5 Days in Paris With Your Family

Travel is often a series of trials and errors. This often happens when you’re traveling with a family and you’re in a foreign country and you’re trying to figure things out.

What helps is to have a plan. What’s even better is if you have a plan that has already worked. We have just such a plan, the itinerary that we used for 5 days in Paris. We have not only what we scheduled but also what we didn’t schedule. We’ve included not only what worked, but what didn’t work as well as what we would’ve changed.

Thursday

Arrive in Paris

This was not only our first trip to Paris. This was our first trip overseas with our kids. I was a bit intimidated by the fact that we would have to take 3 separate trains to get to our hotel. After an all night flight I didn’t know what kind of state we would all be in. I questioned whether I would be lucid enough to handle making 2 other connections to get to our hotel in the Batignolles neighborhood which is in the 17th Arrondisement. I never can sleep on planes so I would be up for about 24 hours straight at that point. Add in handling two kids and I just thought that it would be better for all involved to just spend the money on a taxi as opposed to trying to save by taking the metro. Sometimes the savings of dollars isn’t worth the headache and stress.  

Taking the taxi took the stress out of the process because all we had to do is go to the taxi line, get a taxi, load our stuff in the taxi and enjoy the ride. The only problem is that we were overcharged. There is a flat rate that you pay from Charles de Gaulle airport to central Paris. I knew what it was because I had done my research and was prepared to pay that price. The cab driver argued that it wasn’t the rate. After a little back and forth I just gave in (again with the fatigue) despite the light protestations of my son who whispered “stranger danger” as we loaded our bags into the trunk. When we arrived at the hotel he said that he didn’t take a card and that we had to pay in cash. Lesson learned.

Changes:

Definitely would’ve stuck to my first thought and demanded the correct price and waited for a cab that would provide that. But that’s easy to say from the comforts of my computer desk and not after being up for 24+ hours and exhausted. The decision to take the taxi was the right one because taking three different trains would’ve been a bad idea. Depending on where you’re going in Paris, if you want to save some euros you could take the metro. As I learned from my stay there, it’s incredibly easy and user friendly. You should take into account where you’re staying as well as the time you’re arriving.

Arrive at the hotel – Art Hotel Congres

The hotel that we selected was excellent. It was the Art Hotel Congres in the Batignolles neighborhood. It is in the 17th arrondisement. This is an excellent area to stay in because of several factors. It’s close to the metro, about a 5 or 7 minute walk from the Brochant station. The metro is super easy to use and was our primary way around Paris. For example, it’s approximately 20 minutes to the Arc de Triomphe, 22 minutes to the Louvre and 29 minutes to the Eiffel Tower. The neighborhood is also generally less expensive to stay in regarding accommodations.

Brochant metro stop in Paris

The main street that runs through the neighborhood, Avenue de Clichy had a large variety of affordable and good restaurants to choose from. While we were there we had Chinese, some very good Italian, very good Middle Eastern and the absolutely best burger I’ve ever had in my life. Not at all what I expected to be eating in Paris, but it was great. Of course there’s quite a few wonderful patisierres and boulangeries (bakeries) that had spectacular breads and pastries. 

Croissant and coffee in Paris

There were also markets to buy food. It was also a very beautiful neighborhood. We wished that we got to explore the neighborhood more because there was a lot to see and do there. It also gave us a more authentic Parisian experience because it’s a residential neighborhood so it wasn’t touristy at all and mostly importantly, neither were the prices.

Avenue de Clichy in Paris
Avenue de Clichy in the Batignolles neighborhood.

Changes:

None. We were very fortunate to get such a great deal at the last minute. It’s pretty amazing how our trip to Paris came about. You can read all about that here. It was $175 per night for the four of us. The only thing that I would change, but really couldn’t was that even though we booked adjoining rooms, they were not connected at all. Maybe it was lost in the translation but the rooms were not what we were expecting. They were simply rooms that were next to each other. The hotel wasn’t a traditional hotel. It seemed like they rented floors in a building so it was more of an apartment feel. If you’re not used to that and were expecting a traditional hotel you might be disappointed, but we loved the building and the hotel despite the misunderstanding regarding the adjoining rooms.

The hotel set up seems to be pretty common in Europe. I’ve read about many other hotels like it, and we had the same type of hotel in Rome. We liked that it wasn’t a typical hotel but we stayed in an actual Parisian building so it added to the experience.  It still worked out, my wife shared a room with our daughter and I shared a room with our son. The other thing to keep in mind is that if you book a double bed, it’s often two single beds pushed together. The beds are also often on wheels, so they can move. We didn’t think to look to see if the wheels lock, but it’s something to keep in mind.

