For a first-time visitor to Paris, wandering the streets on a Sunday can be a bit startling: where are all the people? Why are the grocery stores closed? Does this entire city shut down on Sundays?
The answer is, for the most part, yes. Sundays are quiet for the French — typically, the day is devoted to rest, family, and a time-honored commitment to relaxation. Most businesses shut their doors after about noon, and many don’t open them at all. Don’t worry about lost time, though; in many ways, this is when Parisian joie de vivre is in its truest form. There are still plenty of goings-on around town, so sleep in a little, put on some comfy shoes, and take your time.
First stop: breakfast. Kick-start your day at a classic neighborhood bar like Café Delmas (2 Place de la Contrescarpe, 5th arr., open Monday-Friday & Sunday 7 am–2am, Saturday 8am-2am). Order up a café crème, croissant, and refreshing, freshly squeezed orange juice. From there, you’re just a few blocks from the Rue Mouffetard Market (Rue Mouffetard, 5th arr., open Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday 8am–2pm)! Sunday morning is when most of the locals are out shopping for the week — be sure to go on the early side, as it closes in the afternoon.
Take your time strolling among the carts of fresh produce, locally made cheese and cured meats, and just-out-of-the-oven breads and pastries. If it’s a nice day, take your scrumptious market goods to the nearby Jardin des Plantes (57 Rue Cuvier, 5e arr., garden open daily but hours vary seasonally, garden entrance free but galleries and exhibitions can cost between 5 and 15 euro) – check out the rose gardens – or Place Dauphine (l’Île de la cite, 1st arr.). Enjoy the scenery from a peaceful park bench or sunny lawn as you snack on freshly baked baguette, ripe berries, and a creamy camembert.
Alternatively, head to one of Paris’ trendy brunch scenes. La Recyclerie (83 Boulevard Ornano, 18th arr., open daily 12pm–10pm) in the 18th arrondissement is an out-of-use Metro station that was spruced up in 2014, with long, communal tables for eating, drinking, and mingling — plus plenty of fresh air. Enjoy the classic brunch spread on Saturdays and Sundays for 22 euros (or a vegetarian option for 20€). Pop-up flea markets and workshops are regularly held here, as well.
Brunch at La Recyclerie sets you up perfectly for a stroll through the nearby Marché aux Puces Saint-Ouen (124 Rue des Roisiers, 93400 Saint Ouen, open Saturday–Monday 10am–6pm), Paris’ largest antique and flea market. This village of shops (featured in tons of movies, including Midnight in Paris) boasts a practically never-ending treasure trove of unique finds, at both bargain and splurge-worthy prices.
Back in the city center, make time for a visit to Sainte-Chapelle (8 Boulevard du Palais, 1st arr., 15 euro), a jaw-dropping cathedral built in the time of St. Louis, King of France, to house Christ’s crown of thorns and a relic of the Holy Cross. The cathedral has two chapels: a lower one for the king’s servants, and an upper one for the royal family. The biggest draw here is the incredible set of unique stained glass windows — seeing them with the soft afternoon light shining through is a practically religious experience.
From Sainte Chapelle, you’re just a hop away from Notre-Dame de Paris (6 Parvis Notre Dame, 4th arr.). The cathedral was badly damaged in a fire in 2019 and is closed for repairs, but it’s still worth walking by to see the iconic location where Napoleon was crowned emperor.
Need a break from the sightseeing? Stroll over to Café de Flore (172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 6th arr., open daily 7am–1:30am). This classic Parisian café, a place to see and be seen, is a veritable institution: Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Pablo Picasso, and a whole roster of famous thinkers, artists, and writers were regulars here in their time. Order a coffee or some apéro — perhaps the house wine or a bubbly kir royale (champagne with a splash of crème de cassis) — and soak up the palpable history of the place.
For dinner, head towards the Pont Alexandre III for drinks and tapas at Rosa Bonheur sur Seine (Port des Invalides, 7e arr., open Sunday 11:30am–11pm, Wednesday noon-12:30am, Thursday-Saturday noon-1:30am), the second installment of a funky local favorite. The boat features both a restaurant and a nightclub where you can enjoy a stonefired pizza while watching the boats go by on the river Seine, and then dance the night away to a DJ or a live music set depending on the night.
For a scenic nightcap, head to Le Perchoir (14 Rue Crespin du Gast, 11th arr., open Monday-Friday 4pm-2am, Saturday-Sunday 2pm-2am) in the 11th. This trendy bar attracts clientele from across the city, who come for the views, cocktails, and decidedly Sex and the City vibe. The bar itself isn’t immediately visible from the street — once you’re out front, a bouncer will direct you to the elevators, which bring you up seven stories to the rooftop. Finish your day up here with a delicious cocktail, perhaps some French bar snacks, and impeccable views of the sparkling City of Lights. Bon nuit!
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