Paris. The city of love, good food and an almost incomparable number of must-see city hotspots, is closer than you may think - or remember. Lucky us then, who live in the UK, to have this city of wonders just a short Eurostar ride away. It might be the old adage that you don't tend to visit the places that are on your doorstep, but there are plenty of reasons for families to be booking their trips to the French capital. The best place to start is with booking a timeless, truly French hotel. We chose Le Meurice, Dorchester Collection hotel located right on the Tuileries – a public garden between the Louvre museum and the Place de la Concorde.
To put the accessibility of visiting the French capital in perspective, you can travel from London St Pancras to the heart of Paris, Gare du Nord in less time than it would take to travel from London to Devon, Cardiff or York. And the train fare will most probably cost you less too. Since the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994 the Eurostar high-speed train is also a very affordable way to travel, too, not to mention great for your carbon footprint when compared with flying the same distance. If you time your trip with booking tickets during a sale period, you can nab return tickets from £65 each.
Le Meurice is a hotel that (unofficially) counts Kate Moss, Angelina Jolie and Beyonce among its clientele, not to mention that it was a regular haunt of Salvador Dalí’s: surely making it one of Paris' hotels to 'see and be seen at'. It has all the hallmarks of pure six star luxury, starting from the striking doormen, through the attentive reception staff and concierge, the hidden extras and attention to details, the in-room dressing rooms, impeccably elegant suites, Italian marble bathrooms and fine dining. While enjoying our breakfast in the Alain Ducasse restaurant, (supping on the finest rich hot chocolate), we noticed that there was a family, with children ranging in age from a few months, at every table. The youngest baby was positioned in a highchair, but this was no ordinary highchair - it was an elevated highchair designed by Philippe Starck, with a high back making it more akin to a throne than a way of helping a child sit.
Le Meurice perfects the balance between absolute luxury with unbeatable family friendly service and facilities. Its location to all the finest galleries in Paris makes it the perfect location from which to enjoy lots of cultured days out. As well as the Louvre, there is the Musee d’Orsay across the river, and the Centre Pompidou, Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe are all within walking distance. There is also a wealth of green spaces right on the hotel’s doorstep, just waiting to be explored – and to have cheese and pastry filled picnics in.
There are seven floors to the hotel, with 160 rooms and stupendous suites. The entire seventh floor is the Belle Etoile suite. If you are a Jay Z fan with a keen ear for his lyrics, then this is the rumoured place that his daughter, Blue Ivy, was conceived. It certainly sets the scene for any romance, with its own private terrace that provides an awesome 360-degree panoramic view of Paris. It overlooks the Tuilleries and offers the ideal place to watch the daily Eiffel Tower light show, with the shortest journey to fall into bed, afterwards.
Don't miss our gallery of 19 photos that will make you want to visit Paris
What can children expect?
On arrival at Le Meurice, every child is given a ‘passport’ that guides the family on a tour of some of Paris’ most magical sights. It’s a great way to get your sightseeing off to a flying start. Even though you might have a bundle of things in mind to see and do – this will help give some structure to your days out and about.
Despite the ridiculous amount of exciting distractions that Le Meurice and Paris can offer a child, inevitably at some point they will end up on one or two of your gadgets. The hotel, therefore, offers its guests an online game that can be played during your stay or after your visit. Led by Pistache, the hotel bear, there are 20 questions for you to click through with a gift to be won at the end. It’s a lovely way to calm down before bedtime and the questions are all about things they can discover and learn about while they are in Paris. We chose to win a crown-wearing rubber duck – a brilliant souvenir!
When feeling more active, you can visit the hotel’s concierge to borrow a bicycle for the whole family to enjoy in the Tuileries Gardens. Or, for a slower paced afternoon, take out the wooden toy boats to sail on the boat pond. If you fancy more of an adventure, the concierge can also arrange a visit to the Jardin d'Acclimation, the Parc André Citroën, or even cruises on the Bateaux-Mouches. Read up on what you would like to see before arriving in Paris and your friendly Le Meurice staff will make it happen.
Also available for families staying at the hotel:
- Children's bathrobes and slippers provided in the room
- Colour pencils and puzzles
- Cartoon DVDs to borrow
- Babysitting – arranged through the concierge. Perfect if you fancy a child-free evening out in the city of romance, or maybe an afternoon’s shopping along the nearby, famous Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
- Treasure hunts – also arranged via the concierge – with a plush toy for the winner
What we ate
What didn't we eat, more like... We were greeted on arrival with drinks and croissants in the hotels Le Dali restaurant, where we later returned to enjoy a fine lunch. The restaurant manager is an ex-pat with a wicked sense of humour, whom the children will love. When a family group came for afternoon tea with four lively children in tow, we watched him set them up with their own table, away from the adults. How grown up they must have felt hosting a tea party of their own!
Meanwhile, we feasted on the chef's recommendations - a juicy citrus seafood soup and sushi for starters and succulent duck breast and pollack with crushed herb potatoes for main. When in Paris, of course, it is custom to eat pastries at any given opportunity - non? So, we gladly obliged, especially after hearing wonderful tales of the pastry chef, and happily taste-tested every pastry on the menu, including a thin white chocolate citrus mousse which was created in the shape of a real lime (fascinating children and adults alike), a lemon meringue tart and an almond praline eclair - our personal favourite.
For dinner, we ventured to the Latin Quarter, discovering a gem of a restaurant, Le Petit Prince on Rue Lanneau, which was filled with local residents – the true sign of a good find. Afterwards we recommend a stroll along the Seine, past Notre Dame, to walk off those crème brulees.
Visit Le Meurice online to book your stay
What to see in Paris - a few highlights…
The Eiffel Tower - It is difficult to visit without catching a glimpse of this almighty iron structure that towers above most of the city's buildings. But even for regular visitors, the magic of the prettiest tower doesn't ever ebb away. There is also lots of green space to run around in and burn off energy/pastries.
The Arc de Triomphe - In our opinion, the view from the Arc de Triomphe is unbeatable. For a start, from here you can see all the sights, including the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur and all along the Champs Elysee to the Place Concorde. All roads lead to the Arc de Triomphe, which sits on a giant roundabout. There are quite a few stairs to climb. Not too many for little legs, but it is not ideal to bring a pram.
The Sacre Coeur – A memorable scene from cinematic classics, including our favourite, Amelie, it is worth climbing the steps all the way up to the Basilica for the epic view over Paris. We also love the carousel at the bottom. As well as being beautifully decorated and preserved, the Basilica also provides great shelter if you are caught in a typical Paris rain shower. The surrounding area can be a little tourist heavy, so is best avoided if the kids are especially tired.
Rue de Martyrs - A street with a village feel and a crazy amount of dainty patisseries, including Sebastien Gaudard. We recommend the vanilla cream eclair and the divine chocolate bars.
And if you happen to find yourself child-free for a weekend...
To celebrate its 180th anniversary Dorchester Collection’s Le Meurice is offering guests the opportunity to discover Paris by night with Package 180°.
Package 180° must comprise a Saturday and includes:
· One night’s accommodation in a superior room at Le Meurice
· Exclusive recommendations of activities from the hotel’s concierge
· A chauffeur driven limousine for 8 hours
· Complimentary glass of champagne
· Late check-out the next day at 6pm
Package 180 is priced from €1,420 and is subject to availability until December 31, 2015. The package is available for groups of up to 2 guests. To make a reservation please contact the hotel directly via +33 1 44 58 10 10 or firstname.lastname@example.org