Visiting Paris With a Baby or Toddler: Our Top Survival Tips

Last Updated on February 19, 2024

Visiting Paris with a baby? Here are our top tips. Image by Cali Brutz/Unsplash
Image by Cali Brutz/Unsplash

Before my daughter came along, I rarely thought about whether Paris was child-friendly or not, especially for parents with infants. It took having my little one along for the ride during two extended stays in the capital for me to begin to understand what some of my friends had grumpily reported in the past: visiting Paris with a baby or toddler can be, well, complicated. And sometimes, it’s really difficult.

The city can be wonderful for families with older children– just witness its abundance of parks, playgrounds, kid-friendly events and shows; the fact that Disneyland Paris is only an hour away by train, etc. In my experience, though, the capital simply doesn’t cater as well to the needs of parents with babies and toddlers.

But don’t fret just yet. Yes, finding a bathrooom where you can change a diaper might seem impossible. But in what follows, I give you the information and strategies you’ll need to not just survive a trip to Paris with your wee one along for the ride. My aim is for you to actually enjoy it, feeling empowered along the way.

Use the “Explore This Article” menu below to click through to the topic/s that interest you the most, from where to stay to finding high-quality baby food and supplies in the French capital.

If you have any other tips for fellow parents, please feel free to leave them in the comments at the end of the article. And please share this page so others can benefit from the info.

First Things First: Where to Stay With a Baby?

where to stay in Paris with a baby?

I almost always start with the question of where to stay, because it’s fundamental to the whole experience of travel– especially when you have special needs related to caring for a tiny human.

While staying in a hotel isn’t out of the question — and is probably preferable if you’re only in Paris for a couple of days– I’ve had several recent experiences that have made me come to prefer renting self-catered apartments when traveling with a baby.

Many hotels lack some of the essential supplies that parents with young children need-– from fridges for storing leftover baby food, milk and formula, to washing machines (essential if you don’t want to have to pack too much).

In contrast, many apartment rentals offer all (or at least most) of the comforts of home. As long as you make sure your rental is equipped with what you need, you can do loads of laundry as needed, or cook some meals at “home”– an option that saves money and is also healthier for your baby, on average.

When visiting Paris with a baby or toddler, renting an apartment is often a good option.

You also often have more space for your baby or toddler to play and move around, something that’s essential once they start to become mobile.

My only caveat is that sometimes, securing a baby bed or pack n’play for your baby can be more challenging when renting an apartment or studio in Paris. You’ll need to request one in advance; some rental agencies charge a fee to equip you with one.

Tip: We’ve managed to sink-wash and air-dry baby clothes and even re-usable diapers in many Paris hotel rooms, proving that it can be done without too much stress. Just be prepared to have baby clothes hanging all over the room, as hotels rarely supply laundry airers.

All that said, many hotels we’ve stayed at have been friendly and accommodating when it comes to our baby-related needs, providing baby beds and sheets, extra towels, and even storing our food in the staff fridge when the room didn’t have a minibar or fridge. So it’s really a matter of your own preferences, and flexibility on certain points.

For more on where to stay in Paris, from the best neighborhoods for your tastes and preferences to choosing a good hotel or apartment rental, see our full guide.

Getting Around With a Baby in Paris

“Somewhere in Montmartre” by ketou-daisuki/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons 2.0 license

Paris is relatively easy to navigate for your average person– but for those with disabilities or physical limitations (say, a baby in a stroller), it can be suprisingly challenging.

When visiting Paris for the first time, many travelers are especially daunted by the Paris Metro. It’s got seemingly endless tunnels, which often take you up and down many flights of stairs for no apparent reason. These can be exhausting and feel nearly impossible to manage if you have too much gear with you.

Unless you have four strong arms available to lift the stroller, baby, and any other equipment up and down the stairs and/or escalators, taking the Metro is going to be a challenge, to say the least.

The vast majority of metro stations are not remotely accessible, lacking elevators and ramps, and many station entrances even make it hard to push a stroller through the turnstile and/or gates. In these cases, if there is an information desk, ask a staff member to let you through a special gate after validating your Metro ticket.

