Attractions and distractions for kids
Enfants terribles? Let them loose on Paris's finest family-friendly sights and visitor spots...
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...
When it opened in 2002, many thought the Palais' stripped-back interior was a design statement. In fact, it was a response to tight finances. The 1937 building has now come into its own as an open-plan space with a skylit central hall, hosting exhibitions and performances. Extended hours and a funky café have drawn a younger audience, and the roll-call of artists is impressive (Pierre Joseph, Wang Du and others). The name dates to the 1937 Exposition Internationale, but is also a reminder of links with a new generation of artists from the Far East.
- 13 avenue du Président Wilson, 16e
- Critics choice
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.
- 62 rue de Lille, 7e
- 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.
- 36 rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 5e
- Price band: 1/4
- Critics choice
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.
- La Villette, 30 avenue Corentin-Cariou, 19e
The museum’s entryway, although narrow, is a conspicuous shade of bright orange. And still, it’s easy to miss. But venture through the orange door and you’ll find yourself in a dark, humid chamber with cavernous vault ceilings: the unlikely premises of not one, but two historic Parisian museums. To one side is the Automaton museum, where over a hundred metal, wood and paper machines (including some beautiful carnival shooting gallery targets) tick, buzz and whirr in perpetual motion. Dating from the 19th century through to the present, some comic, some raunchy, these strange gizmos come together in surprising synchronicity, performing their jerky mechanical ballet like one enormous music box. To the other side of the entryway sits the Magic museum, a display of props, pamphlets, posters, and antique contraptions – all artefacts of magic’s golden age. Tracing the uses, perceptions and historical evolution of the magician’s craft, the museum is a tribute to Houdini and his ilk, the true practitioners, as opposed to Vegas entertainers like David Copperfield and Lance Burton. In this respect, the collection is a magnificent anachronism, hidden in plain sight on Rue Saint Paul.
- 11 rue Saint-Paul, 4e
- Critics choice
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.
- 104 rue d'Aubervilliers et 5 rue Curial, 19e
This small, private museum and doll hospital enchants little girls with its collection of some 500 dolls (mostly of French origin) and their accompanying accessories and pets, which are arranged in thematic tableaux.A few teddies and quacking ducks are thrown in for young boys, and storytelling sessions and workshops (along the lines of making doll's clothes or miniature food for dolls' houses) are held at 2pm on Wednesdays (in French, reserve in advance; €8-€13). There's even a clinique pour poupées if your doll is falling apart at the seams.
- Impasse Berthaud, 3e
- Price band: 2/4
- Critics choice
No building better symbolises Paris than the Tour Eiffel. Maupassant claimed he left Paris because of it, William Morris visited daily to avoid having to see it from afar - and it was originally meant to be a temporary structure. The radical cast-iron tower was built for the 1889 World Fair and the centenary of the 1789 Revolution by engineer Gustave Eiffel.Eiffel made use of new technology that was already popular in iron-framed buildings. Construction took more than two years and used some 18,000 pieces of metal and 2,500,000 rivets. The 300m (984ft) tower stands on four massive concrete piles; it was the tallest structure in the world until overtaken by New York's Empire State Building in the 1930s.Vintage double-decker lifts ply their way up and down; you can walk as far as the second level. There are souvenir shops, an exhibition space, a café and even a post office on the first and second levels. The smart Jules Verne restaurant, on the second level, has its own lift in the north tower.At the top (third level), there's Eiffel's cosy salon and a viewing platform. Views can reach 65km (40 miles) on a good day, although the most fascinating perspectives are of the ironwork itself. At night, for ten minutes on the hour, 20,000 flashbulbs attached to the tower provide a beautiful effect.The Jules Verne restaurant is now run by Alain Ducasse.
- Champ de Mars, 7e
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.
- 40 boulevard Haussmann, 9e
This monumental 1930s building, housing the city's modern art collection, is strong on the Cubists, Fauves, the Delaunays, Rouault and Ecole de Paris artists Soutine and van Dongen. The museum was briefly closed in May 2010 after the theft of five masterpieces. The €100-million haul netted paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Modigliani and Léger.
- 11 avenue du Président Wilson, 16e