Paris may be known as the City of Love but it can also be a fun city for a family vacation. Kids are thrilled to see famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. Luxembourg and Tuileries Gardens have carousels, ponds for sailing boats, pony rides and puppet shows. Delicious French pastries will bring a smile to any child’s face and, if you have girls of the right age, the fabulous shopping may be a selling point. Paris is also known for it’s world-class museums, which leads parents to wonder: is it possible to see the fabulous art collections with kids? Mais, oui! Check out these three Parisian art museums for kids.
My 15-year-old daughter, Katie, loathes art museums and my 9-year-old daughter, Emma, loves them so planning an itinerary is always a balancing act—Paris was no exception. On a 10-day visit we decided to limit ourselves to three museums—the Louvre, the Musée Rodin, and the Musée d’Orsay. We all enjoyed each of them for different reasons.
I know that many people recommend that families skip the Louvre due too long lines, heavy crowds and the museum’s massive size, but I believe there are certain attractions in any city, one simply must visit. For me, the Louvre is a Paris must-see.
The Louvre has been a landmark in Paris for centuries and is now one of the world’s best-known and largest museums. I have heard it estimated that it would take nine months to see everything in this museum so it is imperative for a family to plan their visit well if they want to make it out intact.
My family decided which works of art were priorities and planned to see just those and then beat a quick retreat to the Tuileries Garden before anyone had a chance to get overwhelmed. This approach worked well for us. Emma was so excited to see the Mona Lisa in person that she practically sprinted from the front entrance to the painting and sustained that level of enthusiasm for the balance of our visit. Katie was content to see a couple of famous works and then she amused herself by photographing me taking photos.
We limited our Louvre visit to about two hours and the kids thought it was cool to see some of the world’s most famous works of art and to judge for themselves whether or not the art was worthy of the fuss. We also learned that school art teachers will be very impressed when you return home and tell them that you saw the Mona Lisa.
The Musée d’Orsay
In contrast to the centuries-old Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay housed in the former Orsay train station, has only been an art museum since 1986. The collection consists mainly of French art from 1848 to 1915 and is known for the extensive number of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces.
This has been my favorite art museum since I first visited in 1995 and I think I passed on my preference to my kids. Emma loves the impressionists and although her big sister professes to hate art galleries, Katie does actually enjoy Monet, Degas and Van Gogh. I’m sure many people might disagree with me but I think this more whimsical style of art appeals more to kids than the darker, sombre paintings of earlier eras.
The Musée d’Orsay is a more kid-friendly art museum than the Louvre primarily because of its more manageable size. A couple of hours is all it takes to casually browse the entire collection and spend some time contemplating favorites. The grandeur of the Beaux-Arts-style railway station impressed both of my children as did the museum’s appearance in a Doctor Who episode.
When my family visited the Musée Rodin, the mansion was closed for renovations so our visit was restricted to the museum grounds. The grounds stretch over 3 hectares (nearly 7.5 acres) and include a rose garden, an ornamental garden, thematic walks, and a large pond. It was early spring when we visited and, as we strolled the lovely gardens, I could imagine how beautiful they would be in season.
The gardens of the Musée Rodin are by far the easiest (and least expensive) museum in Paris to visit with kids. Outside in the fresh air, kids forget that they are viewing art and parents can relax and enjoy the sculptures without worrying that the kids are too loud. One of Rodin’s most famous works, The Thinker, can be found in this garden and kids thoroughly enjoy mimicking the famous pose.
With a little planning and careful time management, your kids just may shout, “Encore!” after visiting these Parisian art museums.
What tips do you have for visiting an art museum with kids? Let us know in the comments!