Tip: A baby carrier is a good option for both Metro rides and walks in cramped or less accessible parts of the city, such as in areas with cobblestoned streets or cars parked on the curbs. If you do have a stroller, a lightweight “umbrella” stroller is probably your best bet, but be forewarned that they have less stability on bumpy or uneven terrain such as cobblestoned streets.

What are you to do? See more below for our tips on getting around using public transportation. And as for walking? Well, the most we can say is avoid heavily cobblestoned streets and narrow lanes if you’re taking a stroller.

Accessible Metro Stations in Paris

Metro line 14 is the only fully accessible metro line in Paris. Wikimedia commons

Unfortunately, only a tiny percentage of metro stations in Paris are fully accessible (e.g, are equipped with elevators and ramped access to trains and platforms). While the city is working hard to address the problem, for now it’s simply not a great way to get around for anyone with accessibility issues.

Metro Line 14, a driverless line that is also the newest, is the only on the network to be fully accessible– every station is equipped with elevators and ramps.

Taking this line is something I wholly recommend if you’re trying to get between popular points in central Paris, e.g. from Chatelet near the Centre Pompidou to Gare de Lyon, Madeleine or Pyramides (nearby the Opera Garnier and the big Parisian department stores like Galeries Lafayette, or the Louvre-Tuileries area. Another boon during hotter months? It’s air-conditioned.

(Click on the map for more information at Ratp.fr (Paris transport authority)

The other Paris Metro stations that have some accessible features (including elevators) are listed below. Most of these stations connect with the RER (commuter-line train network) which is, on the whole, accessible to people with strollers or wheelchairs.

However, do be aware that many of these stations still require you to ascend or descend at least one flight of stairs even if they do have elevator access.

  • Barbès Rochechouart (Line 2, 4)
  • Chatelet-les-Halles (line 4)
  • Saint-Michel (Line 4)
  • Cité (Line 4)
  • Abbesses (line 2)
  • Esplanade de la Défense (Line 1)
  • The Montmartre Funicular (taking you up the “Butte” or hill to the Sacré Coeur area; accessible from nearby the Anvers metro station

Taking Buses, Trams and RER (Commuter-Line Trains)

Taking the bus in Paris can be a great way to get around with a baby or toddler– but avoid rush hours.

For most parents traveling with babies or toddlers, other public transportation options in Paris will be much easier to use than the Metro.

Using the city bus system is an excellent idea for getting around the city, since all buses are now fully accessible with ramps and dedicated seats/spaces for strollers and parents with young children. The network comprises over 300 bus routes and thousands of stops, meaning you can get practically anywhere.

Insider Tip: Avoid Parisian buses at rush hours (typically 8:30 to 10 am and 5 to 6:30 pm, because at these times certain lines can be packed and make it uncomfortable to travel with your baby/kids and/or stroller. People tend to get pushy and impatient at these times, which makes for a stressful and unpleasant experience.

It can be a bit daunting at first, but with the aid of the Paris transport authority’s English-language itinerary planner, you can easily get from point A to point B. Plus, the sightseeing opportunities are far more abundant when taking the bus than when speeding underground like a mole.

{Related: A Full Guide to Accessibility in Paris}

In addition to buses, Paris’ tram network and most high-speed RER (suburban commuter-line) trains are accessible to strollers, equipped with ramps and/or elevators to and from the platform level. See more at this page.

Renting a Car in Paris

I don’t often recommend renting a car for travel in and around Paris, as parking spaces are hard to find and expensive, and driving conditions can be stressful. But for parents who arrive with lots of gear, renting a car from the airport can be a good solution, especially if you’ve booked a stay in a quieter area of Paris or on the outskirts, in a nearby suburb.

DiscoverCars.com

You can get a free quote on car rentals from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and other pickup locations here (via Discover Cars)— or click on the banner above.

Baby Changing Tables in Paris – Why Are They Almost Nonexistent?

One of the more mystifying (and wholly infuriating) aspects of visiting the French capital with a baby, in my humble experience? The city is shockingly ill-equipped when it comes to baby changing tables, as if they were unnecessary or too “complicated” to install.

