When we’re on holiday we tend to splurge on everything. But you’ve spent all your money on flights getting here, and the kids have been sitting still for 23 hours.
You don’t need to break the bank to have a ball.
Here are our six free (or super cheap) things to do in Paris with kids.
1. Jardin du Luxembourg – Luxembourg Gardens
At face value Jardin du Luxembourg seems like another one of mums boring ideas of fun. But hidden deep in its many gardens is a kids wonderland. The perfect place to let off some steam. And it’s free.
The park is in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, a ten minute walk from the Pantheon. It’s adored all year round by Parisian kids for its endless activities and bustle. Puppet shows, toy boats and its very own lolly shop – this park has it all.
Keep exploring to find the forgotten apple orchard and Orangerie. Hours of fun can be had at one of the six chess tables, or on the Carousel. If you’re there in summer you might even score a real pony ride.
Parc De Jeux is Jardin du Luxembourg’s ultimate kids play park, and it has perimeter fences so there’s no fear of runaway toddlers. The multi level forts, giant tunnel slides and climbing nets are all colour coded for different age groups. But no adult slides – sorry Dad.
Older kids flock to the park after school hours to play basketball, martial arts and tennis. You can try your luck at Jeu de paume, a 250 year old version of tennis played without racquets. The former Olympic sport is still played competitively, and the French championships are held right here.
The parents might even be able to escape long enough for a coffee and romantic walk around the forgotten apple orchard. But strictly no kissing. Gross.
They can even catch a puppet show at the mini theatre next door. Oh wait – that’s for kids too.
Great for: Ages 3 to 15
Price: Free. Play park is $3. Pony rides are $8.
2. The Paris Metropolitan – The Subway
The Paris Metro is one of the oldest, largest and most efficient subways in the world. It still maintains its original Art Nouveau entrances and architecture, and is a great example of Paris’ original aesthetics. It’s also a great chance to people watch, and get around the city.
Every corner of Paris is full of quaint French bistros and winding cobbled streets, and all of the 303 stations will get you there. The trains have clear signage, giving the kids an opportunity to navigate.
Many of the larger stations are covered in art and elaborate tiling, so it’s helps to plan your route beforehand. Lourve-Rivoli, Concorde, Varenne, and Cluny-La Sorbonne are a couple of the the stations worth checking out.
Be careful not to get caught up in rush hour. The Paris Metro is also one of the busiest.
Great for: Ages 4 and up. Limited access for strollers.
Price: $3/ticket. A carnet (ten tickets) is $23.
You can also purchase unlimited metro travel passes that also include buses and trains to airports, Disneyland and Château de Versailles at all stations. More information on the RATP website.
3. Champs de Mars – Field of Mars
The Eiffel Tour is beautiful from the top – but when you’re on it, you can’t see it. The Champs de Mars gardens below are the perfect place for a picnic with a view. It’s free, and you don’t have to stand in a queue.
These sunny gardens are delightful on summer days, and at night you can rug up and sit under the stars. Each night, for 5 minutes on the hour, the Eiffel Tower is lit up with sparkles that beam over Paris.
Why not head to one of Paris’ many fresh food markets and make your own French meal? Fresh baguettes and cheese cost next nothing for an easy lunch. The kids can have a go at reading all the french labels to find their favourite foods in the supermarché.
Great for: All ages
4. Le Marais – The Marsh
Le Marais is constantly reinventing itself. Originally the aristocratic district, this area is now home to the vibrant youth culture in Paris. It’s cobblestone streets are covered in ivy and lined with funky boutiques, galleries and bistros.
You can get lost in groovy second hand stores Free P Star and Kilo Shop, where leather jackets can be found for as little as $2. Stop for some coffee and cake at Lily of the Valley, or even give baking a go with their pastry lessons.
One of Le Marais’ hidden gems is 59 Rivoli. The creative art space stands out as a unique bubble of creativity in the area’s traditional streets. The staircase connecting the galleries multiple levels is painted from floor to ceiling: each floor a maze of sketches and canvas. You can usually catch the 20 permanent artists at work in the studio space, surrounded by their own creations.
Great for: Teens
5. Musee d’Art Moderne – The Paris Museum of Modern Art
While Paris is full of classic art galleries and museums, traditional portraits and landscapes may not be number one for kids. The Musee d’Art Moderne offers a welcome change.
The gallery is constantly changing its exhibitions, so there is something for everyone. Especially under 18s, who get in free. The museum also offers visual creation workshops for families, and yoga and wutao classes for something more calming. There’s even a variation for parents with bubs under 8 months.
It might be worth checking which artworks the kids are looking at in school, because chances are; they’re in Paris. The city has plenty of galleries and museums, and on the first Sunday of every month they are all free.
Great for: Ages 7 and up
Price: All museums are are free on the first Sunday of every month. Musee d’Art Moderne’s permanent exhibitions are free. Temporary exhibitions are free for kids and $8 – 20 for adults.
6. Shakespeare & Company – Bookstore
If you hop off the Metro at Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame, this stretch of the Steine in the 4th arrondissement has plenty of hustle and bustle. Shakespeare & Company is an enchanting, independent bookstore on the banks of the river, and all the books are written in English.
When it opened in the 17th Century, writers and artists were welcomed to sleep among the bookshelves in exchange for a couple of hours work in the shop. It’s estimated that over 30,000 of the named ‘tumbleweeds’ have stayed a night.
The bookstore offers a great variety, including picture books and kids novels. See if you can find Aggie, the friendly bookshop cat who is usually in her chair on the second floor.
The store hosts one free literary event a week. Baked treats, fresh juices and coffee can all be found at the Shakespeare and Company cafe, located next door.
Remember to head over the Seine and tick off the Notre-Dame when you have a moment – it’s free. When you’re finished, wander through the beautiful gardens of City Park and head towards the Maubert Mutualité market for some fresh food.
Great for: All ages
Price: Free, although you’ll probably find a book you can’t say no to.