Attractions and distractions for kids

Enfants terribles? Let them loose on Paris's finest family-friendly sights and visitor spots...



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From family-friendly restaurants to fun things for little ones to see and do, read Time Out's guide to the best the capital has to offer...

Grande Galerie de l'Evolution

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

One of the city's most child-friendly attractions, this is guaranteed to bowl adults over too. Located within the Jardin des Plantes, this beauty of a 19th-century iron-framed, glass-roofed structure has been modernised with lifts, galleries and false floors, and filled with life-size models of tentacle-waving squids, open-mawed sharks, tigers hanging off elephants and monkeys swarming down from the ceiling. The centrepiece is a procession of African wildlife across the first floor that resembles the procession into Noah's Ark. Glass-sided lifts take you up through suspended birds to the second floor, which deals with man's impact on nature and rewiring of evolution (crocodile into handbag). The third floor focuses on endangered and extinct species. The separate Galerie d'Anatomie Comparée et de Paléontologie contains over a million skeletons and a world-class fossil collection.

  1. 36 rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 5e
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Musée d'Orsay

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The Musée d'Orsay, originally a train station designed by Victor Laloux in 1900, houses a huge collection spanning the period between 1848 and 1914, and is home to a profusion of works by Delacroix, Corot, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, Gauguin, Monet, Caillebotte, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and others.Alongside the Louvre and the Pompidou Centre, it's is a must-see in Paris, especially its famed upper levels, which have just undergone a serious brush-up. The top floor is still devoted to Impressionism, while you'll find Art Nouveau, decorative art, sculpture, Post and Neoimpressionism art, and Naturalism on the middle floors, including a section on Nabi. On ground level, the school of Barbizon, realism sculpture before 1870 and symbolism take pride of place.

  1. 62 rue de Lille, 7e
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Palais de la Découverte

  • Price band: 2/4
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This science museum houses designs dating from Leonardo da Vinci's time to the present. Models, real apparatus and audiovisual material bring displays to life, and permanent exhibits cover astrophysics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics and earth sciences. The Planète Terre section highlights meteorology, and one room is dedicated to the sun. There are shows at the Planetarium too.

  1. Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, 8e
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La Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie

  • Price band: 1/4
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This ultra-modern science museum pulls in five million visitors a year. Explora, the permanent show, occupies the upper two floors, whisking visitors through 30,000sq m (320,000sq ft) of space, life, matter and communication: scale models of satellites including the Ariane space shuttle, planes and robots, plus the chance to experience weightlessness, make for an exciting journey.In the Espace Images, try the delayed camera and other optical illusions, draw 3D images on a computer or lend your voice to the Mona Lisa. The hothouse garden investigates developments in agriculture and bio-technology.

  1. La Villette, 30 avenue Corentin-Cariou, 19e
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Musée de la Magie

Small kids love the distorting mirrors and putting their hands in the lion's mouth at this museum of magic and curiosities, housed in vaulted cellars. A short magic show is included in the visit - it's in French, but rabbits out of hats translate pretty well into any language. There's a great automated museum too, where 100 mechanical toys move into action before your kids' eyes.

  1. 11 rue Saint-Paul, 4e
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104 (Centquatre)

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It's more than a century since Montmartre was the centre of artistic activity in Paris. But now the north of Paris is again where the action is - albeit a couple of kilometres east of place du Tertre, in a previously neglected area of bleak railway goods yards and dilapidated social housing.104, described as a 'space for artistic creation', occupies a vast 19th-century building on the rue d'Aubervilliers that used to house Paris's municipal undertakers. The site was saved from developers by Roger Madec, the mayor of the 19th, who's made its renovation the centrepiece of a massive project of cultural and urban renewal.There aren't any constraints on the kind of work the resident artists do - 104 is open to 'all the arts' - but they're expected to show finished pieces in one of four annual 'festivals'. And they're also required to get involved in projects with the public, the fruits of which are shown in a space next door.

  1. 104 rue d'Aubervilliers et 5 rue Curial, 19e
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Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle

  • Price band: 2/4
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At the Natural History Museum's Grande Galerie de l'Evolution, stuffed creatures parade majestically through their various habitats. Animals of all kinds teach children about the diversity of nature and, in the endangered and vanished section (where a dodo takes pride of place), about the importance of protecting them.Also in the Jardin des Plantes complex are the small Ménagerie zoo, separate pavilions containing hunks of meteorites and crystals in the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie, and the bony remains of fish, birds, monkeys, dinosaurs and humans in the Galerie de Paléontologie et d'Anatomie Comparée.

  1. 36 rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 2 rue Buffon et 57 rue Cuvier, 5e
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  • Rated as: 4/5

Does the thought of stumbling around in the night, arms outstretched and ears pricked up to detect the smallest untoward sound, fill you with dread? If so, then you can take comfort in the fact that most animals are as useless in the dark as you are. Take the male kakapo parrot: to attract a mate after hours, he's obliged to sing for up to four months at a stretch without stopping. Or the scutigera centipede, who will often resort to shedding some of its legs in order to continue moving through to the small hours.These are only two of the many absorbing revelations of this exhibition, which aims to shed some light on the mysteries of the dark. Its dial set firmly on 'family-friendly', 'Nuit' deftly interweaves sections on animals, outer space, and children's bedtime stories (the least convincing chapter, but still guaranteed to entertain the little 'uns). Endowed with engaging information placards aimed at kids and adults alike, it offers a rich and rewarding look at the life that inhabits the nether hours of the day. And it serves as a timely reminder that in the sleepless metropolises of today, night itself is now an endangered species.

  1. Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle 36 rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 2 rue Buffon et 57 rue Cuvier, 5e
  2. Wed Feb 12 - Mon Nov 3
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Albert Kahn Musée & Jardins

The spectacular, ten-acre jardin alone makes a visit to the Albert Kahn Musée & Jardins in Boulogne-Billancourt worthwhile: Each section is modelled on a garden from around the world – rocky Vosgienne forest, Japanese village gardens, contemporary Japanese gardens and English and French gardens – and makes for a wonderful, lazy afternoon away from the hubbub of central Paris. On Tuesdays and Sundays between April and September (except July and August), in the pavillon du thé,  you can even partake in a Japanese tea ceremony, led by a tea master from Kyoto’s Urasenke school. Albert Kahn was an early-20th-century banker and philanthropist who financed ‘discovery’ missions across the world. His main legacy is the ‘Les Archives de la Planète’ on show inside the house – a fascinating collection of films and snapshots brought back from each mission in over 60 countries.  Kahn’s autochrome Lumière photography collections (colour photos on glass plates) were among the first of their kind and are particularly fascinating if you’re into anthropology or photography.

  1. 10-14 rue du Port, 92100
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Galeries Lafayette

The store has been undergoing a massive renovation programme of late, with the opening of Espace Luxe on the first floor, featuring luxury prêt-à-porter and accessories and nine avant-garde designers. They also unveiled a vast new shoe department in the basement featuring some 150 brands. The men’s fashion space on the third floor, Lafayette Homme, has natty designer corners and a ‘Club’ area with internet access. On the first floor, Lafayette Gourmet has exotic foods galore, plus a vast wine cellar including its own Bordeauxthèque from 2010. Now that’s how to shop in style. Lafayette Maison over the road has five floors of home furnishings and interior design products.

  1. 40 boulevard Haussmann, 9e
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