady stroll.

My husband and I are military history buffs, and greatly enjoyed the Musee de l'Armee.

If you're not that into art, the Louvre could be very tedious and very crowded. Is your daughter old enough to there by hereself?

Edit to add that obviously an 11 or 14 year old is too young to go the Louvre alone. I would save it for your next trip.

Posted by
1585 posts

The 11 and 14 year olds will love CITÉ DES SCIENCES ET DE L'INDUSTRIE in Paris. Perhaps you can take them there during your stay.

http://www.cite-sciences.fr/fr/accueil/

You can visit Montmartre neighborhood and tour Sacre Coeur Basilica. Also, Musée d'Orsay is a great option instead of the Louvre. Skip Canal Saint Martin. Include Église Saint-Sulpice if you skip Sainte Chapelle. Have an evening cruise with the kids on the river seine to relax after a long day of sightseeing.

https://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/home/

Treat the kids to the best ice cream shop in Paris which is Berthillon

https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-restaurant/70790/Glacier-Berthillon

Posted by
10344 posts

Luxembourg Gardens is park open to the public, you just walk in.
Louvre (note spelling) is very crowded on the free days.

Posted by
1443 posts

I was once 14 years old (oddly, I skipped over 11 somehow) and my 14-yo self would not have found much about this itinerary to be fun. My advice is to drop half of the activities above. Then set aside a healthy block of time for yourself to sit in a cafe and watch Paris. THAT is seriously enjoyable. Then promise your kids that if they are good, on the last day you'll take them to Paris Disney or to the Natural History Museum to see the awesome dinosaurs. Or skating or whatever kids like to do these days.

Posted by
11294 posts

When you say you want to "do" the Arc de Triomphe, do you mean look at it or climb it?

If climb it, you have to buy tickets. It's covered by the Paris Museum Pass, but for your kids you still have to wait in the ticket line to get their free ticket. (Adults with a Museum Pass can skip the ticket buyer's line). You then have to wait in the security line to ascend. Don't have any paper clips or other metal in your coat pocket, as it will slow your progress through the metal detector (ask me how I know).

You then climb up (no elevator except for the handicapped). Once up, you can stay up as long as you like, seeing the 360 degree view. I like to go up twice per trip, once by day and once by night, but I've been to Paris multiple times and know some things to look for (like the view towards La Defense with its Grande Arche, or some of the smaller streets). You do get a good view of the Eiffel Tower itself, and if you go up at night and time it right, you can see the Eiffel Tower lights sparkle at the top of each hour for 5 minutes.

Whether or not your kids will want to do this, you and they can decide. If this doesn't appeal, one thing that is fun is the view - by day or by night - of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero. It's a bit elevated so you have a great angle, it's free, and it's a festive atmosphere with people from all over the world. Plus, a lot of them don't know about the sparkling light show, so there are always lots of oohs and ahs when it starts (and disappointed sighs when it stops).

Posted by
4420 posts

I would let each child pick one "must see" sight and the rest of you go along cheerfully. If that means you and your son have to go to the Louvre with your daughter, it will be a good lesson for him that everyone's interests must be considered in group travel.

Posted by
472 posts

If I had gone to Paris with my son when he was 11, the top thing on his list would have been paying homage to Jim Morrison at Père Lachaise Cemetery. Heck, he's 34 and it is still his top thing to do. The dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum would be his 2nd choice.

Posted by
82 posts

My son doesn't want to go in general but I did bring up the war museum and natural history museum (dinosaur bones) and he was interested. I would like to do a few of these things so they will need to come along.

As for Disneyland Paris I dunno, We have had season passes to Disneyland in Anaheim so it seems like a waste of time in Paris. We were also at Disney World in Florida last summer.

I will go over some of these things with them and see what they think.

Posted by
34 posts

We were in Paris with kids (an almost 8-year old girl and almost 11-year old boy) about a month ago. My husband and I had a 2-day museum pass and when we went to the Arc de Triomphe, we did not wait in the ticket line to get tickets for the kids. We asked at the point they let people up the stairs, and they just waved us all in when we showed them our museum pass.

We actually ended up doing quite a bit with the museum pass. We went to the Rodin museum and enjoyed the garden part (and kind of sped through the inside part). We went to the Army Museum and saw Napoleon's tomb and went to the weapons section of the museum (which the kids really enjoyed). Then we went to the Arc de Triomphe and then walked down the Champs-Elysees. We stopped in the Galeries Lafayette and found some really expensive clothes - a sequined jacket that cost 7900 euros! There was also a weird ball pit in there that the kids enjoyed playing in. We walked to the Place de la Concorde where Marie-Antoinette was executed. Then we went to the Louvre (it was a day it stayed open late) and since there was no line by the time we got there, we went in to see the Mona Lisa (my son really wanted to see this).

