Dangers & Annoyances

Overall, Paris is well lit and safe, and random street assaults are rare.

  • Stay alert for pickpockets and take precautions: don’t carry more cash than you need, and keep credit cards and passports in a concealed pouch.
  • Beware of scams such as fake petitions.
  • Metro stations best avoided late at night include Châtelet–Les Halles, Château Rouge, Gare du Nord, Strasbourg St-Denis, Réaumur Sébastopol, Stalingrad and Montparnasse Bienvenüe. Marx Dormoy, Porte de la Chapelle and Marcadet–Poissonniers can be sketchy day and night.
  • Bornes d’alarme (alarm boxes) are located in the centre of metro/RER platforms and some station corridors.

Pickpockets & Common Scams

Nonviolent crimes, such as pickpocketing and theft from handbags and packs, are a problem wherever there are crowds, especially of tourists. Places to be particularly careful include Montmartre (especially around Sacré Cœur); Pigalle; the areas around Forum des Halles and the Centre Pompidou; the Latin Quarter (especially the rectangle bounded by rue St-Jacques, bd St-Germain, bd St-Michel and quai St-Michel); beneath the Eiffel Tower; and on the metro during rush hour (particularly on line 4 and the western part of line 1).

On cafe and restaurant terraces, avoid leaving your jacket containing your wallet or handbag over the back of your chair, and don't leave your phone unattended on the table.

Common 'distraction' scams employed by pickpockets include the following:

Fake petitions After approaching you to sign a 'petition', scammers will use the document to cover your belongings while they swipe them.

Gold ring Scammers pretend to ‘find’ a gold ring (after subtly dropping it on the ground) and offer it to you as a diversionary tactic while they surreptitiously reach into your pockets or bags (variations include offering to sell you the ring for an outrageous price, or having the ring's 'owner' arrive and demand compensation).

Dropped items Often occurs on the metro. Someone will drop something or spill a bag; your reaction might be to bend down and help them, while their accomplices rifle through your belongings.

Friendship bracelets Scammers approach you and tie a 'friendship bracelet' onto your wrist, not only insisting that you pay for it but taking the opportunity to fleece you of your valuables.

Government Travel Advice

The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.

  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (http://smartraveller.gov.au)
  • British Foreign Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
  • Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca)
  • Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/reisadviezen)
  • German Federal Foreign Office (www.auswaertiges-amt.de)
  • Irish Department of Foreign Affairs (www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice)
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (www.mofa.go.jp)
  • New Zealand Department of Foreign Affairs (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
  • US State Department (www.state.gov/travel)

Discount Cards

Almost all museums and monuments in Paris have discounted tickets (tarif réduit) for students and seniors (generally over 60 years), provided they have valid ID. Children often get in for free; the cut-off age for ‘child’ is anywhere between six and 18 years. EU citizens under 26 years get in for free at national monuments and museums.

Paris Museum Pass (http://en.parismuseumpass.com; two/four/six days €48/62/74) Gets you into 50-plus venues in and around Paris; a huge advantage is that pass holders usually enter larger sights at a different entrance, meaning you bypass (or substantially reduce) ridiculously long ticket queues.

Paris Passlib' (www.parisinfo.com; two/three/five days €109/129/155) Sold at the Paris Convention & Visitors Bureau and on its website, this handy city pass covers unlimited public transport in zones 1 to 3, admission to some 50 museums in the Paris region (aka a Paris Museum Pass), temporary exhibitions at most municipal museums, a one-hour Bateaux Parisiens boat cruise along the Seine, and a one-day hop-on, hop-off open-top bus sightseeing service around central Paris' key sights with L'Open Tour. There's an optional €20 supplement for a skip-the-line ticket to levels one and two of the Eiffel Tower.

Embassies & Consulates

Emergency & Important Numbers

Ambulance (SAMU)15
Fire18
Police17
EU-wide emergency112
France's country code33

Entry & Exit Formalities

Customs Regulations

Residents of non-EU countries must adhere to the following limits:

  • Alcohol 16L of beer, 4L of wine and 1L of spirits
  • Perfume up to a value of €430 (arriving by air or sea); up to €300 (arriving by land)
  • Tobacco 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of loose tobacco

For visitors from EU countries, limits only apply for excessive amounts; see www.douane.gouv.fr.

Visas

Generally no restrictions for EU citizens. Usually not required for most other nationalities for stays of up to 90 days.

