Travelling with kids can get expensive quickly, especially when the exchange rate isn’t in your favour. Paris, however, is chock-full of gorgeous parks, walks, boulevards, and places (squares) to wander through and enjoy for little or no cost. During our stay in Paris, we visited a park on most days – sometimes more than one, and often with a picnic.
Parisian parks vary from the grand Jardin des Tuileries to a profileration of neighborhood parks. Often the neighbourhood ones are more kid-friendly – most Parisians live in apartments so outdoor spaces are crucial for giving kids some space to run around.We spent a chilled afternoons the non-touristy park close to where we stayed, enjoying a great play area and space for little Roo to crawl on the grass.
But today’s post concerns two larger parks, with very different vibes, history and attractions.
Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens)
This is a top Paris attraction, on the border of the much-frequented Latin Quarter. Jardin du Luxembourg is a large and beautifully manicured garden. It’s a garden to wonder through, and each turn revealed another sculpture, water feature or other hidden treasure.
As with most formal Parisian parks, the grass is immaculate, and NOT for walking on. It took a while for our South African kid to understand that she wasn’t allowed on to the soft and lush lawns, and then again, it’s an unusual concept for us fully-grown South Africans too. But while she couldn’t roam the lawns, there was plenty more to keep her happy.
Chief among these was the large enclosed play area. There are a few small and free play areas in the park, but the real attraction for the under-12 crowd is Les Poussins Verts, which cost a few euros per child but provided a wonderful array of playground equipment. The older kids section also looked particularly great, my husband was disappointed that there was a maximum age restriction.
Our family had a fantastic morning here, and we didn’t do many of the children’s activities for which the park is known: the carrousel and puppet theatre were both closed, and we never saw the pony rides. Small toy sail boats can apparently be rented to sail across the central pond – definitely something to keep in mind for next time.
Parc André Citroën
This park doesn’t have the history or formality of the Luxembourg gardens – it’s a sprawling urban which sits on the site of the former Citroen automobile plant, on the south-west outskirts of the region of Paris into which tourists usually venture. I won’t begin to tell you how to get there because I’m pretty sure we took a longer than necessary route and got off our bus too early; but we managed to get there without too many meltdowns – on this day we were with friends and had four kids under 5 between us.
The park has large grassy lawns – and this time you are allowed to walk and picnic on the grass itself.
One end of the park contains two huge greenhouses, and in between them is a water play/fountain/kid paradise. There does seem to be a little ambiguity as to whether you are allowed to play amongst the fountains, but I read many articles naming this the highlight of the park, and no one stopped Poppet when she danced and pranced around.
Other highlights of the garden:
- A tethered hot air balloon in which you can ascend for a fresh perspective of Paris. As we’d been up the Eiffel Tower a few days before, we babysat the kids while our friends went up.
- While they were up high, we explored the Serial Gardens, a series of gardens each pertaining to a different colour and sense. Can’t say we always saw the relation, but they are an interesting and peaceful area to wander around (2 of the 4 kids were sleeping in strollers and the youngest went up in the balloon with his parents, so that did help with the peacefulness!)
- We found a coffee shop with the play area outside to recharge and get in a little more kid-oriented fun
After a few hours here, we started feeling like we were in quite a different place to the Paris to which we were getting accustomed – perhaps not in my top 10 of all Paris, but a lot of fun and definitely worth adding to your list of places to see if you have the time.