An Insider’s Guide to Paris
How to Visit The Most Magical City On Earth With (or Without) Kids
With some of the most famed hotels, shops and restaurants in the world, Paris possesses a kind of magnetic charm that enchants even the most world weary traveler. But if you are traveling there for the first time with kids, it can be a little overwhelming. Which is why we compiled this list, our TBE Paris city guide, a short list of famous haunts and hidden gems that everyone in the family will enjoy. Bon voyage!
TBE Picks: The Best Hotels in Paris
Current offer: Get 50% off a room for your kids when you book two rooms.
Long a fave of fashion and media insiders, this hyper stylish spot reeks of cool. The space has a dark, moody vibe (think low lighting, plush red velvet curtains) and is known for its music (CDs of Hôtel Côstes music, spun by the famed DJ Stephane Pompougnac, have sold six million copies worldwide). Kids will enjoy the hotel pool; Moms will enjoy the hotel spa (featuring Clarins treatment products).
Best hotel for shoppers and foodies: Hôtel Prince de Galles
On the chic Avenue George V right next door to the well-known Four Seasons (designed by the same architect), this hotel is a lesser known gem located within a five minute walk of the Champs Elysées. The black and white photos adorning the halls and art deco room décor harken back to the days when the Prince of Wales scandalously romanced the divorcee Wallis Simpson.
On the Left Bank between Boulevard Saint Germain and Rue De l’Université, this hotel offers affordable interconnecting rooms for families and close proximity to the Musée D’Orsay and the Louvre. The lively neighborhood has an authentic, local feel with students, businessmen, and even some famous French politicians milling about at any time. It’s a short walk to many of the most famous Parisian cafes and restaurants, not to mention Saint Germain’s boutique shopping and the lesser known Rue du Bac shops.
Best hotel deal in Paris for families: Hotel Aiglon’s two bedroom suite
At an average rate of 200 euros a night including a delicious breakfast, this corner room in the Montparnasse neighborhood is the best deal in Paris for a family. Open your windows and enjoy the street scene or shut the windows (with double glazing) for a peaceful sleep. These well-appointed rooms with updated bathrooms and luxury hotel bedding are a true find for anyone traveling to Paris on a budget.
SIGHTSEEING IN PARIS
You can easily find the most well known museums and sites in Paris in any guide book, but here’s how to navigate the most popular spots with little ones in tow.
If you are traveling with kids, enter late in the afternoon to get discounted tickets and go straight to the top floor to find the most famous paintings. At that time of day, your budding ballerina will have plenty of space to copy the ballerina poses of Degas with few other tourists left!
Purchase fast track tickets and hire a guide for a half or whole day. They can show you the highlights in a 1-3 hour visit. Any longer and you and the kids may become overwhelmed and miss some of the most important highlights.
Include this in your half-day with a guide and they will to show you how to get around the queue and then take you to nearby Île Saint-Louis for the best sorbet in Paris (see Berthillon below)
Small and easy, this is a good first afternoon ‘starter’ museum where your kids can see Monet’s masterpieces. Afterwards, enjoy La Grande Roue—the great ferris wheel—to get an aerial view of the city at sunset.
The beautiful new building is well worth the drive out through the Bois de Bologne. Hire a car and do this as a quick ‘drive by’ or stay and enjoy a picnic in the gardens.
A gorgeous mix of sculptures on beautiful grounds, this outdoor sculpture garden offers a refreshing respite from the more crowded museums. Devote an afternoon and take time to sketch in the gardens.
The facade of this building looks like a giant green living wall covered in plants. Inside you will find winding cave-like passages featuring the world’s foremost collection of indigenous art from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Kids will be fascinated by the colorful exhibits of masks, dresses, ancient jewelry, carvings and more.
WHERE TO EAT IN PARIS
From Michelin star dining to quaint cafes, Paris offers plenty of options for the most sophisticated palette…right down to the pickiest. Keep in mind: If you have the kind of kid who isn’t likely to enjoy a 6 course tasting menu, you can always hire a babysitter for the night through a trusted agency like Complete Paris.