The next day we went to Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergie (we had gone to Versailles a few days earlier, so we felt like we got a full picture of Marie-Antoinette). Sainte-Chapelle was beautiful and we did not have to wait in a line to go in. We also went to the Cluny to see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries and walked around a street market there. Later that day we went to l'Orangerie to see the big Monet water lillies murals.

Other things our kids liked - a gelato shop called Amorino where they arrange the flavors like flower petals. I think my kids liked this better than the Berthillon ice cream. They liked the Eiffel Tower of course and also taking silly pictures, playing with perspective (touching the tower, eating it, etc.). They also liked going to the Statue of Liberty because there is a bunch of exercise equipment there, including rock walls, that the kids played on. They also just liked riding the metro and eating crepes!

Posted by
4684 posts

To answer your specific query about the Jardin des Plantes: the open-air park section is free to enter but the zoo, the greenhouses, and the exhibitions all have separate admission fees. I just checked the Paris Museum Pass website and it appears that it does not currently cover any of them.

Posted by
610 posts

Sainte Chapelle - the church itself doesn't take long to see, it just depends how long you want to spend gawking at the beautiful glass. The security line is what can be very long in the middle of the day, as it is a part of a government complex. I would recommend going early, at opening, to shorten your wait. Have fun!

Posted by
12 posts

A few of my favorites...
- Jardin de Luxembourg
- Louvre Museum, Apartements de Napoleon
- Creperies near Montparnasse
- Institut du Monde Arab
- Le Pont des Invalides

Enjoy!

Posted by
1585 posts

As i mentioned earlier on my post, kids of all ages love CITÉ DES SCIENCES ET DE L'INDUSTRIE in Paris. Take the 11 and 14 year olds there, they will enjoy it. It's a very interactive science museum. It provides a fun and learning experience.

http://www.cite-sciences.fr/fr/accueil/

Posted by
4 posts

I second Sainte Chapelle: absolutely breathtaking, and once in you can spend 30 minutes staring at the glass and then move on, if you wish. Buy your tickets online ahead of time and go as early as you can. The Conciergerie which is adjacent is also interesting - lots of history about the Revolution. Maybe not so much for kids though?

Posted by
14 posts

What month will you be in Paris? There are some very kid-friendly activities that vary month by month.

I absolutely love Sainte-Chapelle’s stained glass windows. It’s not a large church, but the windows are breathtaking. I also recommend getting a museum pass so that you can bypass lines and just pop into places if you feel like it.

Would you or your kids be interested in a food tour/cooking lesson? We did one in Rome with our kids (6 and 9) and they loved it. I’ve seen some in Paris where kids can make Madeline’s or other French desserts. They look like a fun way to learn a bit about the culture.

For the sites you listed, I would intersperse a museum or big site with time at a park/wandering the city.

I also love finding books either about the city or that take place in it to get the kids excited about where we are traveling.

Posted by
82 posts

We will be there the first week of August, I passed some ideas by my kids last weekend and got a little better idea what they would be interested. Unfortunately its a bit of a split decision on some things.

One question I did have is the Paris pass, should I get it or should I not. My kids will be 11 and 14 at that time and from what I read they get into some stuff free but I would need a ticket but then I would have to stop with them to get skip the line stuff?

Based on talking with them we are going to add the natural history museum, gardens, sainte chapelle, the river cruise and possibly the army museum. Still trying to decide on the Lourve, my daughter wants to go, I don't really want to. The free Saturday night seemed appealing since it was just a few hours, free and we could just hopefully see the big things we wanted to see but sounds like its mega busy.

Posted by
4684 posts

The Paris Pass is a rip-off as the transport part of it is massively overpriced. If you intend to visit several museums it may well be worth getting the Paris Museum Pass - see which places you want to see it covers and whether it will save you money.

Posted by
169 posts

One thing you might consider is the Catacombs. Lots of skeletons of long ago Parisians. I have never been, but some say that kids are fascinated by it. Might be a way to cool off on a hot August afternoon. Peter

Posted by
1 posts

We are taking my 14 year-old daughter to Paris next month. My husband and I have both been before; she has not.
Based only on my own kid, I am unsurprised that they are interested in doing different things. At 14 she has told us that she wants to walk around the streets and sit in cafes, and take a selfie with the Eiffel Tower in the background. We will have about 5 days total there and will make her do much more than that.

