We just got back from 10 days in Paris. So many people thought I was crazy taking a toddler to Paris but it was fantastic. Big cities are really geared up for kids and we all had such a great time.
First things first:
Surrender to the fact that your holiday will be different to pre-baby holidays. We forgot about late dinners or all-monring coffee stops and instead indulged in toddler friendly activities.
Where we stayed:
As you may know Paris is divided up into different endorsements (areas) and each has a really specific vibe. My favourite androssiment to stay in when I visit the city is the 3rd/4th in the Marais. This area is a very old part of Paris, complete with tiny cobbled streets, great boutiques and even better restaurants. There are many cafes and bistros to try and is centered around Place des Vosges which is one of the most people spots in Paris. It is also very central so it’s easy to explore the rest of Paris from here.
We have given up on hotels, especially since having a baby so we turned to AirBnB. This is the one bedroom apartment we chose – it had the best location ever! And we really wanted an apartment which had a bath – to keep in our bedtime routine with Francie and also wanted a space where the one bedroom was closed off to the rest of the apartment. This one ticked those boxes but I must mention that it was 4 stories up with no lift. We left the pram at the bottom each night but say those stairs where a killer.
How we got to our apartment from the airport:
There is a train from Charles de Gualle straight to Paris which we usually get but this time we decided to rather go for a pick up – with a babe, long flight, luggage and a pram we decided a car would be easier. We used Taxi Baby Seat – it was great, you book online and they meet you at the arrivals hall and then drop you off right at your apartment.
What we ate:
Crossiants! Haha. Croissants definitely became Francie’s favourite food while we were there so she had one everyday.
Since we were in an apartment we gave Francie most of her meals at home and then anything she ate at cafes etc was a bonus. We headed to the supermarkets Monoprix and FrancPrix for daily staples like yogurt, fruit purees and eggs. We used the markets or speciality stores for roast chickens, ham, cheese and fruit and salads and Francie also loved the quiches that we found.
We also used Picard. Picard is pretty amazing, it only sells the frozen food and I found Francie the most delicious meals there for lunch and dinner – think chicken, couscous and mixed veg or meatballs and rice. These we easily heated up on the stove and she loved them.
High chairs are not a big thing in France. Have you read Bringing Up Bebe? No cafes we went to had high chairs which suited Francie just fine, she sat in a chair and behaved like a little french babe. Laduree (which we visited once for a treat) is geared up for tourists so they had a high chair, as did Le Pain Quotidian, a favourite spot of ours.
We decided to explore the playgrounds of Paris and made sure we hit at least one playground a day for Francie to explore, play and get much needed exercise. Here is a list of some of the best ones:
Place des Vosges: Although this playground is tiny, it is pretty awesome to play in such a beautiful square. There are also two big sandpits here which are great for babes. *Place des Vosges has free wifi, so while your babe plays you can catch up on some internet time.
Also in the Marais, Square Charles-Victor Langois: we loved hanging out here as it was just round the corner from our house and Francie and I would often head there early in the morning while the rest of the city was still asleep. There isn’t much for small babes but Francie still loved to play on a few things and watch the other kids play. This park also had a ping pong table which I imagine would be fun for older kids and Francie found it fascinating to watch.
The best play area: the playground in the Jardin du Luxembourg. There are so many wonderful things about this playground: it’s big, it has loads of play stations – big jungle gyms, play trains, buses to climb on, mini slides and climbing roles, bounce animals and an enormous sandpit. The sandpit also has a house and car in it with a pulley system which was such fun. I loved sitting here and watching Francie play with the little French children. Just outside the playground is a kiosk for coffees and other yum things and there is a carousal too – but its not one of those that you can stand with your babe, so it is better for bigger children.
Francie’s favourite thing to do in Paris: ride of the Carousel in the Jardin des Tuileries. I think this is the most magical carousel. It’s perfect for littles as you can stand with them (and hold them!) We ended up visiting a number of times. Also in the Tuleries is a great playground and a trampoline park! The Tuleries brings back such wonderful memories for me as I used to live just around the corner so I may be bias, but I think it is the most beautiful garden in Paris – with the Louvre at one end and the Concorde at the other . We spent many hours just strolling through the gardens – Francie found her shadow this holiday which is pretty much the best thing ever.
One afternoon we head up to the Canal St Martin – which I had never been to before. It was a wonderful area to wonder around and fun to walk along the canal. I also recommend popping into Antoine et Lili – a fantastic kids store on the corner (it’s painted bright yellow so hard to miss), I found some lovely little things for Francie and her cousins. Also in that area is the Jadin Villemin which has a fantastic playground and it is where Francie mastered the art of sliding.
Tourist things and museums:
Since we’ve spent lots of time in the city we didn’t feel the pressure that we had to do anything but of course being in Paris there are a couple things we didn’t want to miss. The gardens in the city are so wonderful so part of being in Paris was spending time in them, here are the other things that we enjoyed:
The Eiffel Tower – I wanted to get a snap of Francie near the tower – mostly to prove to her when she is older that she had been to Paris. We didn’t climb it though, but once again spent time in the playground on the Champs de Mar – it was quite something to see our little babe playing in a sandpit with the famous structure in the background (although she was, of course, oblivious!)
Museums – our approach to museums was limited time and to not try and see everything. She is of course only 18 months but I approached showing her the famous artworks the same way we look at any pictures in a book. We chose the fifth floor of the Musee d’Orsay to look at the impressionists. I pointed out the trains, flowers and ballet dancers. Francie liked Degas’s horse sculptures the best. We also went to Musée de l’Orangerie to look at Monet’s waterlillies, which of course are amazing. *I noticed many of the French mums take paper and crayons to museums and their little ones sit on the floor and draw while looking at the pictures, I will do this next time, for sure.
Musee Rodin is also a great spot to visit with kids because once again it has a huge garden yet you are surrounded by beautiful sculptures. Plus there is no need to worry about keeping your babe quiet and there is space to run. We had a lovely afternoon there and once again ended up in a sandpit which is located at the end of the garden.
The bridges! Aren’t the bridges across the Seine magical. We loved walking across the two pedestrian bridges (Passerelle Solférino is just near Musee d’Orsay and Pont des Arts is further up and deemed the most romantic bridge in Paris). We spent time looking at the boats and listening to the buskers.
I decided that I wouldn’t do loads of shopping while there but of course I couldn’t resist a few little spots. Here are the best shops for babes and all of them had great installations for her to play in.
BonTon – quintessential French brand. Their flagship is fantastic and we loved exploring the 3 floors.
BHV – They have a great kids clothing and toy section with a few play stations set up and some great toy brands which we don’t have at home.
If you are in the Canal St Martin area Antoine et Lili was great. Francie happily played with the toy kitchen with I browsed.
WH Smith – this is the best English bookstore in Paris, if you ask me, and they have a great kids section upstairs. I was on the lookout for some great kids books about Paris to read while we were there and I found some fantastic ones.
Make sure you take a baby carrier. While we loved using our pram, somehow all you need is a baby carrier. We used Bailey’s African Baby Carrier (from Yummy Mummy & Baby) and we loved it so much we are going to buy one of our own.
We took the opportunity to explore new modes of transport with Francie. She learnt all about trains and buses. Hugolyne gave me the tip of using the app City Mapper and it is amazing. You simply put in your destination and it gives you all the options of how to get there and times. For example: this bus and then walk or that metro and then a bus etc.