We arrived in Paris mid-afternoon via train from Amsterdam Centraal to Paris Gare du Nord [almost 3 hours]. By some miracle, the girls had their best train ride of the entire trip. They played quietly with their toys and then Isla fell asleep without fuss for the entire second half. We also had an almost private car literally next to the baby changing station – win win. The rest of our travels were not nearly this smooth. From the train station, we caught a taxi right out front to take us to our hotel in the 7th Arrondissement of Paris [about 30 mins with traffic]. There we quickly dropped our bags, freshened up and set out to explore Paris.
One note before I dive into our itinerary in case you’re reading this as a one-off instead of part of our Euro Trip series. We booked almost nothing in advance outside of our hotels and trains. We traveled with a baby and toddler and elected to play most of our trip by ear so we could gauge their temperament before committing. For Paris in particular, I do not feel this is a great representation of what you can/should do with 48 hours in the city of the lights. Unfortunately for us, our lack of planning and the sheer size of the city was a bit limiting in what we were able to see and accomplish on this trip.
Monday, September 19, 2022
Our first stop in Paris was the Eiffel Tower naively thinking we could “quickly check it off the list” – that was not the case. While you can walk up and purchase tickets day of, lines can exceed two or three hours, depending on the season, so we decided to move on and come back early the next morning. We crossed the Seine and walked through Jardins du Trocadero attempting to get a good vantage point of the Eiffel Tower – unfortunately, I think every other person in Paris was trying to do the same thing.
From here, we did what we do best in foreign towns/cities and just wandered around. We stopped for a quick mid-afternoon snack at The Reserve before continuing on our way. Eventually we made our way over to admire the Arc de Triomphe. We didn’t go under or up though I have heard it’s the best view in Paris, even better than the Eiffel Tower. On our way back to the hotel, we found a great picture spot with the Eiffel Tower in the background. It’s on the right bank of the Seine near the Flame of Liberty Memorial and Place Diana. We also found the Pont de l’Alma bridge to be a good picture spot – if maybe a touch too far away.
We had dinner that night back int he 7th Arrondissement on Rue Cler which our hotel recommended. While there are some cute spots on that stretch [Le Petit Cler and L’Eclair], I wouldn’t recommend Le Cafe du Marche. Food, drinks and ambiance were all average and it felt like a tourist trap. After dinner we grabbed Gelato from Amorino nearby before walking back to our hotel for the night.
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
The goal the following morning was to get in line at the Eiffel Tower early so we could beat the crowds [ticket office opens at 9:30AM]. Easier said than done with two small kids but we eventually got there and waited about one hour between the ticket line and elevator line to go up [26.80 EUR/adult; kids under four are free]. If I’m being totally honest, we didn’t have a great experience at the Eiffel Tower. It was cloudy, cold and super crowded, we had to carry our double stroller and heavy diaper bag with us the entire time, the girls were sleepy, hungry and cranky and both had epic meltdowns at the top. We were 100% that family and it wasn’t fun in the moment but it’s definitely a story we will tell for the rest of their lives.
After attempting and failing at most family photos, we gave up and took the elevator back down. We stopped briefly on the second floor to try a few more pictures but everyone’s patience was running thin at that point so we quickly turned around and got back on the elevator. Of course at the bottom, the girls were instantly in a better mood and ready to run around and play. C’est la vie.
By the time we finished at the Eiffel Tower, it was nearly lunchtime so we stopped in a boulangerie, Mason Othon, for a quick bite to eat before setting out to do some more exploring. In that area we also discovered the cutest children’s store, Le Petit Souk Paris, where we scooped up a few goodies to bring home for the girls.
We then walked east along the left bank of the Seine passing Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre Museum on our way to Cathedrale Notre-Dame. Unfortunately, Notre Dame is still undergoing renovation from the fires in 2019, heavily covered and not open to the public. Our self-directed walking tour next brought us to Sainte-Chapelle, another stunning gothic-style, medieval chapel with beautiful stain-glass windows. We didn’t go in so we weren’t able to experience them first-hand but it is a great alternative if you’re looking for something to tour in lieu of Notre Dame.
From here we walked to Place des Vosges, a cute park in the oldest planned square in Paris where I thought the girls may enjoy stretching their legs. Unfortunately, most of the park was blocked off/under construction so it didn’t quite make for the charming ambiance I envisioned however, they did have a small playground that Palmer enjoyed while Isla had fun splashing in the fountains.
Heading back towards the 7th Arrondissement, we stopped for a quick drink at Cafe L’Etincelle and Zara to load up on more pants/layers for the girls. The walk back, though long, was actually quite nice because both girls napped so we took our time strolling along the Seine and enjoying all the beautiful architecture in every direction. Back at the hotel, we loaded up on layers, picked a dinner spot then made our way to Passerelle Debilly to snap a few family photos with the Eiffel Tower.
