PARIS FOR KIDS Part 4by Angelique Villaraza-Dominici
Museums Made Easier
When the weather turns bad, then head to the museums, many of which have programmes for children. To avoid museum fatigue, choose one exhibit that you and husband might love, then alternate with an activity for your kid. That way, everyone is happy.
There are about 70 museums in Paris so this is a ruthlessly edited list. You can spend many years here with a child and there will always be something to see. Some museum itinerary examples :
The Junior Pompidou website of the Centre Pompidou has a list of activities. Enjoy a modern art exhibition as a family, then take the kids to the Galerie des Enfants for art workshops. The building itself looks like an alien spaceship that captures the imagination of every child.
In the same area on rue Beaubourg is the Musée de la Poupée, an antique doll museum. View their delicate china dolls with rare handmade clothes. If your visit falls on a Thursday, you can bring broken dolls and stuffed toys for repair at their doll hospital.
The Palais des Tokyo’s restaurant offers a delicious children’s menu. Book the kids at a creative workshop while you do your preferred exhibition in silence.
Your children are animal lovers? Take them to the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle for stuffed animals (the taxidermy variety, not the toy store variety), and then to the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes which is the oldest zoo in the world. It includes a labyrinth, tropical greenhouses, a playground, carrousel of extinct species. Nearby is the Paris Mosque where you can snack on Middle Eastern pastries on low copper tables.
The Louvre is too big. To appreciate every exhibit, one must visit daily for three months. I regularly went for a whole year and still have not seen every section. Don’t even try to absorb eveything. Just pick one exhibit that interests you, then another for your child (such as the Egyptian portion or the horse sculptures). Book the kids in an art workshop while you do a more hectic tour for yourself. Look for special family tours such as Outsize (giant works of art) or At Table (food themes). In the Carrousel du Louvre you’ll find the Louvre Children’s Bookshop with titles in English.
The Musée des Arts Décoratifs has a toy collection. The last time I dropped by with my son, there was a Playmobil exhibit. Architects and interior designers will enjoy the period rooms and furniture on display. For fashion-lovers, the Musée de la Mode is in the same building. I’ve seen groups of children sitting on the floor to sketch their favorite dresses. Ask for the temporary exhibit which is usually a great French designer’s retrospective by a well-known guest curator.
The Musée des Arts et Métiers is for kids attracted to science and engineering with various contraptions they can toy with. There are knobs to turn, handles to pull, buttons to push, film screenings, and the staff can demonstate all this equipment. One tour is by a robot. You’ll also see vintage cars and old airplanes stuffed into a chapel. Hungry ? The Café des Techniques serves salads, steamed dishes, desserts and Sunday brunch. After lunch, let the kids run in the square Emile Chautemps.
The Musée de la Magie has tricks, optical illusions, funny mirrors, curiosities and a magic show for small children.
At the Musée Rodin’s café, children can enjoy it’s statue-filled park and lunch in open-air. This muséum is not too big and feels like a house, so it’s a manageable tour for the whole family.
*Museum Tip : Kids naturally enjoy colors and shapes. Lots of children love Picasso. Place your baby in a forward-facing carrier so he can view art at your height. They also love sculpture which look like humans frozen by an enchanted spell.
Keep this short and simple because it’s not very polite to snack and be loud in churches. In some French towns, photography is not allowed.
At Notre-Dame Cathedral, stop by the Pont au Double to watch expert roller bladers show off their moves. Prevent church fatigue after by letting the kids run in the Notre-Dame’s garden. Then hop across the street to the bookshop Shakespeare & Co. for a vintage copy of Victor Hugo’s novel Notre Dame de Paris.
Look for the Eglise de la Trinité, a church that looks like a wedding cake located in the same area as the Moulin Rouge.
The Conciergerie was a medieval castle used a prison in the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette’s prison cell was here, but it’s now a chapel. Stop for a picnic at the square du Vert Galant or take a boat trip on the Vedettes du Pont-Neuf.
The Eglise Saint Germain is the oldest in Paris. It’s located on a square filled with street performers, and in the winter you’ll find a traditional wooden Christmas village, lovely holiday décor, roasted chestnut stands and mulled wine. Have a long, lazy Sunday brunch at the nearby Ladurée while leafing through your newly acquired treasures from Assouline’s super cozy luxe bookshop on the same street.
November 21, 2011 by Guest Writer