Last spring, while coming back from our Mare launch trip to the Amalfi Coast, my hubby and I's flight was cancelled. Ultimately we lucked out, getting to spend a night in Paris. We love this city, having spent our honeymoon and 10-year anniversary there. It was on this recent surprise "layover" where we decided it was time for our kiddos to experience Paris too. So we booked flights and spent New Year’s Eve in the city of love.
We’ve traveled a fair amount with our kids when they were little, but as they’ve gotten older traveling abroad (like our month spent in Italy) has been so much fun. It’s a great way for us to reconnect away from the busy-ness of home, school, and devices!
We've traveled enough to know that comfy shoes, the right apparel, and someone carrying a essential-filled backpack are non-negotiables. Next, we make a list of "musts" for the place we're visiting. Here I'm sharing five more of my tried-and-true tips for making Paris enjoyable for teens and adults alike, along with my recommendations for where to shop, stay, eat, and what museums to visit.
1. Rent an Apartment
I found a terrific apartment rental via AirBnB in The Marais. It's a historical neighborhood in the 3rd and 4th arrondissement full of great restaurants and unique shops. It's also a good distance from the busier touristy areas, like around the Louvre. This allowed us to experience a quieter, more residential neighborhood and give our kids a glimpse at Paris life.
Not only was the location terrific but the apartment itself was really cool. It was an artist loft, owned by documentary filmmakers. It was full of amazing art, fabulous furnishings, a great collection of jazz music (Ry's fave), and plenty of space for us to chill out after a day on the town. I shared six things our family loved about the apartment on Instagram. Watch here.
Our Morning Ritual
Most mornings, Ryan and I let the kids sleep in so we could take an early morning stroll around the neighborhood. A few blocks away was a wonderful boulangerie that opened early. We’d pick up treats and come back to the apartment to savor our still-warm croissants and coffee, leaving a little extra time to catch up on emails before the kids got up. It was perfect!
2. Stop and Rest
Walking was our main way of seeing the city (with a few public transportation rides mixed in, of course). So when someone needs a break, we rest. Whether in a piazza, park, museum, or, on this trip, a spot to indulge in some sort of culinary Parisian delight, we'd stop. If you’ve been to Paris, you know there’s a boulangerie, patisserie, or chocolatier around every corner. We definitely made a few extra “pitstops” because we couldn't walk by those delicacy-filled windows and not stop!
3. Shopping in Paris!
Merci and More
Shopping was a big part of this trip to the fashion capital of the world! Trendy store, Merci, was close and the perfect store for us all to enjoy. It's a lifestyle boutique along with a terrifically curated collection of men and women's clothing and home goods. Both Marie and Oscar used their “Grandpa money” for something special. When the boys were shopped out, they hit a coffee shop for a few card games. This allowed us gals to take our time strolling through every delightful department.
Palais Royal Delights
More chic, but so fun to peek at are the are the gorgeous boutiques surrounding the garden in the Palais Royal. We enjoyed a rest in the lovely garden. Then Marie and I stopped in a few shops while the boys found a perfect spot for us to meet for a treat. After devouring the homemade glace and whipped cream, Marie and I strolled over to Rue St. Honore to visit one of my Paris fave’s, Astier de Villatte. If you are fond of ceramics and visit Paris, you must stop by!
1st Arrondissement Find
Marie and I kept strolling through the 1st arrondissement, home to haute couture. We were continuously amazed by the gorgeous window displays still decorated for the holidays. Marie wanted to find herself a fancy lipstick, so when we walked past the Chanel store on Rue Cambon, we had to pop in! She used her French language skills to try on a few shades, eventually landing on the perfect Parisian red!
Finding the Perfect Sneakers
There are sneaker boutiques all over Paris full of styles that are harder to find in the states. My kids were hoping to come home with a fresh pair. Seeing those two put together enough French to try on some shoes was a highlight of the trip for mom and dad!
4. Short But Sweet Paris Museum Visits
A museum visit or two is a must when we travel and something we wouldn't want to miss in a city filled with so many gems! Regardless of the museum's size, we decided to make each visit two to three hours max, so our kids wouldn't lose interest.
The biggest museum we visited was the Musée d'Orsay which I hadn't been to since our honeymoon. It was incredible seeing all those Impressionist beauties again, not to mention the location in the former Gare d’Orsay train station.