More Information

There are no entry requirements for nationals of EU countries and a handful of other European countries (including Switzerland). Citizens of Australia, the USA, Canada and New Zealand do not need visas to visit France for up to 90 days.

Everyone else, including citizens of South Africa, needs a Schengen Visa, named after the Schengen Agreement that has abolished passport controls among 26 EU countries and that has also been ratified by the non-EU governments of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. A visa for any of these countries should be valid throughout the Schengen area, but it pays to double-check with the embassy or consulate of each country you intend to visit. Note that the UK and Ireland are not Schengen countries.

Check www.diplomatie.gouv.fr for the latest visa regulations and the closest French embassy to your current residence.

Titre de Séjour

If you are issued a long-stay visa valid for six months or longer, you may need to apply for a titre de séjour (residence permit; also called a carte de séjour) after your arrival in France. If you are only staying for up to 12 months you may not need it, but you will need to register with the French Office of Immigration and Integration (www.ofii.fr). Check the website of the Préfecture de Police (www.prefecturedepolice.interieur.gouv.fr) or call 01 53 71 53 71 first for instructions.

EU passport holders seeking to take up residence in France don't need to acquire a titre de séjour; a passport or national ID card is sufficient. Check the Préfecture de Police website to see which countries are included.

Foreigners with non-European passports should check the website of the Préfecture de Police or call 01 53 71 53 71.

Visa Extensions

Tourist visas cannot be extended except in emergencies (such as medical problems). If you have an urgent problem, contact the Service Étranger (Foreigner Service) at the Préfecture de Police for guidance. If you entered France on the 90-day visa-waiver program (eg you are Australian, Canadian or American) and you have stayed for 90 days, you must leave the Schengen area for an additional 90 days before you can re-enter.

Work & Student Visas

If you would like to work, study or stay in France for longer than three months, apply to the French embassy or consulate nearest to you for the appropriate long séjour (long-stay) visa. Au pairs are granted student visas: they must be arranged before you leave home (unless you’re an EU resident); the same goes for the year-long working-holiday visa (permis vacances travail).

Unless you hold an EU passport or are married to a French national, it’s extremely difficult to get a visa that will allow you to work in France. For any sort of long-stay visa, begin the paperwork in your home country several months before you plan to leave. Applications usually cannot be made in a third country, nor can tourist visas be turned into student visas after you arrive in France. People with student visas can apply for permission to work part time; enquire at your place of study.

Etiquette

Overall, communication tends to be formal and reserved, but this shouldn't be mistaken for unfriendliness.

  • Greetings Always greet/farewell anyone you interact with, such as shopkeepers, with ‘Bonjour (bonsoir at night)/Au revoir'.
  • Shops Particularly in smaller upmarket boutiques, staff may not appreciate your touching the merchandise until you have been invited to do so, nor taking photographs.
  • Speech Parisians don't speak loudly – modulate your voice to a similarly low pitch.
  • Terms of address Tu and vous both mean ‘you’, but tu is only used with people you know very well, children or animals. Use vous until you're invited to use tu.
  • Conversation topics Discussing financial affairs (eg salaries or spending outlays) is generally taboo in public.
  • Waitstaff Never use ‘garçon’ (literally 'boy') to summon a waiter, rather ‘Monsieur’ or ‘Madame’.

Gay & Lesbian Travellers

The city known as 'gay Paree' lives up to its name. Paris is so open that there's less of a defined 'scene' here than in other cities where it's more underground. While Le Marais is the mainstay of gay and lesbian nightlife, you'll find LGBTIQ venues throughout the city attracting a mixed crowd.

Background

Paris was the first European capital to vote in an openly gay mayor when Bertrand Delanoë was elected in 2001. The city itself is very open – same-sex couples commonly display affection in public and checking into a hotel room is unlikely to raise eyebrows. In fact, the only challenge you may have is working out where straight Paris ends and gay Paris starts, as the city is so stylish and sexy.

In 2013 France became the 13th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage (and adoption by same-sex couples), and polls show that the majority of French citizens support marriage equality. Typically, at least one partner needs to be a resident to get married here. And, of course, there's no end of romantic places to propose.

Drinking & Nightlife

Le Marais, especially the areas around the intersection of rue Ste-Croix de la Bretonnerie and rue des Archives, and eastwards to rue Vieille du Temple, has long been Paris’ main centre of gay nightlife and is still the epicentre of gay and lesbian life in Paris. There's also a handful of bars and clubs within walking distance of bd de Sébastopol. The lesbian scene is less prominent than its gay counterpart, and centres on a few cafes and bars, particularly along rue des Écouffes. Bars and clubs are generally all gay- and lesbian-friendly.

