Navigating Paris museums while keeping kids interested and trying to enjoy the experience yourself is black-belt level parenting.
The Paris Muse For Families
As I sat at a Mayan dinner ceremony at the Banyan Tree Mayakoba, I spoke with the family to my left and their college bound twins. I mentioned I was heading to Paris with my family, and they exclaimed, “Oh you have to use Paris Muse.” One twin heard the other mention the name and agreed, “Yes, do the Paris Muse Clues. I still remember everything our guide taught us!”
So, when I began researching and planning our Paris trip, I obviously looked up this tour company first.
Paris Museum Tours By Experts
Paris Muse only offers private tours led by trained art historians and other advanced degreed educators. They have created programs for adults, teens, and children as young as six years old.
Visiting the top museums in Paris with your children should be, ideally, an enjoyable, visual feast. I was excited to show my children the museum galleries that were my classrooms as a college student living in Paris. But I realistically didn’t expect to enjoy a museum with them in the same way I would on my own.
Parents who don’t frequent major museums will find the Louvre’s scale daunting. But it’s a vacation, right? Call the pros.
When I heard those twins in Mexico speak with such enthusiasm about their time at the Louvre, I knew that’s how I wanted my kids to talk about their experience years later. We enlisted the guides of Paris Muse to take us to the two Paris art museums everyone must visit: the Louvre and the Musée D’Orsay. We split the tours on two different days with many macarons eaten in between.
The whole booking and meeting process was seamless. Families receive an email before the tour with their assigned guide, their biography and academic credentials, and a photo of the meeting location to make the experience foolproof. Tours include the price of skip-the-line tickets.
The Louvre Museum
My children were 7 and 12 at the time of the tour, so we opted for the Louvre Muse Clues family tour. William, our guide met us outside the museum with tickets in hand, and our adventure began.
These Louvre tours are a combination of must-see pieces like the Mona Lisa, the Venus Di Milo, and Nike mixed with Louvre history, and deeper looks in less crowded galleries.
William informed my children that it would take ten days to see everything in the museum, and that’s not an exaggeration. In two hours— you have to ask yourself— what could you expect to see?
William was a natural entertainer and extremely passionate about the subject matter he shared. I don’t think any of us took our focus off him his entire presentation.
We spent a bit of time in the Babylonian section of the museum, hardly on most people’s Louvre bucket list. But it didn’t matter. I have no idea how he made it so interesting, but he did.
These less crowded galleries and large-scale sculptures were enthralling as William’s classroom tools, and my children absorbed it all. Focusing much of the Paris Muse scavenger hunt in these galleries is intentional. Hearing him was easy, and we had several rooms to ourselves.
The Louvre must-see list
Once we left for the Louvre must-see works of art, I longed to return to the more esoteric sections to escape the crowds. A highlight was seeing the archeological section of the building, as the Louvre’s preceding structure was a 12th century castle. We stood in the excavated areas that were formerly the protective moats grasping the layers of Paris history.
The scavenger hunt ends (spoiler alert!) at a locker with hidden gifts inside for the children. It was an incredible experience that left us on a high, knowing we just did something we will remember the rest of our lives.
Give your children some healthy protein for stamina before tackling the Louvre. There is a decent food court in the Carousel shops below ground and across from the Pyramid’s entrance. Save the visit to Angelina for hot chocolate and pastries until after the museum as a reward.
The Louvre is located adjacent to the Tuileries Garden. During the summer months, there is an amusement park with rides and carnival games open until night time. The swings that lift in the air and the ferris wheel give a glorious view of the city, day or night.
The Musée D’Orsay, filled with 19th century French art, is a converted train station. Because it is the largest Impressionist museum Paris is known for, it’s also incredibly popular with visitors.
Our Paris Muse guide met us outside the entrance and swept us in like VIPs with our skip-the-line tickets to Musée d’Orsay. Kotryna, a graduate student and art historian explained to my children that they were going to learn to become art critics on the tour.
Paris Muse created a workbook, Paris Muse News, that walks children through different critical aspects of seeing paintings: texture, color, and light. Kotryna walked us through the highlights of the collection while educating my children on identifying these elements. The questions are structured to work well for all ages.
The tour included the most instagrammed location in the museum as well as the gripping scale model of the Paris Opera House.
