If your children are into bones and skulls, The Catacombs (1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy. Tel: +33-1-4322-4763. www.catacombes.paris.fr/en) are a spooky but fascinating world hid- den under the city. The mass grave instituted by King Louis XVI before he was guillotined, has the bones of a mind-boggling six million people in caves 60-feet underground. The Catacombs only sell tickets on site, no advanced or online tickets, so make sure to arrive by 9:15 A.M. for the 10 A.M. opening. Please note: There are no bathrooms on site and this is not recommended for anyone with respiratory or heart problems, or with any kind of claustrophobia or fear of enclosed spaces. There are 130 steps going down and 83 steps coming back up and the walking distance is 1.25 miles. The Catacombs are temporarily closed from time to time, so call or check the website before your visit.
Another engrossing underground attraction is the sewers at Musee Des Egouts De Paris (Pont de l’Alma. Tel: +33-1-5368-2781). Tours are of the modern sewage system designed in 1855 by engineer Eugene Belgrand under the reign of Napoleon III. Visitors learn how Paris sewers evolved, the princi- ples of drinking water supply, sewage techniques, and modern-day ecological standards while winding through long tunnels and corridors.
The legendary Opera House where the chandelier crashed in The Phantom of the Opera, The Opera Garnier (Corner of rue Scribe & rue Auber. Tel: +33-8-9289-9090. www.operadeparis.fr) is a magnificent sight to behold. Go for a behind-the-scenes tour during the day and cas- cade up the grand staircase, look up at the hand-painted ceilings by Cha- gall, walk through the grand rotunda, and admire the magnificent mosaics, paintings, mirrors, and chandeliers throughout the building. Ballet and opera performances are staged all year round except for a six- week break from mid-July till the end of August. Classics such as Swan Lake, and, at Christmas, The Nutcracker, are performed annually.
One of the most popular children’s museums in Paris with over 5,000,000 annual visitors, Cité des Sciences et de l’industrie (30 Avenue Corentin Cariou. +33-1-4005-7000. www.cite-sciences.fr) is the ultimate in modern, state-of-the-art science and industry museums. Per- manent exhibits include “Light Games,” an exhibition featuring lasers, optical illusions, and 3D images, “Brain,” where you learn how the brain works and its capabilities through a variety of games, tests, and experi- ments, and “Earth Watch”, all about the space satellite revolution.
Restaurants and Cafés
Food tops the list of favorite things kids love about Paris. From crêpes, snails, soufflés, and éclairs to cassoulets, kids will pig out with glee, enjoying culinary delights in every nook and cranny of the city.
For hands down the best and most authentic Brittany-style crêpes, Café Breizh (111 rue Vieille du Temple. Tel: +33-1-4272-1377. www.breizhcafe.com) is it. Using buckwheat flour which is gluten- free, the savory crêpes have cheese, ham, and vegetables, while sweet ones include chocolate, sugar, caramel, and rhubarb.
Light-as-air classic soufflés are served at the quaint Le Soufflé (36 rue du Mont Thabor. Tel: +33-1-4260-2719. www.lesouffle.fr). Savory flavors include chicken, cheese, and spinach, and yummy dessert souf- flés include Nutella and banana, caramel, and chocolate with hot chocolate sauce.
Steak frites is the only thing on the menu at Le Relais d’Entrecote (20 rue Saint-Benoît. Tel: +33-1-4549-1600. www.relaisentrecote.fr) besides the green salad and long dessert list. The tender steak is accom- panied by a mystery Bernaise-like sauce and served with crispy fries, and the restaurant offers seconds.
If the kids tire of French food and beg for pizza, Pink Flamingo (67 rue Bichet. Tel: +33-1-4271-2820. www.pinkflamingopizza.com) is a great solution. Quirky names and toppings include the Obama: pineap- ple and bacon; Björk: smoked salmon; Basquiat: Gorgonzola and fig; and La Dante: mozzarella and tomato.
There’s nothing that says Paris more than a belle époque brasserie. Bofinger (5-7 Rue de la Bastille. Tel: +33-1-4272-8782. www.bofingerparis.com/en), with a Tiffany-colored glass dome, tile floors, and dark-wood and red-leather banquettes has popular dishes such as raw seafood platters, steak tartare, and snails.
