Paris with Teens: A Perfect Family Day

Paris with Teens: A Family Vacation


Ernest Hemingway wrote about his experiences as a younger man in Paris and described the city as "a moveable feast." It appears that wherever you and your teens move throughout Paris, the opportunity to feast is ever present.

If you had only one day to share the very best of Paris with teens, it should start at Angelina, at 226 rue de Rivoli (+33 01 42 60 82 00). Antoine Rumpelmayer opened this tea room in 1903 and named it after his step-daughter. It is an opulent Belle Epoque palace with gold-gilded chandeliers and massive, ornamental mirrors overlooking the elegant Tuileries Gardens. Angelina opens at 9AM and there may be a long (yet worthwhile) wait for a table by mid-morning. A perfect family vacation in Paris with teenagers has a lot to do with timing to ensure you don't spend a lot of time waiting in lines throughout the day. Get to Angelina's as it opens and the following itinerary should go smoothly. Angelina's serves a decadent hot chocolate (L'Africain) made from pure, melted chocolate served in a ceramic pot with (of course) real whipped cream. It is also known for an obscenely colorful display of pastries, though a traditional complement to the rich, sweet chocolate is a meringue. My personal favorite is the Mont Blanc made with chestnut puree. You might be skeptical that this Mecca to hot chocolate and pastry is what your teenager would be impressed with to start the day, but the experience will be a fond memory for years to come, and the sugar will propel you to and through your next destination, the nearby Musee du Louvre (Mo Palais-Royal, 75001 Paris; +33 01 40 20 50 50).

Since 1989, the entrance to the largest (and arguably best) single museum in the world has been through the renowned architect I.M. Pei's glass pyramid. The pyramid has become a symbol of Paris, which offers some stiff competition in this regard! At the Louvre, nearly 35,000 objects dating from prehistory until the 19th century are exhibited over an area of more than 650,000 square feet. That said, the Louvre can be emotionally and physically exhausting and cannot reasonably be seen in a day. It does offer a manageable 1.5-hour, guided tour covering a selection of masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and highlights of the Louvre's Ancient Near East, Greek, Roman and Renaissance Italian collections. Paris Muse offers a fascinating Cracking "The Da Vinci Code" Tour that traces the footsteps of Dan Brown's fictional professor in and around the Louvre, a particularly fitting stop for a family adventure in Paris with teens. If you have timed your visit to the Louvre to conclude just before lunch, you have an open window to visit the next attraction, which has fewer crowds during. Hopefully your caffeine and sugar-infused breakfast at Angelina has you good for another hour or so.

You can queue up for a taxi at a taxi stand (or be fortunate that one stops for you) outside the Louvre and head to The Eiffel Tower (Champ de Mars 75007 Paris; +33 01 44 11 23 23), your next must-see destination on your family day in Paris. The Eiffel Tower was constructed by Gustave Eiffel as the entrance arch for the 1889 World's Fair. Though not originally designed as a permanent structure, the Eiffel Tower is the tallest building in Paris and is the single most-visited paid monument in the world. Eiffel proved to be an amazing visionary in creating such a massive structure in 1889 – one that was not eclipsed in height until the Chrysler Building was completed in New York in 1930! The tower has three levels for visitors, and tickets can be purchased to ascend by stairs or lift (elevator). The walk to the first level is 300 steps, and it is an additional 300 steps to the second level. As the elevator whisks to the summit, all of the beauty of Paris is sprawled out beneath you. In traditional observatory format, locations for the Sacre Couer, Notre Dame, Pompidou Center and Arc de Triomphe are pointed out in the near distance. You can also learn how many miles it is to other major cities around the world.

For a true family adventure with teens in Paris, indulge in an amazing meal at the nearby La Fontaine de Mars at 129 rue Saint-Dominique (+33 01 47 05 46 44). This is a local, neighborhood restaurant offering traditional fare such as escargots, pate, Dover sole and the most amazing duck breast you can imagine. If you're not very adventurous with food, trust the adage: "If you're going to try something, try it in Paris." La Fontaine de Mars does not disappoint. This is a hidden and preserved slice of old Paris.

With cultural and gastronomic obligations behind you, your next Paris family travel destination should be to one of the most popular attractions in Paris and one of the most visited cemeteries in the world: Pere Lachaise, located in the 20th arrondissement (district) of Paris. Today, there are over 300,000 people buried here, and the grandiose crypts and tombs are testimony to the egos of the rich and famous even after they're gone. Pere Lachaise is also the final resting place of Jim Morrison of The Doors. A pilgrimage to his grave is mostly on any list of 100 Things Your Teenager Must Do in Paris. Entrance to the cemetery is free, but it's very, very expensive to stay here long term. Though Paris is known as The City of Light, you should continue your excursion to the dark side at The Catacombs of Paris, a massive labyrinth of caverns and tunnels housing the remains upwards of six million people over the past several hundred years. The catacomb walls are covered with graffiti dating from the 18th century. I do believe one tag in French is translated "Death is Hereditary."

With the sober reality of mortality clearly in mind, this would be a good time to take the family to Paris department stores, such as Galerie Lafayette (+33 01 42 82 34 56) and Printemps (+33 01 42 82 50 00), situated along Boulevard Hausmann. These massive temples of retail offer Paris high fashion at department-store prices. There are also more budget-conscious offerings interspersed throughout the area.

One of the most picturesque views of Paris can be seen from the turrets and towers of Notre Dame (6 Place du Parvis Notre Dame, 75004 Paris; +33 01 42 34 56 10‎). Here, you can observe the gargoyles that have protectively watched over Paris for nearly 700 years. Crossing over the Seine at the Petit Pont bridge is the charming pedestrian Rue de la Huchette, offering an abundance of quaint ethnic restaurants with outdoor seating to soak up la belle vie that surrounds you.

A perfect family day in Paris with teens is very much like a perfect meal. It cannot be any one item, but it is the very best of what is offered. This tour provides an introduction to some of the glories of Paris knowing that you will visit again and again, at the very least with fond memories.

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