Events

By far the biggest event on the gay and lesbian calendar is Gay Pride Day, in late June, when the annual Marche des Fiertés through Paris via Le Marais provides a colourful spectacle, and plenty of parties take place.

Year-round, check gay and lesbian websites or ask at gay bars and other venues to find out about events.

Organisations & Resources

Centre LGBT Paris-Île de France is the single best source of information for gay and lesbian travellers in Paris, with a large library of books and periodicals and a sociable bar. It also has details of hotlines, helplines, gay and gay-friendly medical services and politically oriented activist associations.

Gay Guided Tours

For an insider's perspective of gay life in Paris and recommendations on where to eat, drink, sightsee and party, take a tour with the Gay Locals. English-speaking residents lead tours of Le Marais as well as private tours of other popular neighbourhoods and customised tours based on your interests.

Best Lists

Gay & Lesbian

Open Café The wide terrace is prime for talent-watching.

Gibus Club One of Paris’ biggest gay parties.

La Champmeslé Cabaret nights, fortune-telling and art exhibitions attract an older lesbian crowd.

Weekend in Le Marais

Shopping Sprees

  • Samuel Coraux Fabulous and occasionally outrageously kitsch creations for guys ‘n' gals by one of Paris’ funkiest jewellery designers.
  • État Libre d'Orange Perfumery that screams Marais hipster, with scents bearing names like Fat Electrician, Jasmin et Cigarette, and Delicious Closet Queen.
  • L’Éclaireur Part art space, part lounge and part deconstructionist fashion statement; fashion for men and women.

Apéros

  • L’Étoile Manquante Trendy, gay-friendly bar with retro interior and fabulous pavement terrace for obligatory after-work drinks.
  • Open Café With a four-hour happy hour kicking off daily at 6pm, how can you possibly go wrong?
  • Le Raidd Has a laid-back lounge-style ground-floor bar.

Gay Hang-outs

  • Café Cox The meeting place for an interesting (and interested) cruisy crowd throughout the evening, from dusk onward.
  • Le Raidd Upstairs is a pulsating den of DJs, dancing, themed parties, raunchy shower shows…
  • Café Voulez-Vous Sassy New York–styled gay bar and lounge with a mellow vibe.

Lesbian Hang-outs

  • 3w Kafé Flagship cocktail bar–pub.
  • La Champmeslé A fixture on Paris' lesbian scene since the '70s.
  • Le Tango Mingle with a mixed and cosmopolitan gay and lesbian crowd.

Clubs

Party Spots Beyond Le Marais

  • Ménilmontant Edgy urban cool.
  • Pigalle Montmartre's sexy southern neighbour.
  • Champs-Élysées Glam bars and clubs.
  • Bastille Lively local vibe.
  • Canal St-Martin Arty, indie venues.
  • Belleville Increasingly hip, multicultural 'hood.

Need to Know

Useful Websites

  • Spartacus International Gay Guide (https://spartacus.travel) Travel site with solid recommendations for gay-friendly accommodation in particular.
  • CitéGay (www.citegay.com) One of the best all-inclusive gay sites, with a heavily political agenda.
  • La France Gaie & Lesbienne (www.france.qrd.org) ‘Queer resources directory’ covering cinema, music, art and more.

Insurance

Comprehensive travel insurance to cover theft, loss and medical problems is highly recommended.

Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

  • Wi-fi (pronounced ‘wee-fee’ in France) is available in most Paris hotels, usually at no extra cost, and in some museums.
  • Many cafes and bars have free wi-fi for customers; you may need to ask for the code.
  • Free wi-fi is available in hundreds of public places, including parks, libraries and municipal buildings; look for a purple ‘Zone Wi-Fi’ sign. To connect, select the 'PARIS_WI-FI_' network. Sessions are limited to two hours (renewable). For complete details and a map of hot spots, see www.paris.fr/wifi.
  • Expect to pay around €4 to €5 per hour for access in internet cafes such as Milk.
  • Co-working cafes have sprung up across Paris; you typically pay for a set amount of time, with wi-fi, drinks and snacks included.

Media

  • Classifieds Check FUSAC (France USA Contacts; www.fusac.fr) for classified ads about housing, babysitting, French lessons, part-time jobs and so forth.
  • Newspapers and magazines Newspapers include the centre-left Le Monde (www.lemonde.fr), right-leaning Le Figaro (www.lefigaro.fr) and left-leaning Libération (www.liberation.fr). Le Parisien (www.leparisien.fr) is the city-news read.

