Paris is a challenging city to explore with a small child. Read about our experiences and see how to visit Paris with a baby.
We had a significant discount on Eurostar train tickets from London to Paris. If it weren’t for that, we probably wouldn’t have gone there for a long time. However, it would have been a waste not to use the cheap tickets.
We also wanted to experience traveling by train, so we ended up in Paris for Easter in 2018 when our daughter was 7 months old.
Why Paris is not suitable for sightseeing with a small child
Many Parisian attractions, such as the Metro and older buildings, are not stroller-friendly, making it challenging to navigate with a baby.
Limited Stroller Accessibility
First and foremost, in the metro, but also in buildings. Getting around by metro with a stroller was the biggest struggle of this trip. There are no elevators, and there are no escalators. And if there are any, you never know where to find them.
The same goes for the Louvre. We quickly gave up on a detailed exploration of the interior because carrying the stroller up and down every few meters wasn’t fun. And we have a lightweight stroller.
Popular tourist attractions in Paris often have long lines, which can be difficult to manage with a baby who may get fussy.
Every attraction has massive lines. Truly massive. Hundreds of people, several hours of waiting. To enter Notre Dame, to go up the Eiffel Tower, not to mention the Louvre or the Opéra Garnier.
These lines are mainly due to security checks. Having a pre-purchased ticket allows you to skip ahead a bit, but you can’t completely avoid the lines. More on that below.
Limited Baby-Friendly Facilities
While Paris has many attractions, restaurants, and cafes, not all of them are equipped with baby-changing facilities or high chairs.
Believe me, this is a problem. When it’s cold and you’re touring all day, you can’t just change a baby’s diaper on the street.
There were no changing tables in any of the restaurants we visited. We frequented about three eateries a day during our five-day stay, so we visited quite a few.
There was a changing table in the Louvre, but it was squeezed into the passage between the men’s and women’s restrooms. This resulted in Fryderyk changing Nella in front of all the ladies waiting in line for the bathroom. And there were quite a few waiting, including me at the end of the line.
However, the conditions were much better at the Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou. They had separate rooms, so you could change your child without dozens of eyes staring at the baby’s bottom.
Weather – don’t visit in autumn or winter
It’s really a matter of the time of year and luck. The end of March and April isn’t a time when you can expect sunny weather in Paris. While the weather was almost perfect for regular sightseeing, it was a bit too cold and rainy for a baby.
Most importantly, our little one had to stay in her stroller most of the time. It was the only way we could effectively shield her from the wind. It was definitely too cold and wet to take her out of the stroller for an extended period, sit her on a blanket, or even carry her in a baby carrier.
A whole day in a stroller is tiring for such a young child. That’s why we finished our sightseeing quite early so we could spend some time at home with her without the stroller, clothes, and blankets.
Therefore, how to explore Paris with a baby:
However, we managed to explore Paris, and we consider our stay to be (reasonably) successful. If you are planning to visit Paris with a baby, you might find some of the following tips helpful. Read on to see how to tour Paris with a baby and make it worthwhile. These are our reflections after five days with a stroller and a seven-month-old baby.
Opt for Buses or Walking Instead of the Metro: Most tourist attractions are within walking distance, and for those that are a bit farther away, you can easily take a bus. Paris is compact enough that dealing with a stroller in the metro can be more trouble than it’s worth. The time it takes to walk or use a bus to reach most attractions is often comparable to using the metro.
Consider a Baby Carrier or Sling Instead of a Stroller: Using a baby carrier or sling can be more convenient than a stroller. We didn’t use a baby carrier much because our baby often slept in the stroller, and we didn’t want to wake her (our child is a light sleeper). If logistics allow, we highly recommend using a baby carrier for getting around via the metro and visiting places like the Louvre. Musee d’Orsay has elevators, so you won’t encounter the same issues there.
Don’t Explore Interiors: I understand that it’s tempting to visit the Eiffel Tower or see the inside of Notre Dame. It was easier for me to resist because I had been there before. In my opinion, attractions like Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, or the Louvre are far more impressive from the outside than from the inside, unless you’re a passionate art history enthusiast. If you must go inside, try to arrive as early as possible to avoid long lines, preferably around 8:00 in the morning.
Pre-book Tickets: For many places, you can skip the long lines by booking your tickets online in advance. You may still need to wait in a shorter line for security checks, but it’s much better than waiting with hundreds of people. Yes, I’m not exaggerating; the lines can be that long.
Ask About a Changing Place: As I mentioned earlier, you won’t find changing tables in cafes and restaurants, but the staff is incredibly kind and helpful. They always looked at us kindly, and I never felt that anyone had a problem with us having a child. In one place, they even prepared a spot for us with two chairs in a secluded corner for changing Nella.
Inquire About Skipping the Line: I don’t mean pushing ahead of others without waiting. I’m far from expecting privileges due to having a stroller. In many cases, there is a separate line or even no line at all for those with small children. This was the case at the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. Often, it’s not clearly marked, and the hundreds of people waiting in the regular line can make it difficult to figure out. It’s best to approach the staff and ask.
Less popular places to visit in Paris
Do you want to visit Paris without getting lost in the tourist crowds and spending hours in long lines for the most popular attractions? All you need to do is visit the most famous places early in the morning, skip going inside, and use the saved time to explore a few lesser-known corners of Paris.