On our way to dinner, we strolled down Rue De Monttessuy and while we didn’t eat here, it’s an awesome place to have dinner outside with a view of the Eiffel Tower – so so pretty! We ate at La Fontaine de Mars and even though we didn’t have a reservation, they were super accommodating and sat us outside. This was actually my favorite meal of the trip, great ambiance, delicious food and very attentive and thoughtful staff – even with the kids. It totally made up for our sub-par dinner the night before and I cannot recommend it enough if you’re in the area.
After dinner, we walked over to the Eiffel Tower to watch the light show which happens at night every hour, on the hour for five minutes. It was a really cool experience and probably the highlight of Palmer’s entire trip!
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
In the morning, we packed up again before walking over to the Louvre Museum for our guided tour with Paris City Vision [booked through GetYourGuide after realizing all the general admission tickets were sold out]. Things started out a little rough – I don’t think our guide was thrilled to see us with two small kids and a double stroller. She wasn’t confident security would let us through with the stroller either so we were a bit stressed at the beginning but ultimately didn’t have any issues getting in. A note of warning, there are A LOT of stairs and Kevin had to carry the double stroller up and down quite frequently but we managed and actually really enjoyed the tour. While your guide is there in person, you also have an audio headset so you don’t have to stick too close in order to hear what they’re saying. That was huge for us since we were usually lagging behind the group.
When we finished at the Louvre, we walked around the beautiful grounds outside and then over to Domaine National du Palais Royal, former royal palace and residence until Versailles was built. If I’m being honest, we went for the photo op with the black and white posts, not the history, though it does have a cool story.
For lunch, we stopped at Le Royal which was a short walk and could accommodate us and the kids outside. The service was good and my salad was just okay but Kevin really enjoyed his dish and the girls shared a burger they liked. You really probably can’t go wrong with any of the cafes or brasseries located around Paris if you’re not a super foodie.
On the way back to our hotel, we walked through Jardin des Tuileries stopping for a quick ride on the merry-go-round for the girls. Then we hustled back to the hotel to grab our bags and catch a taxi to the train station. Next stop, Munich to meet friends for Oktoberfest!
Things we didn’t get to do this trip that I would have loved to see include Montmartre, Monet’s Garden in Giverny, Musee d’Orsay, Seine River Cruise and some good old fashion antique hunting and shopping.
Accommodations & Country Specific Details
Stay: Juliana Hotel Paris
Of all the hotels we stayed in during this trip, Juliana Hotel Paris was the most expensive and had the highest star rating. That said, I don’t know if I would say it was our favorite or even the nicest/most accommodating place we stayed. For starters, we were forced to upgrade our room to a suite during check-in since we had two kids with us. I guess the room we booked only accommodates up to three people. To their credit, they did give us a small discount on the upgraded price – though it was still annoying.
In general, the room and bathroom were nice but not overly impressive for the price tag. It was spacious enough for all four of us to sleep comfortably and I liked our room location because it was easily accessible to the lobby and set aside from the other rooms [important when traveling with small kids who like to make noise]. The concierge there was knowledgable and helpful with our questions and needs and the location in the 7th Arrondissement made most major landmarks walkable. It was about a 15-minute walk to the Eiffel Tower and 30-minute walk to the Louvre and easily accessible to Champs-Elysees.
Things I wasn’t super impressed with – they charged for bottled water, staff wasn’t super warm or welcoming [to be expected a little since it is Paris/France], the shower in the bathroom was not enclosed so it was drafty and water would spray everywhere. There were also no “perks” – no good view or balcony, no welcome drinks or snacks, no restaurant though room service was available, no pool or outdoor space. If I were to rank this hotel, I’d probably give it four stars because it is nice, it’s just not really nice.
Transportation To Paris: We arrived in Paris via train from Amsterdam. We took a direct train from Amsterdam Centraal to Paris Gare du Nord on Thalys which took about three hours.
Around Pairs: We walked everywhere and drastically underestimated the size of the city. The map is deceiving and things are not super close to pack comfortable shoes and time your activities accordingly. We did take a taxi to/from the train stations because it was too far to walk. I also believe they have a good subway system though we didn’t take advantage on this trip.
Currency: Euro (EUR)– the exchange rate was awesome when we were there, less than 1 EUR per 1 USD.
Language: French and most people prefer to speak French but if asked politely [parlez-vous Anglais?] are occasionally willing to speak to you in English.
Outlet Adapters: We used these adapters from Amazon the entire trip and they were great!
Passport/Visa Requirements: U.S. Passport valid for at least three months from date of departure from Schengen area. No visa for visits under 90 days required.
Vaccinations/Medicines: No COVID or mask mandates required inside or on public transportation.
Weather: We visited Paris mid-September and the weather was mild, very fall-like. While it was the warmest and driest stop on our Euro trip, it was still mostly overcast and quite chilly with temps in the upper 50’s and lower 60’s. I definitely recommend packing layers as mornings and evenings were cold but if the sun is out, it’s quite pleasant during the day to comfortably walk around.