Even in restaurants, cafes and other public spaces with ample public bathrooms, changing tables are almost impossible to find in Paris. And considering that compact models which can easily fold up against the wall (think airplane restrooms) are widely available, the many Parisian bars, cafés and restaurants with tiny toilets don’t really have an excuse, either.

Yet when I’ve asked staff or owners at such places about why they don’t have changing tables, they’ve often stared at me blankly, as if my question were somehow absurd. In short, ce n’est tout simplement pas dans la culture (it’s not part of the culture). At least, not yet.

Unfortunately for parents with babies and younger children, figuring out how to change a wet or soiled diaper while out and about suddenly becomes a complex operation.

Many Parisian friends say they’ve resorted to changing babies in their strollers, no matter where they are– or even on booths in restaurants and on park benches. We changed ours on multiple occasions on benches, even in somewhat bad weather, which was *fun*.

Taking more than one changing pad with you can help avoid the unpleasant situation of getting your primary mat dirty and having no way to clean it. Also make sure to bring plenty of wipes, and a “wet bag”: essential in case you can’t immediately find a place to dispose of dirty diapers or store soiled clothes, etc.

Let’s hope all this changes soon. But in the meantime…

Places That Currently Have Baby Changing Tables in Paris (with clickable map)

I’ve made it a bit of a personal mission to gather information on available changing tables in Paris, because I found that info frustratingly hard to find, and want to make things a bit easier for bewildered travelers-who-also-happen-to-be-parents.

Tip: Most major Parisian train stations and public museums (aside from some small, private museums) have at least one changing table available, although these are often located in the women’s restroom– making things unnecessarily complex for Dads or other parents who need to take care of the baby.

Here’s what I’ve found so far; please feel free to comment below the post if you know of other baby-changing tables in the capital, so I can expand and update this list. You can use the clickable map to easily find a table near you.

Train stations & airports
  • Gare du Nord train station (lower level near Metro entrance): Operated by 2theLoo; baby change is free (make sure to ask attendant)
  • Gare de l’Est train station: operated by 2theLoo (free baby change; ask attendant to enter)
  • Gare de Lyon train station: operated by 2theLoo (free baby change; ask attendant)
  • Gare Saint-Lazare station: operated by 2theLoo
  • Gare de Montparnasse: operated by 2theLoo
  • Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport: (both departures and arrivals areas have baby care rooms accessible to all)
  • Paris Orly Airport (departures and arrivals)

Stores & shops
  • Galeries Lafayette Department store: the “Nursery” on level 5 of the Coupole building on Boulevard Haussmann has changing tables, a microwave for preparing food and bottles, fridge, and private breastfeeding area.
  • Printemps Department Store (Operated by Point WC; a small fee is charged); there is also reportedly a “Nurserie” (nursery) located in the “Espace Enfants” on level -1 at the Boulevard Haussmann location
  • Bon Marché department store: Level 3, in baby departmentl; Level -1, in men’s bathroom: 24 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris
  • C&A clothing store: 49 Bd Haussmann, 75009 Paris

Restaurants & cafes
  • Starbucks (select locations only)
  • Salon de Thé (tearoom) and Restaurant at the Mosquée de Paris (for customers)- 39 Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 75005 Paris
  • Les Belles Plantes restaurant at the Jardin des Plantes: available for customers; 47 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris
  • L’endroit Batignolles restaurant and café: For paying customers; 67 Place du Dr Félix Lobligeois, 75017 Paris

Museums & monuments

Buying Baby Food, Medicine and Other Supplies

Paris supermarkets generally have a good selection of baby foods and products.

Luckily, high-quality baby food, formulas and medicines are much easier to find in Paris than that oh-so-elusive changing table. In central Paris (and most neighborhoods within the city walls), the closest pharmacy or corner supermarket is just blocks away.

Supermarkets like Franprix, Carrefour, Marché-U, Monoprix and Auchan all stock high-quality, sugar-free baby food brands, including purées, snacks and biscuits, cereals, compotes (fruit-based sauces and purees, including apple, but also many other flavors).