The ultimate fantasy for kid comes true at a food complex devoted to chocolate at Un Dimanche a Paris (4 Cours du Commerce Saint- André. Tel: +33-1-5681-1818. www.un-dimanche-a-paris.com). It serves almost every dish with a form of chocolate at their restaurant, a dazzling array of pastries and chocolates in the retail shop, and a bar where all the drinks have chocolate in them.
No Parisian food tour would be complete without a croque-mon- sieur. Le Cuisine de Bar (8 rue du Cherche-Midi. Tel: +33-1-4548- 4569. www.cuisinedebar.com/en/index.php) serves a top-notch croque-monsieur and other open-face sandwiches on the most loved bread in Paris, poilâne, a hearty peasant sourdough variety.
If you and the children are sophisticated foodies, Spring (6 rue Bailleul. Tel: + 33-1-4596-0572. www.springparis.fr) is consistently rated by food critics and bloggers as one of the top modern restaurants with innovative cuisine from American chef Daniel Rose.
Café Carette (25 Place des Vosges. Tel: +33-1-4887-9407. www.carette-paris.fr) on the picturesque Place des Vosges has an extensive food and dessert menu, serving all day and night. Try the onion soup and don’t miss the thick, velvety hot chocolate and some of the chewiest macaroons in Paris.
A mostly unknown alternative to the overpriced and always-booked Jules Verne restaurant at the Eiffel Tower, Le Ciel de Paris (Tour Mont- parnasse, 56th floor, 33 Avenue du Maine. Tel: +33-1-4064-7764. www.cieldeparis.com) on top of the tallest building in Paris, Tour Mont- parnasse, has excellent and sophisticated French cuisine and the extra added bonus of a bird’s-eye view of the Eiffel Tower itself.
Pastries, Chocolate, and Ice Cream
It’s hard to narrow down the list of thousands of pastry, chocolate, and ice cream shops, but we will make an attempt here. Berthillon (31 rue Saint- Louis en l’Île. Tel: +33-1-4354-3161. www.berthillon.fr) is undeniably the king of ice cream in Paris, handmade on the little island of the Ile St. Louis with over 35 flavors of creamy ice cream and fruity sorbets. L’éclair de Genie (14 rue Pavée. Tel: +33-1-4277-8511. www.leclairdegenie.com) has designer éclairs in imaginative flavors such as vanilla pecan, fig, lemon and Yuzu fruit, and caramel popcorn.
Macaroons are to France what the cupcake is to the US with hun- dreds of pastry shops claiming to be the best. We vote for Pierre Herme (72 rue Bonaparte. Tel: +33-1-4354-4777. www.pierre-herme.com) as our number one with his heavenly, almost outer-body experience taste sensations. If the kids are adventurous, have them try the more exotic flavors such as jasmine, rose, or passion fruit with milk chocolate.
Chocolate is close to an art form in Paris and Patrick Roger (108 Boulevard Saint-Germain. Tel: +33-1-4329-3842. www.patrick-roger.com/en/actualites.php), the bad boy of Paris chocolate, proves it as chocolatier and sculptor. Along with his yummy chocolates, he chisels life-size chocolate sculptures such as gorillas, hens, moose, and frogs, displaying them in the shop window.
Jean Paul Hevin (41 rue de Bretagne. Tel: +33-1-4461-9443. www.jeanpaulhevin.com/en) is a haven for all things chocolate and upstairs is the Chocolate Bar, where they serve sinful, thick hot chocolate in odd flavors such as raspberry, green tea, and chestnut, plus chilled hot chocolate in summer.
Aux Merveilleux de Fred (94 rue Saint-Dominique. Tel: +33-1- 4753-9134. www.auxmerveilleux.com) makes a marvelous concoc- tion of meringue topped with whipped cream rolled in shaved white or dark chocolate and other toppings like cherry and coffee.
The inventor of the salted-butter caramel, Henri Le Roux (1 rue de Bourbon le Château. Tel: +33-1-8228-4980. www.chocolatleroux.eu), features over 15 flavors of the addictive sticky treat such as rose, mango, chocolate, raspberry, and green tea.
Chow down on an award-winning, crusty baguette at Au Petit Versailles du Marais (1 rue Tiron. Tel: +33-1-4272-1950), a bakery café, along with other delectable goodies such as tarte tatin, Paris Brest, fruit tarts, and Nutella croissants.
by Richard Nahem