Money

ATMs widely available. Visa and MasterCard accepted in most hotels, shops and restaurants; fewer accept American Express.

ATMs

ATMs (distributeur automatique de billets in French) are widespread. Unless you have particularly high transaction fees, ATMs are usually the best and easiest way to deal with currency exchange. French banks don’t generally charge fees to use their ATMs, but check with your own bank before you travel to know if/how much they charge for international cash withdrawals.

Changing Money

  • Cash is not a good way to carry money; it can be stolen and in France you often won't get the best exchange rates.
  • In Paris, bureaux de change are usually more efficient, are open longer hours and give better rates than banks – many banks don’t even offer exchange services.

Credit Cards

Visa/Carte Bleue is the most widely accepted credit card in Paris, followed by MasterCard (Eurocard). Amex cards are only accepted at more upmarket establishments.

Note that France uses a smartcard with an embedded microchip and PIN – few places accept swipe-and-signature. Some foreign chip-and-PIN-enabled cards require a signature – ask your bank before you leave. Chipless cards (and even some chip-embedded foreign cards) can't be used at automated machines (such as at a metro station or museum).

Currency

France uses the euro (€), which is divided into 100 centimes. Denominations are €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 notes, and €0.01, €0.02, €0.05, €0.10, €0.20, €0.50, €1 and €2 coins.

French vendors rarely accept bills larger than €50.

Check the latest exchange rates on websites such as www.xe.com.

Tipping

  • Taxis Taxi drivers expect small tips of around 5% of the fare, though the usual procedure is to round up to the nearest €1 regardless of the fare.
  • Restaurants French law requires that restaurant, cafe and hotel bills include a service charge (usually 15%). Many people leave a few extra euros for good service.
  • Bars and cafes Not necessary at the bar. If drinks are brought to your table, tip as you would in a restaurant.
  • Hotels Bellhops usually expect €1 to €2 per bag; it’s rarely necessary to tip the concierge, cleaners or front-desk staff.

Opening Hours

The following list covers approximate standard opening hours. Many businesses close in August for summer holidays.

Banks 9am to 1pm and 2 to 5pm Monday to Friday; some open on Saturday morning

Bars & Cafes 7am to 2am

Museums 10am to 6pm; closed Monday or Tuesday

Post Offices 8am to 7pm Monday to Friday, and until noon Saturday

Restaurants noon to 2pm and 7.30 to 10.30pm

Shops 10am to 7pm Monday to Saturday; they occasionally close in the early afternoon for lunch and sometimes all day Monday. Hours are longer for shops in defined ZTIs (international tourist zones).

Post

  • Most post offices (bureaux de poste) are open Monday to Saturday.
  • Tabacs (tobacconists) usually sell postage stamps.
  • The main post office, five blocks north of the eastern end of the Musée du Louvre, is open round the clock, but only for basic services such as sending letters. Other services, including currency exchange, are available only during regular opening hours. Be prepared for long queues.
  • Each arrondissement has its own five-digit postcode, formed by prefixing the number of the arrondissement with ‘750’ or ‘7500’ (eg 75001 for the 1er arrondissement, 75019 for the 19e). The only exception is the 16e, which has two postcodes: 75016 and 75116. All mail to addresses in France must include the postcode.

Public Holidays

In France a jour férié (public holiday) is celebrated strictly on the day on which it falls. Thus if May Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, no provision is made for an extra day off.

The following holidays are observed in Paris:

New Year’s Day (Jour de l’An) 1 January

Easter Sunday & Monday (Pâques & Lundi de Pâques) Late March/April

May Day (Fête du Travail) 1 May

Victory in Europe Day (Victoire 1945) 8 May

Ascension Thursday (L’Ascension) May (celebrated on the 40th day after Easter)

Whit Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte) Mid-May to mid-June (seventh Monday after Easter)

Bastille Day/National Day (Fête Nationale) 14 July

Assumption Day (L’Assomption) 15 August

All Saints’ Day (La Toussaint) 1 November

Armistice Day/Remembrance Day (Le Onze Novembre) 11 November

Christmas (Noël) 25 December

Smoking

  • Smoking It's illegal to smoke in indoor public spaces, including hotel rooms, restaurants and bars (hence the crowds of smokers in doorways and on pavement terraces outside).