SFR Phone – 50 Avenue de Clichy 75018 Paris

SFR is the phone carrier that we used to purchase a SIM card for our cell phone. It was a pretty quick and painless process. You pay for the SIM card (30 euro if I remember correctly) and we had more than enough data for the whole trip. I think we only used about 2 gigs and that was from constantly using google maps to get around and looking for info for restaurants and other things. This store was also just down the street from our hotel, so again, this neighborhood had everything you could possibly need.

Changes:

None. It worked out perfectly. From the service to the location. If we had any problems the store was just a short walk from the hotel. The workers spoke pretty good English and were super helpful and nice.

Eiffel Tower and Trocadero Gardens

As fatigued as I was, the advice is true. In order to beat jet lag or fatigue, don’t take a nap when you arrive. We showered, changed and were out. You definitely get a spike of adrenaline when you know you’re headed to see the legendary Eiffel Tower. Our fatigue levels didn’t matter, even our kids were hopped up on excitement and ready to go. You would think that after the long flight + jet lag, taking your kids out wouldn’t be a good idea, but it works. It did help that we were going somewhere on our own schedule. We didn’t have to commit to getting there at a certain time or staying for a certain length time.

A tip that I learned that turned out fantastic is to take the metro to the Trocodero station and get off there. If you’re using a gps or just reading the metro map, set your destination to the Trocodero station and it’ll work. That is the best way to approach the Eiffel Tower. Once you get out of the metro station the Eiffel Tower will be no where to be seen. She’s hiding. Just keep walking and out of no where she appears!! It’s a pretty cool reveal. I didn’t tell my family what I was up to so their expressions were priceless when the Tower suddenly pops into view. And what a view it was!

It also turned out to be where we got the best photos of the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower and our family

Changes:

None. The route we took was simple, the approach was great. Everyone was thrilled to see the Eiffel Tower.

Friday

Arc de Triomphe

This just might have been my favorite experience during our 5 days in Paris. It seems so simple. It’s just a massive arch in the middle of a roundabout. But it was so so much more. You can just view it from the ground and that’s ok, I guess. I was surprised at the detail of the carvings, the artistry was amazing. I was also surpised at how large it was, I had no idea it was so big.

In front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

To fully appreciate the monument, if you’re able, hike up the 284 steps to the viewing platform. It sounds like a gruesome hike and you’re probably wondering why I would subject you to such torture, but believe me it’s worth every last step. Besides you can burn off the crepes, croissants and pastries you’re going to enjoy. At least that’s how I looked at it. Once you’re at the top, you get a 360 degree view of Paris that is just unforgettable. All of those spectacular photos that you’ve seen of Paris, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysees many of them were likely taken from the top the Arc de Triomphe. 

Champs Elysees
Eiffel Tower

Even though 284 steps were a lot, even the kids were okay. We had fun with it and they were happy to make the climb. We stayed up there for at least an hour just enjoying the view. With the beautiful view, I really liked looking down on the mother of all roundabouts. It was pretty hilarious to see the chaotic traffic from that vantage point. Fortunately you don’t have to cross the murderous roundabout to make it to the Arc de Triomphe. There are tunnels that go under the roundabout and that will drop you off safely next to the monument.

Changes:

None. Like I said it was my favorite experience in Paris, everyone was happy. We visited in the morning. I would have liked to have the chance to also come back and view it later in the day closer to sunset. But like they say in Paris, you can’t have your crepe and eat it too. Actually they don’t say that, but you get the point.

Champs Elysees

The biggest surprise of the trip is that there are actual affordable regular stores on the Champs Elysees. Yes there’s your Louis Vuitton but there’s also an H&M and our kids favorite, Disney Store. It’s every bit as beautiful as you’d expect with unforgettable shots of the Arc de Triomphe up and down the boulevard.

Even though we didn’t buy anything we really enjoyed walking the Champs Elysees.

Changes:

Our late start began to catch up to us as hunger began to set in where we didn’t expect to be. We didn’t plan to eat in this area for obvious reasons, but we did. It wasn’t as horribly expensive as I would expect food to be on this street but it was still a bit expensive. The upside is that we got to eat at a restaurant outside on the Champs Elysees. That was pretty cool.

Louvre      

The Louvre Pyramid
In the courtyard of the Louvre

We scheduled the Louvre for the afternoon because based on my research, that was the best time to come to avoid the crowds. That worked perfectly because when we arrived we were able to go through the famous Pyramid entrance. We were in line for all of maybe 10 minutes before we got in. we were really trying to avoid the crowds because I’d heard that the lines could get pretty crazy and bringing 2 kids meant that they probably wouldn’t be able or willing to wait in line for over an hour in the sun just to get in. They probably also wouldn’t care much that it was the Louvre. Unfortunately once we were in the Louvre, they weren’t that impressed at all and we didn’t get to stay long. Primarily because they were tired after a long day.