Insider tip: French supermarkets also sell a range of compotes (fruit purées or sauces) marketed to adults, but which are both sugar-free and delicious, so perfectly suited to babies. Look for brands like Andros and Monoprix or Carrefour’s own-brand fruit sauces, in flavors from peach to prune, pear to blackberry and raspberry. These tend to be stocked in the same refrigerated cases as yogurt and fromage blanc.

Most Parisian grocery stores also sell diapers, baby wipes, creams and shampoos, and formulas, although you’ll have to head to the larger stores for a decent variety.

If you’re looking for a large selection of organic baby foods and supplies, try health-food stores such as Naturalia (the city’s largest chain). The store has locations around the city.

Pharmacies are your port of call for baby formula (with most selling organic and hypoallergenic varieties), as well as medicines, creams and grooming products, of course. Note that most French pharmacies (aside from very large ones) do not sell baby foods aside from formulas.

If you urgently need over-the-counter medicines or other supplies for your baby, don’t panic. You can find a list of pharmacies open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at this page.

Pharmacists in France are extremely well trained and in some cases can offer advice on your child’s (minor) medical conditions, as well as recommending over-the-counter treatments or advice on getting medical help.

What if Your Baby Has a Medical Issue and Needs to See a Doctor Urgently?

There’s little more anxiety-inducing than having an ill baby or child while away from home, especially when you’re not sure how the local medical system works.

If you have a true emergency (e.g. your baby is not breathing, has a worrisome rash, high fever, or is otherwise seriously unwell) call emergency services immediately by dialing 15 or 112 on any phone.

If, however, the medical issue is not an emergency, I recommend calling SOS Médecins, a hotline that assesses your issue and (in most cases) sends a doctor for a house call to your hotel or rental. The service is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

We recently called on this wonderful service when our daughter fell ill with yet another ear infection, and my attempts to get an appointment with local GPS was unsuccessful.

After calling SOS Médecins and explaining the problem, a friendly doctor arrived at our rental apartment within an hour and issued a prescription for antibiotics.

If you have travel insurance, make sure to ask the doctor for a feuille de soins (care summary) that details how much you paid for treatment. That way, you can hopefully be reimbursed for the callout.

You can call SOS Médecins by dialing +33 (0)1 47 07 77 77 (make sure to drop the 33 and add the 0 if calling from a French ground line or payphone). You can also book an appointment online (in French only).

Renting Supplies for Babies and Young Children

There are several companies in Paris that rent out supplies such as strollers, pack n’ play-style cribs, baby bassinets, carseats, highchairs and other gear.

The two I recommend are Baby’tems and Familib. Baby’tems offers delivery for a fee, while items rented through Familib need to be picked up at a designated pickup point around the city (or at the airport).

Eating Out in Paris With Babies and Young Kids

Italian restaurants in Paris are often family-friendly and offer dishes like pasta with tomato sauce and cheese, ideal for older babies and toddlers.
Italian restaurants in Paris are often family-friendly and offer dishes like pasta with tomato sauce and cheese, ideal for older babies and toddlers.

We’ll soon devote a whole separate article to eating out in Paris with kids. But for now, here are a few of our top tips for dining out with the little ones– without creating massive headaches.

First of all, do be aware that there are no consistent “rules” around how restaurants in Paris treat patrons with babies. Some welcome them with open arms, while others will have servers who seem visibly annoyed at having to accommodate young children. To avoid unpleasant surprises and awkward dining situations, we recommend the following:

Call and reserve a table ahead of time.

Calling the restaurant before you arrive and letting them know you have a baby can be an excellent gauge for whether the place is family-friendly or not. You can ask whether there is space for your stroller, whether there are high chairs (but do be warned that most Parisian restaurants do NOT have highchairs), and ask about baby or toddler-friendly menu items.

Choose certain restaurant formats over others.

Certain restaurant types, such as large café-brasseries, tend to be more baby and kid-friendly than others. Compared to small, family-owned bistros, high-end restaurants with formal dining vibes, or hip eateries with just a few tables, brasseries will generally be able to accommodate your stroller, or offer more space for your baby to move if needed.

