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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Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

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.

  1. 11 avenue du Président Wilson, 16e
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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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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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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
  • 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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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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The Meta-Perception Club

  • Rated as: 4/5

If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, you’ll likely jump at the chance of going for a wander wearing one of the animal helmets currently on display at the Centre Culturel Irlandais.   Artists in residence Anne Cleary and Dennis Connolly have designed a series of striking helmets handcrafted out of aluminium by Neil McKenzie: lift one on and get a taste of an animal’s visual experience, from the hammerhead shark’s hyper-stereo vision to the horse’s wide peripheral one, the giraffe’s elevated eyes or the chameleon’s rotatable ones. By studying the optics of a range of animals and devising a system of mirrors and adapted glass lenses to mimic them, the artists highlight how the same environment can be experienced in a number of radically different ways depending on who's looking. Challenging laws of perception and preconceived notions of reality, the artists have even crafted a fictional helmet: 'Alice in Wonderland' fans, get behind the eyes of the mischievous Cheshire Cat. Friendly artists Cleary and Connolly place focus on interactivity in art and are holding sessions with visitors (available on reservation) to talk through the elaboration of the helmets and invite you to take a walk around the beautiful grounds of the CCI while wearing one. So forget binocular vision for a few hours – this fun, clever and elaborate project is well worth your time. By appointment only. Visit www.centreculturelirlandais.com for more informati

  1. Centre culturel irlandais 5 rue des Irlandais, 5e
  2. Sun Feb 1 - Fri Feb 20
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Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

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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Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Opened in 2007, this architecture and heritage museum impresses principally by its scale. The expansive ground floor is filled with life-size mock-ups of cathedral façades and heritage buildings, and interactive screens place the models in context. Upstairs, darkened rooms house full-scale copies of medieval and Renaissance murals and stained-glass windows. The highlight of the modern architecture section is the walk-in replica of an apartment from Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse in Marseille It makes for a fascinating visit for children of all ages; to help them understand the exhibits, colourful interactive games are dotted around the permanent displays, so they can try their hand at architecture and learn the concepts of Romanesque and Gothic as they create fantastical animal heads, design stained-glass windows or build a Romanesque arch. On Saturdays at 2pm, three- to seven-year-olds can have a go at doing some building themselves with wooden blocks. Entry is €8 and you don't need to reserve (just turn up about 30 minutes beforehand).

  1. 1 place du Trocadéro, 16e
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