If you’re like me and have children who are lovely and kind and generally share your dislike of other humans, it can sometimes be difficult to balance your family misanthropy with the desire to experience popular attractions when traveling. We’ve been in Paris for over a week now, and (unfortunately) there are other people here, too. I know, right? Here are some tips for visiting Paris with children who hate other people as much as you do!
1. Bring rain jackets and hope the weather obliges.
Nothing clears out crowds like a little rain! This is our go-to method for visiting potentially crowded outdoor spaces. We dress appropriately and enjoy the rain! We were able to enjoy Tuileries Garden and the Orangerie Museum (home of Monet’s giant ‘Water Lilies’ cycle) with very few other people. We rode on the Big Wheel on Place de la Concorde when the rain became unpleasant and got a lovely rainy day view of Paris from the top.
One thing that was not impressive in the rain was the hop-on/hop-off boat tour on the Seine. The rain obscured the view from the boat so much that it was just a slow boat ride with stinky wet people. However, our disappointment at the ride led to us hopping off at a random stop and an adventure we hadn’t planned!
2. Walking around the outside of many major attractions is totally okay.
When we randomly found ourselves on Île de la Cité after our ill-fated boat ride, we were excited to see Notre Dame Cathedral. We were not, however, excited to see the giant crowds in front of it. The rain had cleared by this point (so sad ☹️) and the crowds had arrived in droves. We spent a lovely few minutes walking around outside and enjoying the architecture and then happily left. When the boys are older our decision might be different, but their appreciation of gothic architecture is sadly lacking at this point. (I blame their mother.) We chose to avoid other humans by only walking around the outside of the Eiffel Tower as well. The fact is, there are approximately four billion things to do in any given big city, so why not avoid other people’s stinky armpits by not going inside attractions you are ‘meh’ about?
3. Try out some less popular attractions instead!
Even though the area in front of Notre Dame Cathedral was chock full of humanity (ew!), the Archeological Crypt literally right in front of it had about six people in it. I highly recommend this little museum! We got to see an amazing progression of the history of Paris virtually alone. The boys loved the interesting models of Paris at different points in history, the various coins and artifacts on display, and (of course) the actual Roman ruins that are jumbled together with those from Medieval times. We had an amazing experience there without even having to go particularly far off the beaten path!
4. Avoid weekends and go at weird times if at all possible.
Don’t like people? Look up where ever you want to go on Google and see when other people are less likely to be there. Easy!
5. Choose accommodations in residential areas
We try to always book apartments relatively near attractions but in solidly residential neighborhoods. This allows me to pretend I actually live in the cities we visit while avoiding other tourists. The accommodations are usually cheaper and so are the restaurants! I look carefully at the map when I’m booking to be sure we aren’t too far from the things we want to see, but what’s a few extra metro stops when you can sleep near actual real live French people!?! Anywhere you stay should be an easy walk to a metro stop or you will have sad and tired little people. We are staying in the 15th Arrondissement (20 minute walk to Eiffel Tower area; 3 minutes to metro) and loving it. Try to find an apartment near a park with a playground, as well!
We are loving our time in Paris and are looking forward to coming back as the boys grow and change. I think it’s important to remember that even if your child enjoys crowded places, they are essentially butt and elbow height and won’t necessarily get the same enjoyment out of the experience you will. Of course we can’t avoid the crowds altogether. Part of the price we pay for having access to a strong tourist infrastructure is that other people will want to enjoy it as well. We are looking forward to exploring farther afield when the boys are a little older and a little more adaptable, but for the time being we will accommodate their needs the best we can. I see avoiding attractions that are not appropriate for us as an opportunity to return to places we’ve visited when the boys are older. Who wouldn’t want to visit Paris again?
Things We’ve Loved
- Paris Catacombs
- Disneyland Paris
- Archeological Crypt
- Orangerie Museum
- Just plain old walking around