Boring museums? Think again! From gold panning, to interactive science games and old fashioned circus rides, travel writer Heidi Fuller-love gives us her guide to France’s top 11 kid-friendly museums.
For family friendly accommodation close to any of these museums, head to our gites pages. www.franceforfamilies.com/gites
1. Futuroscope, near Poitiers
With more than 40 million visitors Futuroscope is one of the best-known and leisure parks in France with 25 original experiences you won’t find anywhere else. Kids will be amazed by the films in giant format, thrill-filled attractions, 3D rides with 4D effects, live shows, and they can get stuck into many of the open-air activities. www.en.futuroscope.com
Picture credit: Futuroscope
2. Le Bournat, Dordogne
Kids these days might be hooked on video games, but even the most modern families love the old fashioned attractions at this open air museum where a typical 19th century Périgord village has been recreated, complete with fairground rides, local crafts and costumed inhabitants.
Set in a vast park alongside a pretty stream, Le Bournat has a working windmill, a basket maker who teaches kids to weave, old fashioned village cafes and a large area dedicated to turn-of-the-last-century fair rides, including wooden race horses that rock around a track on rails and a fleet of child-size vintage push cars. www.lebournat.fr
Picture credit: Le Bournat
3. Musée en Herbe, Paris
Split into two areas, one for older kids and one for younger families, a series of interactive games and activities based on the abstract work of artists ranging from Pablo Picasso to Marc Chagall really get their creative juices flowing, whilst a series of workshops will inspire them to create their own masterpieces. From February 2015 the museum has a new exhibition dedicated to the boy detective Tintin. www.musee-en-herbe.com
Picture credit: Musee en Herbe
4. La Cite des Enfants
One of the City of Light’s most exciting museums, La Cite des Enfants, at the heart of Paris’ award-winning Cite des Sciences, includes a huge interactive space where children and young adolescents can explore exhibits designed to test their flexibility and their senses, or learn more about techniques of non verbal communication, whilst having a lot of fun. www.cite-sciences.fr
5. Le Vaisseau, Strasbourg
Created specifically for kids and teens, this hands-on museum takes its motto, ‘it’s forbidden not to play’ very seriously.
With more than a 100 recreational activities – including Bob the Builder, where children can plan and construct their own house or other edifice, and a series of interactive exhibits that encourage younger children to explore their physical environment, this unique museum is guaranteed to please kids of all ages. www.levaisseau.com
6. The Meze Dinosaur Museum, Meze
After learning more about these exciting finds in the park’s carefully curated museum, kids can play ‘hunt the dinosaur egg’ in a giant sandpit, watch films about T.Rex and his pals in the Dino cinema, or explore the realm of the planet’s largest inhabitants, via a series of exciting interactive exhibits. www.dinosaure.eu
Picture credit: Musee des Dinosaures
7. Préau des Accoules children’s museum, Marseilles
This imaginative and inspirational museum, which was created specifically with kids in mind, hosts a constantly evolving range of hands-on exhibitions about French history.
A far cry from dry-as-dust school lessons, these magical presentations, ranging from Marseille during the revolution in 1848, to the history of the city’s famous soap, are told by costumed story tellers who encourage the kids to dress up and join in colouring games and other activities that will whet their appetite and – hopefully – make them want to learn more. www.marseille.fr
8. Musee de l’Or, Jumilhac le Grand
This atmospheric museum, located in the basement of a 17th century castle in the historic Périgord hamlet of Jumilhac, relates the glittering tale of gold since the time of the Gauls, when the precious mineral was mined here.
Inside the museum there’s a mining gallery, complete with model miners, and an exhibition of gold coins through the ages. After the visit, an expert takes you gold panning in the river next door where, if you’re lucky, you might even find a few tiny pieces of gold. www.pays-jumilhac.fr
Picture credit: Musee de l’Or | Yannick Chapman
9. Le Musée du Bonbon, Uzès
Sweet-toothed kids adore this museum mentored by historic creator of French sugar-coated goodies, Haribo.
Situated on the site of one of the company’s factories, the visit covers the history of this company, which first started fabricating liquorice and fruit gums in the 19th century, then leads kids through to the machine room, where they can work the machines that pack and deliver sweets.
The visit culminates in a large space stocked with Haribo goodies, where games are based on the company’s products and winners are rewarded with sweets. www.museeharibo.fr
10. Musee des Poupées Miniatures et Jouets du Monde, Gréoux les Bains
The private collection of Madame Portugal, a pensioner who has collected dolls since she was six years old, this amazing museum has more than 20,000 exhibits.
A treasure trove for doll lovers, exhibits are arranged according to themes from periods of French history and daily life, and there are regular workshops where children can learn to make dolls clothes, or build miniature houses. www.museedespoupees.com
11. Puy du Fou
Traveling back in time to mediaeval France, visitors are entranced by live shows ranging from gladiator and chariot combats, and falconry displays, to swordfights and magic acts, which take place in the shadow of the region’s mediaeval castle, on a stage that claims to be one of the largest in the world. www.puydufou.com
Picture credit: Puy du Fou
Find family friendly holiday homes on our gites pages: www.franceforfamilies.com/gites