France with young children – Lonely Planet

It is a hot May well working day in Nîmes, and a gladiator in the ring of Les Arènes winks at my little ones.

Giddy, they wave their handkerchiefs and parrot a prayer to the sky god Jupiter. Sat all over us are some 12,000 spectators. But we’re not here to enjoy a rugby or football match. Rather, we’re cheering for chariots underneath the watchful eye of a toga-clad Emperor at the once-a-year Grands Jeux Romains (Great Roman Game titles), a rip-roaring reenactment that fully immerses my kids in the ambiance of Antiquity.

Around the years, vacation in France hasn’t just delighted my daughters it really is also served as a crash program in record. We have admired prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux IV and hurled h2o balloons from medieval catapults. We’ve viewed a falconry show at Provins, dressed up in Renaissance garb in Loire Valley châteaux, crawled through WWII bunkers — and that is just the commence. 

There have been beach front breaks and alpine hikes and urban escapades, also. By it all, I have discovered that loved ones adventures in France have enriched my personal travels with a perception of novelty, discovery and awe. Right here are the very best factors to do with little ones in France.

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Adorable toddler girl walking on fallen autumn leaves near the Eiffel tower
From well-known sights to fallen leaves, France is set up for small ones © encrier / Getty Photographs

Is France superior for little ones?

Combining crowd-satisfying favorites and offbeat thrills, France is an simple provide for family members journey. From large marionette parades to the Fête de la Musique, the place that exudes joie de vivre is all-inclusive for young children. Just glimpse at the culinary ritual of the goûter. The afternoon snack isn’t really just liked by little ones when they get out of university in the afternoon it is really component of the cultural cloth, a Proustian second even channeled by pastry cooks on chic restaurant menus. 

The tourism infrastructure is outstanding. Even small rural villages have dedicated vacationer places of work with children’s actions these types of as themed jeux de piste (treasure hunts). Similarly, French museums set the conventional for child-centric video games and workshops. Many museums give cost-free admission for young ones, or a forfait tribu (special spouse and children level) for two older people and two children. 

Playgrounds are as prolific as pâtisseries. When it comes to navigating cities, umbrella strollers are simple for sidewalks (and naps) — but it’s best to provide a child provider to stay away from the head aches of cobblestone streets, not to point out the ubiquitous stairs in the Paris metro.

Children are not frowned upon at dining places. From a youthful age, young ones eat multi-class foods with their mother and father (fromage provided). That remaining stated, we’d only advise bringing your enfants sages (properly-behaved small children) to a Michelin-starred establishment if they is not going to disturb other diners. Searching for a spouse and children-welcoming location? All-day brasseries and everyday crêperies are superior alternatives. You will find normally a very good-value kids’ menu, inclusive of drinks and desserts. 

If you have rented a self-catering getaway residence and want to stock up on foods and nappies, continue to keep in head that supermarkets in the countryside frequently close on Sundays, and sometimes for a article-lunch interval.

two children looking at beautiful castle of Carcassonne in France
France is a massive state with a great deal of option, specifically if you’ve got only acquired small legs © margouillat image / Shutterstock

Where by is best in France for children?

From the tidal marvels of the Baie de Somme to the major-wave surf of Basque Region, the French coastline presents a dizzying array of delights. For a seaside break, the large sandy shores of the Atlantic coast are a attract, as are Brittany’s secluded coves. The Côte d’Azur may well be recognized for unabashed luxury and upcoming-stage hedonism (image bronzed revelers on Plage de Pampelonne in St-Tropez). Even now, you can discover your individual slice of household-helpful paradise (my young ones vote for the port town of Menton).

Society-packed Paris is a feast for all ages. Where by else can you make a date with Monet in the morning, climb a medieval tower in the afternoon, adopted by a Seine river cruise and a cone of chocolate mousse from Chocolat Chapon

And la cerise sur le gâteau (the iceing on the cake)? Jumping on a trampoline surrounded by palm trees in the Jardin des Tuileries. Another child-accredited playground: the Dordogne Valley, the place you can merge river canoeing with prehistoric cave art, châteaux, and fortified villages. Then there’s the Loire Valley, in which you can relive the glory times of the French monarchy in extravagant châteaux.

For out of doors adventure, make a break for the French Alps. Summertime thrills consist of wildlife recognizing, hiking and rafting, whilst the wintertime season lures households in droves to the pistes. Young ones are welcomed in ski resorts’ dedicated jardins de neige (snow gardens) starting at age three.

Woman carrying baby girl through vineyard, Bergerac, Aquitaine, France
Seashores, parks, museums: France has plenty for toddlers and babies © Gu /Getty Images/Picture Source

Ideal issues to do in France with babies and toddlers

Keep on a car-cost-free island

Is there just about anything better than frolicking on an idyllic French seaside? What about experiencing people frolics on a car-free of charge island, exactly where you you should not have to be concerned about chasing a toddler away from visitors? A number of top rated suggestions: Île de Batz and the pink-granite Île-de-Bréhat in Brittany, Île de Porquerolles in the Riviera’s Hyères archipelago and – our personal decide – Île d’Aix, a little 129-hectare island from wherever you can see Fort Boyard off the west coastline.

Just take a deep dive at a museum

France has a museum for every hobby and flavor, and most key institutions give new mothers and fathers priority entry that enables you to reduce the queue if you have bought a infant in tow. For more mature little ones, museums arrange ateliers (workshops) on Wednesday afternoons and weekends. Along with audio guides, some monuments like the Conciergerie in Paris present what they connect with ‘HistoPads,’ digital tablets with headphones that make it possible for kids to find the past by 3D and virtual reality.

