You’re in Paris. The City of Light is vast. You have so much to do. Your small folk walk, but not far or fast. Or maybe your small folk don’t walk at all yet. How do you handle transport when visiting Paris with kids?
We’ve done Paris with strollers and baby carriers several times. Both our kids are under three. Our babies and tots have been in all ambulatory phases: non-ambulatory nuggets, new walkers who tire easily, and confident and toddler walker who meanders at his/her own pace.
Here’s how we handle transportation in Paris with kids.
How to get around Paris with kids
1. Paris with a stroller
Parents in Paris almost exclusively use umbrella strollers because they are small and light. As with all large cities, particularly European cities, space is extremely limited. You will need to fit a stroller into narrow shops, restaurants and cafes. Even grocery stores are quite narrow.
You will also need to get your stroller in and out of transportation such as taxis, trains, buses and metro. Paris metro is really challenging with strollers because there are rarely elevators. You will have to carry your stroller and child up and down stairs. Even the smallest umbrella stroller does not fit through the turnstile. You will need a stroller you can fold up and lift quickly. More on that in #2 below.
Our picks for umbrella strollers are the sleek UPPABaby G-Lite (it’s the lightest around) and Maclaren’s range of dependable umbrella strollers. Both brands will serve you well. If you need a double stroller, like we do, one smart solution is to attach a buggy board to the back of a single umbrella stroller. Another solution is using a baby carrier for one kiddo and the umbrella stroller for the other.
Alternatively, you can opt for an all-purpose double stroller, if the seats are arranged with single wide instead of double wide. The best all-purpose double stroller with single seat width is the Baby Jogger City Select. We swear by this puppy. It is narrow enough to fit through European doorways but it has enough storage underneath to fit all your grocery shopping from the marche. It is, however, too large for Paris metro.
2. Paris metro with a stroller
Paris metro and strollers are enemies. Here’s what you need to know.
Most stations do not have elevators. You will carry your stroller up and down stairs.
The smallest umbrella stroller does not fit through the basic ticket turnstile. You will need a staff member to open a gate. They are rarely there. If they are not there to help you, you will have to fold your stroller up so it’s small enough to carry it through the turnstile. This means everything you normally stick under the stroller must be packed compactly so you can carry it while carrying your stroller and your kid. Then there will be more stairs.
As for squeezing on trains, like all cities, some Parisians are courteous and will make room, others think you chose to make small folk, you’re on your own making solutions for them. Note: kids under 4 ride free.
3. Paris buses with strollers
Paris buses are easier than metro when you have a stroller. You can get into the bus through the rear door which is almost at curb level. You will have to let the driver know you want to enter that way by gesturing or talking to him/her. Often there’s a stroller zone inside the rear door.
Pro: above ground travel allows you to see Paris. Con: You have to scramble to the front of the bus to validate your ticket. If there’s two of you, this is easy. If you’re flying solo, make sure you get the stroller brake on first.
It’s the same ticket system as Paris metro. Note: kids under 4 ride free.
4. Paris with baby carriers
Do it. Baby carriers in Paris will improve your life quality. We use hiking baby carriers to get around Paris with our toddlers. Our two year old sometimes walks and sometimes rides on our back “like a donkey.” Our under two-year-old enjoys the ride.
Pro: Baby carriers are easier for Paris metro than strollers. Soft baby carriers (think Baby Bjorn, Boba, and Ergo) for kids under one are the easiest because they are the least bulky. Con: baby carriers cannot double as high chairs when you encounter a restaurant without chaise hautes. While restaurants in Paris are child-friendly, they don’t always have high chairs and when they do, they have one which will already be in use.
5. Paris taxis with babies and toddlers
For us, a taxi ride is a splurge. We don’t do it often. If you’re going to splash out here’s what you need to know.
It’s hard to flag a cab in Paris. Head to a taxi stand (station de taxis) indicated with a blue sign. These are on major roads, at crossroads, and at train stations. A taxi with a white light on is free; a cab with an orange light is occupied. Many drivers take only three people, although they will bend the rules for a couple with two kids. You don’t need to tip, but the norm is to round up to the next euro value.
You can also book a taxi by phone with the firms below. When you advance book, you pay for the time it takes the taxi to get to you as well as your ride. You need to give them a heads up if you’re paying by credit card. Riding in a taxi is usually a car seat free affair, unless you bring your own, or book far in advance and request one.
Pro: You don’t have to wrestle strangers on public transport, or show up sweaty from toting tots. Cons: Paris traffic, no car seats, and the expense.
Uber is an easy alternative to Paris taxis. In their words: “Whether you’re headed to the Marais, La Défense, or to Roissy CDG airport, the Uber app connects you with a reliable ride — from low-cost to premium — in minutes. One tap and a car comes directly to you. Your driver knows exactly where to go. And payment is completely cashless.”
Lead image: Giacomo Carena