This restaurant is located inside the Quai Branly Museum gardens. Sip sundowner cocktails on the lovely deck where you can admire the glowing Eiffel Tower as evening turns to dark. (advance reservations recommended)- $$$$
With its prime location on the corner of Boulevard Saint Germain and Rue Saint Bemoit, this famed cafe (where celebrated artists such as Picasso gathered in his day) is a perfect spot for people watching after a long day of sight seeing and shopping. $$
Les quenelles at Le Voltaire
Known for its classic French cuisine, this chic Parisienne cafe is a great spot to hit for lunch after the Louvre or Musée D’Orsay. You can also eat in the less formal café outside and enjoy watching the sun shine on a beautiful wing of the Louvre across the Seine. $$$
Take a Berthillon ice cream break on Île Saint-Louis after visiting Notre Dame Cathedral
The sorbet here is so fresh it tastes like the fruit was just picked and frozen that morning. Many restaurants have Le Berthillon, but the best place is near Notre Dame Cathedral on the idyllic Île Saint-Louis. $
The marble kitchen ‘stage’ at La Scène
Here you will enjoy the subtle, but masterful touch of Stephanie Le Quellec, who many deemed the ‘Parisian chef to watch’ after she earned her first Michelin star. Try the 6-course tasting menu with wine accompaniment to feel fully satisfied, but not over-indulged. The meal unfolds like a play with each scene unveiling a few more secrets of the open kitchen. Lights on the white marble highlight the deft movements of the chefs as though they are actors on a stage. $$$$
If you want to savor truly classic farm fresh French cuisine, try this unpretentious local favorite cafe with red-checked table cloths. The pate, foie gras and frogs legs (if you dare!) are all delicious. For the less adventurous palette, try the perfectly juicy roast chicken carved tableside with a morel mushroom cream sauce. $$$
Baked pineapple gratin dessert, Restaurant Au 35
Restaurant Au 35
This tiny local gem on the Left Bank only has a few tables, so make a reservation. Enjoy classic French favorites like rabbit confit with thyme and Jerusalem artichokes and, as odd as it sounds, the baked pineapple gratin dessert is absolutely out of this world. $$
When your palette demands something lighter than the typical rich French fare, head to this Vietnamese restaurant on the Left Bank. The restaurant has passed from father to son and remained popular for many years. Featuring a surprisingly vast and varied wine list, this restaurant serves up delightful dishes with subtle Asian flavors and a touch of Parisian flair. For an unexpected treat, try the Vietnamese ravioli with smoked goose. $$
Not far from the Hôtel Aiglon, this unassuming neighborhood find offers the freshest seafood you will find anywhere in Paris. There is no menu, only a chalk board with an array of the latest fishermen’s catches (bring a French-English dictionary!). $$
WHERE TO SHOP IN PARIS
213 Rue Saint-Honoré, Left Bank
Le Bon Marche
24 Rue de Sèvres
Stop here to find every luxury French item from handbags to designer clothes to cosmetics in one beautiful place. Tip: request the VAT tax credit form to submit at the airport, your credit card is credited within a month and you feel just a bit less guilty.
94 Rue du Bac
This cute store offers chic Parisian flats in all shapes, fabrics, prints and colors—which can be customized with colored tassels or embroidered initials.
Right and Left Bank
Stop here for the most adorable children’s clothing you’ve ever seen.
264 Rue St Honore
This spot offers cute espadrilles and chic men’s summer boat shoes.
Charles et Charlus
4 Rue Basse
At this tiny boutique just off Boulevard Saint Germain, you’ll find beautiful hand-stitched leather handbags at a great price (for Paris!).
90 Rue du Bac
Pop in for Italian wallets, Basque fabric bags, and art supplies.
87 Rue du Bac
The charming children’s store is known for affordable and beautifully cut floral print clothing.
THE BEST DAY SPAS IN PARIS
A short list of the most luxurious places in Paris to get a mind-blowing facial or massage.
The Chanel Spa at The Ritz
15 Place Vendôme, First Arrondissement, +33 1 43 16 30 60
Indulge in Le Grand Soin, a radiance-boosting, multi-sensory treatment that involves the face and body and lasts from two to three hours. After the treatment, enjoy complimentary makeup application with Chanel products (you can also book stand-alone sessions). If you need a blowout, pop in to Parisian stylist David Mallett’s hair salon next door.
The Mandarin Oriental
251 rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris, France +33 (0)1 70 98 78 88
For a truly out of body experience, try the “Oriental Harmony” a two hour and 20-minute treatment that begins with a soothing foot bath. Next two practitioners work in tandem first scrubbing the body from head to toe and then massaging in aromatherapeutic oils. The treatment concludes with a simultaneous head and foot massage.
Spa Valmont at Le Meurice Hotel
You can’t go wrong with the hot stone massage, which uses volcanic stones and essential oils to help ease tight muscles. After your treatment, stretch out on a deck chair on the spa’s sunny terrace, where you can nibble on a healthy salad while sipping a freshly-squeezed juice.
Dior Institute at Plaza Athenée
25 avenue Montaigne, 75008 FR 0033 1 5367 6667
For a super indulgent full body experience, book the two-hour holistic L’Or de Vie Miracle facial, which begins with a mild exfoliation, followed by pinching movements designed to prepare the skin for the application of Dior’s star anti aging ingredient, Yquem sap essence. The treatment ends with a full body Shiatsu rubdown, covering the scalp, face and shoulders.