The Kid-Centric Winter Break Guide
Weather is often the deciding factor when planning winter break activities, which is why save for a few select outdoor options, the holiday-themed happening and cultural events listed here are predominantly indoors, and appeal just as much to kids as they do to the accompanying adults. The best part: a good chunk of these won’t cost you a dime.
Christmas Concerts at La Sainte Chapelle8 Boulevard du Palais, 1st | +126.96.36.199.60.80
While this is admittedly a slightly more grown-up activity in that it requires the ability to sit quietly for an extended period of time, what kid wouldn't be absolutely mesmerized listening to the top-notch chamber music at one of the most extraordinary churches in Paris? The St. Chapelle is a small-ish Gothic church located on the Île de la Cité with what might just be the most extraordinary stained glass windows ever made. These night-time Baroque concerts are not only a chance to listen to classical music's greatest hits—Bach, Pachebel, Purcell, and the like—but to get immersed in the sheer beauty of the space itself: At night when the city lights outside flicker, the windows practically sparkle.
Luxembourg GardensRue de Médicis, 6th | +188.8.131.52.33.99
Between the beauty of a simple walk in this magnificent park and the sheer number of kid-friendly activities all located in one place, the Luxembourg Gardens may just be the most kid-friendly of the Paris parks. Start with a quick pony ride—you'll find them right as you enter the park from Rue d'Assas, near the tennis courts. Further in, there's the Puppet (or Marionette) Theater with an ongoing schedule of kids puppet shows each week. You can take comfort in the fact that the theater has been entertaining masses of children since the 1930's in the very same place.
Christmas in VersaillesBoulevard de la Reine, Versailles
While the palace itself isn't putting too much effort into the Holiday festivities, the town of Versailles itself is swathed in Christmas lights and boasts an ice rink overlooking the Trianon and a Christmas Market bursting with gingerbread. In addition, if you're headed out for the classic Versailles Palace day-trip, you can add on a Christmas concert at one of the local churches, including a Handel's Messiah concert at the Royal Chapel nearer Christmastime.
Christmas at Vaux le VicomteChâteau de Vaux-le-Vicomte, Maincy | +184.108.40.206.41.90
The creation of Louis XIV's one-time finance minister Nicolas Fouquet, Vaux le Vicomte is in many ways the predecessor to Versailles. Before he was ousted by Louis XIV himself, Fouquet had made a château for himself and rounded up the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter Charles Le Brun to collaborate on his property (they later did the same and more at Versailles). In short, this is a worthwhile field trip no matter what the time of year but at Christmas they go all out, literally decking the halls with Christmas trees and lights galore, and building an indoor mini ferris wheel. In fact, it may just beat Versailles at Christmas.
Grand RouePlace de la Concorde
Yes, the big ferris wheel (it's even bigger this year than it was last) on Place de la Concorde is as touristy as it gets but there are good reasons for that. For one, it's perhaps the most striking ferris wheel we've ever seen, plus it's situated right in front of the great Egyptian Obelisk and punctuating the end of the Champs. Plus, the views of the Parisian Christmas lights on top of the 70 meter high wheel are tough to beat.
Paris’ Free Carrousels
Paris has wonderful old-fashioned merry-go-rounds left over from the Belle Epoque, which are one of the standard highlights for kids, but during the Holidays the added bonus is that many are free across the city. There are tons to choose from but the Carrousel Montparnasse is a favorite for its lovingly restored original wood horses, train cars and booths. We also love the classic two-storey behemoth at Hotel de Ville. Photo: Cristian Bortes
Olafur Eliasson at Fondation Louis Vuitton8 Ave. du Mahatma Gandhi, 16th
At the Fondation Louis Vuitton, installation artist Olafur Eliasson's work seems a perfect match for architect Frank Gehry's playful, sail-like outer shell. It's just one of the many reasons to visit this new-ish institution. For its opening last year, the museum commissioned the artist for one of its iconic permanent works in which he created a hall of mirrors lit in his characteristically bright and immersive way. On a December outing in Paris, the yellowy light exuded by the massive installation makes it reminiscent of a giant SAD lamp, a perfect antidote to the city's often grey winter weather. Photo: Iwan Baan
Centre PompidouPlace Georges-Pompidou, 4th | +220.127.116.11.12.33
There are countless reasons to visit the Pompidou, and the Postmodern architecture, designed by Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini, is just the beginning: There's also the wonderfully curated free survey exhibition, the immersive replica of Brancusi's studio, the incredible library, and most recently, the addition of the kids gallery and the Atelier workshops where kids get to make art themselves (for free) most days of the week.