France: Paris, Chartres, Versailles
Fly in/out: Paris France, CDG
Recommended ages: 8 and up
Ball Park Price: $1600/person (airfare not included)
Best Season: March-October
Time: EST +6 hours
DAY ONE & TWO: Arrive at Charles De Gaulle (CDG) airport on American Airlines and take taxi to apartment rented from Haven In Paris Get acclimated to the jet lag and time change and try to get early check in. Purchase Paris pass and take Les Cars Rougesbus red hop on/hop off tour to get a general orientation of the city.
DAY THREE: Explore one of the most beautiful art museums in Paris with large exhibits, easy halls and shorter lines at Musee D’ Orsay. Directly across the Musee D-Orsay lot is the Musee de L’Orangerie featuring the most recognizable art from Monet. Stop and enjoy lunch in the Jardin DesTuileries, a public garden located between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde with outdoor cafes. Stroll through and enjoy gardens, fountains and sculptures. Late Wednesday afternoon, visit the Louvre museum open until late for a better chance to see the Mona Lisa. (Not open Tuesdays)
DAY FOUR: Take a fat tire bike tour with kids – a guided tour stopping and learning about the most popular sites in Paris. In the afternoon, take a guided Eiffel tower tour skipping the lines. Access all three levels of the Eiffel Tower including the summit. For a way to enjoy Paris not on foot have an evening dinner on the Seine with Bateaux-Mouches Boat Tour.
DAY FIVE: Take Rail Europe to the town of Chartres. Walk to explore the glorious 13th-century, world-famous blue stained glass windows cathedral. Climb to the top of the towers. Stop in restaurant Les Feuillantines for a quaint and delicious meal in Chartres.
DAY SIX: Take a ½ day trip to Versailles. Tickets included in Paris City Pass. Take the RER train-line and take a 10 minute walk to Versailles. Bring a packed lunch/picnic to avoid food lines. Between the Palace and Marie Antoinette’s estate is a 40 minute walk, so to save time and explore the grounds, rent bikes or golf carts to get around.
- This 2000 year old city is a pristine remarkably preserved city with hundreds of monuments and attractions to explore. We enjoyed our “overview” tours like the hop on/off bus tour, Fat Bike tour and tour on the Seine River as each one had unique stories to tell.
- We enjoyed our one day trips to Chartres and Versailles as we could take our time and didn’t have anything else planned for the day. Both locations are totally worth the visit as the Chartres Cathedral is the largest cathedral in the world and the Versailles Palace is a remarkable huge complex.
- It is just as beautiful to see Paris during the day as night. The views from the top of the Eiffel tower were unforgettable and the views from the Seine at night were surreal and romantic.
- There are a few places that the lines are so long you’ll want to try to go another time or just enjoy the views from the outside. There is a guided tour inside the Notre Dame cathedral but it had a mile queue when we were there but they had some artists performing at night so we enjoyed that instead.
- Renting an apartment in St.-Germain-des-Prés area for a week allowed us to take in so many of the sites without being rushed or in a hurry.
- We loved our Fat Tire Bike tour. Such an easy way to be outside and learn about so many sites in a very short time. Although traffic can be intimidating, this bike company knew how to navigate the streets of Paris. We ended the 3.5 hour tour enjoying a leisurely lunch at Jardin des Tuileries (price not included).
- Musee d’Orsay, is a family favorite for showcasing breathtaking pieces of art in one of the most open and architecturally beautiful buildings in Paris. You can roam through and enjoy iconic pieces without major crowds like the Louvre in under 2 hours.
Places to stay
- As many families are learning, often a multiple bedroom apartment stay is more convenient and less expensive when travelling with a family. For excellent apartment hunting by bedroom number and apartment location in Paris try Haven in Paris
- Another great website for searching for boutique hotels in the 3 to 4 star category including free transfers is My Boutique Hotel.
- The three areas that are popular hotel stays for tourists and centrally located with easy walks to key places are the Marais, (4th arrondissement) Opéra (9th arrondissement) and St.-Germain-des-Prés (6th arrondissement). However, because of the great transportation system in Paris, there are many locations to choose from.
- For travellers with Marriott points, this Marriott is the only 5-star hotel in Paris located directly on the Champs Elysees.
- Cafes, Bistros and Restaurants are abundant in Paris and part of the glamour of this city is trying them and add a little people-watching on the side. However, they do vary in quality, service and price. Use your concierge or a current foodie website or check out this Timeout Paris family friendly restaurant list in Paris. Whatever dinner spot you pick, see if they take dinner reservations.
- A favorite among locals and tourists dating from 1896, Bouillon-Chartier is a large open restaurant capable of seating a party of 5 and up easily with elbow room if needed. Unfortunately, no reservations accepted.
- Just steps from the Louvre try Angelinas for scrumptious sweets, desserts and chocolates.
- And, if the parents can sneak out for some champagne, try the irresistible champagne bar at the Hotel Trocadéro Paris.
- If you plan on taking in any of the sites of Paris consider buying the Paris City Pass. Included in it is museum pass, attractions pass and Metro card. It does have a fast track for some of the attractions but not all like the Eiffel Tower. Before you get in/on a site, ask if they accept the Paris City Pass.
- Paris is the City of Lights, but it is also the city of tourists. We tried to combine one-two major sites in a day combined with an outdoor activity for a balanced day without too many touristy things.
- Food and drinks are very pricey in Paris. Find either a hotel with breakfast included and eat a large breakfast or an apartment with a kitchenette and stock up on local items. There are many local markets featuring some gourmet foods, but another option is to go to Monoprix, a grocery story with fresh foods that you can stock up on in an apartment and save.
- This itinerary worked as we have one teen and one tween who were both into art and culture and loved Paris. Another option for exploring Paris with younger kids is to view this recent article from the NY Times.
Before you go
- Get acclimated to the word arrondissement, the French word for neighborhood to understand your bearings and directions as well as get a wonderful visual of Paris, get the book “Paris An Inspiring Tour of the City’s Creative Heart.”.
- A passport that will still be valid for at least three months beyond the intended length of the visit is required for anyone wishing to visit France.