Taxes & Refunds

Prices displayed in shops etc invariably include France's TVA (taxe sur la valeur ajoutée; value-added tax).

Non-EU residents can often claim a refund of TVA paid on goods.

More Information

France’s value-added tax (VAT) is known as TVA (taxe sur la valeur ajoutée) and is 20% on most goods with a few exceptions: for food products and books it’s 5.5%, and for medicines it's 2.1%. Prices that include TVA are often marked TTC (toutes taxes comprises; literally ‘all taxes included’).

If you’re not an EU resident, you can get a TVA refund provided that:

  • you’re aged over 16
  • you’ll be spending less than six months in France
  • you purchase goods worth at least €175.01 at a single shop on the same day (not more than 15 of the same item)
  • the goods fit into your luggage
  • you are taking the goods out of France within three months of purchase
  • the shop offers vente en détaxe (duty-free sales)

Present a passport at the time of purchase and ask for a bordereau de vente à l’exportation (export sales invoice) to be signed by the retailer and yourself. Most shops will refund less than the full amount (about 14%) to which you are entitled, in order to cover the time and expense involved in the refund procedure.

Some larger shops offer the refund on the spot (always ask). Alternatively, as you leave France or another EU country, have all three pages of the bordereau validated by the country’s customs officials at the airport or at the border. Customs officials will take one sheet and hand you two. You must post one copy (the pink one) back to the shop and retain the other (green) sheet for your records in case there is any dispute. Once the shop where you made your purchase receives its stamped copy, it will send you a virement (fund transfer) in the form you have requested. Be prepared for a wait of up to three months.

If you’re flying out of Orly or Charles de Gaulle, certain shops can arrange for you to receive your refund as you’re leaving the country, though you must complete the steps outlined above. You must make such arrangements at the time of purchase.

For more information contact the customs information centre.

Telephone

  • There are no area codes in France – you always dial the 10-digit number.
  • Telephone numbers in Paris always start with 01, unless the number is provided by an internet service provider (ISP), in which case it begins with 09.
  • Mobile-phone numbers throughout France commence with either 06 or 07.
  • France’s country code is 33.
  • To call abroad from Paris, dial France’s international access code (00), the country code, the area code (drop the initial ‘0’, if there is one) and the local number.
  • Note that while numbers beginning with 08 00, 08 04, 08 05 and 08 09 are toll free in France, other numbers beginning with 08 are not.
  • Customer-service numbers are generally more expensive than local rates.
  • Most four-digit numbers starting with 10, 30 or 31 are free of charge.
  • If you can read basic French, directory enquiries are best done via the Yellow Pages (www.pagesjaunes.fr; click on Pages Blanches for the White Pages), which will provide more information, including maps, for free.

Mobile Phones

Check with your provider about roaming costs before you leave home, or ensure your phone’s unlocked to use a French SIM card (available cheaply in Paris).

More Information

Phone compatibility You can use your mobile/cell phone (portable) in France provided it is compatible and allows roaming. Ask your service provider about using it in France, but beware of roaming costs, especially for data.

Networks Rather than staying on your home network, it is usually more convenient to buy a local SIM card from a French provider, such as Orange (www.orange.fr), SFR (www.sfr.fr), Bouygues (www.bouyguestelecom.fr) or Free Mobile (http://mobile.free.fr), which will give you a local phone number. Ensure your phone is unlocked to use another service provider.

Call credit Count on paying between €1.90 and €5 for the initial SIM card (with a few minutes of calls included), then purchase a prepaid Mobicarte for phone credit. Tabacs (tobacconists), mobile-phone outlets, supermarkets etc sell Mobicartes.

Feature: Charging Devices

Charging phones and other devices on the move can be challenging. Carrying your own charger and cable dramatically ups the odds of getting more juice – don't be shy to ask in cafes and restaurants if you can plug in and charge. Ditto for taxis; an increasing number of drivers carry a selection of smartphone-compatible cables and chargers. Or do it yourself at major mainline train stations at a pedal-powered charging station.

Time

  • France uses the 24-hour clock in most cases, with the hours usually separated from the minutes by a lower-case ‘h’. Thus, 15h30 is 3.30pm, 00h30 is 12.30am and so on.
  • France is on Central European Time (like Berlin and Rome), which is one hour ahead of GMT/UTC.
  • Daylight-saving time runs from the last Sunday in March, when the clocks move forward one hour, to the last Sunday in October.