After a long day of walking and touring, my children got a little tired with information overload. They saw a free space to sit on a gallery bench and took it. I love that Kotryna just kneeled down next to them and kept their focus. The tour included drawing time and viewing some historic photographs on her iPad.
A Musée D’Orsay Paris Family Game
I’d like to share a way I introduce Impressionism as a family game with an iPhone.
Have your child take a photo of another family member, posing still and looking directly at the camera. Next, have your child capture a photograph of the same family member walking past, oblivious to the camera. Compare the two images. Ask your kids to see how one has a more formal quality where the subject was conscious of being portrayed.
Compare that with the other representing a specific moment in time, an impression. As you walk the galleries, ask your children if the paintings were posed or what the artist “caught” people doing in the painting: drinking absinthe at a cafe, dancing, scraping wood floors, or picnicking naked alongside overdressed men.
After the 5PM tour, we stopped inside the main restaurant at the Musee D’Orsay, which I highly recommend. The room is stunning, and the fusion of golden walls with the modern jewel tone plastic chairs is festive. We joined the queue ten minutes prior to their opening at 7PM and were seated without a wait.
The menu was incredibly easy on kids, and my children finished grilled salmon and green beans and asked if they could order a third dinner to share. I don’t remember our adult meals being particularly outstanding compared to other options in Paris, but it was a perfect, simple family dinner in a lovely, historic room.
Other Paris art museums that are favorites for families
This sister museum to the Musée D’Orsay is located opposite the Louvre within the Tuileries garden on the side facing the Place de la Concorde. The Orangerie houses an Impressionist collection where its smaller scale may make it the right choice for families who wish to avoid the larger museums.
Monet made a gift to the museum of his large waterlily murals. Because Monet’s work is so pervasive, it’s an easy way for children to connect with the art like they can with the Mona Lisa. Other works in the collection are by Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
One of France’s most esteemed chocolate makers, Edwart, has a Concorde location at 244 Rue de Rivoli nearby. Dangle this carrot in front of your kids for good museum behavior.
The Rodin Museum
The Rodin Museum in Paris is comprised of small gallery spaces inside his historic residence, which is not going to interest most children. We go for the sculpture garden around the property. It feels like a secret oasis in the city, with fountains and tall hedges.
Roses bloom in the summer, and the gardens are a peaceful place to stroll and enjoy without significant crowds. Even if you are just letting a toddler loose to walk the gravel paths, the scenery is very Parisian, worthy of your vacation.
Deyrolle, the legendary taxidermy boutique is a short walk at 46 Rue du Bac. It will be a store your family won’t ever forget.
Three-Michelin-star restaurant Arpège is across the street from the museum. Though not for children, this restaurant’s chef is known for giving the vegetable a leading role in French cuisine.
The Centre Pompidou
From Luxe Recess contributor Jillion:
The Pompidou is in a vibrant area with lots of activity. I recall going to the Pompidou with my parents when I was a kid where street performers gathered large crowds in front of the museum. It is still the same 30 years later.
Many Parisians think it is the ugliest building in the city, but I find it beautiful. The exterior courtyard has a sort of bohemian feel. There are large tubes running up the side that contain the museum’s escalators. They are fun to ride up and feel sort of Willy Wonka-ish. The building is filled with windows, and the views from the top are amazing. The interior is very open and inviting for kids.
We live a block away, so we stop by every time we are in Paris. The museum consistently has great shows. On recent visits we have seen David Hockney, Jeff Koons, Magritte, and Sheila Hicks. There is always something amazing on tap.
Modern collections in Paris get overshadowed by the older museums, but Paris is a key art capital for every period.
There is a restaurant at the top, George, with good views and a straightforward menu where kids can order a cheeseburger or chicken Caesar salad.
The Marais neighborhood is nearby and the best for shopping with teens and tweens.
The Louis Vuitton Foundation
In 2014, this new Paris art museum opened in a Frank Gehry structure in the Bois de Bologne, the Central Park or Hyde Park of Paris. This museum is not part of the Paris Museum Pass, but both its exterior and interior are worth the price of admission. Gehry claims the inspiration for the building is a fully enlarged sail of a tall ship.
The museum houses the collection of Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury-goods company. LVMH recently acquired the Belmond hotel group and plans to inject a new experience in luxury hospitality, too.
The museum collection includes Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gilbert & George and Jeff Koons. There are family programs that allow children to get creative and paint on the weekends. Leave their precious Bon Point outfits at the hotel.
Located next to the Jardin d’Acclimatation, this museum makes a good family outing. The Jardin d’Acclimatation is a charming vintage theme park with rides, animal encounters, and other activities. Walk the galleries and have lunch at Louis Vuitton, and you can spend the afternoon at the park.
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Musée de Cluny
From Kirsten Maxwell of Kids Are A Trip:
The Cluny Museum is one of our favorite lesser known museums in Paris. Situated in the Latin Quarter, it is actually two museums in one. The first area features some of the most beautiful tapestries of the Middle Ages, including the famous Lady and the Unicorn. Harry Potter fans might recognize some Hogwarts decor here. The other building houses the ruins of Roman baths dating to the 3rd century.
We took a private tour of this former hotel and its gardens, and thoroughly enjoying the museum’s artifacts, history, and surprises. We would highly recommend a stop to anyone visiting the city.
The Cluny is located in the heart of the Latin Quarter and an easy walk to Notre Dame cathedral. The Latin Quarter offers several great restaurants and chocolate shops in a neighborhood as popular with locals as tourists.
And what about Paris architecture?
From Luxe Recess contributor Lissa Poirot
My daughter loves Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and my favorite Paris landmark is Sainte Chappelle. We discovered they have concerts on the second floor of the chapel. We were lucky enough to find a performance of the “Four Seasons” during our stay. It was absolutely beautiful to sit beneath the stained-glass windows and listen to baroque music.
My daughter also found the Catacombs fascinating. We purchased advanced tickets with immediate entry to avoid the lines. We roamed through on our own with the audio guide. She’s 14, but we saw younger kids who were very nervous— even scared— to go into the tunnels lined with bones and skulls.
We spent a lot of time on a scavenger hunt of sorts. For me, I wanted to find the more oft-beat places I had yet to visit, such as the Promenade Plantee, which inspired New York’s High Line. It was nice just to walk around and explore versus joining hordes in museums.
As we strolled, my daughter began to notice mosaic art on street corners. We did a search and discovered an elusive street artist has placed them around the city, “Space Invaders.” She wanted to photograph as many as she could, and we found most of them in the Marais neighborhood.
Paris Museum Pass
If you plan to visit the major sites and museums, you should consider buying a Paris Museum Pass. It’s a combination ticket that grants entry into the majority of all Paris museums as well as a few key sites. The Palace of Versailles (read our complete guide), Sainte Chapelle, and the Château de Chantilly are included. It also includes access to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for that memorable shot of the Eiffel Tower and the Paris skyline.
The pass can be purchased for a certain number of days (like a Eurail pass) in two, four, and six days. If you plan on visiting Versailles and three more museums or sites included, you save money with the two-day pass. Be aware that is an ambitious schedule for a family with children.
Children are free at most museums, so only parents require a pass. If your Paris vacation falls during times when weather is unpleasantly cold or warm, then spending time in museums can be a great way to enjoy the city. Note that many Paris museums are not air conditioned, however.
Where to Buy the Paris Museum Pass
Visitors can purchase the museum pass at any museum or site that accepts them. I think this is actually the easiest method since you won’t pay for shipping. If you buy online, the shipping costs add so much to the price, it negates the value of the pass.
You can also buy Paris Museum Passes at the Central Paris Tourist Office, 29 rue de Rivoli, which is close to Sainte Chapelle or Centre Pompidou.
What’s the difference between the Paris Pass and the Paris Museum Pass?
The Paris Pass offers more that might be useful for your trip. The Paris Pass includes an unlimited transit pass to use on buses, metros, and RER trains within the Paris zones 1 through 3. This includes all of central Paris.
What isn’t within these zones? Charles De Gaulle and Orly airports, Versailles, and Disneyland Paris. Families can purchase supplements to their transit passes to these destinations.
Let me help you plan your family vacation in Paris!
Paris Muse provided their tours in exchange for reviews. They had no oversight on content. The Paris tourism board provided Paris Museum Passes.