France sounds nice...
September 2, 2021 8:09 PM   Subscribe

I haven't been to France since 1988. What's new -- mostly in Paris -- that I would want to show to a family with four kids (age 13-22) in the summer of 2022?

Travel from New England, probably eight-ish days from late June to early July.

Kids are neophyte world travelers, but wife and I have both been to Europe in the 1990s. The kids says they will literally go anywhere, but are kind of picky eaters. Everyone will hike, they're all pretty sporty, everyone but me is competitive, not much art history among the kids, oldest kid is a grade school teacher, and all can be convinced to eat outdoors but formal dining would be a very tough sell.

I have been to Versailles and around Paris, but last time I was there, La Defense was new! Museums do timed tickets now, right? Is Chartres still pretty? Can I go up the Eiffel Tower and walk to Sacre Coeur?
posted by wenestvedt to Travel & Transportation around France (24 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I absolutely love the Musée des arts et métiers. All kinds of very interesting science and technology memorabilia, including weird airplanes that couldn't fly and crazy old gramophones and giant computers from the 60s.

I also loved the art gallery at 59 Rivoli.

I made a Google saved map of cool attractions and restaurants in Paris, I think you can see it here.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:47 PM on September 2, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Chartres will have changed considerably since you've visited. The interiror has been controversially cleaned so that it is no longer gloomy but bright and white like the day it was built. I didn't see it before the cleaning, so can't comment, but I found it very beautiful indeed. There is an outdoor light show that I expected to hate but was delightful.
posted by einekleine at 11:17 PM on September 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't go up the Eiffel Tower. Go up the Tour Montparnasse instead, ideally at sunset. It is exceptionally ugly and tall, so from the top, you get a great view of the city (including the Eiffel Tower itself) and you won't have to see the Tour Montparnasse itself.

I have heard you can get a similar city view from the roof of the Galleries Lafayette. And you can definitely walk up to Sacré-Cœur.

Museum-wise, I really liked the Musée Curie, in the 5th. It's small (and probably still radioactive???) but if you have any science buffs in your family, check it out!
posted by basalganglia at 1:47 AM on September 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I've heard really good things about the Palais de Tokyo (including its garden), which was renovated and reopened in 2012. And you probably have to eat at L'As du Fallafel.
posted by neushoorn at 1:54 AM on September 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Musée d'Orsay is a must-see for anyone who wants to see an amazing collection of turn-of-century French art at its historical peak. A lovely restaurant on the top floor, and a nice cafe to relax in at the back.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:42 AM on September 3, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Hasn't changed since 1988 but get up really early and walk from the Sacré Coeur to Île de la Cité as the city is waking up, getting the streets cleaned, cafés and shops opening. Have a croissant and coffee somewhere [18mins of enthusiasm] waiting for Le Mémorial des martyrs de la Déportation, behind Notre Dame, to open at 10am [not Monday].
posted by BobTheScientist at 2:47 AM on September 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

The Institut du Monde Arabe is a fantastic museum that always has stunning exhibitions. The permanent collection is great and the building itself is a work of art.
posted by kokaku at 3:07 AM on September 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

Another vote for Arts et Métiers. It's absolute steampunk heaven in there.
posted by gimonca at 4:30 AM on September 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also not new, but slightly off the beaten path - the Jardins d'Albert-Kahn are absolutely stunning. They're right near the terminus of the no. 10 Métro line at Boulogne-Pont de Saint-Cloud.
posted by terretu at 4:59 AM on September 3, 2021

Ride on the fully automated driverless Metro on line 1.
posted by jazh at 5:01 AM on September 3, 2021

Best answer: The Musée des Arts Forains (Fairground Museum) was the highlight of my trip to Paris - lots of well-kept old funfair machines including many that you can ride on or play with. Even in the BeforeTimes admission was by guided tour on certain days only, you will have to check about a month or two before your trip.
posted by Gortuk at 6:03 AM on September 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You'll find many more pedestrianized streets in Paris since your last visit, especially along the Seine.

There are hamburgers everywhere now with no need to go to McDonald's.
posted by Elsie at 6:12 AM on September 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Obviously, Notre Dame is closed for the foreseeable future, although it's a must-see even for the exterior. I was there a month after the fire and seeing the destroyed roof with the scorch marks was eerie. A good alternative on the Ile is Sainte-Chapelle (the Gothic chapel of the medieval Kings).

Two of my favourite attractions that sometimes don't get the prominence they deserve are the Basilica of Saint Denis where almost all of the French royal tombs are located (including some of the Merovingian kings, St. Louis IX, Catherine de Medici, Henri IV, Louis XIV, Louis XVI & Marie Antoniette), although the bodies themselves were destroyed in the revolution. The second is Les Invalides, which houses the military museum of France along with Napoleon's tomb.

This may be a controversial opinion, but I have been to Paris three times and have never been to the Louvre (except to see the famous glass pyramid outside), and I've never felt like I've missed out, particularly when I saw the masses of tourist buses outside (pre COVID of course). Your kids already know what the Mona Lisa looks like. Unless you are particularly passionate about art, I think it's skippable.

