By Anne Taylor Hartzell, on December 18, 2013

Family-friendly Paris like a local

In my recent post about visiting Paris with kids, I gave you a quick primer on how to see the top sights of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, and a visit to the Musèe d’Orsay. In this post, we’ll take a deeper dive into savoring the sweetness of daily Parisian life, by exploring Paris and the city’s many parks, sampling the riches of Parisian food, and experiencing the grandness of the city’s many historic churches and cathedrals. No matter how or where you stay in Paris, here are five ways your family can live like a Parisian for the day.

1. Spend a lazy afternoon in the Jardin du Luxembourg. This large public park is like a scene out of a movie (or what I believe heaven on earth would look like). When we entered the gates to Jardin du Luxembourg and rounded the corner to the Medici Fountain (La fontaine Médicis), it was like entering a whole new world. Parisians dotted every corner of the park on this sunny afternoon, relaxing in green metal chairs, chatting, eating lunch, and enjoying the day.  

Take a photo by the Medici Fountain, stroll the meandering paths around Luxembourg Palace and Gardens, and stop for a picnic lunch to immerse yourself in Parisian life. If you have younger kids like us, you can burn some kid energy at Poussin Vert, an incredible playground with ziplines, a sandbox, and endless activities for kids under 10. My older daughter loved the zipline course and our younger one could have played for hours. 2€ gives you all day park access and is worth the small splurge for families with younger kids.

Viewfinder Tip: Get your bearings above ground first, either by tour or taxi, and spend time learning the different colored routes and stops before you hop on board the wrong train.

2. Ride the Metro. I have to admit, this was not on my top list of things to do with kids in Paris. Although taking the Metro is the mode of transportation to efficiently and cost-effectively navigate this enormous city, I was a bit intimidated to navigate the Metro with kids for fear of wasting precious time getting on the wrong train. That said, by the end of our trip, we were navigating the Metro lines like local Parisians and found it a fast and affordable way to navigate Paris.

3. Sit and savor Paris at a St. Germain sidewalk cafe. Nothing could be more quintessentially Parisian than to enjoy a meal, glass of wine, or shot of espresso at a Parisian sidewalk cafe and people-watch. There is a cafe on nearly every corner, but to see and be seen, head to St. Germain to the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue St. Benoit. In the 6th arrondissement is the famous Cafe de Flore, or its rival across the street, Les Deux Magot, where you can experience dining at a historical hangout of famous artists and intellectuals.

A visit to the famous Cafe de Flore, in St. Germain

4. Visit Notre Dame for a night show. This grand cathedral (famous in my house for the story of Hunchback of Notre Dame) is a breathtaking marvel in historic architecture. Waking to the grand cathedral along the banks of the Seine River, we stumbled upon one of the night shows. Free to the public, the night shows include a projection show of the film Notre-Dame de Paris, a Living Cathedral. You will find tourists sitting to watch the show, along with local Parisians lighting candles and praying along the edges of the cathedral. (Tip: It is eerily dark in this cathedral and if you have really young kids, or you don’t think your kids can sit in silence for a bit, it’s best to hold off and save this experience until they are older.

Notre Dame at night with kids

5. A gourmet walking food tour through Montmartre. Toward the end of our trip, we had seen a majority of the major sights and were ready to take a deeper dive into daily Parisian life. We opted for a “Gourmet Tour” with Rue Amandine, a local Paris service that offers personalized Paris holidays, experiences, and accommodations. Our guide, Sue, who is a local Parisian and food blogger, took us on a three-hour walking tour around the artsy and hip neighborhood of Montmartre, to help us explore the best cheese, chocolate, and other delectable food shops around our Montmartre accommodations. We sampled olive oil from Provence, visited a master chocolate shop, stopped by a cute little candy store just for the kids, and ended the tour with wine tasting at a local wine shop. It was a heavenly way to spend an afternoon.

As an added bonus to this list, no trip to Paris would be complete without starting each day with fresh croissants from a local boulangerie (French for “bakery”). Eating in Paris is about simple pleasures, including fresh food, taking time to savor a good meal, and a lot of delicious French bread. Some of the best memories of our trip to Paris involved waking up and walking downstairs from our accommodations to the local boulangerie for fresh pastries and coffee. Meander the streets by your hotel or apartment in Paris and you will be quick to discover one of the true joys of Parisian living.

What are your favorite ways to experience Paris as a local?