{Related: Our Complete Guide to French Restaurant Types & How to Navigate Them}

As a general rule, avoid tiny restaurants with limited seating, as well as fancier “gastronomic” restaurants with starchy white tablecloths and pricey menus. Believe me, you won’t enjoy the meal– no matter how delicious– if you’re stressed out about the baby smearing cream sauce all over the floor, or knocking over a glass of expensive wine on the tiny table.

In my experience, Italian restaurants in Paris (aside from tiny, cramped trattorias) are some of the more baby and child-friendly eateries in the city. They sometimes have high chairs or at least booth seating, and Italian menus are often populated with dishes that are easy for babies and toddlers to enjoy, including pasta, rice, and soups.

Creperies are also typically good options, since they’re popular with French children and the owners are often used to accommodating mini-humans. I’ve seen or used high chairs at several good creperies in Paris.

Don’t hesitate to ask for what you need.

Don’t be shy about politely asking your server if you need something for your baby, such as a simple scrambled egg, extra napkins to clean up a spill, or more water to fill a sippy cup. Most of the time, they’ll be happy to fulfill your request.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much warmer many of my interactions have been with my baby in tow– even waitstaff that might otherwise seem a bit cold often “melt” at the sight of a wee dining companion.

Try restaurants in child-friendly museums.

Last but not least, choosing restaurants associated with child-friendly museums in Paris is one way to pretty much guarantee they’ll be accommodating.

For example, we had a lovely meal at Les Belles Plantes, a sit-down restaurant in the Jardin des Plantes that has highchairs, kid’s menus and booth seating that made it easy to allow our wiggly 13-month-old to stand up for a bit and move without disrupting other diners. This is also one of the rare restaurants in Paris where I found a changing table (see more on that by scrolling up).

You can find a fuller list of family-friendly restaurants in Paris here.

Public Breastfeeding in Paris: Is it Accepted?

is public breastfeeding in Paris difficult?

One of the greater points of anxiety for me when visiting Paris with a baby was the question of how, or whether, I would breastfeed in public. In reality, France doesn’t have a great track record for supporting breastfeeding, with most people stopping at or before the 6-month mark.

French culture famously tends to see breastfeeding, especially past a certain point, as a near-assault on women’s rights and dignity. This often translates to women giving it up once they return to work, frequently after only a couple of months, because workplaces aren’t known to support breastfeeding workers the way (I believe) they should.

I was also nervous because despite having lived in France for over a decade, etiquette rules around certain things still sometimes feel a bit hazy to me. Would it be seen as inappropriate, or even rude, to breastfeed my daughter in a restaurant, a cafe, a public square, a museum? It seemed like there was no rulebook.

If you’re still feeding your baby and don’t want to have to go back to the hotel or apartment to do so, I can reassure you of one thing: In Paris, I haven’t had (to date) any negative experiences with breastfeeding in public, including in restaurants, parks and squares, in quiet corners of museums, cafés, hotel lobbies, train stations and on trains.

I didn’t use a cover (my baby simply doesn’t tolerate it) and while I was as discreet as possible, I also didn’t twist myself into knots trying to hide what I was doing. To my (pleasant) surprise and relief, though, no one looked at me with a “side eye”, made comments, or behaved as if they were uncomfortable.

Servers, staff and general members of the public all acted as if it were the most unremarkable thing in the world. I even had several servers approach and take my order at the table while I was feeding the baby, which surprised me.

Not only did they seem wholly unphased by it; they assumed I must be, too. It was a refreshing experience, since even in the UK (where I live) the awkward dance of people averting their eyes in an attempt to be polite ends up making me feel (paradoxically) more uncomfortable.

Of course, I can’t promise that this positive experience will be repeated for everyone. Attitudes and behaviors will vary wildly in a huge metropolis like Paris, so my encounters might not be wholly representative.

I’m also the sort of person that people likely expect to see feeding their baby (e.g. I am a woman who presents as feminine), so this experience may not be one experienced by all feeding parents. Trans or non-binary people who feed their babies in public in Paris may well find it less comfortable or experience some form of prejudice. I genuinely hope that’s not the case, of course, but I feel a need to mention it.

