Rainy Day Things To Do in Paris with Young Children (under 5)
If you are worried about your boisterous 4-year-old knocking over a priceless Picasso and you want a place for your child to burn off some energy on a rainy day in Paris, here are some ideas.
This building isn't full of expensive handbags and suitcases as the name suggests. It's a modern art centre just over the Paris border near the 17th Arrondissement. From the outside, the building looks like a giant colourful sailboat. You could actually take a young child here and never see an exhibition (although the building itself is a work of art so don't feel too bad about that!).
The interior is pushchair friendly with lifts to every floor and for those without wheels, the escalators are a lot of fun too (there are several). It's tempting to leave your coats in the free cloak room but a good tip is to keep them with you because you will need them when you take your children up to the top terraces which are covered (but are open air).
The view through the coloured glass is spectacular and you can even spot the Eiffel Tower. Have your child name all of the different materials used to make the building (glass, metal, stone...). You can also take a snack box and sit on benches on the terrace (but food is forbidden inside the museum). There is a take-away coffee cart on one of the terraces - quite a rarity in Paris!
In Paris, it is always advisable to buy tickets online for museums. This is particularly important for the Louis Vuitton building because special exhibitions attract a lot of people.
On the same site as the Louis Vuitton building, this ‘garden’ is actually a nice fairground with toddler-friendly rides, playgrounds, a little train, a sandpit, picnic gardens, swings, horse rides, a mini-zoo and cafes. This is our “happy place” and we have taken our kids in all kinds of weather. Winter months are cold at Jardin d'Acclimatition and there isn't much shelter from the rain. But if you dress warm and wear water-proofs you can have a good day out and really stretch your children's legs.
You pay extra for the rides on top of your ticket but pretty much everything else is free. It's very quiet in winter and you rarely have to wait for a ride (although not all of them are open). Food and drinks are expensive so that's something to consider when your only escape from the rain is a café (next to the horse pavilion and behind a carousel is a cheaper take-away café which has heaters on the terrace. We've enjoyed some yummy warm crepes here).
Most big cities have interactive science museums for children but I've never experienced one like this. From the centre of Paris it takes about 25 minutes by Metro but it’s well worth the trek even with little ones - if you can bare it.
Sessions are 1.5 hours long so if you arrive in the middle of a session you have to wait for the next one to start before you can go in. There are two areas divided by age: 2 - 7 years and 5 - 12 years. My daughter has been going to the younger exhibition since she was 2 and she adores it. My 5-year-old enjoys both sections but prefers the younger exhibition as he likes the water play and the maze.
There's a kid's construction site which has been undergoing some changes and it wasn't open the last time we visited. The children wear hard hats and builders coats and they work together with softs bricks and cranes to build a huge house - it's very cute. The only down side of Cité des enfants is the price as its €12 per adult and €9 per child for such a short amount of time.
Kapla Centre (followed by lunch at Chez He)
I had never heard of Kapla planks before we moved to France. They are basically little pieces of wood that are identical in size and pretty stable so children can build structures without them falling over in a hurry.
The Kapla Centre, in the 11th Arrondissement of Paris, has fun workshops for children from the age of 4. There are sessions every Wednesday, Saturday and every day of the French school holidays. There are two sessions a day (each lasting 1.5 hours), you have to phone ahead to book and pay cash on the day. It's all in French but it's a visual activity so my son had no problem following what was going on.
If you're not from France, it’s a great way to experience something local and different (Kapla is actually Dutch but the French seem to have adopted it).
This Chinese/Asian restaurant has a big play area underneath and is a 2 minute walk from the Kapla Centre in the 11th Arrondissement. For very young children you would want to stay with them downstairs as I'm told it gets very busy. Impressively, there are video cameras all over the play area which are broadcast onto a large screen so you can watch your children play while you eat. You can reserve online which is a huge bonus and there's a photo gallery on their excellent website so you can check it out. Food looks amazing too! This is on my to-do list.
Grande Galerie de l’Evolution (part of Jardin des Plantes)
This beautiful old building, with its huge glass roof, will have children in awe from the moment they walk in. With see-through elevators to each level, the gallery is pushchair friendly but toddlers will be desperate to get out for a closer inspection of the massive life-like stuffed animals and skeletons, especially with the realistic sounds being pumped out of the speakers. There’s a little open café at the end with high chairs to rest tired legs and plenty of space to move about without worrying about children knocking skeletons over or getting lost in a crowd.
Toddlers and babies will love this aquarium on a rainy day - or any day. There are greater aquariums in the world but the location, very near the Eiffel Tower (on the Trocadero side), is fantastic.
It's underground and you wouldn't know it was there unless you were looking. Buses stop at the front and there's a slightly hidden elevator at the side of the building to save you carrying a pushchair down the steep steps. Once inside it's all pushchair friendly.
The colours, sounds and lights are all beautiful and calming. Our favourite is the shark tanks and there is also a fish touching pool!
Entry prices are expensive (€20.50 for adults and €13 for children aged over 3) but the good news is that kids under 3 are free and you can buy an annual pass. Booking online is advisable during school holidays but normally the queue is quite short.
This is a rare kind of shopping centre for Paris. It has some great stores under one roof (Zara, H&M, Marks& Spencer, Mango, Hema… to name just a few) plus toy stores, shoes, casual restaurants, coffee shops like Starbucks and a huge supermarket underneath. It is very much like the Westfield shopping centres you would find in the UK. So Ouest is West of Paris just over the border in Levallois-Perret
I have spent many rainy days here with my children just wandering around. A highlight is the Lego store where children are free to play with some of the Lego (big and small). Another favourite is a digital aquarium on the wall of one of the walkways (children love jumping on a sensor which makes the shark come closer to them).
Marks and Spencer currently has a bright spacious café upstairs with views over a green park. We often stop here for tea and cake (sadly this section of M&S may be closing this year). Afterwards, if it’s not too wet, we go out to the big playground opposite the shopping centre. In spring there’s a sensory garden with beautiful smells and different fruits to show the kids.
A taxi to 'Royal Kids' in the Paris suburbs
If all else fails and you just need a huge indoor soft play centre, there is a great one called Royal Kids - not too far away. They have two centres very close to Paris at Bezons (in the West) and Ivry-sur-Seine (to the East). Both are about 25 minutes by taxi from the very centre of Paris. We’ve been to the one at Bezons a few times. It’s clean and safe and one day we spent about 4 hours there so the trek might be worth it for you. As usual, these play centres are better suited for the over 3s but there is always a ball pit for babies.
I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions about any of these places, you can leave a comment below or send us an email using the little box in the top right of this page. Or come over and join us on Facebook. Have a happy rainy day!