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We knew prior to our trip that our daily itinerary would need to incorporate sufficient play time for our 14 month old daughter. We had hoped she would tolerate our sightseeing as long as she was given ample opportunity to burn off some energy. We had not researched any specific play areas to take our daughter to in advance of our trip but instead assumed we would just stop by the nearest park each day. Our map showed plenty of green areas marked as “Jardins”. Great plan, right?
In hindsight, this was a naïve assumption. If you have been to Paris you are likely shaking your head at us right now. There were times when she was so fed up with being in the stroller or carrier and we would be rushing to a nearby "Jardin" on the map, only to find every bit of grass was off limits.
There was one day on our trip when I was carrying a kicking and screaming little girl down Rue de Rivoli towards the Jardin des Tuileries. We were definitely getting some looks! She only wanted to be put down so she could crawl around. We entered the gate to the garden to be faced with dusty paths intertwining the lush green fenced off grass and everyone sitting on metal chairs soaking up the sun. We looked frantically around for even a small bit of grass to set her on. Since she wasn’t walking yet and was wearing shorts, I didn’t think she’d want to crawl on the dusty gravel path.
Eventually I gave up and just put her down, only to then discover a playground not fifty feet away! Hallelujah! She even found a little friend her own age to play with (a family travelling from the US in a similar predicament).
I’m not going to be too hard on Paris though, the grass may be off limits but we soon came to realize every major attraction has some type of play area in the vicinity. It took us a few days to catch onto this and several we found by chance, but we made good use of them!
1. Eiffel Tower
There is no shortage of play areas to explore while visiting the Eiffel Tower and Champ de Mars. The apartment we rented was only a couple of blocks from the Eiffel Tower, so we would often make the short walk over after breakfast to give our daughter some play time. This was so much more enjoyable for everyone. As wonderful as it was to have rented an apartment, there were plenty of non-baby-proofed areas that we had to keep her away from. Rather than chasing her around the apartment telling her “no, don’t touch” at every turn, we were able to just let her play. Getting to look up at the Eiffel Tower and simultaneously seeing the smile on my daughters face as she played in the sand is one of my favorite memories of the trip!
The play area that we loved was to the South-East of the Eiffel Tower (follow Av. Gustave Eiffel heading East from the Eiffel Tower and turn down the pathway Allee Maurice Baumont. As the pathway forks, stay right.). This play area has a large sandpit, a slide and other climbing structures. Our daughter loved to crawl around in the sand and go down the slide. With some assistance, she also loved climbing the small “rock wall”. This small contained play area was perfect for little ones.
The other play areas we found within Champ de Mars were:
- Further to the south at the intersection of Av. Charles Risler and Av. Pierre Loti, you will find another large playground with a café.
- Immediately East along Av. Charles Risler at the intersection with Av. Anatole France, you will even find a go cart track and pony rides. There is also another play area with another café, a sand pit and a carousel just north of the go cart track.
- Now going the other way to the North-West of the Eiffel Tower, you will find another carousel at the corner of Quai Branly and Pont d’Iena.
- Cross the bridge to the North (don’t forget to look back for amazing views of the Eiffel Tower) and you’ll find another carousel and play area on the left side. The play area is further along the pathway within the trees.
I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are others that we missed, but this list should keep kids of all ages entertained!
2. La Seine
We love to walk as much as possible when on vacation and walking along La Seine cannot be missed while visiting Paris. We came upon this playground (just to the East of the intersection of Av. Rapp and Quai d’Orsay) on our walk back from the Jardin des Tuileries one day. Given its proximity to where we were staying, this was a perfect spot to give our daughter some free play time before we continued on to do some sightseeing.
3. Jardin des Tuileries
The Jardin des Tuileries is filled with people relaxing on metal chairs soaking up the rays. It’s a beautiful setting with fountains and manicured grass. The grass may not be accessible for kids to play on, but there are other options. On the northern section of the gardens (the areas closest to Rue de Rivoli) you will find a trampoline, a carousel and a playground.
We made use of the playground a couple of times. We made sure to stop at it before visiting the Louvre to tire our daughter out so she would enjoy some time in the stroller during our visit. The play areas, including the playground, are geared towards older kids but again, with some assistance our daughter was able to enjoy the teeter-totter and the hammock-swings. She also really enjoyed watching the older kids run and play. The surface of the playground was a rubber material so she could easily crawl around on it. There are also several chairs under the canopy and benches around for parents to relax.
For our visit to Sacré-Coeur we opted to leave our stroller behind and take only our Ergo baby carrier. We knew the Ergo would make climbing all the stairs up to Sacré-Coeur so much easier. The downside to this is that our daughter had a limited amount of time that she would tolerate being carried. Sometimes we push that limit and usually we pay for it! This was one of those times.
She is not shy about letting us know when she has had enough. As we were leaving Sacré-Coeur, she was determined to not go back in the Ergo. She hadn't had enough time to burn energy despite the time she played on some grass. As we scurried down the steps we glanced to the left… Low and behold, there was a playground right at the bottom of the hill (along Pl. Saint-Pierre to the East of the Funicular). There was also a carousel. We let her play for a while and by the end she was happy to go back in the ergo for our trip back home.
We weren’t sure if we wanted to climb the towers when we got to Notre-Dame, so we left the stroller behind just in case. As my husband waited in line, I took our daughter to walk around and watch the pigeons being fed. Inside, we also let her walk (assisted) along with us. The slow pace was perfect for experiencing Notre-Dame! Once outside we wanted to give our daughter a little more play time before we walked back to our apartment (we were hoping for a nap-on-the-go on the walk back, but she foiled that plan in the end). On the south side we were pleased to find a play area including a sand pit.
As we continued our sightseeing throughout the week we were always on the lookout for areas where we could give our daughter some time for free play. Here's a few worth
At the Centre de Pompidou we did make use of the Gallerie d'Enfants to let our daughter play. The Gallerie d’Enfants is a large area up one level from the main entrance where they have interactive exhibits for children. It is geared towards children 6 and up. However, it was also an enclosed area with plenty of space for our daughter to crawl around and explore. During the time we were there, we only encountered one other family so she was able to play without getting in anyone's way.
The Gardens and Park of the Châteaux de Versailles was the perfect spot to just set her down in the grass and let her play. She loved to push her stroller around, so we found a quiet pathway and let her push away. It was an opportunity to just sit with a nice hot latte and watch her play.
We didn’t make it to the Jardin du Luxembourg or the Jardin d'Acclimatation (in the Bois de Boulogne) on this trip, but both of these also appear to have wonderful play areas for children.
A final note on the playgrounds around Paris:
The playgrounds are rated for specific ages with the lowest age we saw being 2 years old. That didn’t stop our little girl! With our very close supervision our daughter, who was 14 months old at the time, was still able to play and enjoy herself.
For the playgrounds that we visited, we found they were either sand pits or the surface was rubber material.
NEED A BABY-FRIENDLY PLACE TO STAY IN PARIS?
Would you rather stay in an apartment? Read our 8 Essential Tips to AirBNB with Kids.
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