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 Le Mouffetard (116 Rue Mouffetard, 5th arr., open Tuesday–Sunday 7:30am–7pm)—a true bar de quartier. Order up a café crème, croissant, and refreshing, freshly squeezed orange juice. From there, you’re just a few steps from the Rue Mouffetard Market (Rue Mouffetard, 5th arr., open Tuesday–Sunday 8am–1pm)! 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, 5th arr., garden open daily but hours vary seasonally, garden entrance free, greenhouse entrance 6 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 Monday–Thursday 12pm–midnight, Friday–Saturday 12pm–2am, Sunday 12pm–10pm) in the 18th arrondisement 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 Marche aux Puces Saint-Ouen (124 Rue des Roisiers, 93400 Saint Ouen, open Friday–Monday 9:45am–1pm and 2pm–5:45pm), 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.,), 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, Pl. Jean-Paul II [Île de la Cité], 4th arr.,), which is also open to the public on Sundays. The famed Gothic cathedral can be busy, but it is definitely worth the visit. Entrance is free to the cathedral, but a trek up into the towers will cost you 8.50€.
Need a break from the sightseeing? Stroll over to Café de Flore (172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 6th arr., open every day 7:30am–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, hail a taxi and make your way to the 19th for drinks and tapas at Rosa Bonheur (Parcs des Buttes Chaumont, 2 Allée de la Cascade, 19th arr., open Wednesday–Sunday 12pm–12am, Tuesday 6:30pm–12am), a funky local favorite tucked far from the tourist trails in the heights of the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. Starting at 6pm Thursday through Sunday, the former pavilion hosts a guingette: a laidback evening of drinks, tapas, and DJ sets. Order the house-label wine, nibble on some baguette and foie gras, and mingle with the locals.
For a scenic nightcap, head to Le Perchoir (14 Rue Crespin du Gast, 11th arr., open Tuesday–Friday 6pm–1:30am, Saturday 4pm–1:30am ) in the neighboring 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!
Explore more of Paris with Moon Paris Walks.