Whatever your know-it-all teens say, they'll kick themselves as adults if you don't make them start with la Dame de Fer. "Walking up to the first level of the Eiffel Tower can be a fun family challenge," says Paris-based family travel blogger Claudette Parry (mamalovesparis.com).
After that, mix it up. "If your teenagers aren't squeamish, suggest the Catacombs. The underground tunnels are said to be the largest grave in the world, but they're also weirdly popular." Or you could appeal to their cultural side. "Palais du Tokyo is one of the city's most creative art spaces – and it's next to the Museum of Modern Art."
But what about those sporty teens who are more into soccer than Cézanne? "It's pretty easy to get tickets for [local team] Paris Saint-Germain. Others might also want to take part in Friday night's citywide rollerblading escapade [pari-roller.com]," says Parry, who also has some general trip-planning advice.
"Find out their top three desires for the trip and get those done. Also, buy a transit pass for two weeks for all of you – it will be cheaper. And if you're here on the first Sunday of the month, remember that most Paris museums are free."
Erica Berman, editorial director of the HiP Paris blog (hipparis.com), polled her writing team for their tips. Getting oriented, she says, is the way to start any visit, but Seine river cruises aren't your only option. "Try a Fat Tire bike tour [paris.fattirebiketours.com]. It's a great way to introduce them to Paris."
Once they know their Montmartre from their Arc de Triomphe, you'll find a city stuffed with trip-of-a-lifetime teen experiences – if you know where to look.
"For foodie teens, a cooking class with La Cuisine [lacuisineparis.com] or Cook'n With Class [cooknwithclass.com] can help them perfect their macaron and baguette recipes. Or they could design a Parisian tote bag with Kasia Dietz [kasiadietzworkshops.com] or have a makeover from makeup artist Sanni Sorma [sannisorma.com]."
If your kid has a journal full of angst-ridden poetry, Berman suggests an inspiring Shakespeare and Company bookstore visit – perfect for finding their own life-long Camus copies. More fired-up by politics? She also recommends a Revolutionary Paris walking tour, one of several intellectual strolls offered by Context (contexttravel.com).
Alternatively, Localers (localers.com) provides some enticingly Parisian experiences. "They could learn to play pétanque, row on Lac Daumesnil or explore the Bagatelle gardens," says Berman, adding that teens deeply immersed in the Doors should also visit Jim Morrison's Père Lachaise grave.
Since no one wants to drag their eye-rolling offspring around the Louvre, there are several esoteric museums worth considering. Berman's faves include the wax-figured Musée Grevin (grevin-paris.com); fashion-focused Palais Galliera (palaisgalliera.paris.fr); and Deyrolle's near-legendary museum-like taxidermy shop (www.deyrolle.com).
But while the Cité des Sciences museum (cite-sciences.fr) also has wide appeal, shop-a-holic teens might prefer detouring to the huge Saint-Ouen flea market (marcheauxpuces-saintouen.com) to blow their euros on music, art and books.
Picky eaters, of course, may be harder to please. Berman's cool dining tips – from La Recyclerie [larecyclerie.com] to Holybell [holybel.ly] – can sway the least adventurous. "But we also encourage teens to try French food at a friendly spot like Le Bon Georges [lebongeorges.com]. Dine with the locals after 8 p.m. and let your teens have a wine or beer with their meal as is the custom."
The bottom line, she says, is to give Paris-bound teens a dose of independence. "This is a special opportunity for them to explore a new place and culture. Put them in charge of planning an activity, navigating the city, translating menus or – if age-appropriate – give them a day to wander on their own."
OUR READERS WRITE
- Gustave Moreau Museum – like looking into the mind of an emo boy. @aegisnyc
- Sun & sand on the central beach “Paris Plage” by the Seine. Tim Mosher
- Let teens help set itinerary. Don’t plan too many museum visits – allow time for shopping and sitting in cafés. And book tickets ahead for places like the Eiffel Tower – teens are not very patient with lines (I learned that the hard way!). @GoneWithFamily
- Teenagers would love the free 30-minute fashion show on Fridays at Galeries Lafayette. Reservations are a must. @PeggyCoonley
- You’re never too old to climb the steps at the Eiffel Tower (epic selfies!) or punt boats at the Jardin du Luxembourg. @travelling_mom
- Engage them by reading stories, books or movies that take place in Paris – then make a scavenger hunt for fun when you arrive in Paris. @fraueibl
- Fat Bike City Tours in Paris (paris.fattirebiketours.com). The guides themselves are invariably young (early 20s) and hip, and can make what for the young are boring subjects, such as history and culture, come alive. Brant Gulyes
- Fat Tire Bike Tours: I recommend the trip to Versailles. Since my grandson was 14, I thought he was old enough to go on his own and he was excited by the idea. They promised to look after him and off he went to Versailles with the group – bikes provided. This trip was an enormous boost to his self-confidence and gave me some free time to explore a couple of the wonderful museums. Pauline Carrick
- No kid would be able to resist a trip to La tête dans les Nuages [a giant gaming centre] and the Hard Rock Cafe before a PSG soccer game! @french_todeath
- Euro Disney [now Disneyland Paris]. @Nat_Carnegie
- 13-year-old faves: Paris Walks’ Montmartre tour; hop-on bus tour; Abbesses; Seine boat cruise; and the top of L’Arc de Triomphe. Oh, and of course the Starbucks in the Louvre! @leanneasante
- Check out @daisydeplume’s treasure hunts at the Louvre – fantastic stuff. Also: watching silent movies as a pianist plays at the the Pathé Foundation; a bag-painting workshop or fashion tour with @kasiadietz is a girlie goodie; backstage tours at cinema Le Grand Rex. @tripalong
- Another idea is a family cooking class at La Cuisine Paris, overlooking the banks of the Seine. @daisydeplume
- I’d recommend a cooking class or tour with La Cuisine or Localers or a tour with Context for parents with teens! @eatlivtravwrite
- Definitely a Seine cruise at night! @fongonfood
- Ditch them at the hotel and go paint the town red? @AnyaGeo
- Cab sauv. @thorntonsity
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