Ahh, Paris. Gorgeous, amazing, one-of-a-kind, and yet.. overdone. Doesn’t everybody have a Top 10 Things to Do in Paris (with Kids) list?
I can’t bring myself to write anything so run-of-the-mill for you. But, even if I could, the entire post would be a big, fat, whopping lie because we likely did not do 8 of the 10 things on our trip.
Instead, let’s focus on a few more relaxed, out of the way, low-key, winter-appropriate Parisian experiences. I’ll still dish on the good, the bad, and the beautiful… I just won’t wrap it all up put a “Top 10” bow on it.
Bouncing Around Paris – on a Bike!
Given our family’s love of the outdoors and the smashing success of our day out in Lucca last summer, I was determined to find a way to incorporate seeing Paris by bicycle.
We cycle daily around our little German town, and we love it. Who can argue with built-in exercise, no traffic jams, and zero emissions?
Lucky for us, Paris has established herself as a beacon to bike-friendliness. The city boasts the third-largest bike sharing program in the world (only two cities in China have ‘er beat) and the bike traffic lanes to support it. Unfortunately for us, the Vélib’ public bicycles are not designed for young children or parents toting babies.
The Company – Bike About Tours
Enter Bike About Tours, a recommendation from Rick Steves. While the company was technically closed for the winter, I still received prompt emails from Katharine. The prices seemed fair, the details convenient, and away we booked.
The other thing we discovered when picking up the bikes were the variety of options for families. We ended up sticking to traditional three-speed bikes with child seats, but that didn’t stop Doc Sci and Screech from testing out a spiffy Dutch tandem that could accommodate one adult and two children. Sweet ride – but not the best idea when you’re unfamiliar with the equipment and the territory.
We struggled to keep our eyes on the road (and the ever-changing bike lanes – yikes!) and not on the gorgeous landmarks whizzing by: Pont Neuf, Pont des Arts, the Louvre, the Orsay, Pont Alexandre III, Palais Bourbon, Quai Branly… on and on the eye candy taunted us until the object of everyone’s affection slipped into view and established herself on center stage.
So many people claim that the best view of Paris is from the top of the Eiffel Tower. I disagree. I think Paris without the Eiffel Tower is just another skyline, and how can the tower define the landscape if you’re standing on it?
For me, the better view is from the underbelly up. Stand squarely underneath Eiffel’s creation to appreciate the sheer mass of the structure. This is no girly trinket. It might have feminine frills, but the bones are literally ironclad.
After scraping our jaws off the ground, we zipped over to a neighborhood pizzeria to pick up a mediocre pie that we promptly devoured on a bench in front of the iron lady herself. Terrible food, gorgeous company.
We gave the cycling legs a break at the Champ de Mars playground where we heard mostly English spoken (expat hangout?) before zooming off toward the Army Museum. We were having too much fun on two wheels to pay for a look at Napoleon’s tomb.
I had high hopes for a walk in the sculpture garden at the Rodin Museum (surely my boys could handle that?!), but Big Foot spoiled our plans by falling asleep. We were forced to continue pedaling or face the wrath of an overtired baby.
Instead, I dipped in to La Maison du Chocolat where the only thing I could afford was a to-go cup brimming with soupified hot chocolate. Hello, delicious! The truffles are handled like pearls here, and the prices are about the same. Watch your wallets, folks.
Wearing our cocoa mustaches proud, we rode until we hit the big-time Boulevard Saint Germain. The day was wearing thin, and our nerves followed suit. We stopped for another kid-friendly break at a small playground in front of the Musée de Cluny.
Had I not been so tired, I would’ve realized we were but a stone’s throw from Luxembourg Gardens and the fabulous playgrounds there. Ah, well, our small male army seemed satisfied with the paltry pre-fab, and Doc Sci and I amused ourselves by debating whether the sentry next to the free toilet was there to protect the paper or the people. Now, there’s a candidate for world’s weirdest job – waste watcher.
The day waned further, and we realized our bikes were not outfitted with lights (a major no-no in Germany). We rallied the troops and rounded out the day with a leisurely ride through the Île Saint-Louis and the Île de la Cité.
In case no one in history has ever told you, Paris is gorgeous at dusk.
With the bikes tucked safely back in their parking garage, we trudged back to our apartment knowing we’d have to spend the next days on foot. Paris really is better by bicycle.
Just a few logistical notes…
- We rented two adult bikes with seats attached for Screech (4) and Big Foot (1). We felt confident in T-Rex’s cycling abilities, so we rented a children’s bike for him.
- In hindsight, it would’ve been better to rent a tandem (this kind – and yes, Bike About had one) because the bike lanes were somewhat different than what we’re used to in Germany.
- Many roads have dedicated bike lanes and paths. However, in the absence of such a lane, bikes may use the bus/taxi lane. While we never felt unsafe in the bus/taxi lane, we were made well-aware of the drivers’ annoyance with cyclists in their way.
- If you do not have children with you, I highly recommend the Vélib’ system as it is quite convenient and extremely cheap.
- But for families who are looking for an excellent Parisian cycling experience, I would not hesitate to recommend or personally use Bike About Tours again. You can rent bikes or sign up for an actual tour. No paid advertisement here – just a good, old-fashioned friendly recommendation.
Have you discovered Paris on two wheels? Would you cycle the streets with your kids?