Ahhhh, Paris! The City of Love. Many people go to Paris for a variety of reasons. Our family of five recently moved to Germany and our first trip with the kids was to Paris. The kids were fascinated with seeing the Eiffel Tower, going to the Louvre and just trying out french bakeries! Since Paris is only a 3 hour train ride via ICE, we decided to take the trip over a long weekend in October. The weather was still nice and the kids were off from school.
Plan the Train Ride and Lodging Early
We took the ICE train from the Stuttgart Hauptbanhof to Paris-Nord after finding tickets online. Since we were new to the whole “traveling by train” finding tickets was very easy after discovering the Deutsche Bahn website. You do get a chance to request seats and I highly recommend getting seats with a table when you have kids. The 3-hour train ride without a table can be very limiting, but with a table you can play card games, color, eat or other activities. Individual seats do have tray tables on the back of the seat so you can use that, but a table would be better for families.
TRAIN TICKET TIP: When you get your tickets, pay attention to the train car you are supposed to get on. We bought tickets for 2d class and didn’t realize there was a certain train car to get into. We just looked at the seat numbers. The train car is important to keep in mind because there may be stops along the way where the train actually leaves some train cars behind! So if you get on the wrong one, you may be left in a city you weren’t expecting to stay in.
If you are on the train during lunch or dinner, the train does have a hot meal car but it can be a wait of up to 30 mins before you get your food. We were lucky that they had hot ham and cheese sandwiches on baguettes, so we got 5 of them for 5 euros each! Since we got to the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof early, we really could have ordered some lunches at the station because they had plenty of cafes and eateries there. They had fresh baked pretzels and pastries at the station too along with drinks. So if you don’t want to eat the train food or wait for it, you can easily order food at the train station in case you have picky eaters and bring it on the train.
During the planning stages, I also had to find a place to stay in Paris for our family of five. We lucked out when we found a whole apartment on the east side of Paris using Airbnb. It had enough beds and wasn’t too expensive either at less than 500 euros for 3 nights. Since this was our first time using Airbnb, I was a bit anxious but the host was fantastic and the place was great. The location was near a metro stop which was a 10 minute walk. There were 2 bakeries nearby as well as a little grocery store. While there was some traffic noise at night, it was a great place. The kids, ages 7, 10 and 15 LOVED that the place has toys for them to play with especially the foosball table.
Places to See in Paris with Kids
We knew we were limited on time so we had to pick just a few places to visit while in Paris. Our plan was to hit the biggest landmarks and then go back if we ever want to check out more on another trip.
Our train arrived in Paris at 3pm on Friday afternoon, so we went to check into our airbnb and decided to go see the Louvre at night. We were told beforehand that the Louvre was less crowded at night and on Fridays it is open later. So after a quick dinner, which some places did not open until 6pm or later, we took the subway trains to get to the Louvre. There were no lines when we showed up and we got to see the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory and other statues. However, the kids were not too keen on walking too much so we didn’t spend hours and hours in there. The most beautiful part of the Louvre was taking pictures at night outside the glass pyramid entrance. It was lit up beautifully!
The Eiffel Tower
The next morning we got up and had pastries and croissants from the local bakery and picked up orange juice and jam from the grocery store just below our apartment. We then walked to our subway stop and used Google maps to get us to the Eiffel Tower.
SUBWAY TICKET TIP: Do pay attention to the tickets you buy for the subway. The children’s tickets are only for kids 3-10 years old so our 15-year-old had to buy an adult ticket. We found this out the hard way when we got off the train at the Eiffel Tower station when train conductors asked to see our tickets. We didn’t know the age limit and had to pay a find of 40 euros for not having the right ticket for the 15-year-old. Now you know, so DON’T make the same mistake we made!
