France-Eiffel Tower
France-Eiffel steps

Top 10 Things to Do in Paris

1. Eiffel Tower A riveting romp up this Parisian landmark has to be top of your must-do list. You can take the lift or climb 1665 steps to the second level, from where another elevator is the only way to reach the viewing gallery at 274m. Just 50m shy of the tower’s flagpole, this often-crowded platform provides superhero views reaching 80 km on a clear day. Apart from giving their parents palpitations (don’t worry, its like an iron cage up there), kids will love gazing down on the ant-like columns of traffic and trying to spot other city landmarks. A route has been marked out to the first floor to engage six- to 10-year-olds on the history of the Eiffel Tower – look out for the bright yellow footprints. If they start to tire on the climb up (or down), arm yourself with these inspiring and diversionary facts about Gustave Eiffel’s engineering wonder: The Eiffel Tower has over 18,000 metal parts and 2.5 million rivets; it expands up to 15 cm on hot days and took more than two years to build; over 220 million people have visited since it opened in 1889 and it weighs 10,100 tonnes (that’s like 2020 elephants standing on top of each other).

2. Musée du Louvre You’ve got to see it, but where do you begin in a gallery displaying over 35,000 works of art? There are several ways families can crack this mighty treasure chest. If you want to remain independent, focus on just a few major exhibits, such as the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and Grand Sphinx. Alternatively, download a trail from the museum’s website (where you’ll also find a virtual museum guide for children), book a workshop or sign up for a guided family tour with Paris Muse Clues – an educational treasure hunt that takes kids (aged six to 12) from Ancient Egypt to Renaissance Italy, testing their detective skills to lead them to a prize hidden somewhere beneath the Louvre’s glass pyramid.

3. Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris This beautiful Gothic cathedral will be familiar to many children through Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. Climb the South Tower to the Galerie des Chimères to pull faces at gruesome gargoyles lurking between the towers to ward off evil. There are 387 steps and no elevator.

4. Parc de la Villete This enormous park contains the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, a high-tech, hands-on science museum where kids can tinker with physics and biology. Head straight for the captivating Cité des Enfants. A section for children aged two to seven is divided into themed areas designed to challenge, inspire and inform. Another area for five- to 12-year-olds is crammed with hundreds of interactive challenges for enquiring young minds. Once your children have finished splitting the atom, operating robots, running the European space programme or playing at being Archimedes, spend some time exploring the Argonaute submarine (once the pride of the French navy) or Expositions d’Explora (showcasing the latest developments in the world of science), then take in a movie at La Géode (a giant hemispherical IMAX cinema) or go starry-eyed at the new 3D planetarium.

5. Catacombes de Paris A dark side to the City of Light, this macabre museum is piled with the bones of six million Parisians exhumed from the city’s overcrowded cemeteries during the late 1700s. Maximum gross factor for teenagers; maximum nightmare potential for littl’uns. Also be warned that there are 130 steps going down into the catacombs and 83 climbing back out again.

6. Centre Georges Pompidou Wacky contemporary arts centre with a vibrant spattering of visual and performance art. Don’t miss the buskers, ‘living statues’ and surreal Stravinsky Fountain. Then ride the external escalator and get arty in the Children’s Gallery (for six- to 12-year-olds).

7. Champs Élysées The city’s most famous avenue, dominated by the Arc de Triomphe and Grand Palais. Look out for the Punch and Judy show at Théâtre du Vrai Guignolet. The dialogue is in French, but the gratuitous violence will be all too familiar.

8. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes) As well as galleries showcasing geology, palaeontology and evolution, this large museum (located next to the Seine) is home to the Ménagerie – one of the world’s oldest zoos. The 5ha park has 240 mammals, 500 birds and 130 reptiles.

9. Jardin d’Acclimatation Quirky amusement park with traditional attractions such as a carousel, hall of mirrors, narrow-gauge train, puppet theatre and pony rides.

10. Jardin du Luxembourg Puppet shows, donkey rides, boating pond, children’s playground and vintage carousel.

Best of the rest

Jardin des Tuileries Elm-lined avenues lead to famous landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe and Louvre pyramid. Soak up the atmosphere while the kids sail wooden yachts on the pond.

Montmartre Hilltop district crowned by the Sacré Cœur basilica. Children will enjoy watching the street artists at work in Place du Tertre.

Musée de la Magie Dingy 16th-century cellars provide a creepy setting for magic shows, optical illusions and other tricks of the mind.

Musée d’Orsay One for older children who have perhaps studied the Impressionists at school and will be entranced by this exquisite collection, which includes Monet’s Blue Waterlilies and Renoir’s Ball at the Moulin de la Galette, as well as masterpieces by Cezanne, Degas and Manet.