Toilets

  • Public toilets in Paris are signposted toilettes or WC. On main roads, sanisettes (self-cleaning cylindrical toilets) are open 24 hours and are free of charge. Look for the words libre (‘available’; green-coloured) or occupé (‘occupied’; red-coloured).
  • Cafe owners do not appreciate your using their facilities if you are not a paying customer (a coffee can be a good investment); however, if you have young children they may make an exception (ask first!). Other good bets are big hotels and major department stores (the latter may incur a charge).
  • There are free public toilets in front of Notre Dame cathedral, near the Arc de Triomphe, down the steps at Sacré-Cœur (to the east and west) and at the northwestern entrance to the Jardins des Tuileries.

Tourist Information

Paris Convention & Visitors Bureau Paris' main tourist office is at the Hôtel de Ville. It sells tickets for tours and several attractions, plus museum and transport passes.

More Information

Information desks are located at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports. For tourist information around Paris, see Paris Region (www.visitparisregion.com).

Gare du Nord Welcome Desk Inside Gare du Nord station, under the glass roof of the Île-de-France departure and arrival area (eastern end of station).

Réception du Carrousel du Louvre Inside the Carrousel du Louvre shopping complex, this partner of Paris' tourist office has tourist information including maps, and can book taxis and accommodation, though it doesn't sell tickets/passes.

Syndicate d’Initiative de Montmartre Locally run tourist office and shop on Montmartre’s most picturesque square. It sells maps of Montmartre and organises guided tours.

Travel with Children

Parisians adore les enfants (children) and the city's residential density means you’ll find playground equipment in parks and squares throughout. Families will find an overwhelming choice of creative, educational, culinary and 'pure old-fashioned fun' things to see, do and experience. Plan ahead to get the best out of kid-friendly Paris.

Science Museums

  • Cité des Sciences

If you have time for just one museum, make it this one. Book interactive Cité des Enfants sessions (for children aged two to 12) in advance to avoid disappointment.

  • Musée des Arts et Métiers

Crammed with instruments and machines, Europe's oldest science and technology museum is fascinating. Activity- and experiment-driven workshops are top notch.

  • Galerie des Enfants

Natural-history museum for six- to 12-year-olds within the Jardin des Plantes.

Art Attack

  • Centre Pompidou

Modern-art hub with great exhibitions, art workshops (for kids aged three to 12) and teen events in Studio 13/16.

  • Musée en Herbe

Thoughtful art museum for children with an excellent bookshop and art workshops for kids aged two to 12.

  • Palais de Tokyo

Palais de Tokyo offers interactive installations, art workshops (for kids five to 10 years old) and storytelling sessions (for three- to five-year-olds) as well as family activities for all ages.

  • Treasure Hunts with THATMuse

All ages will get a burst of art adrenaline with a THATMuse treasure hunt at the Louvre or the Musée d'Orsay. Play alone or in teams.

Hands-On Activities

  • Crafty Happenings at Musée du Quai Branly

Mask making, boomerang hurling and experimenting with traditional instruments…the ateliers (for three-year-olds to teenagers) at this Seine-side museum, devoted to African, Asian and Oceanic art and culture, are diverse and creative.

  • Music at Philharmonie de Paris

Concerts, shows and instrument workshops are part of the world-music repertoire at the city's cutting-edge philharmonic hall in Parc de la Villette.

  • Bag Painting with Kasia Dietz

Design and paint a reversible, hand-printed canvas tote with Paris-based New Yorker Kasia Dietz during a half-day bag-painting workshop – ideal for fashion-conscious teens (and parents).

  • Model Building at Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine

Workshops at Paris' architecture museum see kids (aged four to 16 years) build art deco houses, châteaux and towers in miniature form.

Animal Mad

  • Equestrian Shows at Versailles

World-class equestrian shows at Château de Versailles are mesmerising. Show tickets and training sessions include a stable visit.

  • Sharks at Aquarium de Paris Cinéaqua

Centrally located Cinéaqua has a shark tank and 500-plus fish species, and screens ocean-themed films.

  • Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes

The collection of animals in Jardin des Plantes includes snow panthers and pandas; combine with the neighbouring natural-history museum, particularly its Grande Galerie de l’Évolution.

  • Parc Zoologique de Paris

Observe lions, cougars, white rhinos and a whole gaggle of other beasties at this state-of-the-art zoo in Bois de Vincennes.

Parks & Outdoor Capers

  • Sailing Boats in Jardin du Luxembourg

Playgrounds, puppet shows, pony rides, chess and an old-fashioned carousel: this legendary park has pandered to children for generations. But it's the vintage toy sailing boats that are the real heart-stealers.

