11 ways to make children love the city

Need to convince the kids to come on your city breaks? Simply pick and choose from the incredible places and activities on offer in France’s ever greener cities. Dream in front of the extraordinary machines in Nantes, dive into art in Marseille, hoist a sail in Lorient or ride on planet Mars in Toulouse... Here are our 11 favourites to experience as a family.

In Lorient, learn about ocean racing at La Cité de La Voile Eric Tabarly

Wow, these multihulls are gigantic! In Lorient, La Base, the home port of the great ocean racing teams, you can sail to the rhythm of the Cité de La Voile Eric Tabarly. Prepare your boat, virtually surf the waves on board a trimaran or pilot model sailboats: there's plenty to get your little sailors excited! Still want to hoist the sail? Brush up on your skills during a trip around the harbour on a sailing boat with a skipper. And if the ground is still swaying under your feet, you can take on one last challenge: climb the Tour des Vents 38 metres high and then zipline back down over the waves at 60 km/h! As a bonus, you’ll get a breathtaking view of Belle-Ile and the island of Groix from the top.

Cité de la Voile Eric Tabarly (External link)
Visit Lorient, Brittany (External link)

In Marseille, swim in art at the Cosquer Museum

Head for Marseille to get children to love both city and culture! To do this, tick off the major events taking place in the Phocaean capital. From March, you can try to unravel the mystery of the Mona Lisa smile with an interactive exhibition organised at the Palais de la Bourse. From June onwards, dive under the sea at the Cosquer Museum, which recreates the famous underwater cave discovered in the calanques with some 500 works of cave art. Provided you can swim 200 metres, you can also put flippers on and visit the Musée Subaquatique (Underwater Museum), where an artificial reef of sunken sculptures tackles environmental questions.

Musée Subaquatique (External link)
Cosquer Museum (External link)
Visit Marseille (External link)

In Lille, play freshwater sailors on the Deûle

Walking around a city can become tiring for little legs. So in Lille, mix walking tours with escapes on the water. At the foot of the Vauban citadel, the Marin d'Eau Douce base offers cruises on electric boats, rentable without a licence. After visiting the Citadelle Park, Lille Zoo or Cita Parc and its nature-themed attractions, you can relax along the Deûle Canal and its gardens. At the port of Wambrechies, a captain from the nautical association takes passengers on a trip between authentic villages and corners of the countryside. Don't forget to try out the old 1920s tramway which is now back in service on the towpath.

Marin d'Eau Douce (electric boats) (External link)
Wambrechies (External link)
Visit Lille (External link)

In Toulouse, explore planet Mars at the Cité de l'Espace

It's all there: the brick colour, rocks, and craters powdered with sand. With the new ‘Mars Terrain’ at the Cité de l'Espace in Toulouse, young astronomers can immerse themselves in the universe of planet Mars and follow the adventures of the Perserverance and Zhurong rovers as if they were there. All the more reason to visit the capital of aeronautics with your children. Enjoy interactive experiments at the Cité de l'Espace, simulated journeys aboard historic aircraft at the Aeroscopia museum and missions worthy of the Aéropostale pioneers at the Envol des Pionniers.

Cité de l'Espace (External link)
Aeroscopia (External link)
Envol des pionniers (External link)
Visit Toulouse (External link)

In Bordeaux, travel between land and sea at MMM

In Bordeaux, one of France’s major ports in the 18th century, you can make great ocean discoveries at the heart of the city with the Musée Mer Marine. On the banks of the Garonne, it is the largest private maritime museum with some 10,000 marine objects, including lifesize ships and a fun trail. Your little sailors can take turns sailing with explorers, the commander of an aircraft carrier or even pirates. Once they have their sea legs, they can board a Bat3, a river shuttle that looks like a catamaran, to sail towards the Right Bank. Finish at Iris Farm in Lormont to see the donkeys, ponies, sheep, goats, chickens and guinea pigs.

