…Said Audrey Hepburn, and I have to say I agree with her.
It must be said I adore Paris, I know some people aren’t keen but personally it’s ones of my favourite cities. It’s the city of love and it’s the perfect place for a weekend with the girls, but is it any good for a four year old? As it turns out, yes it really is!
I saw such a different side of the city when I viewed it through my son’s eyes. The impressive structure of the Eiffel Tower, the fun of the aquarium (which despite several visits I hadn’t even known was there) and not to mention the magic of Disneyland, which is just a short train ride from the city centre.
I’ve always visited Paris in the Spring (largely because I’m normally there for the 6 Nations) and personally I think it’s a great time to visit. I’m not a massive fan of city breaks in the heat of summer, I’d rather be by the pool, but walking around in minus temperatures isn’t my favourite thing to do either! So in March last year my Mum, the mini adventurer and I headed over the channel for a few days in gay Paris.
Now there are plenty of ways to get there, but my top two are flying or taking the Eurostar (preferably 1st Class!) Seriously if you can get a reasonable deal it’s 100% worth it as there are big differences between 1st and Standard class.
Flights go from all over the UK and you can get some great deals, I flew from Bristol with Easyjet for about £70 return (a lot cheaper than the Eurostar when you add on the train from South Wales to London).
TOP TIP: If you’re flying through Charles de Gaulle arrive early, it’s a huge airport and security queues become VERY long.
My Mum however has a huge fear of flying, and luckily gets free UK and discounted European train travel thanks to my late father so she chose to get the Eurostar. It was also cheaper for Luka to travel by train, plus it was easier due to my work so as much as I hate to be without him, he went with Mum and we were reunited in Gare du Nord!
TOP TIP: Take a letter of permission if you’re a single parent or your children are travelling without you. I’d heard a few stories of France being a country that did question single parents so I wrote a letter giving my Mum permission to take Luka out of the country. Slightly worryingly no one actually checked this on the way out. However returning to the UK she was stopped and questioned about her relationship to him. She showed them the letter and all was fine but they’d said it should have been checked on the way out and I’d done the right thing.
When it comes to staying in Paris there are infinite options for most budgets. There are some fantastic Airbnb options and some absolutely beautiful (but often expensive) hotels around. I tend to grab a more budget option on a city break as you’re hardly in the room apart from to sleep and I’d rather use the money to do fun things while you’re there or go on an adventure on another occasion.
If you’re looking for a decently priced hotel I’d recommend staying in the 10th arrondissement near Gare du Nord. Not only are there plenty to chose from, it’s an area with lots of eating and drinking options and the transport links are fantastic with the Eurostar coming in there as well as the train from the airport.
We stayed at Hotel Appia La Fayette on this occasion which is a modern hotel just a couple of minutes walk from the station and a short hop to Montmartre. The staff were very helpful and the rooms clean. The standard rooms aren’t massive but you’re not in Paris to stay in your hotel room, well not if you’re there with a mini adventurer anyway 😉 We paid a bargainous £420 for 2 rooms for 4 nights on an international rugby weekend!
There is just so much to do in Paris it’s impossible to do it all so just pick a few things and leave some time for wandering around and seeing the sights. Luka had so much fun feeding the birds outside the Notre Dame and running around at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower. And it didn’t cost a penny which could be really helpful if you’re trying to stick to a budget in a city like Paris.
Now one thing that is always a must when travelling with my mini adventurer is… (yes you guessed it regular readers).. go to an aquarium. Now thanks to Luka I’ve been to (what feels like) half the aquariums in Europe so I like to think I’m pretty qualified to tell a good one from a bad one, and L’Aquarium de Paris is a good one. It’s not the cheapest at around £30 for an adult and child, and there can be BIG queues to get in but if you can stand that it’s definitely worth a visit if you like to be under the sea.
Of course when travelling to Paris with small people there is one thing that just has to be done, Disneyland! Day tickets for 3 people cost me £102 (there’s no discount on kids tickets) which I think is pretty good compared to most UK theme parks and the journey from Paris is less than an hour and costs around £7 each way.
I’ve been to Disneyland Paris before as a teenager and I have to say I was truthfully a little disappointed at returning as an adult. It was smaller and a little shabbier than I remembered without huge amounts to do in terms of rides for smaller children. That said the Walt Disney Studios addition was great (give yourself plenty to time to do everything there, I wish we’d gone over earlier), the parade was fantastic (be warned if it’s important to you to see it, sit down early right at the front of the barrier, we had grown men shoving 4 year old Luka out of the way!) and the fireworks were just magical and Luka’s face while watching them was worth every penny!
I know many people love Disneyland and return several times a year and while you can get some good deals staying at the park (on coach trips for example), it is generally fairly expensive to stay on site and I personally feel that staying there for 3 or 4 days would get a bit old so I’d highly recommend spending the cash and time visiting Paris and taking a day trip to the park instead.
TOP TIP: Print your tickets before you go! Unless things have changed in the last year, you can’t get e-tickets and must have a separate printed sheet for each ticket. I only booked it while we were in Paris which ended up with me and the lovely hotel receptionist trying to print them first thing in the morning and a worrying wait to go in as their printer had gone a little funny and they weren’t very clear!
Finally, eating and drinking is one of the best parts of being in Paris. If your ideal meal out involves a beautifully cooked steak and delicious wine you’ll be in heaven! It’s one of the reasons I like to stay around the Gare du Nord, there are plenty of lovely bakeries from which to grab a fresh pain au chocolat for breakfast and numerous café bars which never seem to shut, where you can sit outside until silly o’clock eating steak frites and drinking Sancerre.
Admittedly that’s not so easy when travelling with small people (unless you take Grandma like I did!) but there are some great options for family meals too. Hippopatamous and Buffalo Grill are both chain family restaurants located opposite Gare du Nord and well worth a visit, seriously the steaks I had in these two restaurants, for a pretty reasonable price, beat Rib Eyes I’ve had in 5 star establishments in the UK.
All in all I would 100% recommend a family city break in Paris. There really is something to do there for children of every age with every interest. And the ease of being able to pop to Disneyland is sure to be a huge hit for all. Plus there is so much for the grown ups to enjoy too, and I don’t just mean the wine!