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
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, 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 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.
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 for a hit of old-school Paris. Sundays are also great days to eat out en famille, when les petits enfants
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 (the Jean Nouvel-designed building is alone worth the visit) or with kids, try 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, , located in the 7eme on the rue Babylone. The gorgeous main sallefeatures 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!)
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!