Petit Paris

In all its sophistication, Paris often feels very grown up. But the pleasures it holds for pint-sized bon vivants are manifold, if you know where to look. Xavi Vega, general manager of the new 25hours Hotel Terminus Nord and father of two-year-old Sofia, helped us plot out the city's treasures for les petits. The Catalan-born Francophile first moved to Paris in 2009, and returned in 2016, after a short intermezzo in Madrid. Together with his wife, he delights in raising his daughter amidst the culture, cuisine, intellectual rigour, and simple pleasures the city so elegantly embraces. Here are his secrets to sharing the Parisian art de vivre with your little ones on a weekend in and around Paris.

1. Enjoy a pique-nique at Buttes-Chaumont

With over 420 municipal parks and gardens, Paris isn’t short on green space. Our favourite setting for whiling away a lazy afternoon on a blanket is Buttes-Chaumont, one of the city’s oldest green spaces, in Belleville, which straddles the 19th and 20th arrondissements. With its staggered hills, caves, bridges, and waterfalls, the journey to pick the perfect perch is half of the fun — not to mention the sweeping views over the city up top. Pack a hamper full of treats and set off for an afternoon of family relaxation in the shade.

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2. Shot at Womb & Bonpoint

As you’d expect of a fashion capital and shopping mecca, Paris is full of boutiques dedicated to les enfants. Two of particular note are WOMB (World of My Baby) and Bonpoint. Located in the 2nd arrondissement, WOMB Paris brings together big-name brands and niche labels to offer everything your little one needs — from furniture and linen to games and gifts. At the upscale Bonpoint boutiques, you’ll find a chic selection of children’s clothing. One of their locations is on the beautiful Avenue Montaigne, one of Paris’s most iconic — and expensive — shopping addresses.

3. Take a dip at La Piscine du Molitor

Swimming lessons take on a whole new level of excitement when undertaken in an inspired setting. The iconic Piscine Molitor, located in the leafy 16th arrondissement, quickly became the chicest bathing spot in town after opening in 1929, attracting the crème de la crème of Parisian high society. The pool was closed in 1989 due to redevelopment plans, and its emptied basins became a magnet for ravers, skaters, and graffiti artists. The pool was eventually restored in the style of its former glory and reopened to the public in 2014. Its Art Deco atmosphere brings a touch of Miami to Paris, and, unlikely as it may seem, it’s one of the city’s best spots for serious swimming with kids.

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4. Learn to ride at Le Poney Club de l'île Saint-Germain

A pony club on the Seine? Yes, you read that right. Located in a former military warehouse-turned-barn on the island of Saint-Germain, just southwest of the city centre, the Poney Club de l’ile Saint-Germain teaches children from two to fourteen years of age to respect, love, care for, and ride horses. Offering a wide variety of equestrian activities, from dressage and jumping games to competing in regional competitions, this riding school takes animal welfare as seriously as it does human safety.

5. Play and explore at Jardin d'Acclimatation

Nestled in a northern nook of the Bois de Boulogne, this amusement park has been entertaining Parisians young and old for over 150 years. Geared towards younger children, the 47-acre landscaped park encompasses fountains, a mini boating lake, play areas, and restaurants. Attractions offer train rides, puppet shows, and carousels, alongside an activity programme. While you’re up north — should energy levels allow — take the chance to visit the nearby Fondation Louis Vuitton, a Frank Gehry-designed art museum and cultural centre founded in 2006 by the eponymous fashion house.

6. Splash around the shoreline at Deauville

When it’s time to swap cobblestoned alleyways for softer textures, we like to take a day or weekend trip to Deauville, also known as the ‘Parisian rivierà’. Being half Spanish, half Venezuelan, my daughter Sofia is right at home on the beach — and though it’s hardly the Mediterranean, the elegant resort still today embodies the 1920s glamour that sealed its status as a favoured weekend escape amongst denizens. Take the two-hour train up for a day or an overnight stay — bucket, spade, and plenty of books in tow.

7. Meet the animals at Parc Zoologique de Paris

Escape the city for an afternoon of exotic encounters at Paris’s Parc Zoologique, a conservation-focused zoo divided into five biozones: Europe, Amazon-Guyana, Madagascar, Sahel-Sudan, and Patagonia. Get up close to and learn about all kinds of animals, from lizards and chameleons to baboons and rhinoceri. The zoo is also home to Europe’s largest herd of giraffes, and gives visitors the chance to join them for breakfast as they’re fed before the zoo opens.

8. Brunch on the Seine at Le Rosa Bonheur

Sunny weekend mornings see Parisians flock to the water. A special location for enjoying brunch with views over the Seine is Rosa Bonheur, a barge located near the Pont Alexandre III and Grand Palais. No reservations are needed (indeed, allowed) — just turn up nice and early to secure a spot on the deck. With its warm, welcoming atmosphere, fun corners featuring foosball tables, and programme of regular events, Rosa Bonheur lives up to its convivial name.

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9. Live out the fantasy at Disneyland Paris

This tip isn’t exactly a secret, but seen through a child’s eyes, a trip to Disneyland Paris is a dream come true. An hour’s train ride out of the city, an extravaganza of rides, activities and light shows awaits. Given the plethora of offerings, it’s worth taking the time to plan and book well in advance of your trip. Adults aren’t immune to coming under the Disney spell here, either — this trip is for the young at heart of all ages.

10. Develop creative talent at Le Club des Enfants Parisiens

For longer stays in Paris, seek out this hidden gem: tucked away in a beautiful manor in the 17th arrondissement, Le Club des Enfants Parisiens is based on the ‘after school care’ concept, providing a cultural space dedicated to creative exploration, learning, and play across the arts. Children and teenagers of all ages are invited to discover and develop their passions within the arts and beyond — from theatre and dance to cooking. Sofia attends musical sessions every Saturday, exploring music and sound with a variety of instruments in a friendly, nurturing environment.

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