Paris – The City of Light. Even kids who do not know much about the world will recognize Paris. With the iconic Eiffel tower and the Arc de Triomphe, to its glittering luxury of Versailles and the Champs-Élysées, it’s a city that cannot be missed. It is an easy introduction to Europe for kids and tweens. There is so much to do and see, five days is not enough for most, but it was enough for a group of two adults, two seniors and two (very into their phones) tweens. Here is our itinerary that was about perfect for our time in Paris.
Day 1 – Landing Day
Day one you need to take it easy. Most flights from the US will land in the morning. By the time you get through immigration, figure out the train system, and get into Paris, you will not be there until late afternoon. Do not have any set plans for that day, you have no idea how jet lag will hit you. We chose to drop our bags at our lodgings, and then go out and find a local restaurant to get some food. Most of us could keep our eyes open for the meal (some of us could not). But we were able to eat.
Once fed, my cure for jet lag is walking. You need to stay awake until bedtime to help fight the jet lag. We chose to walk to the Paris Opera House to keep awake, take in the sights of neighborhoods in Paris, and enjoy some treats along the way.
After walking, take a light dinner, and then straight to bed early. You will need your energy for a full day of activities the next day!
Day 2 – Eiffel Tower and a Walking Tour of Paris
Wake up early to travel to the Eiffel Tower. The Paris Metro is easy to navigate. You can use Google Maps to figure out the best route and about how long it will take. Note that the walking times assume healthy people walking at a decent pace. If you need more time or find yourself liking to look at things and take your time, plan accordingly. I suggest both seeing the Eiffel Tower in the morning, and pre-book timed entry tickets. Especially in the summer, those ticket lines can be long. The morning means less people (the later you book, the more people you will find) and you will be visiting when everyone still has their energy and patience. You will need both for the Eiffel Tower.
Once done, find lunch. Do not eat within a 2-block radius of the Eiffel Tower. Those restaurants are expensive with decent to bad food. They thrive on the tourists they will never see again. Instead look for restaurants just a few blocks away. You will find great food at better prices.
Once you are reenergized it is time to do a walking tour! I love walking tours early in the trip because it helps you get a lay of the land, and what to see and check out more when you are in Paris. You can either use a site like WithLocals to book a walking tour with a local guide. Or you can do what we did, and download the Rick Steve’s Europe App. He has free walking tours of different neighborhoods in Europe. We chose to do the Historic Paris walking tour and walked through Notre Dame, the Latin Quarter, and up to Sainte Chappelle.
By now you are tired and hungry. Get dinner, preferably near your hotel, and get back into bed for the night. You are still jet lagged and need some recovery time.
Day 3 –The Louvre and Explore Some Public Spaces
You cannot go to Paris without seeing the most famous art museum in the world. Make sure to get timed entry tickets for the the morning with the Louvre. The line for those to enter can become hours long in the summer without a timed entry ticket, and even those with skip-the-line tickets can find themselves waiting an hour or more. You can use your Paris Museum Pass to book a free timed entry ticket, so just do it. Also, have a game plan for the Louvre. If you looked at each piece of artwork for 1 minute, it would take you 65 days non-stop to see every piece in the Louvre. Do not even attempt it. Here, we again relied on the Rick Steve’s Europe App (Not Sponsored ;-)) , which walks you through the Denon wing of the Louvre and takes you through the classics (Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory, etc.) It takes you about 2 hours to go through with his tour. The Louvre also rents Audio Tours, so if you have huge art fans, I suggest renting that for a much more through tour.
You could easily spend all day at the Louvre if you have art lovers in your group. I did not. After two hours, most of my party were ready to move on. We got lunch at a nearby restaurant that had amazing sandwiches before moving on to our afternoon in the gardens.
I know it is day three, but you might still be fighting some jetlag. Getting in the fresh air in the afternoon helps you continue to get over that. I would suggest spending the afternoon in one of Paris’ amazing public parks or doing a walking tour of a different neighborhood. My daughter had read about the Luxembourg Gardens so that is what we chose. We took a bus there and enjoyed walking in the beautiful park, riding the carousel (really meant for little kids, but they let the birthday ride), and enjoying the amazing playground with climbing structures, slides, and a cool zipline that looked like it was going to launch kids off it at the end.
After a full day, get a light dinner. If you have energy, tonight is the night to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. Note, in the summer, the sun can set as late as 10pm, which can make for a late night. If your tweens are not up for it, go back for some chill time in the hotel and try again tomorrow.
