Paris - our version
If you have read our Paris adventure books, then you know around 4 in the afternoon is France's "official snack" time for the children (and adults!). And we all know that walking around a big city can be tiring for legs and especially for those of young children. So make this one of the highlights of your day. Here are a few of our favorite places for a gouter.
Paul bakery can be found around the world. We won't say it is extraordinary, however it will beat any day any bakery you might find in the united states. Mainly because in France you have the ingredients available to make those delicious pastries that are not typically available for pastry chefs in the states. So for the price and the quality, usually good seating options, this is always a safe place to have your gouter or breakfast!
There are quite a few famous macaroon / pastry stores in Paris. This one you can find easily even at the Charles de Gualle airport. We love the color in their store as it is bright and cheery. And the macaroons are delicious!
Creating buzz in Paris (and also in London) is this bakery! Words are hard to explain it, you must check out his Instagram account! Each piece is truly a decadent piece of art. At nearly 20 Euros, might be worth sharing, but definitely worth the experience!
One of our favorite afternoon experiences is to head to the Montmartre neighborhood that hosts the famous Sacre-Coeur church. You will have to take the metro (or taxi) to access this neighborhood. Once you exit the metro (most common metro stop is the Abbesses), you can quickly get a photo op of the Moulin Rouge and then proceed your way walking up the hill toward the church. The little streets leading up to the church are picturesque and full of cute little boutiques and cafes. After walking a bit, the family will be happy to enjoy a little crepe in this idyllic setting!
Visiting museums and other monuments is really a personal preference thing. It can be tiring for the children (and adults) to visit museum after museum. Here are a couple of our favorites that make you feel like you have been "cultured", but that still leaves you with a little energy at the end of the day.
While our children have been to Paris several times, they have yet to actually visit in the inside of the Louvre. We know that we will have the opportunity to visit it whenever we want however in the future and not every family can say for certain that they will one day return to Paris. The Louvre is massive and can really be exhausting. Pick a few of your favorite pieces you want to see and perhaps map them out. Make it a mission for the children to find those favorite pieces to see. Otherwise, it is endless walking and can leave everyone feeling zapped for energy.
Whether or not you decide to enter the Louvre, you will want to leave enough time to enjoy the surroundings! Go early in the morning if you can to take family photos in front of the glass pyramids, they are frame worthy backgrounds! Instead of opting to sit down in another cafe/restaurant for lunch, instead buy a sandwich from the Paul cart and enjoy a picnic on the grass in the garden (le jardin des tuileries. It will feel good to stretch out your legs after a long day of walking and the children will feel the freedom of being able to run around or the happiness of cartwheeling in front of such a majestic setting.
It is just a must, in one way or another! If you want to visit and go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, then we recommend booking a visit with a tour group. Why? Because you will skip really long, long lines (both to access the park and to access the elevators inside). And you can break off from your group once you reach the mid-point level, so you still have a bit of your freedom. In our opinion it is worth the extra expense.
The Eiffel Tower's light show timing depends on the time of year and when the sunsets. The tower will then sparkle for 5 minutes every hour. If you are visiting in the summer, it is totally worth visiting the tour in the late afternoon (when it will also start to cool a bit) and you have that lovely glowing sky. Then you are already there to enjoy her sparkling performance after your interior visit. We don't recommend timing to be in the tower when she has her light show. It is best to be either on the lawn just below the Eiffel Tower or from another view point, such as on the Trocadéro Gardens - just across the way. Again, children often tire of sitting through long meals at restaurants, so plan a picnic! It is the European way to grab a bottle of wine (don't forget the wine opener), a baguette, some cheese, olives etc. and to enjoy eating in any open space!
We love this modern art museum for the whole family! The building itself is already impressive, with all of the water, electricity and ventilation pipes being constructed on the outside of the building! The views of Paris are also never disappointing! There is a children's art workshop in the bottom floor. They often have free activities that children can participate in. However, timing and availability will depend on the time of year. Book your ticket online in advance to save time - either on their website or by using a Museum Pass from an application.
One of our favorite fountains to take a break at! If you plan a visit to the Pompidou, it is located just on the backside, one street over from the museum. It is definitely photo worthy and a fan favorite of little kids who want to splash their hands in the water.
With exception of the Arc de Triomphe, which is beautiful to see and very quick to view, if you are short on time and energy, we would say skip the Champs-Élysées! It is mostly just a very long street of big name brand stores (that you can find elsewhere in the city) and most of the cafes are just tourist trap vibes. It adds a lot of walking for perhaps not much of a lasting impression. This of course is a personal preference decision, but alas we gave your our opinion.
We will say it again and again, picnic! Picnic along the Seine river at night, picnic for lunch at the base of the Eiffel Tower, or in the gardens of the Louvre - anywhere! The French often bring their packed lunches and dinners, even into museum parks etc. It is widely accepted and is certainly part of the culture. It gives you a break from long dinners and lunches, allowing the kids to wiggle and run around. And it gives your pocketbook a bit of a break as well.