The Great Elephant with passengers aboard, one of the Machines of the Isle of Nantes.
Children of all ages will lover Les Equipment de l’Île in Nantes ©Dutourdumonde Photography/Shutterstock

The most effective items to do in France with kids

Marvel at Les Equipment

A road-theater troupe in Nantes released this whimsical, steampunk-design undertaking that feels as if it’s straight out of a Jules Verne novel. Created from sycamore and metal, a large mechanical elephant carries 49 passengers by way of the streets although spraying drinking water out of its trunk. The island headquarters for Les Machines is a wonderland for little ones, total with a multi-tiered carousel where you can journey fantastical sea creatures. Les Devices jas also branched out to Toulouse – beware the Minotaur with its daily life-like grumbling and steam pouring out of its nostrils. You will find also a huge fire-spitting dragon in Calais.

Lookup for Invaders

The anonymous French road artist recognized as Invader has a worldwide adhering to for his mosaic artwork motivated by 1980s video clip online games. He’s ‘invaded’ towns all over the world, but the the greater part of his mosaics can be located in his hometown of Paris. Down load the Flash Invaders app and get details for each individual authentic artwork you photograph with your smartphone – it is a exciting way to get kids out discovering a new metropolis, from Lyon to Lille.

Hit the topic parks

France does not just lay assert to Disneyland Paris, but a bonanza of concept parks. Futuroscope would make mastering enjoyment with superior-tech cinematic experiences and house-age points of interest. Parc Astérix celebrates the figures from the very best-marketing comedian guides, even though Vulcania explores Auvergne’s extinct volcanoes. In the Vendée, the preferred Puy du Fou provides background to lifestyle with extraordinary spectacles starring costumed people. Attractions like Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse, Aquarium La Rochelle and Nausicaá in Boulogne-sur-mer are also company favorites.

Nest in the trees (or in a lighthouse)

You can also just take your trip up a notch by checking into wild and wacky accommodations. Snooze in a lighthouse keeper’s dwelling on the L’île Vierge. Look at into a treehouse at the Loire Valley Lodges or go royal with a room at the close by Chateau de Rivau. Bunk down in a snow groomer (talk to for ‘Over the Moon’) on the significant-altitude pistes of La Plagne (gorgeous Mont Blanc view integrated). Or snooze amid the wild animals at the Safari Lodge of the Zoo de La Flèche.

Best things to do in France with teens and tweens

Pursue a enthusiasm

Why not invite your teen to be element of the journey determination-generating and opt for an exercise centered on their passions? Does your child adore la delicacies? Signal up for a cooking class or food items tour in towns like Lyon, Aix-en-Provence, and Paris. Love audio? Get tickets to a summer time competition these types of as We Enjoy Eco-friendly, Rock en Seine, or Jazz à Juan. Ridiculous about movies? Consider a movie competition – and it will not have to be the red carpet of Cannes. Enjoy dance? Catch a functionality at the Palais Garnier, Philharmonie de Paris, or Centquatre.

Our spouse and children visits have generally morphed into hen-seeing expeditions – we’ve noticed flamingos in the Camargue and spoonbills in the Parc du Marquenterre.

Terroir on two wheels

No matter whether you cycle with Tour de France stamina or favor a leisurely peddle, biking in France is a pleasurable way to include a lot of floor while appreciating the scenery. The state is rife with routes, so you can pick out your own journey, whether or not it be a one-working day outing by means of the vineyards or a 7 days-long journey. A number of illustrations: the 600km Vélo Francette connects Ouistreham in Normandy to the Atlantic Coastline, and the ViaRhôna follows the Rhône River from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean. If that all seems like a little bit much too substantially exertion, contemplate e-bike hires for the entire relatives – they let you to cycle extensive distances with a great deal less work.

Look for out of doors thrills and spills

Even if your teen grumbles about ditching their devices, they’ll before long be distracted by the miracles of nature. Or you can at the very least give it a try. Location a menagerie of marmots on a hike in the Parc Nationwide de la Vanoise. Commune with monkeys in the Vallée des Singes south of Poitiers. Search for dolphins on a boat trip to Île Sainte-Marguerite, the island off the coast of Cannes in which the unfortunate gentleman in the iron mask was imprisoned.

Lease an electric powered boat on the Bassin de la Villette in Paris (no captain’s license demanded). Or get your adrenaline pumping on a rafting trip alongside the Giffre River, concerning Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval and Samoëns in the Alps.

A father with two children on a high speed TGV train in France
TGV teach in France are quickly, snug and great for young ones © freemixer / Getty Illustrations or photos

Setting up strategies

  • Skip the autoroute tolls and bouchons (visitors jams) and get the coach instead. Small children beneath 4 journey for absolutely free on the productive French rail network. Frequent tourists (in between 27–59 several years previous) ought to look at the Carte Avantage Adulte for 30% savings on all educate journeys in France and Europe, and 60% for up to 3 accompanying little ones (4–11 decades).
  • In Paris, kids less than four vacation for absolutely free on the RATP community transportation process and then get fifty percent-cost fares right until they are 10 yrs aged.
  • To stay clear of disappointment, constantly double-examine opening several hours for eating places and museums, and make reservations in progress.
  • Embark on a treasure hunt close to the French capital courtesy of the free of charge Paris Location Adventures app. Opt for your individual themed journey, then obtain the thriller objects and detect the historical figures for the prospect to win a prize.