Below, you’ll find some of our suggestions for unusual attractions in Paris. These are places that are less known among tourists, less frequently visited, and thus quieter, giving you a more authentic experience, in my opinion.
We went there on our last day, simply because we didn’t have any other ideas for what to see. It didn’t look very appealing in online photos. Most of the shots showed unattractive buildings in the background.
Perhaps it was our complete lack of expectations that made us pleasantly surprised. Parisians playing with their children in playgrounds, sipping coffee, strolling along the banks, perching on walls and stairs. The canal turned out to be a peaceful, pleasant place for a walk, dotted with atmospheric cafés, and not overrun by tourists.
The canal is crossed by many arched bridges, which add to its charm. One of these is, of course, the bridge from the movie Amélie. Honestly, the smaller bridges right nearby look even more picturesque, but, as we know, the film does its magic.
The walking part of the canal stretches from the Republique metro station to the Goncourt/Hospital St Louis station. We started our walk right after getting off at the Republique station. Here, you can almost immediately see the Amélie bridge. We walked to the point where the canal turns eastward. We returned to our hotel from the Paris Gare de l’Est station. Of course, you can continue along the canal further and return from the Louis Blanc/Jarues station to the north.
The panoramic view of Paris from the Pompidou Center
I think to myself that instead of going up the Eiffel Tower to see the panoramic view of Paris without the Eiffel Tower, it’s better to go to the very top of the Pompidou Center and see the view with the tower.
There, you’ll not only get a much better view than from other viewpoints, but also a very short queue, a low entrance fee, and an additional attraction in the form of indoor escalators.
Centre Pompidou combines a center for contemporary art, cinema, galleries, and cafes. Various exhibitions and festivals take place here, and the area is very pleasant for walks. The building itself is also an eye-catcher, with its large white air ducts from the metro and characteristic moving escalators under the canopy.
To access the mentioned stairs leading to the top floor of Centre Pompidou, you need to enter the building. Entrance to the building is free, and the queue outside is for baggage checks. You purchase tickets for the attractions you’re interested in once inside. The ticket costs 5 euros (as of March 2018).
Where to see the panorama of Paris
After seeing the view from Montmartre and Centre Pompidou, we didn’t feel the need to view Paris from above again. For those who want to look at Paris from above more times, here’s a little guide:
- Galeries Lafayette – Entrance is free, just go up to the viewing terrace. The view is not as impressive as from Centre Pompidou.
- Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur on Montmartre – The view definitely compensates for the effort of climbing all those stairs.
- Tour Montparnasse – Supposedly the view is comparable to that from the Eiffel Tower, but with much shorter queues and the Eiffel Tower in the background.
- Eiffel Tower – A view of Paris without the tower in the background, with hundreds of other people and hours spent waiting in line.
- Arc de Triomphe – It’s relatively low and located in a way that the view from the top is not very impressive. You can see La Defense and, on the other side, the Champs-Élysées.
A great complement to a visit to Montmartre Hill is a stroll through the Montparnasse district. Once primarily associated with the cemetery, it now offers visitors much more than just that.
During our stay in Paris, we stayed at the Best Western Nouvel Orléans Hotel (which we highly recommend), right in Montparnasse. This allowed us plenty of opportunities to explore the charming streets of the area.
Still somewhat touristy, but it feels more natural in this neighborhood. People live here, there are shops, cafes, and everyday life goes on. All of this against the backdrop of beautiful Parisian buildings, with cafe tables on every corner and a bakery or pastry shop every step of the way.
Here, you’ll find the contemporary art center Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain (yes, the Cartier known for jewelry), the Gaite theater street, the aforementioned Tour Montparnasse skyscraper, and of course, the catacombs, an underground ossuary containing the remains of six million people.
The Church of Saint-Sulpice and the Latin Quarter
I know that you have to see Notre Dame Cathedral. I mean, how can you be in Paris and not see the cathedral? However, the cathedral doesn’t really surprise you; everyone has seen it in photos more than once.
What surprised us was the Church of Saint-Sulpice. It’s the second-largest church in Paris, after Notre Dame Cathedral, and it truly impresses with its size. Moreover, the distinctive columns and archways make it stand out among the many churches in Paris.
It’s worth taking a look at this church while strolling through the Latin Quarter or visiting the Luxembourg Gardens. Although the church is not located in the Latin Quarter itself, it’s worth covering those few hundred meters for it.
The Latin Quarter
The Latin Quarter is a very pleasant place for a walk, filled with atmospheric streets and cafés frequented by students—after all, this is where the Sorbonne is located.
Walking along the former railway viaduct – Promenade Plantée
A brilliant way to repurpose an unused viaduct is to create a walking path on it. They removed the old railway tracks, planted trees, shrubs, flowers, bamboo (!), and installed benches. In this way, a 4.5-kilometer tranquil and picturesque path was created, right above or sometimes below the bustling streets.
On some stretches, the path runs literally between buildings, while at other times, it goes through a tunnel to descend to ground level before rising above the street again.
The path begins near Bastille metro station and ends at the entrance to Bois de Vincennes park. Along the path, there are several entrances, so you don’t have to do the entire route.