Europe with a toddler?
June 29, 2012 4:59 AM   Subscribe

Is France or Italy better for a 2-year old?

We're daydreaming about vacations with our 2 year old daughter. We want to have fun too, even though her idea of a great vacation would be something like going to the playground and visiting Grandma. We are looking at going to either france or italy. We would probably spend a week in Paris or Rome and then a week in a more rural area. We went to both places about five years ago as a young couple. We found an article that described all kinds of great parks and children's museums and such in Paris. We also found an article that says Rome is very tolerant of kids but that there are few parks and playgrounds in the city.

Do you have any thoughts about whether these articles are accurate and which place(s) would actually be better for a tiny tot? Also, if there is another place in Europe that we should think about let us know.
posted by steinwald to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My non-answer: Either one will be great. Kids will love almost anything if you just remember to slow down as necessary. I.e. decide what you want to see and try to do that, but realize that you might see Mona Lisa or St. Peter's Basilica for 12 seconds and then spend 2 hours playing at nowhere.
posted by zeikka at 5:25 AM on June 29, 2012

Agreed, either one will be great. I went to Paris with (a friend and her) 2.5 year old, and we went to an amaaaaazing park that her kid probably did not appreciate any more than she would have appreciated a completely ordinary park. Kids don't really care about architecture or art or adult food subtleties, they care about getting attention and sleep and regular mealtimes, and you'll be able to provide those wherever you go!
posted by Kololo at 5:38 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

A 2 year old won't care or remember anything, so go where is best for YOU.
posted by Blake at 5:40 AM on June 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

I took my two-year-old to Paris and Greece, and traveled to Rome by myself around the same time. There are, in fact, lots of very good parks and playgrounds in Paris. I don't recall seeing any in Rome, but I might not have been looking and might not have been in the kid-friendlier areas.

The kid had great times in both Paris and Greece, and does not remember a minute of any of it. Per above advice, if the kid gets food and playtime and sleep, you'll all have a good time regardless.

I will, however, point out that Disneyland Paris is really small, quite amazing, and highly kid-friendly (as is Parc Astérix, but if you don't have a familiarity with the characters, it'll be kind of bewildering for you).
posted by Etrigan at 5:46 AM on June 29, 2012

I too was going to recommend Disneyland Paris area and the Marriott Vacation Club property there in particular.

You get a better rate because it's outside of Paris, but it's a townhouse! So you have a living room, bedrooms, kitchen, etc. There's a shuttle to Disneyland, there's a huge mall with a grocery store within walking distance and it's situated on a pond/lake, so you can feed the duckies.

If you want to go into Paris, take the RER and in about 40 minutes, there you are!

You can save a few bucks by having breakfast and dinner at your townhouse, and lunch while you're out and about.

You get the whole villiage vibe, but you can go to Paris anytime you want.

I only wish flights weren't so expensive because I'd be there in October so fast it would make your head spin.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:52 AM on June 29, 2012

Are you OK with heat? Rome would be too hot for me (and my baby) during the summer...she gets heat rashes. Remember A/C is not to be expected everywhere in Europe. On the other hand, Italians are said to be more tolerant of little kids than the French - famously so!- so if you want to eat out at good restaurants a lot, I personally would pick Rome).
posted by The Toad at 5:53 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unmissable in Paris for kids is Cite des Enfants!
posted by zia at 6:10 AM on June 29, 2012

We've spent a fair bit of time travelling through France with our kids, now 2 & 4.

The important things:
1. The playpark. Some can be good. Some, however, can be very dangerous! See-saws with missing seats and rusty nails, glass in the grass under swings, dog poo...
2. The food. They both did very well with the food. They decided they liked strong French cheese (gorgonzola was a big hit) and olives. YMMV
3. the weather. The weather can be hard work; make sure you have a refuge for the middle of the day! And lots of suncream, and sunhats, and sunglasses!

