Teens in Paris
What to do while visiting Paris with a teen, in 500 words or less. GAWK! I can’t do that. As a mother and an interloper in the lives of several local teens, I have had to answer this question in most of my weekend planning for years. I mean, I could write a book on the subject. Actually, I am. But that is another story. I first came to Paris as a teen, and much of what I remember from that trip still makes for a perfect trip today. Here are the basics for any teen traveling to Paris.
Before you go, let your teen do some of the planning. Get her a guidebook and have her peruse this site. The Knopf MapGuides are particularly helpful for this age group, as they are brief, fun to look at and really focused on the highlights. Let her plan a day or two on her own. Of course, it is always wise to guide her a bit, and you can, for example, require that a certain percentage of the itinerary include a bit of culture. Discussing a reasonable budget for the day is helpful, too. After all, putting together a picnic lunch at the market will be considerably cheaper than a cooking class, and a café is somewhere in the middle, but all would be a great option for lunch.
As you plan the trip, keep in mind that everyone has her passions, and Paris has something for just about every one of them. There are places for movie buffs, fashion fiends, sewer rats and even closet counterfeiters! Cooking classes, urban skateboarding, concerts and fashion shows are just a few of the activities that you can enjoy together.
Once you are here, it is very helpful to begin the trip with a tour of the city. Bateaux-Mouches is the classic option and is a great way to enjoy the monuments in one easy sitting. There are several companies along the Seine offering very similar tours at comparable prices, Bateaux Vedettes du Pont-Neuf and Bateaux Parisiens among them. For teens, however, I find that the Fat Tire Bike Tours are the way to go. These tours take you along safe routes and allow you to see the city’s highlights in the company of a young, dynamic guide who brings the history and magic of Paris to life. Fat Tire offers tours in the evenings, when the City of Light shines her brightest, as well as in the daytime for when you prefer an earlier start.
There is one area in particular that is on the must-do list for every teen. I hesitate as I write this, because many regular visitors feel that this place is a tourist trap and a complete dive, but the Latin Quarter is THE place for your teen. The Sorbonne university is the heart of this neighborhood, so many local students actually live in the area, and even if they live farther afield, they all come here to shop for textbooks (mostly in French) at Gibert Jeune. The foreign exchange students, who migrate over every fall, join them to share a meal along rue de la Huchette, to watch the break-dancers in front of the Fontaine St. Michel or to discuss politics over a café at l’Écritoire on the Place de la Sorbonne. As a result, adventurous teens, fun fashion and cheap eats are on every corner. The neighborhood is safe and vibrant, making it the ideal location for your teen to do some exploring on her own.
And finally, I recommend plenty of café time for all visitors to Paris, regardless of age or shape. Sitting on a terrasse watching the world go by is the ultimate Paris moment. There is something about the 1930s feel of Le Select, in Montparnasse, that keeps me returning, but my teen loves the people watching at the historic Le Flore, of Sartre and Hemingway fame. The truly chic would head to l’Avenue to watch supermodels and starlets as they visit the fashion houses, but if you’re after the perfect view, opt for Café de l’Homme.
To enrich the experience, consider offering your favorite teen her first taste of champagne as you both sit back and savor the moment. Cheers!