Leisure is one of the most sacred components of a well-lived Parisian life, which is why we thought it absolutely necessary to revisit the best ways to spend a Sunday in Paris. You can find part I, Tory’s list of favorite Sunday pastimes, here. -Geneviève
One of the many great things about living in Paris is the French approach to relaxation. Around here, it’s serious business. Everyday events that would strike most of us as de rigeur — traffic jams, inhospitable weather, waiting one’s turn in line — can cause mini-attacks of le stress for Parisians, thereby necessitating extended periods of repose. And when the traditional, lengthy French vacation isn’t close at hand, a Sunday in the city can be the next best thing.
Since many shops and restaurants are closed (although this is changing), Sundays offer a great excuse to slow down and just relax. But if you’re feeling energetic, there are still many great ways to fill your day. Here are some of our Sunday favorites.
Hit a market (or market street). Everyone loves a Paris marché. Some of the city’s best are open on Sundays, like the vast and bustling Marché Bastille and the organic market on the rue Raspail. But for my money, the market streets are even better. Two favorites are rue Cler in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and rue Montorgeuil not far from Les Halles. Both streets are lined with cafés (in addition to specialty food vendors). We love the thick, juicy burgers at Le Petit Cler on rue Cler or sitting outside and savoring oysters and a glass of Chablis at Le Comptoir du Commerce on rue Montorgeuil. For more exotic cravings, hit the Marche des Enfants Rouges in the Marais for a heaping plate of Moroccan style couscous, tajine and mouth-watering baklava.
Shop with the masses. While much of the city can feel sleepy on Sundays, there are a few neighborhoods where you’ll always find crowds: Montmartre, the Marais and the Champs Elysées. Although entirely different in their charms, they offer one common attraction: shopping. The Marais boutiques along rue des Francs Bourgeois (and its neighboring side streets) include the regulars (Maje, Claudie Pierlot, Zadig & Voltaire) as well as smaller jewelry, textile and clothing designers. When hunger strikes, queue up at L’As du Falafel for world-famous sandwiches or sample decadent pastries in the old Jewish quarter around the rue des Rosiers. If you’re looking for high street chains like Fnac, Gap, Zara and H&M, these outposts are open all day on the Champs Elysees.
A visit to Montmartre on a Sunday can make a regular weekend feel like a mini getaway. Avoid the touristy shops around Sacré Coeur and the Place du Tertre in favor of the chic boutiques along the rue des Abbesses. Once you’ve worked up an appetite (doesn’t shopping make you hungry?), stop into Coquelicot for their hearty brunch or grab a sweet pastry to take away.
Bring on brunch. Many restaurants don’t do Sunday dinner but the increasingly popular brunch or traditional French lunch are still safe bets. More and more restos are featuring weekend brunch menus (we like the massive pancakes at Le Favorite on rue Rivoli) or try a classic brasserie like Brasserie Gallopin for a hit of old-school Paris. Sundays are also great days to eat out en famille, when les petits enfants are welcomed at most tables.
Musing about museums. I’m always impressed by the French devotion to culture and how they expose their little ones to it at such an early age. Weekends are perfect for museum outings, especially the first Sunday of each month when most museums are open for free. Go early (or at lunch time) to avoid the inevitable crowds. Venture slightly off the beaten path to La Fondation Cartier (the Jean Nouvel-designed building is alone worth the visit) or with kids, try Le Musée des Arts et Métiers where kids (and their parents) will be awed by the turn-of-the-century, bat-inspired airplane.
Movie love. If given the chance to tailor my perfect day, it would almost always include seeing a film. A favorite place to do it is at one of the city’s oldest theaters, La Pagode, located in the 7eme on the rue Babylone. The gorgeous main salle features antique Japanese tapestries and chandeliers imported by the original owner, Monsieur Morin who created Le Bon Marché, in the late 1890s. Take tea in the Japanese garden before your film. (They’re picky about the films they screen so it’s almost always a safe bet!)
Flirt with the fleas. The French love flea market shopping so much, they even have a word to describe it. Treasure hunting at les puces (chiner) is a time-honored tradition for Parisians and also one of my own favorite Sunday pastimes. If the massive markets of Clignancourt are more than you can manage, try the smaller (and cheaper) marché at the friendly Porte de Vanves. From vintage hotel silver teaspoons to original oil tableaux, there are treasures here for every budget and style.
Of course, if all this sounds just a tad too ambitious, there’s no shame in staying indoors for a home-cooked meal and some well-deserved R&R. As any Parisian will tell you, relaxation is vital – ça fait du bien!
- If you want more tips on what you can do during a Sunday in Paris, Fathom has some great tips too
- Where can you find a bite to eat when most restaurants are closed? Food and the City has the answer
- Frommer’s has 5 great suggestions on where to take that perfect Sunday stroll