Day 4 – Musee D’Orsay, Medieval Churches, and a Seine River Cruise
It is Day 4, you are finally (hopefully) starting to get over your jet lag! Time for more art! The Musee D’Orsay is also a popular museum. If you are visiting during a busy time, consider getting a timed entry ticket. We chose instead to go when the museum opened and use our Paris Museum Pass for skip the line tickets. We went as they opened and had about a 10-minute wait. Our family enjoyed this museum more than the Louvre, partly because it was smaller and felt more manageable and partly because it had more contemporary pieces. We again used Rick Steve’s to help guide us through the museum, but the museum does rent an audio tour if you want something more in-depth. We ended up spending 2.5 hours here. You can of course spend longer, but we found that was about the right amount of time.
After lunch (we ate at the museum restaurant and while pricey, we thought it as one of the best meals we had on the trip) you can visit one of the many beautiful churches in Paris. Notre Dame was still closed when we visited, so we decided to go to Sainte-Chapelle to see the famous stained-glass windows. The Pantheon would be another amazing site that is included in your Paris Museum Pass.
After marveling at the ancient architecture and beauty of the churches, go ahead and take a Seine River Cruise! You can see these boats all along the Seine. Usually filled with tourists, it is about an hour ride starting from the Eiffel tower and goes down past Notre Dame and then swings around and returns to its starting point. If you want to be flexible and economical, this is the best way, and it is a nice little ride after all the walking and culture. If you can plan ahead, I would recommend a sunset dinner cruise on the Seine, so you can eat dinner, and enjoy the Eiffel Tower lit up at night from the river. We did a cruise in the late evening, then ate dinner near the tower before half our group went back to our hotel and the other half decided to see the tower lit up and watch its lights show.
Day 5 – Versailles
Plan to be away the whole day today. Get an early train out of Gare du Nord or Gare de l’Est to the Versailles train station, about a 40-minute train ride. Your normal train pass will not work, so be sure to purchase round trip tickets to Versailles at the station before you leave. It will make life easier.
Once at Versailles it is a short 10-minute walk to the gates of the Chateau de Versailles. Make sure to admire the grand home from the outside. Then walk through the security and join the throngs of tourists going to see the Chateau.
I recommend that you see the palace first. Seeing the palace takes about 2 hours, and it is a one way, so you cannot get lost. There is a free audio tour available on the app (make sure to download the app ahead of time, as the Wi-Fi in the palace is very weak). Otherwise, you can use our old friend Rick Steve’s to take you around the palace and talk you through what you see.
Once through the palace I suggest you take a lunch break before checking out the gardens behind the palace. You can eat on site at Angelina’s, but the line and wait can be very long. You should be able to leave the grounds and eat lunch in town, and then return.
The gardens are only free if there are no water fountain shows. If you are attending on a day when there is water shows, you will need to pay a separate entrance fee to enter the gardens. However, the entrance fee is worth it, even if you do not see any water fountain shows. Take a few hours to walk around and see the meticulously manicured gardens. Or you can take the Little Train which takes you around. We choose to rent the electric golf cart. It takes at least an hour to an hour and half, but you can start and stop when you want, and there is an automatic audio tour that talks about our surroundings as you drive. The kids had a blast and I managed not to kill anyone while driving.
After your day at Versailles, head back to Paris for a lovely dinner in the city of light.
Day 6 – Arc de Triomphe and Shopping (Plus the Ballet)
On our last day in Paris, we chose to check out the Arc de Triomphe. This famous monument built by Napoleon, is a staple in all photos of Paris. We used our Paris Museum Pass to skip the ticket line and go straight to the steps. As my mother had difficulty to walk steps, we got her a ride on the elevator up. My husband, kids and I walked up the 263 steps (my kids counted) to the top of the arch. My husband and I went up and sat as we caught our breath and reassured ourselves that we were not having heart attacks. My kids skipped around and quickly found Abuela to hang out with. After enjoying the view and heading down, we decided to eat lunch on the Champs-Élysées, and do some high-end window shopping. We enjoyed walked around and seeing Dior, Channel, and the other high end stores the street is famous for. We saw the Stranger Things pop up shop (but I was not willing to wait in line) and we ended up going into the Disney Store where we did end up purchasing for the kids because…. of course, we did.
We headed back to the hotel to change and get a quick light meal before heading to our treat to end the trip – we watched the Paris Ballet perform a Mid-Summer Night’s Dream in the Opera Bastille. It was a beautiful theater, and of course the ballet was amazing. The costumes, the music, the gorgeous dancing. We were all blown away. It was the perfect way to end our time in Paris and the cherry on top of a gorgeous trip.
Day 7 – Travel Day
Unfortunately, it was time to go home. We had a morning flight so left the hotel before we even were able to eat breakfast at the hotel. We got up early and headed out to the train station to catch a train to the airport for our flights to Lisbon. We felt sad to be leaving the land of croissants, crepes, and culture, but excited to explore our next city.
What is your suggested Paris Itinerary? What would you change?
* Starred Photos taken by Atma Photography
Editor: SKS (Son)