When we first started spending more time in Europe, we couldn't really understand the service. While it is undeniable that in the states, we have incredible customer service, there are a few things that need to be understood in advance to lessen your frustration. First of all, expect the service to be a little longer and a little slower. The French do not like to rush their meals, and thus the service will not rush things either. It is typical to start with an apero at the table - so you order a drink, typically champagne, beer or a spritzer. They will bring with it perhaps a few things to nibble on, like some nuts. Then you order your main order, often with wine and a choice of tap water, bottled flat or bottled sparkling water. At the end of the meal, when you want your check, you will have to ask for it! This is what caused me some earlier grief. They consider it rude to bring the check before it has been asked for, because they do not want to rush their patrons. I considered it a lack of customer service that they took so long to bring the check! Now this will be different if you are just stopping in a cafe for a drink, they normally bring the check with the drinks and you are expected to pay up front.
Now let's talk Tipping. Europeans love American patrons because we are so conditioned to leave up to 20% gratuity. When in fact, if you buy a round of drinks only at a cafe, the norm is to only leave a euro or two. If you dine at a fancy restaurant, you can leave up to 5 euros to 10 euros. Nothing more than that is expected!
It is more rare to find a "children's menu" on the menu. You can often ask if they offering something for the kids. Usually it will be anything off the adult menu, just with smaller portions and for a lesser price point. Kid menu favorites over here are steak/frites steak hache/frites etc. Steak hache is just a hamburger patty on it's own and frites are french fries! Often a vegetable is always served as well. I'd say it is less common for French people to take their children wtih them to really fancy dinning experiences, but none-the-less French children are more programmed to eat fancier dishes, like ratatouille, seafood and the likes.
If you happen to have rented a little apartment or studio with a kitchen and you are tired, or the kids are tired from a long day of exploring and you just want to have an easy dinner at your place, consider stopping by Picard to pick-up a prepared frozen dinner. We promise you won't be disappointed, certainly for the quality of the food you will serve and for the no-mess clean-up and prep! They have complete entrees, or you can opt for selections more simple. Either way, it is known for the quality of their ingredients, so it can make an easy dinner or lunch!
DINING AT LE MARCHE DES ENFANTS ROUGE
This is a market near Le Marais that is a fun environment to eat at. It is a covered market with lots of little restaurants serving food from around the world. Try out some Moroccan dishes, or one of our favorite tiramisu's is served from the Italian restaurant. Super casual eating that can get really busy! This market was also profiled on the popular, Emily in Paris Netflix series :)
This is a hard one for us to write about. First of all, we are not huge foodies and restaurants change quickly and often. Here are some of our friend's recommendations who live in Paris and enjoy an exquisite dining experience.
Le Royal Monceau
A lot of things might be closed on Sundays, unless the shops are in a designated tourist neighborhood. This is due to a French mandate that tries to ensure that families can spend quality time together. More and more we are seeing grocery stores open at least on Sunday mornings so that you can grab any essentials. Recently bigger stores like, Galeries Layfayette have been approved to open as well on Sundays, but if are shopping on a Sunday, don't be surprised to find things closed.
Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann
You might have seen images online of the famous roof-top stained glass windows of this department store, which makes it a shopping stop not to be missed!
Le Bon Marche
Not to be confused with the old Bon Marche in the states that was acquired by Macy's! This Bon Marche is ultra chic and worth a peek! Parents, if you have children between the ages of 4 and 10 years old, you can even sign-them up for some creative play in the children's center so they can get their creativty on while you enjoy some shopping time for you! Register here: https://www.lebonmarche.com/fr/services/services/les-recres-pour-enfants
Le BHV Marais
Another upscale shopping store, with multiple buildings - one just for the men as well - it easy to get a little lost. One thing we love is the rooftop bar they have on top. Spectacular view and a wonderful place to grab a quick refreshing drink before dinner time, https://leperchoir.fr
If you have children, they will LOVE this brand! Better if you visit an actual Pylones store, but their items can also be found in random boutiques or department stores. They sell everyday, useful objects, like a pen, a toothbrush, or a scrubber for the kitchen, yet in a whimsical design. An Eiffel Tower toothbrush, yes please! Affordable pricing makes this shop a fun place to buy souvenirs or little gifts to bring back home. It is a must!
Famous French Designers
We won't dive too deep into the designer/luxary market, but if you are in the market to buy something a little spendy, we do recommend you purchase it while you are in France. First of all, for french designers like Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent, Chanel, Goyard, etc will be priced lower in France. Then if you reclaim the VAT before leaving the country, you will save even more!
Some of the designer brands that are fun to shop for while in France, that are at much lower price points than the brands mentioned above include: Maje (one of our easy favs for moms, Claudie Pierlot, Zadig & Voltaire, Goosens (jewelry by creator has created pieces for the Chanel brand), Petite Bateau (we love their pajama's for kids up to the age of 14), and Jacadi (for kids up to age 12).
Shopping in Le Marais
In the 3rd and 4th Arrondissement, all of the little boutiques are open every day! Charming streets in this neighborhood with all the fun French brands and cute cafes and restaurants can be found there. Plan to spend the afternoon having lunch and then enjoying your shopping. This neighborhood is also close to the BVH and Le Bon Marche department stores.
2. Along the seine on one side of the river bank you can rent those scooters (download the apps at the hotel and set-up your account in advance). It will be fun for the girls to scooter along, you can go all the way from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower!