Whether you’re by yourself, visiting with friends or bringing the entire family along, Paris has something for just about everyone. There is so much to do in the city that you could spend an entire year abroad and never experience everything. Paris boasts an extensive selection of over 200 different museums of exceptional quality. Here are my top six Paris museums for those with kids.
The first stop you should make is the Musee d’Orsay. Located on the left bank of the Seine, this museum started out as a railroad station. Today it houses works of art by those of Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, and Van Gogh. Unlike the Louvre, which houses many pieces art and can seem overwhelming, the Musee d’Orsay is smaller and situates their art with a distance between pieces to give the air of welcoming spaciousness.
A fun feature of the museum is the interactive guided tour. Designed to entertain children with lessons about the exhibits while their parents wander the museum, this tour is free for children ages 5 to 10. It doesn’t require any previous booking and is an excellent way to keep the little ones entertained while you take a look around. Another feature is their scavenger hunt which you can review via THAT d’Or.
You can find the Musee d’Orsay at 1 de la Legion d’Honneur, 75007, Paris. Admission is free for anyone under the age of 18.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Unlike other museums, this Musee d’Orsay is a smaller, more manageable size. It is pleasant and filled with light, so it feels less like a museum than most famous Paris museums.
- If you’re traveling with small children or anyone requiring the use of a wheelchair, you will enter from the priority gate entrance.
- Like in most museums, kids need to be mostly quiet.
- There are plenty of places to sit.
- Be sure to prepare your child for proper museum etiquette before arriving.
- For the younger kids, have them read kids’ books about Monet and Degas, like “The Magical Garden of Claude Monet” or “Degas and the Little Dancer.”
The Louvre was first built as a royal palace and fortress. The museum itself didn’t open until 1793 and only housed 537 paintings. It is the largest museum in the entire world and is one of the cities most popular tourist attractions. Visitors of the Louvre can visit almost any time year round, except on Tuesdays, Christmas Day, New Years Day and May Day (May 1st). It is open to receive visitors Monday, Thursday and Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm and Wednesday and Friday from 9 am to 9:45 pm. Admission for children under 18 is free.
The Pyramids were added to the entrance in 1989, designed by world famous architect, I.M Pei. They’re comprised mainly of glass and metal.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Consider getting a Paris Pass to enter the Louvre, because the lines can be horrendous and the Paris Pass allows you in on a different line, equivalent to the Disney fast pass. One of the benefits of having the Paris Pass is the fact that you are allowed multiple entries so you can come back the next day. The pass is perfect for kids with little patience to sit for extended periods of time.
- If you don’t wish to purchase a Paris Pass, you can speak to the person in charge about helping and accommodating children with disability.
- Some private companies offer scavenger hunt tours that add a level of interactivity and engagement for kids.
- The Louvre is equivalent to several theme parks put together. Don’t expect to see everything in one visit. You will need to map out your visit and decide what areas you want to visit ahead of time.
- There is a lot of walking in the Louvre. Although it is wheelchair friendly, there is still a lot of distance from section to section. Make sure your child has comfortable shoes.
- Unlike other museums, there aren’t a lot of places to sit, and crowds are a major issue, so visiting late afternoons and evenings is recommended.
- If possible, avoid the days of waived museum entrance fee, because those days are typically crawling with visitors wall to wall.
- If you have kids with autism that tend to get lost or run away, make sure they have a hotel card with the address in their pockets, along with a small GPS locator in their clothing or backpack.
Musee de Cluny
Before entering the museum itself, you walk through the Boulevard of Saint Michael, where you can stop and see the remains of the Gallo-Roman baths built 14 centuries before. The Musee de Cluny’s collection includes art from antiquity all the way to Renaissance times. It features some true masterpieces like the Pillier des Nautes from the 1st century and the tapestries that make up La Dame a la Licorne (The Lady With the Unicorn) dating back to the 15th century.
The museum offers both independent and guided tours. When there are exhibitions, the admission fee is a little higher to cover the costs. Group tours are also available to visitors, but you must call ahead of time from Monday to Friday during the hours of 9 am to 4 pm. The museum is free to visitors the 1st Sunday of the month and is free for anyone under 26 from countries within the European Union as well as primary and secondary school teachers. Musee de Cluny is closed on Tuesdays and opens again, except for holidays, from 9:15 am to 5:45 pm.
Autism Travel Tips:
- The museum is small, contained, and manageable.
- If your child is antsy and needs to let out energy, make sure that you spend half an hour or an hour in the beautiful Luxembourg gardens that are close by before you get to the museum.
Centre Pompidou was designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers. It is known today as a 20th-century architectural marvel and is recognizable by its exterior escalators and enormous brilliantly colored tubing. It is home to the National Museum of Art and is internationally renowned for its 20th and 21st-century art collections.
The museum is open to visitors for groups, independent and guided tours. You can always purchase an annual pass if you’re planning on visiting multiple times, and adults under 26 can buy these passes at a discount. Group bookings must be made in advance Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:30 am to 1 pm.
Those eligible for free entry must be either under 26 and a resident of the countries of the European Union or primary and secondary school teachers. They can purchase their tickets from the Georges Pompidou Centre Cash Desk.
The address for Centre Pompidou is at 75004, Paris.Autism Travel Tips:
Autism Travel Tips:
- The Centre Pompidou can be a sensory overload. Unlike other museums, where the main thing is to see things, there are interactive exhibits where you engage many of your senses, so multiple short visits are better for younger kids.
- Just like the Louvre, this is a spread out museum, so be prepared to travel long distances. A multi-day pass or yearly pass is not a bad idea.
- Some kids with autism, especially those who crave movement, will find the outside elevators very relaxing.
- Be sure to see the Stravinsky fountain, a brightly colored fountain made by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle.
- The rooftop cafe is a good place for a quick lunch as well as scenic selfies with the Parisian skyline.
Conciergerie is known as a museum by tourists, but before its conversion into a museum, it was a palace, then a prison. In the 14th century the palace, then known as the Palais de la Cite, was abandoned by the King of France, and it was turned into a judicial building with an attached prison. During the French Revolution, it was home to hundreds of prisoners later beheaded by the guillotine. In fact, the infamous Marie Antoinette lived her days imprisoned here.
In 1914 the Conciergerie was decommissioned and dubbed a historical monument. It is now open to the public and is a popular tourist attraction. Although it is open to the public for viewing, the Conciergerie sees use as a law court, so only a small portion of the museum is viewable to its tourists.
Visitors can enjoy both guided and self-guided tours upon arrival. There is no booking required for the guided tours. For self-guided tours, the visitors guide is available in some languages. Guided tours last for approximately 1 hour and are open during the hours of 11 am and 3 pm. Admission is free to those visitors who are under the age of 26. You can also indulge in Tour Lectures, which last for about an hour and a half.
The Conciergerie is located at 2, Boulevard du Palais 75001, Paris and is accessible via subway, Bus and Rer (Parisian train system).
Autism Travel Tips:
- There are 20 total stairs to travel, so the Conciergerie isn’t wheelchair accessible.
- Some might find the history of the Conciergerie either fascinating or disturbing. Younger kids might find it a little scary because it’s non-interactive, not colorful and it covers a morbid era of France’s past.
- It is highly recommended to get the Paris Pass that includes this location since it is a bit pricey for what it offers.
- Do talk, if possible, to your kid about the French Revolution. The Conciergerie brings the French Revolution’s violence and brutality to life.
- The lines are not too long, as this is one of the less famous museums.
- You can see some of the cells including the one where Marie Antoinette spent her last days.
- Though not a must see, it is good for kids with autism that are fascinated with history.
- Can be coupled with a short visit to the Saint Chapelle church.
Hotel des Invalides
The Hotel des Invalides was commissioned in 1670 by Louis XIV. It was used to accommodate wounded soldiers while giving them hospital care. 5,000 soldiers of the Great Army were sent to Hotel des Invalides in 1815, after Napoleon’s abdication. Today the site is known for museums and monuments relating to the military history of France. Here you can find armoury and WWI-WWII artifacts.
It is also known as the burial site for famous war heroes of France, such as Napoleon Bonaparte. The building from the outside is impressive with a domed, golden top which stands out in the Parisian skyline. As you enter, the center is Napoleon’s impressive tomb. A little-known fact is that the Hotel des Invalides is a currently functioning hospital for modern day veterans.
Visitors are welcome to visit between the hours of 10 am to 6 pm from April to October and 10 am to 5 pm from November to March. You can access Hotel des Invalides via the Metro and tickets are free to children.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Hotel des Invalides should be visited in connection with the Conciergerie, since it’s not that far from it and it is still part of the French Revolution and what came after it (the Napoleonic Era).
- Try not to skip visiting Napoleon’s tomb, although there is somewhat of a line. The tomb is a magnificent sight of its own. Visitors see the massive marble mausoleum by standing on a staircase and looking down.
- The Hotel des Invalides is a part of the Paris Pass. Napoleon is very much alive in death, so even now lots of people come to visit him.
If this is your first time in Paris, it’s important to make a list of famous paintings or exhibits that you can’t live without seeing. Understand that Paris is a treasure trove of sights that cannot be covered in one trip. Families should do their best to have a fun time and create magical memories and not stress out over seeing every sight. Parents should bear in mind that Paris is not just about the museums; so make sure they experience Paris as a whole, with all its restaurants, flea markets, and even its famous cemeteries. The trick for all visitors is to enjoy your time in the city of lights as much as you can, and leave a little something for next time.