  • Jardin des Tuileries

These elegant gardens stage kids’ activities and a summertime amusement park.

  • Parc Floral de Paris

Easily the best playground for kids eight years and older: outdoor concerts, puppet shows, giant climbing webs, 30m-high slides and a zip line, among other high-energy-burning attractions.

  • Jardin d’Acclimatation

At this enormous green area with cycling paths, forest, lakes and ponds in the Bois de Boulogne, renting a pedalo or rowing boat is a warm-weather treat (bring a picnic), while 2018 saw a slew of attractions added to its amusement park.

  • Locks on Canal St-Martin

Watching canal boats navigate the many locks is fun, fascinating and free. Lunch waterside on fish and chips from the Sunken Chip.

  • Riverside Play on Les Berges de Seine

Giant board games, a climbing wall, a 20m-long blackboard to chalk on, tepees and events 'n' shows galore line this expressway-turned-promenade.

  • Boat Trips on the Seine

Every kid loves a voyage down the Seine with Bateaux-Mouches or Bateaux Parisiens. But there is something extra special about the one-hour 'Paris Mystery' tours designed especially for children by Vedettes de Paris.

  • Puppet Shows

Parisians have entertained their children with outdoor puppet shows for centuries. Pick a fine day and head to a city park such as the Jardin du Luxembourg or Parc Monceau.

Screen Entertainment

  • Digital Exhibitions at Gaîté Lyrique

Digital-driven exhibitions, video games for older children and teens, laptops to use in the digitally connected cafe and a library with desks shaped like ducks for kids under five to sit at and draw while older siblings geek.

  • Special-Effect Movies at Cité des Sciences

Two special-effect cinemas: Géode with 3D movies, and Cinéma Louis-Lumière screening animation and short films. Top it off with a cinematic trip through the solar system in the planetarium of the science museum.

  • Behind-the-Scenes Tour at Le Grand Rex

Whiz-bang special effects stun during behind-the-scenes tours at this iconic 1930s cinema. Stand behind the big screen and muck around in a recording studio.

Theme Parks

  • Disneyland Resort Paris

A magnet for families, this park 32km east of Paris incorporates both Disneyland itself and the cinema-themed Walt Disney Studios Park.

  • Parc Astérix

Shuttle buses run from central Paris to this summer-opening theme park, 35km north of the city, which covers prehistory through to the 19th century with its six 'worlds', adrenaline-pumping attractions and shows for all ages.

Easy Eating

  • Pink Flamingo Pizza Picnic

Where else are you sent away with a pink balloon when you order? Kids adore takeaway pizza from Pink Flamingo on Canal St-Martin.

  • Hand-Pulled Noodles

Watching nimble-fingered chefs pull traditional Chinese noodles by hand at Les Pâtes Vivantes is spellbinding.

  • Le Jardin des Pâtes

This Left Bank address, steps from the Jardin des Plantes, cooks up some of Paris' most creative and tasty pasta.

  • Dip in at Chalet Savoyard

Everyone loves a bubbling pot of cheese, a basket of bread and a fondue fork.

  • Vegan fare

Kids' menus come with organic fruit juice at Gentle Gourmet Café.

Multicourse Dining

  • Bustronome

Kids can play 'I spy' spotting Parisian landmarks while dining on delicious multicourse menus cooked in the purpose-built galley of this glass-roofed bus.

  • Le Train Bleu

Train-obsessed kids will also love the multicourse menus at this magnificent railway-station restaurant inside Gare de Lyon.

  • Gourmet at Glou

How refreshing to find a hip wine bar in Le Marais that serves excellent food and fine wine, and caters to children with their own gourmet menu, colouring pencils and paper.

  • Ladurée

Kids love nibbling macarons at this historic tearoom on the Champs-Élysées but can also get their own three-course menus here.

  • Bouillon Racine

A dazzling introduction to French cuisine and art nouveau architecture.

Rainy-Day Ideas

  • Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione

Clowns, trapeze artists and acrobats have entertained children of all ages at the city's winter circus since 1852. The season runs October to March; performances last around 2½ hours.

  • Musée des Arts Forains

Check for seasonal events at this nostalgic fairground museum, such as its Christmas season during Le Festival du Merveilleux.

  • Musée des Égouts de Paris

Romping through sewerage tunnels, learning what happens when you flush a loo in Paris and spotting rats is all part of the kid-cool experience at this quirky museum.

