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17 things to do in Paris for families

PUBLISHED: 10:27 04 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:13 06 April 2017

Parc Andre Citroen in Paris © Paris Tourist Office - Jacques Lebar

Parc Andre Citroen in Paris © Paris Tourist Office - Jacques Lebar

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From pony rides and underground walks to magic shows and big animal encounters, there is plenty to keep you and your kids entertained in Paris. Here is our pick of top activities for families

Explore the great outdoors in Parc André Citroën

Opened in 1992 on the site of the former Citroën car factory, Parc André Citroën is one of the newest parks in Paris and the only green space in the capital to look directly on to the River Seine. Attractions include two greenhouse pavilions with exotic plants and trees, a ‘Jardin des Métamorphoses’, featuring an elevated reflecting pool lined by a suspended walkway, and a series of small gardens, each with a distinct landscape and architectural design. Children will love the games area here and the tethered air balloon that takes passengers 150 metres into the air.

Try something new at the Jardin d’Acclimatation

Nestled in the north of the Bois de Boulogne, this 20-hectare park never fails to attract children and their parents. Young visitors are well catered for here: they can take tours on a little land train, go for pony or camel rides, try out an obstacle course or meet birds of prey at the on-site aviary. In the summer months the park welcomes visitors to its Jardin Plage, which is home to a variety of water-based activities.

Play to your heart’s content in Jardin des Tuileries

This iconic garden next to the Louvre is home to a fantastic children’s playground filled with metal structures and rope tunnels allowing youngsters to spin, bounce, jump and swing all over the place. There is also a carrousel for kids to take a ride on and, during the summer, a carnival comes complete with traditional fairground rides and a Ferris wheel.

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Inside the fantastic Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie © Leandro Neumann Ciuffo CC BY 2.0Inside the fantastic Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie © Leandro Neumann Ciuffo CC BY 2.0

Delve into the world of science at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie

Considered the biggest science museum in Europe, this spectacular centre for discovery introduces visitors to the many secrets of science through different interactive displays and exhibitions. The museum also features a planetarium and a special children’s area where young learners can do everything from building a house to playing with water fountains. Other facilities include a planetarium, submarine and IMAX theatre.

Feel the magic at Disneyland Paris

Who doesn’t love Disneyland? This European outpost is just as fun as its American counterparts, with the added bonus of Mickey speaking fluent French! A short train ride from central Paris, Disneyland is home to two parks where kids can meet their favourite characters, attend one of the themed parades or let their hair down on one of the many fun rides. The park is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and promises to be more spectacular than ever with a new host of attractions, parades and shows.

Broaden your scientific knowledge at the Palais de la Découverte

Young learners can expand their knowledge of chemistry and physics here by getting involved with a host of different experiments, from testing electricity to conducting energy through different household materials. The museum is also home to an impressive planetarium and holds regular workshops to ensure you never stop learning.

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One of several carrousels on display inside the Musée des Arts Forains © Laika CC BY-SA 2.0One of several carrousels on display inside the Musée des Arts Forains © Laika CC BY-SA 2.0

Enjoy a day at the fair at the Musée des Arts Forains

Immerse yourself in the wonderfully colourful and strange world of funfairs. Located in former wine halls, the museum houses thousands of objects related to fairs which have been set up and staged. Visitors can touch and play with some of the objects on display and feel like they are really enjoying a day at the fair.

Work on your tricks at the Musée de la Magie

Take a historical and magical tour of the subtle art of illusion from the 18th century to today. Magicians guide you through the exhibition of unique magical objects and props and let you try out the optical illusions or get lost in the hall of mirrors. The visit concludes with a magic show, which is sure to keep children entertained.

Take a walk through the Catacombs

The labyrinthine passageways of the catacombs have always been shrouded in mystery. Situated about 20 metres below ground, the ossuary holds the remains of millions of Parisians. Visitors take a 2 kilometre-long tour within the catacombs during what is definitely a fascinating and humbling visit.

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Alpacas resting in the Ménagerie, part of the Jardin des Plantes © Guilhem Vellut CC BY 2.0Alpacas resting in the Ménagerie, part of the Jardin des Plantes © Guilhem Vellut CC BY 2.0

Get up close to wild animals at the Ménagerie, Jardin des Plantes

This charming zoo inside the Jardin des Plantes is home to big cats, red pandas, and a primate house to go ape over. While not the city’s largest zoo, it’s the easiest to get to and is extremely child-friendly. They offer special visits and encounters as well, with information on what’s on updated regularly on their website.

Spot marine life at the Aquarium de Paris

The Aquarium de Paris is packed with different species of fish and other marine life, just across from the Eiffel Tower in the Palais Chaillot. Children will find all their favourites there, from clown fish and puffers to sharks and sting rays. The aquarium lacks the dolphin and sea lion shows of larger aquatic parks, but instead holds regular small workshops and demonstrations each day to make young and older visitors aware of the importance of marine conservation.

Soak up the views from the top of Galeries Lafayette

Head to the top of the iconic Galeries Lafayette department store for fantastic and free aerial views of Paris. Ride the escalators all the way up to the rooftop terrace which offers stunning, 360 ° views over the Paris skyline. You can soak up the views a while longer with a tasty meal at the store’s La Paillote Mediterranean restaurant or an ice-cold drink at the Cube Bar.

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The decadent chocolat chaud served at the Angelina tea room © AngelinaThe decadent chocolat chaud served at the Angelina tea room © Angelina

Sip delicious hot chocolate at Angelina

Located just steps from the Louvre, Angelina will seduce kids and grown-ups alike with its selection of decadent hot chocolate beverages. The iconic belle époque café is particularly renowned for its ‘African’ speciality, which is so thick and creamy that you need a spoon to enjoy it properly. This cup of velvety goodness makes for a great pick-me-up after a day exploring some of the city’s large museums.

Tuck into an ice cream at Berthillon

If you are going to have just one ice cream when in Paris, be sure to get it from Berthillon, the grand dame of glaces. This esteemed glacier produces what many people believe to be the best ice cream in France (or maybe the world!) with a wide range of slightly unusual flavours, such as blackcurrant and pink grapefruit. The ice cream shop also features a tea room where ice creams come with Chantilly cream and coulis.

Go shopping around Canal Saint-Martin

Children and teenagers looking to spend all of their pocket money will find plenty of shops to keep them occupied in and around this trendy neighbourhood. Stores include Antoine et Lili, located right on the canal’s main bank; Ideco, on Rue Beaurepaire; and Pop Market, on Rue Bichat, all of which stock a wide selection of toys and slightly quirky gifts.

Go celebrity spotting at the Musée Grevin

If you like Madame Tussauds, then you must visit the Musée Grevin. There are now some 450 wax models on display here, with everyone from Napoleon to Celine Dion. New waxworks are added regularly making it easy for families to enjoy a game of ‘who’s who’. Meanwhile, children visiting at weekends can attend a special workshop which chronicles the history of France through the museum’s collection of wax mannequins.

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