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...

Musée d'Orsay

  • 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.

  1. 62 rue de Lille, 7e
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Grande Galerie de l'Evolution

  • Price band: 2/4
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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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Palais de Tokyo : Site de Création Contemporaine

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.

  1. 13 avenue du Président Wilson, 16e
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Musée des Automates et de la Magie

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.

  1. 11 rue Saint-Paul, 4e
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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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Musée des Arts et Métiers

  • Price band: 1/4

The 'arts and trades' museum is, in fact, Europe's oldest science museum, founded in 1794 by the constitutional bishop Henri Grégoire, initially as a way to educate France's manufacturing industry in useful scientific techniques. Housed in the former Benedictine priory of St-Martin-des-Champs, it became a museum proper in 1819; it's a fascinating, attractively laid out and vast collection of treasures. Here are beautiful astrolabes, celestial spheres, barometers, clocks, weighing devices, some of Pascal's calculating devices, amazing scale models of buildings and machines that must have demanded at least as much engineering skill as the originals, the Lumière brothers' cinematograph, an enormous 1938 TV set, and still larger exhibits like Cugnot's 1770 'Fardier' (the first ever powered vehicle) and Clément Ader's bat-like, steam-powered Avion 3. The visit concludes in the chapel, which now contains old cars, a scale model of the Statue of Liberty, the monoplane in which Blériot crossed the Channel in 1909, and a Foucault pendulum.Try to time your visit to coincide with one of the spellbinding demonstrations of the museum's old music boxes in the Théâtre des Automates.

  1. 60 rue Réaumur, 3e
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Musée des Egouts

  • Price band: 1/4

For centuries, the main source of drinking water in Paris was the Seine, which was also the main sewer. Construction of an underground sewerage system began at the time of Napoleon. Today, the Egouts de Paris constitutes a smelly museum; each sewer in the 2,100km (1,305-mile) system is marked with a replica of the street sign above. The Egouts can be closed after periods of heavy rain.

  1. Entrée face au 93 quai d'Orsay, Pont de l'Alma, 7e
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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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La Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie

  • 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.

  1. La Villette, 30 avenue Corentin-Cariou, 19e
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Eiffel Tower

  • 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.

  1. Champ de Mars, 7e
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