  • Les Catacombes

Teens generally get a kick out of Paris’ most macabre sight, but be warned: this skull-packed underground cemetery is not for the faint-hearted.

  • An Afternoon at the Theatre

Paris' diverse theatre scene stages bags of spectacles (shows), théâtre classique (classical theatre) and other performances for kids, some in English; weekly entertainment mag L’Officiel des Spectacles (www.offi.fr) lists what’s on.

  • Musée de la Magie

Pure magic!

  • Playful Le Nid

Older children and teens can kick back with board games over a drink, lunch or tasty weekend brunch at this pioneering games cafe in Le Marais – as much for adults as big kids.

Need to Know

  • Babysitting L’Officiel des Spectacles (www.offi.fr) lists gardes d’enfants (babysitters); some hotels organise sitters for guests.
  • Equipment Rent strollers, scooters, car seats, travel beds and more while in Paris from companies such as Kidelio (www.kidelio.com).
  • Paris Mômes (www.parismomes.fr) Outstanding bimonthly magazine on Parisian kid culture (up to 12 years); print off playful kids' guides for major art exhibitions before leaving home.

City Trails

For an insight into Paris aimed directly at kids, pick up a copy of Lonely Planet’s City Trails: Paris. Perfect for children aged eight and up, it opens up a world of intriguing stories and fascinating facts about Paris' people, places, history and culture.

Travellers With Disabilities

Paris is an ancient city and therefore not particularly well equipped for visiteurs handicapés (disabled visitors): kerb ramps are few and far between, older public facilities and budget hotels usually lack lifts, and the metro, dating back more than a century, is mostly inaccessible for those in a wheelchair (fauteuil roulant).

But efforts are being made to improve things. The tourist office continues its excellent ‘Tourisme & Handicap’ initiative, under which museums, cultural attractions, hotels and restaurants that provide access, special assistance or facilities for those with physical, cognitive, visual and/or hearing disabilities display a special logo at their entrances. Online, its FACIL'iti service allows you to create your own profile to personalise the web content of parisinfo.com according to your particular motor, sensory and/or cognitive needs.

The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau’s main office is equipped with a service called ACCEO, which makes it possible for people who are deaf or hearing impaired to ask for information. With the help of a French sign-language operator, users can communicate via a webcam, microphone and speakers. Instant speech transcription is available, too.

Resources

  • Visit www.parisinfo.com/accessibility for a wealth of useful information organised by theme – getting there and around, attractions, accommodation and cafes/bars/restaurants – as well as practical information such as where to rent medical equipment or locate automatic public toilets. You can download the up-to-date 27-page Accessible Paris guide, which is also available in hard copy from tourist-information centres in the city.
  • For information about which cultural venues in Paris are accessible to people with disabilities, visit Accès Culture (http://accesculture.org).
  • J’Accède (www.jaccede.com) maintains a searchable database of accessible venues sourced from the local disabled community and has thousands of entries in Paris alone. It is also available as a smartphone app.
  • Handycairn (www.handycairn.com/en) is a user-friendly, extensive, searchable database of tourist and leisure activities filterable by type of disability, region, type of activity and type of accommodation/restaurant/service with detailed access information under each entry.
  • Mobile en Ville works hard to make independent travel within the city easier for people in wheelchairs. Among other things it organises wheelchair randonnées (walks) in and around Paris; those in wheelchairs are pushed by 'walkers' on roller skates; contact the association well ahead of your visit to take part.
  • Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel Online Resources from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel for heaps more useful websites, including travel agents and tour operators.

Transport

The SNCF has made many of its train carriages more accessible to people with disabilities. For information and advice on planning your journey from station to station, contact the SNCF service Accès Plus. The SNCF also has an 88-page Reduced Mobility Guide, available to view interactively or to download in French; go to www.accessibilite.sncf.com/documents-a-telecharger/guide-des-voyageurs-a-mobilite.

Info Mobi has detailed information about public transport in the Île-de-France region, surrounding Paris, filterable by disability type.

Taxis G7 has hundreds of low-base cars and 120 cars equipped with ramps, and drivers trained in helping passengers with disabilities. Guide dogs are accepted in its entire fleet.

Volunteering

  • It's not easy for non-French residents (and especially non-French speakers) to volunteer in Paris. Check first with the French embassy or consulate in your home country to find out whether volunteering affects your visa status.
  • Go Abroad (www.goabroad.com) occasionally has volunteering opportunities in Paris.

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures France uses the metric system.