Changes:

My first big regret of our trip to Paris. In an effort to avoid the crowds and the impossible wait in line, which we were successful at doing, we ran into the problem that at the end of the day after the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees all of which took longer than expected, they were simply tired. I could kind of feel it coming before we entered the Louvre, so we rested and relaxed in the courtyard for about an hour so that they could relax and rest their feet. They loved the pool and the pyramid. Even after that rest it was simply too much but we managed to stay in the Louvre for about an hour and a half and we called it a day.

Courtyard of the Louvre

We did get to see the Mona Lisa, Victory of Samothrace and Louis Coronation, but obviously would’ve loved to see so much more. It was hard trying to balance avoiding the crowds and going too late in the day. What I would do differently is schedule a lighter morning and still go in the afternoon because that part worked perfectly. The Jardin des Tuileries is a park that we loved so much that we visited twice and is right near the Louvre. A day started at the park, then lunch and then make your way over to the Louvre would work much better for families.

Selfie in front of Mona Lisa
Victory of Samothrace
Sculpture in the Louvre

Saturday

Place de la Concorde/Jardin de Tuileries

We loved, loved, loved this park. It is immaculately beautiful and simply remarkable. The perfectly manicured rows of trees are marvelous. For this visit to the park, we didn’t stay too long. We strolled through and enjoyed the scenery and walked among the trees. The kids really loved the duck pond so we sat in some chairs around the pond and relaxed.

Changes:

Another late start to the day meant that we didn’t have as much time here or see as much as we would have liked, but we still got to enjoy it.  Our route through the park was predicated on our reaching the metro to head the Palace of Versailles, so we enjoyed whatever was on that route. The obvious change would have been to get to the park earlier so that we would’ve had more time because the kids loved it. Fortunately we got to return for another visit to make up for such a short trip.

Palace of Versailles          

Gate to the Palace of Versailles

The palace of Versailles was an exceptional experience for our whole family. We didn’t purchase a tour, we made our way through the main palace ourselves going from room to room. The Hall of Mirrors was a major highlight and impressed all of us we had a lot of fun and appreciating the beauty of the room. We consciously chose to visit the palace in the afternoon for the same reason we decided to go in the afternoon to the Louvre. To avoid excessively long lines and overwhelming crowds. And just like our visit to the Louvre it worked to perfection. But just like our visit to the Louvre, it had unintended consequences.

We got to the Palace later than we planned and didn’t have enough time to fully enjoy the experience. We were up against the clock. It didn’t help that part way through we had to locate a restroom which required that we reverse course and go all of the way back to the entrance. We were also limited to the main palace and didn’t get to see the other palaces or any of the legendary gardens.  Despite the limitations we were very happy that we got to see what we did. With so much left off, we have a valid excuse to return. As if we needed one!

Hall of Mirrrors in the Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles

Changes:

Jet lag was hard to manage for our first trip. Our schedule was shifted ahead due to the kids waking up later than we planned. We tried to get going early the first couple of days but realized that it was a losing battle. Most days we didn’t leave our apartment until about 11am, so that shifted our schedule to later than we planned. Because we started later we got back later and the cycle continued. This really affected us when we arrived at the Palace later than we wanted to. Like the Louvre, arriving in the afternoon was a good idea. We were on the right track, but just didn’t execute the plan completely. Even if we started later, if we would’ve just grabbed lunch and headed straight to the Palace we would’ve had much more time.

Inside the Palace of Versailles

There was also some confusion on my part of when the gardens are open. The schedule changes depending on the week, so make sure you double check that the gardens are open and you purchase the correct ticket for what you want to see. You should purchase your tickets in advance at the official site. This is the official site and there are quite a few options so make sure you review them.

Galeries Lafayette Paris

The Galeris Lafayette was a big hit, after all who doesn’t love to shop?! This multi level shopping mall is pretty extravagant to say the least. All of the big names that you could imagine are represented. It was nice to get a feel for the luxurious side of Paris even if we were just observers. For a place as high end as Galeries Lafayeette, it had its surprises. It’s not all extravagant prices and labels. We were able to actually find deals in their Disney store which was upstairs. The prices weren’t too much different than what you would find in any other mall at that store. That made the kids happy. There is also a free observation deck on the roof that provides a nice view of Paris. They also had a nice selection of watches on the main floor that I took advantage of.