Make sure to get plenty of pain au chocolate!
posted by fortitude25 at 6:28 AM on September 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I went to Paris on a school trip when I was 16, in 2001. I've been back since. My faves from the teenager perspective, that are still faves:
-Eiffel tower (all the way to the top!)
-Centre Pompidou - I don't like modern art, but it's SUCH a cool museum.
-Going to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and then strolling the Champs Elysee
-Well outside of Paris, Mont St Michel - my single favorite experience from my school trip, and I regret that I haven't been back.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:47 AM on September 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Elsie: There are hamburgers everywhere now with no need to go to McDonald's.

Can you still go to streetside stands for crepes and sandwiches? Honestly, that's my lunch plans.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:45 AM on September 3, 2021

Can you still go to streetside stands for crepes and sandwiches? Honestly, that's my lunch plans.
Oh, heck yes. Though given how the French are it's a better deal to eat a nicer meal at lunch at a restaurant and have a crêpe for dinner.
posted by wnissen at 10:01 AM on September 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: +1 to the Sainte-Chapelle, I almost didn't go (went the morning of the day I left) and it's absolutely beautiful.

The Musée de l'Orangerie (website) was absolutely worth it for me, but I do love Monet. If you don't, might be a waste of time.

Re the Louvre:
Unless you are particularly passionate about art, I think it's skippable.
I'm passionate about art to the point that I set aside a whole day to visit the Louvre, and I agree. Either you love art, at which point set aside a serious block of time to see the place properly, or you don't, at which point you're probably better off spending the time on something you do love, rather than just half-heartedly doing a morning there to see all the important pieces every guide tells you to go see, just because "you can't go to Paris and not see the Louvre".
posted by sailoreagle at 10:30 AM on September 3, 2021

Best answer: I went to Paris in 2016 with a friend, and we visited Pere Lachaise because she's a huge Oscar Wilde fan and wanted to see his tomb. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It's beautiful and peaceful and a little creepy, and was a nice change from all the museums (which I also love!).
posted by catoclock at 10:55 AM on September 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, if you're not into art (or the royal apartments of Napolean III), I would skip the Louvre as well. Probably also Versailles, given your group. Not worth the trip out there unless they really dig gardens, because there are a ton to walk through. I think you need a reservation to walk up the steps of the Eiffel Tower now. That will be the biggest change since 1988, international air travel has been thoroughly democratized and there are just a ton of people.

If you like hiking, up to Sacre Coeur is still a classic, though pre-pandemic it was extremely crowded at almost all hours. If you want to get out of the tourist area, the Bois du Boulogne to the west (by La Défense) is a lovely place for a walk, as is the Buttes Chaumont to the east, whichever is more convenient to you.

And if you like crêpes, there is an actual crêpe district, which I have never seen in a guidebook. My personal favorite is La Crêperie Bretonne, which has an amazing variety of sweet and savory, plus hard cider on tap in the correct mug (this is an excellent "tell"). But there are at least ten within a few blocks, from sidewalk counters to nicer sit-down places.
posted by wnissen at 12:35 PM on September 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There's not a lot of Roman Paris left to see, but I really enjoyed it when I happened across Arènes de Lutèce. It's just there. No gates. It's just out back behind an apartment block, and local folks just use it like a park. While I was there, a pack of high school or college kids showed up in Star Wars cosplay and dueled in the arena space. Alas, they spoke no English, German or Finnish, so I couldn't chat about their LARPing with them.
posted by ursus_comiter at 1:03 PM on September 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

I don't know if the immersive art experience, currently Van Gogh, will still be on in 2022. It's a bit hokey, but the young people and children I saw there loved it. It's also walkable to Père La Chaise cemetery before or afterwards.
posted by Elsie at 2:46 PM on September 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: wnissen: And if you like crêpes, there is an actual crêpe district...

One of our favorite restaurants in nearby Providence, RI, is La Creperie! Where is this crepe district? I must know!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:40 PM on September 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, yes, I am a huge fan as well. The main block is the Rue du Montparnasse between the Edgar Quinet Métro and Boulevard du Montparnasse. I count ten crêperies! But there's several others on surrounding blocks. There's a whole history of how the Gare Montparnasse was (still is) the rail connection to the Bretagne region. The ones with variations of Jos in the name are well-regarded, but my favorite is the one linked above. One of my favorite galettes (as the French call savory crêpes) is a "complèt", which is "just" ham, cheese, and a sunny-side-up egg. But it's magical.

There's also a very nice farmer's market at Edgar Quinet on Wednesdays and Saturdays, go before noon for the best selection. You could go to the Catacombs on Place Denfert-Rochereau, walk through the Montparnasse Cemetery, the lovely pedestrian market street of Rue Daguerre, and go up the Tour Montparnasse at sunset. The restaurant at the top is not bad, though very expensive. Oh, and La Coupole, one of the oldest restaurants in Paris is nearby, though I don't recommend having more than a coffee there. It's one of my favorite areas, not that touristy, easy to get to, and tons to do.

A second strong vote for the Museé des Arts Forains, it is perhaps my single favorite place in Paris. Plus if the kids are craving American food there is a Five Guys in the Pavilions de Bercy.
posted by wnissen at 10:39 PM on September 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Speaking of street stands, one of the best meals I had in Paris was grabbing a takeout falafel at Chez Marianne (there are some more famous/guidebook approved falafel spots on the same block which were incredibly lined up, this one was not and was perfectly tasty) and then eating it in the beautiful Jardin des Rosiers - Joseph-Migneret down the block.
posted by Gortuk at 7:02 AM on September 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

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