For example, we are making her go to the Louvre because we know that if we don't, a few years from now she will be mad at us for not making her go. I wouldn't go on the free day because as others mentioned, major museums are miserable on the free days. (We made that mistake years ago on a MOMA free evening during summer in NYC. It was not worth it.) Instead, I would have a plan to get tickets online, follow as much of the least-crowded guidelines as possible, and have a plan over exactly what to see and don't spend more than an hour and a half there.

Then, have your son pick one thing, since the Louvre is your daughter's thing. Then you pick one thing. The rest of the time, I would prioritize just finding cool neighborhoods and cafes to walk and eat ice cream and crepes and to people watch. (Luxembourg Gardens could easily be included in this.) I wouldn't try to pack too much in because, in my experience, that leaves too much room for disappointment and exhaustion. And if you have time and it's convenient, you can always add in other things when you are there.

I really do think Paris is best experienced with a less hurried itinerary and the attitude that whatever you might miss, someday you can come back and see.

Posted by
1 posts

Away from the tourists and a short train ride from the Gare St Lazare and then a stroll is the beautiful home and gardens of Alexandre Dumas who wrote The Three Musketeers etc. I recommend this 100 per cent. Lovely and pretty much undiscovered.

Posted by
82 posts

That is a pretty cool looking place, I am going to see what my kids think, I am guessing they are not up for the hour train ride though.

Posted by
2145 posts

Sounds like a great trip you are planning with your kids! Agree that each child should get to select one or two must do activities.

The Louvre is amazing so please try to make this happen for your daughter. Don't go on "free Sunday", the crowds will make for a very unpleasant visit. Consider buying the Paris Museum Pass, saves time and money. Check the official website (http://en.parismuseumpass.com/rub-m-by-name-5.htm) to see what's included.

Napoleon's Tomb and the Army Museum will be interesting for everyone.

If the children play an instrument (or even if they don't), consider a concert at Sainte-Chapelle. Go in the early evening before sunset to see the stained glass at it's finest. Here's the website https://www.classictic.com/en/special/concerts-in-la-sainte-chapelle/216/?msclkid=f1a48577d6ec1cc1787ed863e0c17511.

The Arc de Triomphe is also included on the Museum Pass.

Agree that the kids would enjoy a visit to the Catacombs. Get there a hour before opening or risk standing in a long line.

Don't fret about "filling your time" in Paris, see what you can this visit and plan to return. Love Paris!

Posted by
102 posts

I would consider doing a boat cruise on the Seine, preferably at night. I'm sure your kids would enjoy it.

Posted by
11507 posts

I have taken my then 13 yr old son to Paris , and also my 11 yr old Daugher -2 separate one in one trips - my hubby also has taken our other son., ( all three kids for a one on one trip with a parent ) when he was 13 .

All three kids had different favourites- however all three rated these in common as good !

The Army Museum - yes even our girl and myself enjoyed this museum- it’s never crowded like Louvre or Orsay - and it’s not just paintings ( which can eventually bore kids ) it’s horse armour, medieval weapons , samurai swords , and progresses through both world wars . I’ve been about 4 times now and it’s sort of hidden gem in that many people don’t think about it , but is good . Kids free - use your Museum Pass( not Paris Pass ) never been long lines when I’ve been - been May thru Sept ( so busier seasons )

The Catacombs - the boys both rated this as number one - my daughter refused to go when she was 11 , however we went when she was 18 and she liked it then .

Now this is where they all split up on likes -

One boy loved the Louvre - enough that instead of returning to Disney for second visit he requested a return to Louvre. Note - when I took kids to Louvre I had an idea of what to take them to see - they all saw the Mona ( as per their request ) and all thought it was much ado about nothing lol - but they all liked visiting the basement section of Louvre where they have excavated the remains of the old moat wall of the Louvres Medieval origins ( it was first a Fort before a palace ) . They also liked Napoleons Apartments - you know the over the top bling bling decor etc

Daughter preferred the Orsay

All liked a river cruise .

We all liked the Arc - it’s very cool seeing how all the streets star out from the arc and seeing both the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur from the top .

Daughter loved the Jewish Holocaust Museum

All preferred Amorinos gelato to Berthilllions