Thanks to the incredible generosity of our friend Tom, we enjoyed a belated wedding present of 2 weeks in Montmartre Paris in a 2 bedroom flat directly next to the famed Place du Tertre.
We’ve stayed at his flats in the past, but it was always just 3-5 days in Paris (and never with kids.) Traveling back to France after an 18-year break from Europe, we were itching to explore one of our favorite cities again.
After having spent 5 days in Richelieu with kids with our Auntie Toni and Cousin Cassie, we drove, took a train, and an Uber to Montmartre Paris from the countryside. The weather was sunny and hot, and Tom anticipated our arrival. He showed us around the flat, gave us some tips on eating, shopping, and Metro transportation in the area, and we began our adventure!
Things to do with Kids in Montmartre Paris
and across Paris, France.
Place du Tertre
Our proximity to the artists’ area of Montmartre couldn’t be closer. Opening a window, we could hear the accordion player with his black cat playing the same song all day. 6-7 steps from the door, we were immediately thrust into the tourist crowds. There are many restaurants and cafes, artists painting tourist portraits, and souvenir shops.
Restaurants and Cafes
Though you pay a premium to eat within the Place du Tertre, it offers excellent people-watching. Tom says that when you grab a coffee, you’re essentially renting a seat for as long as you want. We ate at a few spots here, and the prices were high and the service blunt, but the food was great. We were told to walk further down past Abbesses to do grocery shopping and find more (better) restaurants. These areas are dotted with endless incredible eateries at better prices. Our favorite was at OSE.
What was once the home of too many famous artists to count, including Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, and Salvador Dali, now it’s filled with impressive portrait artists. You can sit and have a goofy caricature, and right next to your artist will be another doing realistic charcoal drawings of your neighboring subject. We did both for the kids, and we love them. It’s not cheap or all that fast, but it’s worth it. If you really like a specific artist, and they’re busy, you’ll want to get in queue and settle in. My wife was smart and grabbed a table at the closest cafe, made sure the artists knew we were next, and waited it out with white wine and Jus de Pomme.
We found that the prices for souvenirs are better at some of the shops here than in other spots. Our favorites are the 2 shops at 3 Rue Norvins. They had Eiffel Tower souvenirs for a tenth of the price that they charge at and around the actual tower. They also have original art, clothing, and other beautiful unique gift options.
This massive cathedral is open to the public and worth a walk-through. Make sure to dress appropriately and stay quiet. The views from the Sacre Coeur are the best of Paris (other than up on the Eiffel Tower.) You can see most of Paris from up here.
TIP: early morning and late in the evening, tourists don’t frequent Montmartre. This area is beautiful to explore when people aren’t bulked up elbow to elbow within the small streets. The lights of the cafes shimmer across the cobblestone streets, making it incredibly romantic at night.
Of course, we had to visit this uber-famous monument. My little girl has been dreaming of visiting the Eiffel Tower for the majority of the years she’s been around. We always opt to walk to the second level, then take the lift to the top. It’s cheaper, more fun, but most importantly it’s far less crowded and easier to get up. I love feeling the wind as we climb each staircase! The views from each level are great, but once at the peak, you get 360 views of all of Paris. There are also restaurants and spots to grab snacks, but you’ll pay for them.
We went back at one point to try and see it sparkle at night. Unfortunately, it gets dark so late in the summer, we missed it most nights. If you get there a few hours before dark, grab a blanket and some space on the grass at the Champs de Mars and enjoy some wine and picnic with all the other revelers. In summertime, the Eiffel Tower twinkles for the first 5 minutes of each hour after dark (but I’m not sure when it stops.)
We also had some family portraits shot by a professional in front of the Eiffel Tower at the Palais de Chaillot. We also walked to a spot between buildings with trees and a unique view for photos. Not a bad spot for Christmas Card photos!
We visited the Jardin du Luxembourg twice. The first time, we did the playground with our French cousins. You have to pay to get in, but it’s worth it for the little ones. We grabbed ice cream nearby as well. I feel like the ice cream shops in Paris take things more seriously. At least at the few we visited, they gave you as many flavors as you wanted, added it to a cone in the shape of a flower, and stuffed the cone full of ice cream. It’s disappointing when eating an ice cream cone and ending up with an empty dry cone. It’s the little things in life.
The second time we visited, we went a little earlier in the day to take full advantage. Our good friends from California happened to be visiting for the weekend, so we grabbed a few bottles of vin, sat in some chairs, and watched the kids run around pushing sailboats around. It was perfect! The kids couldn’t get enough of it (sailboats are available for rent at the large pond in front of the Palais du Luxembourg used for the Senate), an activity we found out has been popular for over a hundred years at this spot, And we loved having a stationary spot to chat, drink and watch the kids safely play. It was a gorgeous sunny day built for day drinking. We walked past pony rides and tennis courts wondering how much we’d use this park if we lived here. Plenty to do!
