Paris: A Memorable City Break Whether You Are 6, 46 or 66

What do you do during a Paris city break with a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old? Much the same as you could do as an adult. This travelogue can therefore be read as much as a guide for a couple enjoying their retirement as it could for a family trip.

On our flight from Bristol to Paris Orly, other families were enjoying the May half-term getaway, but most, it seemed, were heading to Disneyland. It left us wondering whether we picked the right trip for our children, but our decision was more than justified; Holly and Edward had a wonderful time experiencing the hustle and bustle of a large, cultural capital steeped in history.

Growing up in a Devon village, their view of the world is limited. It is therefore important to us that they see different places, cultures and cuisines as they grow up. Their urban trips have been limited to Exeter and the odd visit to London and Manchester, so this was a new opportunity for them which we wanted to make as authentic as possible.

Evening/Night One

Arriving in Orly we had to make our way to our hotel in north Paris. Once we managed to find the Orlyval train it was a straightforward trip, with a few changes onto the Metro to get us to our Ibis hotel near Pont Cardinet. If you are looking for a high-end, luxury stay, this Ibis isn’t for you, but for us, it was a good midrange option.

The room wasn’t big but it provided a separate room and bathroom for Edward and Holly and a decent buffet breakfast to set us up for the day (important note, don’t take the boiled eggs from the water bath; they belong to other diners!)

Day One (Eiffel Tower & An Indulgent Patisserie)

Paris City Break Key Tip – book Eiffel Tower tickets in advance but wait for tickets to be released nearer your visit dates.

Having filled up on bacon, eggs and pastries we set off for the Eiffel Tower. Not wanting to miss out, we pre-booked tickets but this had proven to be a bit confusing; when we booked the flight and hotel two months earlier we thought we’d book tickets at the same time, but availability even that far in advance was very limited.

We managed to purchase tickets to climb to the second floor but there were no tickets for the lift to the top. Plan B was, therefore, to go to the Montparnasse Tower later in the trip and enjoy the panoramic views of Paris with the Eiffel Tower in it, rather than from it. Fortunately, however, when we checked the Eiffel Tower tickets a few days before the trip, more tickets had been released so we were able to take the lift to the top.

Despite the persistent drizzle, Edward and Holly loved climbing up the stairs and enjoying the views, including seeing the preparations for the forthcoming Olympics.

From the Eiffel Tower we sauntered our way across the Seine towards the Trocadero where Olympic stands and TV studios were being built. The destination was the indulgent Carete patisserie. The array of pastries on offer was mouthwatering and even as a proud Devonian the cream was delightful. As for the hot chocolate, it poured like liquid silk. Edward’s eclair and Holly’s macaron were big hits.

The timings of the Eiffel Tower tickets and the trip to Carete meant most of the day was taken up, so after a trip back to the hotel to freshen up, we headed back out to the meal I was most looking forward to; a steak dinner. We booked a table at Les Fines Lames, a cosy and intimate restaurant near Montmartre. It wouldn’t be suitable if you aren’t a meat eater but it suited us well. The one observation I would make if you are travelling with younger children is that the cheaper cuts of meat tend to be chewier and more sinuous making it harder for Edward and Holly to cut and meant I had to swap my succulent filet steak for a good, but less tender Sirloin. Such is the life of a dad!

Day Two (The Arc D’Triophme, Champs Elysees & Louvre)

Paris City Break Key Tip – buy tickets for the top of the Arc D’Triophme

Day two’s starting point was the Arc D’Triophme, and for all of us, it was probably the most unexpected highlight. I’d seen it from the ground level many years ago when I visited Paris as a teenager but having been advised to buy tickets to climb up to the top it was well worth it. We didn’t book in advance and the queue for the tickets wasn’t long (but maybe in peak season) and the climb, while nothing like the Eiffel Tower, was still challenging for little legs.

Having been to the top of the Eiffel Tower the day before the view didn’t offer any additional perspectives other than seeing the Tower in the view. The reason to climb to the top is to look down on the madness that is the take-life-into-your-own-hands roundabout below and the vistas down the Champs Elysees and other arteries that lead to and from the Arc. Not only that, the history behind the building was new to Carol and me and interesting even to a 9-year-old boy.