It was still a fair walk to the Eiffel Tower so bring your walking shoes. You can find street peddlers trying to sell their souvenirs and keep a hand on your wallet because there are pick pocketers. The kids loved seeing the Eiffel Tower from below but we didn’t buy tickets to go up this time. We had fun trying to take pictures of us with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Notre Dame and the Seine River
We really wanted to see the famous Notre Dame but in April 2019, it caught on fire. So our trip in October 2019 didn’t allow us to go near it. We could only take pictures from far away and it was surrounded with scaffolding. We walked around the structure and took pictures but it just wasn’t the same as going in. Hopefully when you go, it will be open again to tourists.
We also walked along a bridge that crossed the Seine River and you can take a cruise along the river too. We never did a cruise but it is possible. There were also many cafes along the street in case you needed a break from all the walking. It was a great way to sit, relax, eat a pastry or some ice cream and then continue along your way. And you can’t get too far without running into MANY souvenir shops. Our kids loved walking inside the souvenir shops and deciding what little trinket they should bring back.
Arc du Triomphe
We had to stop by and see the Arc du Triomphe. So again we hopped on a subway and found the nearest stop and walked the rest of the way. There is a way to walk UNDER the road that circles the Arc so you don’t get run over. And there is a way to actually walk to the top of the Arc but the line was too long and it was stuffy hot in the tunnel waiting for tickets. So we opted to just walk around it and take some pictures.
Since Bercy Village was a 15 minute walk from our airbnb, we decided to take a walk there. There is a beautiful garden that you can walk around and the village is a long pedestrian-only street with restaurants and stores lining it. It was a very festive place with balloons everywhere and we stumbled across a Five Guys! Since we are huge fans we had to stop and have dinner at Five Guys. We really did not expect to find American restaurants in Paris but now we are on the lookout for Five Guys at any European destination!
Breakfast and Sacre Coeur
Our last full day was on a Sunday and we wanted to find the “Breakfast in America” diner in Paris. It wasn’t too close to us so we hopped on the subway and got there early around 9am to avoid the crowds. Plus at this point we had lived in Europe for 2 months and there are no IHOPs or big breakfasts in Europe that we are used to. This place was created by someone craving big American breakfasts and opened his own place in Paris.
After a breakfast of French Toast (what else do you eat in France?), pancakes and eggs, we headed toward Sacre Coeur which was on the north side of Paris. Now, the north side is not the nicest looking neighborhoods, even during the day. So if you go, I would recommend going early during the day. Plus the nearest subway stop was not that close and you have to climb 300 steps just to get to the base of the church. The crowds were big but the view was spectacular. We ended up taking the tour to top of the Sacre Coeur dome to get even better views of the city. That was another 300 steps and the walkway up was NARROW. It was also very windy up there but it was a beautiful day and you could see the Eiffel Tower and the Arc du Triomphe. The kids found it hilarious to take pictures at the top of the dome when my hair was wildly blowing EVERYWHERE. I think that was their favorite part of the trip!
DOME TICKET TIP: Bring passports for your kids when going to points of interest. To visit the Sacre Coeur Dome, tickets for 15 years and under were a child admission vs an adult admission ticket. However, since I didn’t have proof to show that my 15 yr old was in fact 15, she had to pay the adult ticket price because she “looked older”.
Last Day in Paris
Our last day in Paris was on a Monday and we found that our favorite bakery was not open on Mondays. They are open on Sundays but not Mondays but I guess they have to close sometime, right? In Germany, nothing is open on Sundays so this was a shock to us. We didn’t do much on the last day but the airbnb was a great place to hang out before checking out anyway. The kids had done a lot of walking over the weekend and this was a great place to rest and relax before our 3 hour train ride back. So if you can find a place that has toys to amuse your kids or a nearby playground to run off some steam, take advantage. If you run around like we did, you might get over exhausted and just not enjoy the trip.
While we hit the highlights of Paris, it was a lot to see and do over a 4-day weekend. Pick and choose what places are most important to you and your family and I’m sure fun will be had by all. The good thing is we can always come back since it is a 3 hour train ride, but of course, the kids want to stay in the same airbnb.