Connecting with your tween daughter in Paris. The city of lights. I can confide. It was magical. Just she and I. Mom and dot.
“Wait. Back up. Travel with your tween? GAH! Are you crazy?” I hear you. I feel you. And maybe I am. Seriously. Maybe. But not about this. I am here to tell you – there is no better time than tweendom to travel with your child. Read more of my reasons why you should too in my last post.
And IF it is in the realm of your possibility to take said tween to Paris – you absolutely should. Everyone should experience Paris. Once. Or Twice. Or three times a lady. Seriously. I love this lady. Oh – and my daughter too! I love her too. But j’adore Paris. C’est vrai. It’s true. Having been to Paris more than once, I had specific things that I wanted to share on her inaugural visit. We had only two nights and three days to explore. And I do believe that is enough time for a showcase of the wonderful city. Especially for your first visite. A brief but brilliant tenth birthday visit. That was us. Go when it works for you.
Despite wanting to share everything Parisian, I consciously did not pack our few days with the zillion sites and activities that Paris is full of. I wanted it to be her experience, not me pushing my French-ish agenda. Having already traveled in Europe with my tween daughter and her two teen brothers, I have learned the hard way that my agenda (which usually prioritizes art museums, historical sites and as much culture as possible) is often met with intolerance and flat out defiance. Hands on hips, “Nej! Nej! Nej!”* and lots of eye rolling. So. I have bent. I have learned to balance something I want to see with something they want to do. And usually, they want ice cream. That I can do. We all like ice cream. There is good ice cream in Paris. Some of the best.
Intimidated by the City of Lights? Don’t think you could handle it with your potentially picky, increasingly hormonal, sometimes stubborn, but still infinitely curious tween? I am here to dissuade you. Or encourage you! It is an excellent time to travel with your tween. And Paris offers something for everyone.
Delicious, beautiful, inspiring – Paris is the perfect place to give your daughter (or son) some freedom to sway the itinerary. Find a good base and some daily starting points and then wander and taste and explore. I found a cozy AirBnb in the 7th Arrondissement – walking distance to the Tour Eiffel, since that was the one monument that we were not going to miss. You don’t have to go up it to experience the delight of the iconic tower, but for us – it was the pinnacle and focal point.
Paris is not all monuments and museums. I’m here to tell you. Despite it’s size, it is extremely walkable and well connected via the public metro. And good news, wads of cash aren’t necessary either to have a fabulous time once you get there. Delicious and affordable street vendors and city markets offer amazing take-away food to simply enjoy in the park or back at the flat. And there is plenty in Paris to see and experience without an entrance fee. You can skip every single museum and still know Paris.
The following list is by no means inclusive and I offer as only means of inspiration. Let it be a guide to your own starting points. See, taste, explore and find your own Paris with your own tween or teen or toddler. For your reference, the following suggestions were successfully endorsed by my enthusiastic, curious and determined tween daughter. She’s 10 by the way. On her way to 17. Faster than I am ready. But for now, ten. Here is what we both loved. Together.
La Tour Eiffel and Parc du Champs de Mars – 7th arr.
The Eiffel Tower is an icon known the world around. And even if you have seen it a million times in pictures, it never fails to disappoint and gasps of delight are sure to emerge. At least for me. Every time. And now my daughter. The beautiful park and greenspace nearby is called the Champs de Mars and affords amazing vistas as well as a brilliant place to rest, play and soak in Paris.
We did not buy advance tickets to ascend the tower as we visited in the evening midweek, but in peak season – I would recommend purchasing ahead. Also note that backpacks are not allowed and there is a security check here and at most sites throughout Paris.
Jardin des Tuileries and Musée de L’Orangerie – 1st arr.
The Tuileries gardens sit almost in the center of Paris. On one end of the gardens sit the epic Musée du Louvre and if you have lots of time and can bare the crowds, it is an amazing museum. Even if you don’t go in, stop by and check out the glass pyramid that sits in contrast to the grand old palace. Try to pinch the top with the other touristes.
Stroll the tree lined alleyways and you’ll find fountains and sculptures and plenty of spaces for a picnic as well as playgrounds to let off steam. She may be growing up, but she still likes to climb and swing. The glories of being a tween.
At the other end of the Jardin des Tuileries, opposite the Louvre and near Place de la Concorde, you will find my most favorite indoor space in all of Paris. I know I said no museums – but this is a must. The Musée de L’Orangerie is contained and not crowded and AH-mazing. For the Monets alone. The main floor consists of two elliptical rooms that filter diffused natural light onto enormous paintings Claude Monet created specifically for this space. As a gift to Paris to memorializing peace after WWI, they have hung here in this presentation since 1927 and are the pinnacle of Monet’s water lily paintings. Oh pardon me, my inner Art Historian just jumped out. I’ll tuck that back away as not to scare off any discerning tweens in our midst. I promise that if you only go to one art museum in all of Paris, you will not be disappointed. There are nearly 100 linear meters filled with Monet’s beautiful impressionism. It is breath taking. Look up close. Sit back and absorb. Breathe. Sigh. (Wine is later.) You’re welcome. De rien.
Sacré Couer and Montmartre – 16th arr.