Having descended the Arc D’Triomphe we meandered down Champs Elysees, window shopping in the high-end jewellery stores and clothing boutiques whilst looking for places the kids could spend their pocket money. The Paris St Germain club shop was the obvious destination for a football-mad boy and the Galliere Lafayette provided sufficient choice for Holly to spend the money burning a hole in her pocket.

The Galleries Lafayette Hausmann is worth seeking out in itself for the ornate internal architecture, including the glass-domed roof, the observation deck that juts out over the floors below and the outdoor terrace offering an alternative view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower.

No Paris city break would be complete without enjoying a crepe or two, so lunch was enjoyed at a Breizh Cafe restaurant. The chain of restaurants was started by the son of a French farmer who has maintained the provenance and authenticity of the ingredients used. It also has savoury and sweet options depending on your tastes. We didn’t book in advance but in hindsight would have done it because we did have a bit of a wait due to the popularity.

After lunch, it was more walking to take in the sights not yet visited. Notre Dame was still being renovated after the fire so we didn’t spend long there before ambling along the Rive Gauche taking in the historical architecture and buzz around the intersecting streets.

That took us to the Louvre where a city break with young children and a couple may diverge. We didn’t feel that a stuffy museum, even if Edward, at least, had heard of the Mona Lisa, would have kept them occupied for long. The iconic glass pyramid and the need to get the obligatory ‘finger pinching’ photo (or cartwheel in Holly’s case) was sufficient to tick it off this time around. The artistic significance of the gallery can wait for another trip.

That evening we took a culinary departure from classic French cuisine and followed a recommendation to a small burger restaurant, PNY in the Marais area.  Booking isn’t possible and the restaurant is small so if you go at popular times you will wait (outside) but for fans of juicy cheeseburgers, it was worth the wait.

Day 3 (Breakfast in Montmatre, The Sacre Coeur & Uno in a Parisien Bar)

Paris City Break Key Tip – Buy a sorbet near the Sacre Coeur.

The hotel breakfast was skipped on day three in favour of a later breakfast in Montmartre so Edward and Holly could visit a typically French cafe. The Maison Milie received good reviews online which was backed up by our visit. As seems to be the theme for our culinary experiences, it was another small restaurant but we had no problem getting a table and it offered plenty of choice.

From there we were only a short walk (climb up) to Butte Montmartre with its narrow streets, artists and home of the impressive Catholic church, the Sacre Coeur. Being a major tourist destination it was busy but, in late May at least, not oppressively so. The queue to enter the church was long but moved steadily so we didn’t have long to wait to enter and edge our way around the nave, past the transepts and the altar.

Ascending the external walls to the dome 85 metres above ground was the intention of the visit, which Holly and Edward managed despite having two days of walking and climbing already in their legs. The tight, winding stairwell made this a different climb to the Eiffel Tower; the narrow passageway around the dome took us back in time to when it was built over a hundred years ago.

The reward for conquering the Sacre Coeur was wonderfully ornate sorbets crafted into the shape of flowers and topped with a macaron. Once consumed time was spent idly mooching around which morphed into souvenir shopping while making a plan for the afternoon.

Having hit on a plan to wander around Les Jardin De Luxembourg and give Edward and Holly time to play in the park there, unfortunately, a steady drizzle set in. So, instead, we decided to investigate the Pompidou Centre. As with the Louvre, the exhibits in the centre didn’t hold any appeal for the children so, having taken in the modern architecture of the building (apparently it is designed to be a heart fed by arteries!) and the modern art inspired fountains outside, and with two days of walking in our legs, we agreed it was time for a break.

Finding a cafe in the nearby Marais district we took shelter from the now set-in drizzle and whiled away a couple of hours with drinks and games of Uno Flip. Facing an early journey home in the morning an early dinner was needed; we headed for the well-reviewed Bouillon Chartier, and the final item to tick off the ‘Paris Must Do’ list: escargot (snails!).