Inside Galeries Lafayette in Paris

This day  was originally planned to be a visit to Chateau de Vincennes. But after our thousands of steps walked and the culture overload one of our kids asked if we didn’t have to walk around all day and if we could do something different. At that point I decided to scrap the original plans and go with something familiar, something that I know they’d all like. And it worked. After the mall, we walked towards the Jardins des Tuilieries so that they could play on the playground. On the way we happened past the Palais Garnier and Place Vendome, which I had no idea was even there and didn’t research at all. It was a fascinating walk.

Jardins des Tuileries

Jardin des Tuileries

Needless to say when we arrived at the playground they were beyond excited. We were able to spend more time at this magnificent park. We walked around, explored, let them play on the playground, ride the carousel and eat cotton candy. My wife even got to have an interesting conversation with a fellow traveler from Belgium. When you think Paris, you probably don’t think playgrounds, but the one in the Jardins des Tuilieries was really nice. Make it a point to visit the entire park and the playground in particular and your kids will thank you! Even if you don’t have kids, the park is definitely worth a visit as a relaxing break from site seeing. Did I mention that the park is beautiful?

Jardin des Tuileries

Changes:

None. It’s funny that the day that worked out the best was the day that was not planned at all and practically made up on the spot. But that’s really what travel often happens to be, especially if you’re traveling with a young family. If you’re willing to adapt and adjust it’ll often work out just fine. The itinerary that you create usually ends up being basically an outline of what you want to accomplish, and with so much to see and do, other things just sort of happen and you get to do those things as well or in place of what you had planned. Well I guess the change I would’ve made is that I would’ve had this on our itinerary originally!

Our kids eating cotton candy in front of the carousel at the Jardin des Tuileries

Monday                  

Chateau de Vincennes

Good news, bad news situation on this day. The good news is that we indeed got to visit Chateau de Vincennes which was originally planned for Sunday and it was really enjoyable. The castle is not high on most tourists lists, but it should be. The castle is empty and not at all furnished which is a good thing because we didn’t have to worry about the kids breaking anything!

Chateau de Vincennes

There were very few people there so we didn’t have to worry about crowds, lines, or the kids running into anyone or getting lost. The castle was complete with drawbridge, moat (no water) and towers. It was really fun to wander around  and explore. It’s an underrated treat.

Chateau de Vincennes

The bad news is that we got some rain to start our day which casued us to change our plans (again with the adjustments). Since it was raining we felt that it didn’t make much sense to go to a park, besides we’d been to a park twice already. We really did want to go to Luxembourg Gardens because we’d heard so much about it. But the castle would be a nice substitute.

The other consequence was that since we weren’t going to the Luxembourg Gardens we wouldn’t be near Notre Dame. I felt that we’d catch it on our next trip to Paris. Unfortunately there won’t be a next time since Notre Dame as we knew it is gone. Couldn’t have predicted that. And also a reminder that you’re never going to see everything and sometimes there’s nothing that you can do about that.

Changes:

Can’t do much about the rain so adapting to the circumstances was the right call. Just wished there was some way we could have seen Notre Dame, but oh well.

Bateaux Parisiens Seine River Cruise

The Bateaux Parisens river cruise was excellent and a highlight of our 5 days in Paris. We got to cruise down the River Seine as the sun was setting. As we went down the river we were able to see so many landmarks and bridges including many that we were unable to personally visit.

It helped to make up for the fact that we missed Notre Dame earlier when we got a good look at the cathedral from the river on both sides. Going in the evening with the sun setting provided absolutely beautiful light to the whole ride, there is really no way to describe it other than awesome.  We chose the route that left from near the Eiffel Tower. By the time we got back to the Eiffel Tower, the sun was settting which was incredible.

Our daughter in front of the Eiffel Tower

Following the cruise we made our way back to Trocodero Station but not before watching the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle. That was a fantastic goodbye to Paris for us.

Changes:

We should’ve eaten before the cruise because by the time we were boarding the boat we were hungry, but by then it was too late. We did eat after the cruise, but since we were leaving the next day we were out far later than we wanted to be because we had to finish packing and then get up early the next day for departure.

Overall, the itinerary we created for 5 days in Paris worked out really well for us. This is particularly true when you consider that this was our first overseas trip as a family. If you’re planning a trip to Paris soon, I’m sure you and your family will enjoy it. It’s a beautiful city to be appreciated by people of all ages. Bon voyage!

Author

  • Jeremiah Pittmon

    Jeremiah Pittmon is a published travel writer and photographer from Cleveland, Ohio. Passionate about exploring the world with his family, he finds inspiration in all types of travel. Through his blog, smilesonarrival.com, and social media channels, he shares captivating experiences and valuable tips for families who love to travel.

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5 Days in Paris With Your Family
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