We didn’t get tickets in advance but made sure to arrived an hour before the museum opened. Because it was winter the line wasn't too long. The weather was mild and the wait gave us a time to give Marie and Oscar a head’s up to what we’d be seeing inside. No guided tours for our family, instead we spent three hours strolling around, letting them choose where they wanted to spend time. Big sis ate it up, while Oscar was a healthy mix of awe and boredom. But the chocolate croissant and latte in the museum cafe on the way out made for the the perfect finish for all.
Musée PicassoThe Musée Picasso was a few blocks from our apartment and the perfect start to one of our first days in Paris. There are about 5,000 of Picasso’s works in the museum, including pieces from his personal collection. It's a smaller museum, so we arrived just before they opened. This meant we didn't have to wait, plus kids under 18 were free.
I’d forgotten how beautiful the building is. It's an old 17th century private mansion that was also used as a Venetian Embassy. We were in and out in less than 2 hours, just in time for a crepe lunch down the street!
My favorite museum visit was to the Musée Rodin. It's a lovely setting with magnificent pieces, and the building is also spectacular, inside and out. We were there a couple of hours with everyone going at their own pace.
5. Make Dining Fun and Skip the Reservations
Just like not having to visit every museum in Paris, booking reservations at the hottest restaurants was not a priority. Ry and I have enjoyed some amazing meals in Paris, but this trip was about enjoying some classic French dishes as a family and keeping things simple.
Classic French Dishes
And we had a list of “must trys” including steak frites, croque monsieur, crepes, etc, but we also went with the flow on where we'd eat depending on our day knowing that a buttered baguette was always an option nobody would be disappointed with. It wasn't always easy, especially for dinner after a long day on our feet, but we lucked out and had really delicious meals (and plenty of baguettes)!
Food Blogger Tips
I relied on one of my fave bloggers, David Lebovitz, and his recommendations for dining in Paris which were very helpful. Recipe developer, cookbook author and longtime blogger, his stories about living and cooking in Paris are highly entertaining, and I recommend if you are traveling to Paris or a lover of French cuisine.
My Top "Foodie" Recommendations for Paris
Les Bistrot des Tournelles
Charming and intimate, Les Bistrot des Tournelles in La La Marais was very special and such a classic Parisian bistrot experience. We arrived early and waited, but after a long day on our feet both kids and parents were happy to rest. Our meal was delicious and the crème brulée was worth the wait!
Our crêpe lunch at Breizh Café (conveniently located down the street from Musee Picasso) was excellent. We each enjoyed a savory version and shared the classic crêpes beurre sucre with butter and sugar. What a treat!
One major treat: we lucked out by getting a table at historic high-end brasserie, Fouqet on the Champs-Elysées. A famous haunt among celebrities, yet still warm and cozy, we gladly took a table in the bar but still enjoyed the dining room menu. We savored an out-of-this-world croque monsieur, frites to die for, and melt-in-your-mouth French onion soup. Between the location, the ambiance, and the food, it felt like a classically French fine dining experience, and we all loved it.
An Amazing Boulangerie
We also enjoyed eating back at our apartment. We enjoyed 7:00am walks up to this amazing boulangerie and picking up incredible cheeses from the fromagerie around the corner to smear on our baguettes. These little eats and treats were a delightful part of our trip too!
A few friends recommended we indulge in a cup of chocolat chaud at the legendary Angelina. Even if you are not a hot chocolate fan, I recommend trying it. This is not your typical Swiss Miss hot cocoa, instead it’s thick and rich. What started out as one cup to share turned into three more cups that night and a return visit! The line can be long, but it's worth the wait. Plus their pastries are divine as are their packaged chocolates and macarons. Both make wonderful gifts to bring home.
New Year's Eve Fun in Paris
Spending New Year's Eve on the Champs-Élysées packed with people was a cool way to end our week, and something we'll never forget!
Revisiting all our trip's memorable moments makes me smile. No detailed itinerary was needed - we knew what we wanted and didn't want to do, and made the trip teen-friendly so everyone had a great time. From museum visits to culinary delights, this trip was full of laughs (and only a few inevitable teenage eye rolls).
Comment below, have you been to any of these places in Paris? Is there anywhere else we must visit when we go back someday?