But, before I get on to that, the amble from the Marais district to the restaurant near Gard De L’Est is worth a brief word. Rather than taking the Metro or a direct walking route, we walked there via the Canal St Martin which is a quaint, quiet spot within the busy city, much like the canals of North London. It’s well worth doing if you are nearby and have time to kill.

But, back to the Bouillon Chartier, and those snails! The restaurant prides itself on being “a proper meal for a modest sum”, which isn’t wide of the mark. The waiters were classically French in their black waistcoats, the restaurant itself was large and airy. It was very different to the smaller, more intimate restaurants we had been to so far, which provided a different feel and atmosphere. It was good the kids tried the snails but they won’t be trying them again anytime soon; buttery, garlicky rubber is my summary. Otherwise, the menu offered enough choice for fussier children alongside more traditional French dishes; Carol had a pike dumpling which she very much enjoyed. I had the butcher’s choice steak which, unsurprisingly was a bit tough given it was a cheaper cut.

With that, it was back home for an early night ready for the Uber to Charles De Gaulle and our flight home.

Is Paris Expensive? Can It Be Done on a Shoestring?

It is not surprising a Paris city break will cost you a lot of money. We went with that expectation but also didn’t want to have to limit our options or Edward’s and Holly’s experience to save a few pounds here and there. Ignoring flights and the hotel, we spent just over £1,100 during the trip, which on the face of it feels like a lot, but is only about £90 per person per day. This includes all food, drink, travel and entry to the various sights and souvenirs, so when considered in that context it feels like good value.

We certainly could have spent less, we only had one meal that wasn’t in a restaurant and we could have spent less on travel by walking more. And the additional Eiffel Tower tickets added to the cost. We could also have saved money by not going up the Arc D’Triomphe or Sacre Coeur.

So, yes, a Paris city break can certainly be done on more of a shoestring budget but the trip wouldn’t have been the same. That is not to say it would have been worse, but different from what we wanted to give Edward and Holly.

Other Tips

Travel Tickets

This may say more about children living in a village, but Edward and Holly loved travelling on the Metro. Partly due to the fun of putting their tickets through the barrier (!) and partly to travel through all the different stops. The double-decker trains blew their minds as well!! From an adult perspective, we were impressed by the Metro; it felt more modern and clean than the Underground, less busy and the trains much more frequent.

On our first day, as we struggled to work out the ticket options we chose single fares but by day two we discovered that the Paris Visite travel pass was much better value. We paid around £60 for a two-day pass for the four of us which provided unlimited travel on all public transport and saved us money overall.


When paying for meals, I wasn’t sure whether tipping was expected in Paris; it wasn’t provided as an option on the card machines and wasn’t automatically included on bills. A quick Google informed me that it isn’t expected.


Being an international city, whether waiters, shop assistants, hotel receptionists or the Uber driver who drove us to the airport, everyone speaks English well. However, we found that attempting to converse in French led to much friendlier and helpful conversations. And, Google Translate was able to plug the many gaps in my 30-year-old GSCE ‘B’ grade vocabulary.

Experiences We Didn’t Do

If you are travelling as a couple with no kids, or in retirement, you could easily repeat what we did and have an enjoyable trip. You may choose more cultural things and do more of the museums and galleries to learn about the history of Paris, particularly the Revolution. As well as the Louvre and the Pompidou Centre we didn’t do the Catacombs (probably a bit scary for young children) or the Musee D’Orsay, but we feel we left with a good feel for the city and Parisien culture.

We also decided against a Bateaux Mouche trip, deciding that we had seen most of the sights on foot anyway. It would have been great to be able to go into the Notre Dame but the ravages of fire prevented that, by the time you read this it may be an option.

Looking Back

All in all, we can look back on 4 nights and 3 days of a truly memorable Paris city break. As I mentioned at the start, we are keen for Edward and Holly to see that there is more to the world than they are otherwise exposed to living in a small Devon village. Ideally, we would have enjoyed better weather but it didn’t detract from the trip at all; there is so much to do anyway and, while we would have done different activities if it were drier, the rain also led us to experience a different side of Paris.