If you are living in France, more precisely in the region of Île-de-France, and you have young kids, you are probably looking for some activities as a family, or, let’s be honest, for your kids first and foremost.
La Cité des Enfants is a space within the Cité of Science dedicated for children to discover science and play around. We’ll see in this review if this place is an activity you should plan.
La Cité des Enfants is located in La Cité des Sciences in La Vilette Parc in the 19th district of Paris. This area used to be quite a nice place to walk around with the famous La Géode, a sphere made of mirrors.
La Vilette Parc is still a nice place to spend your time and do events, especially during the summer. I won’t lie, the 19th and 20th districts of Paris aren’t the safest, but we didn’t feel any insecurity this particular time.
The place is quite big and regroups different multiple exhibitions. They hold temporary exhibitions as well as permanent ones. You can easily spend your day inside the place and satisfy both parents and children, although the tickets aren’t cheap.
This place is basically a location to learn some facts about sciences such as space, the undersea, sound, mathematics, the brain, robots, etc. You even have some gaming areas, but don’t be too excited; this is a space for learning interactively.
Parking was quite easy for us, although there was a bit of traffic and the underground parking wasn’t very intuitive, to say the least.
The good part is that, contrary to the Foire du Trône, the parking was just underneath the main entrance and felt safe.
Tickets had to be bought before entering La Cité des Enfants, which is subdivided into two groups: 2–7-year-olds and 5–12-year-olds.
These tickets can be bought online or in the main area. We would highly advise you to buy in advance since the tickets are limited to sessions of one hour and a half and are dated.
We ordered the same day from 3:30 to 5 p.m., and at 5 p.m., customers were asked to leave for the new sessions to begin. One hour and a half is short; we arrived 20 minutes late, so we only had one hour to play around.
The space dedicated to children between 2 and 7 isn’t really big, but we feel like it’s perfect for an hour and a half of entertainment.
To be honest, we feel like paying 36 euros for two adults and a child under 3 years old is quite expensive, especially for the time. But this is the kind of activity you won’t do every week. Mostly once or twice, in my opinion.
There are different sections inside the location. Five spaces united around a theme that is the discovery of science for the very little children.
I discover myself
I discover myself is the space for children to learn about their senses. They can play around with sound, smell and view.
For example, there are spaces with mirrors for children to play around with their reflection. To be fair, sometimes they don’t really pay attention but see this more as a way to play around, but they can still feel that there’s something particular to this space.
At each step of La cité des enfants, you have interactive screens, which are definitely well implemented in the daily lives of children today. To be fair, most parents come to places like this one to do physical activity.
If the activities are original and fairly well made, it is still necessary for the youngest kids to understand how each activity works. Our son for example, didn’t really pick up on the smelling activity and it’s pretty hard to explain how it works to a kid by sniffing strongly.
Another space was dedicated to understanding the difference in size and scale. They had a machine that was measuring the height and different reproductions in scale of a chair, some clothes, some hand prints, and some bicycles.
Another activity in this section was a small space, almost like a small room with a screen and some video playing. This activity was a little bit like going to the movies, but for kids.
I know how to do
The know-how section was all about using your hands to play with mechanisms. One of the most spectacular toy machines was a wooden mechanical toy made to move a ball step by step. If the concept is fairly simple, this sort of interaction was too complex for our 2-year-old son.
In this section, there was a sort of big sailing ship where children could play around with levers and buttons. Our son particularly liked the buttons to press and the valve to open.
The ship was very well made, and in one area, they had tons of cogs moving like clockwork when you would move the wheel and an upper deck for children to use fake googles just like in the traditional playgrounds.
There was also some screen space in this section for children to draw and place their drawings on bigger screens.
The funny thing is that children of this age don’t really try to understand the mechanics of things; they just experience them. Perhaps it’s more the adults who accompany the children who are really enjoying those creative activities.
I find my way
The I Find My Way section was all about orientation. One clever activity was to find the right angle to assemble the pieces from each animal.
Some of the activities were basically a large-scale version of what you would find in traditional toys. Such as moving an object through a frame.
Orientation also means finding your way within a labyrinth of obstacles, so some of the activities were literally about this. It is not too dissimilar to what you would find in the Alice Labyrinth at Disneyland Paris.
The funny thing about labyrinth is that there’s always some kids going in all directions on a one-way street or tube. This can be a little frustrating when trying to make your children go in the right direction.
The experiment was, for us, one of the best sections. They had a section dedicated to water and even had some raincoats for children to wear.
Our son loves to play in the pool and can play with water for hours. He particularly loves to move water around with a bucket or, basically, throw the water out of the pool.
One fun but popular attraction was to play around with water jets and make some wheels move around. This attraction was very popular, so you had to wait for children to get bored or for parents to force them to leave to have a space.
The air section was probably our favorite as adults. To be honest even us were quite surprised and learning about some science in there.
For example, seeing a ball float in the air even in a diagonal seems to be like magic for our eyes. If I had to guess, I would say that there’s a stream of air going around the ball, making it impossible to move around, but that’s honestly just a guess.
Another section was about moving balls horizontally, which is less impressive. The rest of this section was about light and shadow, which was cool for a photographer but a bit boring for children.
All together, this was definitely our favorite section and the most interesting one. The reason why is because children can play and interact with each other at this point.
The sad thing was that we only came into this space with 20 minutes left on the clock. Our son would have loved to spend more time there.
One section that was nice but not very interactive was the circus made out of wire and wooden characters.
Finally they had to sections for playing construction. One for the very small children and one for the bigger and the second one was by far the most interesting.
Children could wear a construction suit and play around with fake bricks made out of foam to work in construction.
This is the space where you find out that kids are like mini-humans; they don’t know exactly the goal, but they love to mimic other kids and adults in their daily tasks. It’s really funny to see and incredible to notice how everybody wants to be useful within a group.
7.9 out of 10.
Overall, we believe that La Cité des Enfants, 2–7 years old, is a great place to spend an afternoon with your kids.
I think this place is quite original and can offer you something you won’t find anywhere else. I also believe that for two adults and one kid, one hour and a half is a fair amount of time, and the price is tolerable.
But if you really want to enjoy your afternoon, perhaps you should check out some other exhibitions for adults as well and bring a stroller.
This way, both children and adults can find satisfaction, although the price will increase significantly, almost to the price of going to Disneyland.
Every time you come to Paris, expect to spend at least a hundred euros to spend the day.
La Cité des Enfants
Address: 30 Av. Corentin Cariou, 75019 Paris
Phone: 01 40 05 70 00