Montmartre is not exactly central Paris, but so worth the few extra metro stops it takes to get to. Home to famous artists, writers, content creators and influencers of the early 20th century, it is instantly easy to see why this little village on the hill inspired so many. Take the metro to Abbesses. Cruise along Rue des Abbesses for charming boulangeries, cafés and shops. Then head up the hill for a quick stroll through touristy Place du Tertre to watch the street artists at work. Follow the crowds around the corner to the stunning white domed basilica of Sacré Couer – Sacred Heart. Whether you are religious or not, the church is unique and affords some of the best views of the city.
While shopping is not a requirement to enjoy Paris, just perusing the wares affords unique look at French life. Here were our favorite places to take a look. And maybe procure a personal souvenir or two.
Champs Elysée – 1st arr.
Walk from the Tuileries towards the Arc du Triomphe and you can cruise one of the most famous shopping streets in the world. Less Parisian than world brands, the avenue is full of tourists and those who want to be seen. It is a spectacle for sure.
Pylones – 57 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, 4th arr. (+ other locations)
Bright. Colorful. Plastic. What more does a tween girl want? Pylones has shops all over Paris. Easy to find a unique and charming souvenir here that won’t break the bank.
Blue Lemon – 37 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, 4th arr. (+ other locations)
Is your tween more into accessories than miniature Eiffel Towers? How about a miniature Eiffel Tower charm bracelet. That and more at the affordable Blue Lemon accessories shop. Several outlets city wide.
Shakespeare & Co. – 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 5th arr.
An English language bookshop on the Seine near Île de la Cité, yes please. I can’t believe that it took my 10 year old daughter studying Hamlet in Copenhagen to get me to this adorable and utterly unique bookshop in Paris. Be sure to head upstairs and check the cozy reading nooks, perfect to take a break from the city when the weather isn’t awesome. Charming children’s section as well as the complete works of Shakespeare. Copy of Hamlet procured, bien sur.
Bouquinistes – 1st arr.
Lower key and charming are the little book and postcard sellers along the Seine. Poke through old books and vintage posters. Find a postcard to send home or buy some street art to remember your time.
Paris is full of them. Little respites near many main sites let your in betweener take a break, let off some steam and remind you of the still little girl you love. Walk past the lines for the towers at Notre-Dame, and behind the buttresses you will find a darling little swing and merry go round in the garden with views. There are more playgrounds in the Tuileries and the Champ de Mars and Jardin du Luxembourg.
Play a game to see you can spot the street art first. It’s prevalent and charming and free. Do you know the street artist Space Invader? You will find his pixelated little creatures adorning building corners. Take a pic and see how many you can collect!
Even if you can’t make it to best baguette in town, nearly every boulangerie in Paris offers some of the best crusty bread you can ever sink your teeth into. “Je voudrais une baguette, s’il vous plaît.” I would like one baguette please. Or deux baguettes. Or trois baguettes. It’s up to you. Merci boucoup. Bonjour and Merci (Hello and thank you) will get you far in Paris. Try it, you’ll see. And you’ll be rewarded with the warm loaf. Yum.
Here is a great list with map to the “best” baguettes, but seriously, there is no need to make a special effort to find them – the boulangerie right on your walk is sure to be delicious. (But in case you were wondering, my favorite is Le Grenier à Pain on Rue des Abbesses in Montmartre – pick up a loaf when you’re up there!)
Patisseries (Pastry Shops)
Pastry is an art form in Paris. And fun to peruse, pick and enjoy. Let her decide. We adored the enormous meringues, couer de framboise, croissants aux amandes, and beautiful little fruit tartes. But our absolute favorite were the iconic macarons. And where better to experience them than Ladurée. A splurge to eat in, just visiting any of their shops and filling a boîte (box) is a pleasure. The beautiful and tasty cookies don’t travel well and should just be enjoyed immédiatement. Immediately. Maybe with views of the Eiffel Tower.
Paris is full of charming cafés at every turn. A perfect place to start your day with a huge bowl of chocolate chaux for her and a café au lait for you. Try the French yogurt it’s amazing. Omelettes are an easy choice for picky palettes. Or a simple petit déjeuner with a pastry and hot chocolate was our favorite breakfast. Lunch is another perfect time to sample the french cuisine at a nearby café, costs are usually cheaper and there will always be something simple for younger tastes. We loved the breakfast at Coquelicot des Abbesses on Montmartre and lunch at L’Éclair on Rue Cler near the Eiffel Tower.
To keep costs down and let the day take us, we found delicious food offerings from street vendors all over town. Try the crêpes – so fun to watch them make right in front of you. Or pick up baguettes de jambon et fromage (ham and cheese) and eat with a view. Any view you choose. Make your own sandwich with one of the delicious baguettes you have procured and dare to venture into a fromagérie (cheese shop) or grab some saucisson sec (delicious hard salami) from a charcutier. Parlez vous Englais? Do you speak English? If not – lots of s’il vous plaît’s (pleases) and pointing usually gets you what you need.
Places like Rue Cler in the 7th arr. offer a little of everything for your picnic or tasting Paris adventure. Cafés, boulangeries, fromageries, charcuteries, fresh fruit and vegetables. And ice cream. La glace. Wander. Smell. Look. Taste.
See, Taste, Play. In Paris. Or wherever. Do something to explore with your tween. Or your teen. Or your toddler. One on one. Let them lead. I adored my time with my daughter just she and I. Filling our experience banks. Opening her eyes. Letting her open mine. Seeing a place how she does. A gift for us both. And something I can reach to when the eye rolls and stomp off’s get too much. Sigh. Breathe. Now wine. Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin
*Nej = NO in Danish, pronounced “nye”