Luckily, I hadn’t seen the weather report, as I might have panicked and been tempted to call the whole thing off. We had no particular agenda for our week in Paris; we were planning on exploring the various playgrounds and sculpture gardens, take long strolls through the various neighborhoods and outdoor markets, eat lots of ice cream at outdoor cafes, and maybe visit a museum or two. The week-long soaking rain may have put a damper on some of those plans but we had a great time nonetheless.
Things to Do in Paris in the Rain with Kids
Underground Garbage and Bones: There’s something fascinating to children and adults alike in contemplating the life, death and history that is steeped beneath their feet as they walk down city streets. When I asked them their favorite parts of our weeklong trip to Paris, my eight and ten-year-olds didn’t hesitate. It was the Catacombs. Yes, it’s spooky, musty and cold and it’s full of bones and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into an Edgar Allan Poe story. And that’s exactly why they loved it.
We also really enjoyed the Paris sewers, a 1,300 mile underground network of surprisingly un-stinky waste. You can take a quick tour, walking over bridges right over sewage, and there’s an interesting little museum that charts the history of the Paris sewer system with information in French and English. Oh, and don’t forget to get there by metro so you can literally spend a day underground.
“Paris…her pageant, her luxury, her magnificence, is her sewer.” Victor Hugo, “Les Miserables.”
Puppets!: If you want to feel like you are in the middle of an avant-garde French film, take the kids to see les Guignols – a classic Punch and Judy marionette show. Of course, it’s in French, but even if your kids don’t speak the language, I’ll bet they’ll be howling with laughter along with les enfants at the outrageous takes on classic fairy tales. You can find the shows on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and school holidays in several parks in Paris, including le Jardin du Luxembourg, le jardin du Ranelagh, and Parc des Buttes Chaumont.
Batobus: Do not confuse this with the Bateau-Mouche, the crowded guided tourist boat rides that populate the Paris waterways every summer. The Batobus is a boat service on the Seine that has just eight stops: the Champs-Elysees, the Louvre, Hotel de Ville, Jardin des Pres, Notre Dame, St. Germain des Pres, Musee d’Orsay, and the Eiffel Tower. The boat’s walls are clear and there is a nice deck to stand on so you can get a beautiful view of the city from the water as you meander from site to site. It also gave the kids a nice break between visits. They loved riding under the beautiful bridges and getting a peak at the interesting houseboats along the river. You can get a one-, two-, or five-day pass, which range in price from 14 euros (7 for children) to 21 euros (10 for children).
Establish a Pied-a-Terre in Paris: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you’re traveling to a major city with your family and you can find an apartment rental in a nice location, grab it. We spent a week in a one-bedroom apartment in the charming Marais neighborhood on the right bank. We got a really good feeling for life in a typical old Parisian building, from the courtyard to the tall ceilings and beautiful windows to the awkward bathroom and the elevator, which could fit one very thin adult or two children if they were stacked on top of each other. We loved being able to walk to the neighborhood bakery, pastry shop and small supermarket and still be within walking distance of Notre Dame and the Place des Vosges. We also saved money and our sanity by getting take-out and a bottle of wine and eating in the comfort of our own “home.”
Creperie Suzette: Our favorite restaurant outing in Paris was at the quaint Creperie Suzette. You really can’t go wrong with crepes and children. Located on the Rue des Francs Bourgeois in the heart of the Marais. They have all sorts of savory crepes filled with cheese, ham, mushrooms, salmon, onion, or a combination of these. The dessert crepes are delicious, with banana, honey, lemon, Nutella, or fruit fillings. The place is small and downstairs can be a tight squeeze but there is a lovely room upstairs with plenty of room for our family of five. The service was very friendly (which was a rarity for us, as Paris waiters’ usual sour expressions usually took on a look of horror when they saw us coming).
Best Bandes Dessinees Store Ever: The French take their bandes dessinees (or comic books) seriously. They have a number of original comics and cartoon characters that you have undoubtedly never heard of. To get a good idea of the art and humor of French comics, head to Album in the 5th Arrondissement. It’s a great family outing and you’ll be sure to come out with some original books and toys to bring home. Album has two stores located across the street from each other on the Boulevard St. Germain. The first shop is devoted to gaming – cards, miniatures, Heroclix, models – but has some, higher-end Disney, Asterix, TinTin, the Smurfs, Barbapapa, and Le Marsupilami toys and collectables. Its sister store is devoted to toys, action figures, and designer toys, as well as comics (both new and old), graphic novels, and manga. Both also have characters familiar to American kids, such as Harry Potter and “Les Simpsons.”
The second to last day of our stay in Paris, the skies parted and, “quel miracle!” the sun came out for a full three hours. We hurried on to the BatoBus and ran over to the Jardin du Luxembourg for a much needed run-around.