Far less crowded and easier to access than the Louvre, The Museum d’Orsay is a beautiful structure with incredible art. You’ll see everything from Rodin sculptures to Van Gogh paintings. They have revolving exhibits too, and we enjoyed a fascinating group show sharing Both Manet and Degas side by side. They showcased their artwork along with stories about their tumultuous, competitive relationship as well as mutual (though mostly concealed) respect for each other. Their shared time in history is pretty fascinating.
The Paris Catacombs
Natalie and I have been excited to explore this morbid underground tomb. It’s funny, my cousin Yan thought it was very strange how Americans love going there. He’s lived in Paris most of his life, and I don’t think he’s been. The catacombs were filled with the bones of over 6 million Parisians when the city came to a point of capacity at all the cemeteries. They just had too many people dying and not enough room, and so over many years, they relocated the bones from hundreds of years of Parisian generations in neatly stacked walls.
We were worried the kids would be freaked out, but they loved it. It was incredibly interesting and at the same time humbling to think about all the lives we passed by. Lives lived in Paris over centuries by normal people that had children, ate at cafes, fought in a revolution, and died from everything from old age to murder and terrible diseases.
Walking and Boating the Seine
We loved walking along the Seine River, grabbing food and coffee, and doing some serious people-watching. In some sections, you’ll find group after group with bottles of wine just leisurely enjoying the beauty of these areas. Our favorite area was at the Pont de la Concorde.
We also took a boat tour on one of the big boats. You can rent personal boats, take enclosed-glass boats, dinner cruises, or take the big cheap ones. We took the big cheap one, and though it was crowded, it was still worth it. Next time, we’ll do more research and find a small, less-crowded boat.
Salvador Dali Museum and Gallery
Just steps from our place in Montmartre, The Salvador Dali Museum shares paintings, sculptures, videos, furniture installations, and the history of this eccentric artist and his wife/muse/collaborator. The kids got a kick out of artwork that didn’t resemble anything that they had seen so far in Europe. Salvador and his wife lived in Montmartre for a spell, and this is one of his flagship galleries. You can buy signed prints and sculptures of his too. I was inspired enough to begin reading his own autobiography (which he wrote at the tender age of 30.) It’s exactly what you’d expect: entertaining, ego-driven, beautifully-written, eccentric accounts from his childhood and early life meant to help explain his genius. We’ll see if I finish it.
Though I had misgivings about visiting Versailles, It ended up being one of my favorite days. Not because of the palace but for our enjoying the grounds just beyond it.
We walked through this massive palace and marveled at the lavish, exorbitant lifestyle of French royalty all the while understanding fully why there was a revolution. We must have made a wrong turn and began doing the tour in the opposite direction. At first, there were few people, so we didn’t notice the flow of people. As we moved forward, we realized our mistake, and decided to push forward. It got more and more crowded. Eventually, a security guard forced us to turn around and join the masses to repeat each room. It was claustrophobic and I was about to belt “Viva La Revolution!” and start tearing at the walls, but a better mind prevailed. It went from interesting to awful in moments. The exact reason why I wasn’t excited to visit. Tours upon tours of tourists locked into thick groupings impossible to get out of. Pretty much my worst tourism nightmare. Seeing some of the massive paintings of Napoleon by David made visiting the building almost worth it.
Eventually, we found our way out (not a whole lot of correct signage to escape this ancient Ikea), and went out to the gardens. The gardens sprawl endlessly, with incredible sculptures and grass lawns you can’t sit on. Once you walk far enough, you get to an area along the waterway that is (I guess) outside of the gardens where you can stand and sit on the grass. We had a blanket, food, and a cocktail to enjoy, and everything was better. I took a nap, we all drew, and my wife began an incredible watercolor of Versailles. It was blissful watching boaters and rowers next to the rows of trees. With such long days, we could have spent 8 hours until sunset enjoying this spot.
You can easily spend 4+ days at the Louvre without seeing everything, so it’s important to plan a bit beforehand. Having the kids with us this time, we needed to go to some of the famous artworks they knew about. We hit them up first to get them out of the way. Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo were first on the list. Then I needed to see the Raft of the Medusa, my favorite painting here. We had time to check out the Flemish/Dutch wing too, my favorite part of the Louvre.
The kids crushed it! 4.5 hours! We ended up stopping at Angelina’s before it closed and had some thick hot chocolate and desserts. The server was amazing and let us walk outside after closing and get some family photos of the pyramid from above.
Most of our friends told us two weeks in Paris would be too much. Having had just explored for 14 days, we realize now it was too short. We need to come back for a few months to truly experience this city. It’s now a dream to use Paris for 2-3 months as a home-base, while we explore neighboring cities, towns, and countryside too.
Though Paris is considered the city of romance, there are plenty of things to do with kids in Paris. And Montmartre is the perfect starting point.
We then went to Naples for 2 nights, but I’m not doing a blog post as it was short and a bit of a fail. Here’s the quick video:
Next, check out our trip to Florence, Italy!