Which European capital, Paris or London, is more kid-considerate when it comes to parks? In the Battle of Green Glory, it may take an American to decide.
Sorry, London, there’s no contest when Paris’s oldest carousel was designed by Charles Garnier, who also happened to build the city’s opera house. The Jardin du Luxembourg’s carousel has animals swing from the ceiling and a tricky ring game. London’s Jubilee Gardens, on the South Bank, has a sweet little carousel to make you feel like you’re in Mary Poppins, but on the carousel score, Paris has no competition. Anywhere.
Approximately 47 per cent of London is covered by green spaces, making it perfect for picnicking: with city spots like Russell Square which are ideal for a pit stop after whizzing about the British Museum, as well panoramic swathes of green such as Hampstead Heath.
While Paris parks are lovely, they are more to be observed, not interacted with. Usually there are only designated portions of grass in which Parisians are permitted to spread out. One of the best of these is the Marais’s Place des Vosges.
Of you are the sort who prefers a dry picnic, according to Weather2Travel, Paris has 170 days with some rainfall each year, while London has just 155, giving the British capital a clear advantage.
After a treasure hunt at the Louvre, the sunken trampolines in the adjacent Jardin des Tuileries are a great spot for kids to bounce off some energy. Costing €2.50 (£2.25) for five minutes, the trampolines are off the beaten track, so the queue is never long.
London’s trampoline “parks” are indoors, not central and relatively expensive. This cannot compete with flipping about in the 17th century park designed by Le Nôtre, chief gardener of Versailles.
Kensington Gardens’ Diana Memorial Playground and the large playground at Jardin du Luxembourg are both fantastic: both have guards at the entry to keep tots from escaping, snack food stands, bathrooms, and are great fun for kids aged 2 – 12.
The Jardin du Luxembourg playground costs €2.50 (£2.25) entry, so for free fun, London pips Paris to the post.
A special treat for Parisian enfants of all ages is the labyrinth in the Left Bank’s Jardin des Plantes, where kids can climb in the hollowed-out bushes and secretly make their way up to the next level while parents wander up the spiraling dirt path. France’s main botanical garden, you can visit galleries of natural history within the park.
A post shared by Damien Le Roux (@damien.le.roux) on Sep 22, 2016 at 2:42am PDT
With terraced levels being crowned by a looking-point gazebo, the labyrinth looks a bit like a massive green ziggurat. It’s a delight for kids, but perhaps agree to a special whistle prior to letting your children out of sight, or if they’re older agree ahead of time that you’ll meet at the gazebo apex.
The conical maze is hidden behind the art deco Winter Garden; many Parisians don’t even know about it, associating the Jardin des Plantes with the 18th century zoo and botanical gardens.
There is plenty of animal-spotting to do in both cities, from feeding the pelicans and mallards in St James’s Park, to doing a beeline to the beehives of the Rucher École beekeeping school in Jardin du Luxembourg.
Coram’s Fields, near the British Museum, tips the scales in London’s favour, with an adorable, if somewhat worn, petting farm with goats, bunnies and chickens.
Sculpture scouting is my son Storsh’s preferred game in Parisian parks; the Tuileries has 20 Maillol alone, and more than 200 sculptures and urns, while our family favourite, Jardin du Luxembourg, has 106 sculptures.
London’s Coram’s Fields has a great zipline, as does Holland Park, but the standing, swerving one in Jardin du Luxembourg is exciting, too. That said, nothing tops climbing a ladder the height of a tree to zipline across Canal St Martin during the seasonal Paris Plages, something many Parisian parents look on with great jealousy.
However, London triumphs with Battersea Park’s impressive Go Ape course.
Ticketed slots cost £20/person but this aerial adventure park makes a great holiday treat. Kids (and parents) will turn into Tarzan as they swing, climb and zip from tree-top to tree-top. You must be a meter tall to play, although there is a playground for little siblings. Paris doesn’t have anything quite like it.
We may have to call it a diplomatic draw – but choose your city based on which activity most appeals to you.
American expat Daisy de Plume founded THATMuse (thatmuse.com), which organises treasure hunts for families and adults around museums in London and Paris.