Musée Mer Marine (External link)
Visit Bordeaux (External link)

In Bayonne, dip your fingers in chocolate

Did your children love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Then they’ll love visiting Bayonne on the trail of chocolate. Start with the Atelier du Chocolat museum and its fun tour of the cocoa bean. Did you know that it was used to make the Aztecs' favourite drink? And that the first chocolate makers in France, introduced to the secrets of cocoa processing, settled in Bayonne in the 17th century? As you watch the chocolate makers concoct ganaches and pralines, you’ll look forward to the tasting session: will little tastebuds be able to distinguish a grand cru from Madagascar from an extra Kiretsa with 97% cocoa?

Atelier du Chocolat (External link)
Visit Bayonne (External link)

In Lyon, make a film at the Cinema and Miniature Museum

Following in the footsteps of the pioneering Lumière brothers, you can go backstage with the Cinema and Miniature Museum, unique of its kind in France. Installed in the beautiful UNESCO-listed Maison de l'Avocat, you can browse over 400 objects used in filming, some of which have been restored in the company's workshops: Superman's costume, Jurassic Park's triceratops or even a model of the Alien Queen hidden behind a curtain to spare sensitive souls. Also enjoy the collection of more realistic miniature scenes, from the theatre to the New York loft to the skeletons of the Museum of Natural History. To be compared with Lyon’s Musée des Confluences!

Cinema and Miniature Museum (External link)
Visit Lyon (External link)

In Strasbourg, awaken your soul at the Vaisseau

Why not drop anchor at the Vaisseau in Strasbourg? Moored on the André Malraux peninsula, this mini city of science (4,200 m²) has everything to captivate young visitors with its interactive spaces dedicated to 3-15 year olds. Manipulate light in the ‘Cavern’, channel water (ponchos are available to avoid getting wet) and understand how humans breathe. After all these experiences, take a stroll in the large 5,000 m² educational garden and look out for the bee house and hedgehog shelter.

Le Vaisseau (External link)
Visit Strasbourg (External link)

In Paris, sleep like princes and princesses at the Hôtel de la Marine

Little princes and princesses will have a field day in the fabulous 18th-century décor of the Hôtel de la Marine in Paris, which recently opened to the public. From the ceremonial salons to the steward's flats, listen with interactive headphones: the ‘confidant’ whispers the secrets of the former royal furniture storehouse that became the Ministry of the Navy during the French Revolution. There’s a flying table that can be hidden, secret rooms for spying, and hidden frescos. In the loggia overlooking Place de la Concorde, will you be able to find the traces of the millennium burglary? In 1792, the crown jewels vanished in one night: over 10,000 precious stones, including the most famous ‘Régent’ white diamond, now on display in the Louvre. Cross the Tuileries gardens to admire it.

Hôtel de la Marine (External link)
Visit Paris (External link)

In Rouen, go back in time on the trail of Joan of Arc

This is a great way to encourage kids to visit Rouen – in the footsteps of Joan of Arc. At the Historial Jeanne d'Arc, a multimedia space is devoted to the myth of the heroine, with projections and 3D mappings. Thanks to a show in the rooms of the Archbishop's Palace, all family members can take part in the historical trial which led to the rehabilitation of the heroine in 1456, 25 years after her death at the stake. Comfort yourself with a few ‘Joan of Arc's tears’, a typical Rouen delicacy made from roasted and caramelised almonds coated in chocolate.

Historial Jeanne d'Arc (External link)
Visit Rouen (External link)

In Nantes, go on an imaginary journey

Ready for take-off? In Nantes, there are plenty of opportunities to travel virtually with your children. At the Jules Verne Museum, little ones will be happy to imagine themselves on board the inhabited capsule described by the writer, a century before the conquest of space. Head to the nearby Planetarium with its unique view of the universe, before exploring the dreamlike world of the Machines de l'Ile. Perch on the back of a giant 12-metre-high elephant kitted out with an eco-friendly hybrid engine, ride a spider weaving its web or watch a hummingbird foraging. After this futuristic journey, take a break at the Hangar à Bananes.

Le Voyage à Nantes (External link)
Visit Nantes (External link)