Paris, With Kids
16 September, 2015
1) Parc de La Villette
Open all year around, La Villette is a surefire destination for entertaining boys and girls aged 0 to 99 years! It is the largest park in France, stretching across an area of 55 hectares, and workshops, activities and shows are organised in its gardens and outhouses, come sunshine, rain or snow. It is renowned for its Cinéma en plein air (open-air cinema) in summer. Thousands of Parisians congregate there hours before the sessions to jostle for a good seat and unpack their picnic hampers. In winter, many workshops and other activities are held in the Grande Halle, an emblematic iron-and-glass building that was once France’s most important livestock market. But, to get back to what concerns us here – children – one essential destination is the Jardin des Vents et des Dunes, an admission-free playground recommended for children aged 0 to 13 years. Adults can stretch out on the chaises longues while they keep an eye on their youngsters. The Jardin des Voltiges, given over to circus, is an admission-free venue where kids can experience gravity on ropes, climb or ride a monocycle. Some interesting educational workshops and exhibitions are also organised in La Villette.
2) Cité des Sciences, Cité des Enfants and la Géode
La Villette is not exactly in the centre of Paris so, if you want to visit it, the best thing is to spend the whole day there and also see the Cité des Sciences, the Cité des Enfants and la Géode. The Cité des Sciences features some interesting educational exhibitions for the young – and not so young! – but for children the jewel in the crown is the Cité des Enfants. This huge space, taking up 5,000 square metres, hosts all kinds of activities, experiments, water games and discovery areas for learning while you play. It is divided into two parts – one for children for 2 to 7 years, and another for ages 5 to 12. To round off the day, a fitting choice would be to watch a movie or documentary on the 360° screen in the fantastic Géode.
3) Galerie de l’Évolution
The Gallery was inaugurated in 1889, shortly after the Eiffel Tower, as the Galerie de Zoologie. The formidable sight of a huge herd of elephants, giraffes, zebras or buffaloes will win over the young ones from the outset. The museum’s permanent exhibitions focus mainly on the evolution of the species, while the subjects of extinct and endangered species are also stressed. Children can discover biodiversity and environmental hazards through playful interactivity in the Galerie des Enfants. Further information here.
After such a flood of taxidermy animals, your children are likely to fancy seeing some live specimens. You need only to go outside the museum to come across the Zoo del Jardin des Plantes, a centre dedicated to the study and conservation of some 200 plant species, while for animal sightings you shouldn’t miss the Parc Zoologique de Paris, where you can have breakfast alongside the giraffes, or cut your teeth as animal handlers by feeding a manatee, a kind of giant seal weighing in at 600 kilograms.
4) Orchestre de Paris
One of France’s most prestigious orchestras offers concerts for the whole family where language is unimportant. Children and adults alike will discover music through a series of concert shows purpose designed for a public of all ages which elicit participation. You can check out their programme and times on this website.
Most museums in Paris have materials specifically for children, including whole rooms and halls customised to their needs. The Louvre, for instance, organises workshops, family visits and story-telling sessions geared to discovering the museum as a form of entertainment. Parents can also download teaching material from their website or request it at information points. Noteworthy among the museums most highly rated by Parisians for their family facilities are the Palais de Tokyo and the Pompidou Centre, where they also organise workshops, activities and exhibitions tailored to children and adolescents.
In addition to the well-known museums, Paris has a host of others catering to all tastes. Don’t rule out visting some that will cause surprises, such as the Musée de la Poupée, Musée Gourmand du Chocolat, Musée de la Musique and the Musée Aéronautique.
So, head for Paris with your children – check out our flights here.
Images by Cité des enfants, Francois_Grandin, Galerie de l’Évolution, Little Palais, Paris Tourist Office. Daniel Thierry, Paris Tourist Office. Amélie Dupont, Arnaud-Legrain
16 September, 2015