{Related: Our Top Paris Safety Tips}

This advice applies to everyone: Do what you have to do to feel safe and comfortable, even if that means finding a quiet, private place to feed your baby. I’ve found the most success doing so in large parks with numerous benches, squares, and cafes or restaurants with booth seating, where you can feed a bit more comfortably and discreetly.

Can you find special breastfeeding rooms and areas in Paris?

Unfortunately, outside of Charles de Gaulle Airport (Paris’ main airport) and at Galeries Lafayette in the city center, I haven’t found any dedicated breastfeeding rooms in places like train stations and museums.

This didn’t surprise me, since, as mentioned above, changing tables are themselves incredibly rare. That public spaces don’t accommodate breastfeeding parents doesn’t surprise me.

Again, please do leave a comment below the post if you’ve encountered any other dedicated breastfeeding areas or rooms in the city.

What to Do With Babies in Paris?

This topic could be made into a long article in and of itself, so I’ll be relatively brief here. For more detailed tips and suggestions, this guide is another excellent resource, with many concrete suggestions and tips on navigating some of the more popular tourist attractions in Paris (such as the Eiffel Tower).

Hang out in Parisian parks and gardens.

While babies who aren’t yet mobile will have limited abilities to enjoy what Paris’ loveliest parks and gardens have to offer younger visitors, getting some fresh air and stimulation is still good for even the youngest babies.

And for toddlers who are crawling and/or walking, grassy areas or playgrounds designed for younger kids will help them to get some energy out (saving parents the stress of having to figure out how to get them to sleep, or stay in their high chair at the restaurant, later on in the day).

Some of the best parks and gardens for babies and toddlers (that boast extensive lawns, playgrounds with areas for younger children, and activities like puppet shows and summertime water play areas, include the following:

Beeline to the Jardin du Luxembourg for its extremely colorful and engaging early-age playgrounds; floating the model sailboats on the pond can also be very amusing, even for toddlers.

Tip: This page at the Paris Tourist Office has plenty more information on what to do with very young travelers in the city. While the page says these are geared to kids over 3, many can be adapted to babies and toddlers.

The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont has enormous, grassy expanses that are often safe for toddlers to roll around in (when supervised, of course), as well as several good playgrounds, while the Parc de la Villette has amusing and varied play areas and fun-fair rides.

Also check out the Jardin des Plantes, which has an onsite zoo/wildlife conservation park and adjoining natural history museum whose enormous dinosaur bones and animal models will fascinate even young toddlers.

Meanwhile, the Jardin d’Acclimatation, an old-school amusement park, has a petting zoo and gentle rides for younger kids that your toddlers should find exciting.

Check out a few museums (including kid-friendly ones).

While young babies won’t necessarily be able to fully enjoy child-focused museums like the Musée Grévin wax museum, the Cité des Sciences (science and industry museum) or the interactive features for kids at the Louvre, I’ve found that my daughter has responded in remarkable ways to museums and even art galleries.

Holding her in a carrier, my partner and I have strolled through museums and galleries, delighted to see her giggle, coo and point at majestic works such as the 15th-century series of tapestries, “The Lady and the Unicorn”, at the Musée de Cluny.

La Dame a la licorne/"A mon seul désir", Around 1500. Musée Cluny, Paris
La Dame a la licorne/”A mon seul désir”, Around 1500. Musée Cluny, Paris. Public domain.

See more on child-friendly museums in Paris here, and our guide to some of the best free museums in Paris– ideal when you need to keep your budget in check.

Take a boat or bus tour.

Sunset over the Seine and the Ile de la Cité, Paris. Credit: Joe de Souza/Creative Commons

Not all babies will tolerate sitting for a spell on a boat or bus for a tour (mine cried hysterically the last time I took her on a sightseeing cruise in Strasbourg, and didn’t stop until we disembarked). But for parents with tired feet and arms, a gentle cruise on the Seine or a hop-on, hop-off bus tour might do just the trick.

True, it might lull the baby to sleep. But until then, it can provide plenty of interesting new things to point at or talk about, especially if you have a chatty toddler who’s starting to become more aware of the world around them– and is excited to have monuments and landmarks pointed out to them (Look! There’s the Eiffel Tower! There’s Notre Dame!)

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