We never had any problems with people having problems with our two. In fact we found most people very welcoming and friendly. Kids in Europe are generally welcomed.
posted by BadMiker at 6:21 AM on June 29, 2012

Rome has a children's museum (although a 2 year old might be too young). Its just north of the Piazza del Popolo.

I can't imagine that a kid wouldn't like climbing around statues and fountains and up and down the Spanish Steps.

The Italians are notoriously patient with small kids. You won't have any trouble eating a meal, as the wait staff in most restaurants will grab your child and entertain her while you eat.
posted by jindc at 6:25 AM on June 29, 2012


To clarify: we do not want to see the Vatican, Mona Lisa, Eiffel Tower, etc. We're interested in the food and the pleasure of exploring a new set of romantic nowheres together. If we spend the whole day wandering down a random street, playing in puddles and looking at construction sites, that's fine. We do want to be able to bring her to good restaurants.

I asked this question mainly because of the stereotype that Italians are more patient with kids than the French. When we are in places that are not specifically designed for children, will that be a factor? Is this a real cultural thing (kids expected to be everywhere vs nice places that are for kids but the sense that they should be seen and not heard if they must be present at all in other places?)

We're thinking about September.
posted by steinwald at 6:57 AM on June 29, 2012

Well, I think the stereotype might be more pertinent to the type of area you're visiting rather than the countries themselves. The same applies to the U.S. where you'll have typically more patient/friendly/relaxed folks in rural areas opposed to busy urban or touristy areas. So with that in mind I'd treat anticipating any destination like you would if you were in still the U.S. (but obviously strive to interpret and respect the customs and etiquette relative to the area you're visiting)
posted by samsara at 7:33 AM on June 29, 2012

Italians at the beach last month were amazing to my one year old. It made such a difference knowing they were not only ok but delighted with her presence. Made everything easier.

But that's a beach resort. Rome might be different.
posted by Omnomnom at 8:19 AM on June 29, 2012

As a an alternate data point, we traveled in southern France with a baby and the French were extraordinarily accommodating and happy to see us. We went to Spain and Portugal with him when he was a little older, about 20 months, and experienced the same thing. We were not in Paris, but I can vouch for Provence.
posted by ambrosia at 9:30 AM on June 29, 2012

French resident but non parent here: as a general rule here the noisy baby in a place like a restaurant could be from anywhere - but badly behaved toddler or child can almost be counted on as being foreign. There are whole books one can buy about this effect - like "French Kids Eat Everything". The Italians are more likely, I think, to accept kids being kids rather than requiring them to act as mini adults.

But all this is something which really only applies to some local children in some places. As a visitor I would not let it make my decision one way or another. But if you really pushed me on the "Italy or France" question given this information alone I would say: Italy.
posted by rongorongo at 10:08 AM on June 29, 2012

But that's a beach resort. Rome might be different.

Rome is no different. I've seen elderly people hop up out of their bus seats to insist that a mother with a small child take the seat. Gruff-looking young men will stop to coo at babies in strollers. It's definitely a good place to have (or be!) a little kid.
posted by katemonster at 10:39 AM on June 29, 2012

As a few people have mentioned, the main issue in france is that they expect children to be well behaved. If your child isn't well behaved, you won't get much sympathy.
posted by Kololo at 12:02 PM on June 29, 2012

Lived in Europe, took baby 18-24 mos. to Italy, Ireland, and France. (Er, Rome, w. Ireland, and Lyon). Rome loved the baby. We planned on one thing per day (today we went to the Vatican, tomorrow it's the Trevi fountain) and that worked out really well for everyone. We also stayed centrally so that we could make it back to the hotel for naps and such so no one was tired or cranky. Baby was cooed over and given all sorts of special treats and gobs of attention.

The French and Irish weren't cold to Baby by any means, but it was just something special in Rome.
posted by marmot at 12:56 PM on June 29, 2012

Nthing what folks say above -- Romans are CRAZY for kids.
posted by feets at 3:12 PM on June 29, 2012

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