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What to Do on Sunday in Paris?

Sightseeing, Shopping, or Simply Lazing...

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Spring in Paris, 1956.

Lazing by the river is a favorite Sunday activity in Paris.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Along with drawn-out meals, coveted spots at cafe terraces in the sun, and freshly baked, still-warm bread straight from the local boulangerie, Sundays are essentially held sacred in Paris. Not necessarily in a religious sense: although some do observe it that way, for most Parisians, Sunday is the day set aside to amble the streets freely, share a lazy brunch with friends, hit one of Paris' many charming cinemas, or spend an afternoon at the Centre Pompidou enjoying the latest exhibit there.

What's Open?

Contrary to popular belief, most of the city stays open on Sunday, including restaurants and cafes, museums, monuments, bakeries, etc. Most shops and some supermarkets are a noteworthy exception, as described below. In less tourist-heavy areas, too, you'll be more likely to see things closed on Sunday. You shouldn't have any trouble finding something to do, whether you're angling to hit tons of sights, shop, or just roam aimlessly. If you want to visit a museum, monument or other major attraction, I highly recommend visiting the appropriate official website to confirm whether they're indeed open.

Shopping on Sundays

While most shops specialized in clothing, home items, accessories and other items do close, there are several areas and shopping centers that stay open. The Marais district is one such area that's a favorite for Sunday window shopping, followed of course by lazing and people watching at a cafe, and perhaps some incredible gelato at Pozzetto, one of the city's best gelaterias. Browse our guide to Sunday shopping in Paris to find out what shops and shopping centers are open.

You might also consider spending a morning or afternoon at one of Paris' many puces (flea markets), admiring antiques, sifting through cartons filled with dusty old records, or just enjoying the bustling, cheerful ambiance of sellers calling out deals and displaying their often-curious wares. Love books? Check out the traditional Seine Riverside booksellers, instantly recognizable by their famous green metal boxes.

Exploring the City: Roam at an Easy and Aimless Pace

French has a culturally specific word for random ambling that can't exactly be translated into English: la flânerie. It means, roughly, roaming aimlessly and anonymously in a cosmopolitan place, while taking on an air of curiosity mixed with cool detachment. Sunday is a perfect time to practice the art of the "flaneur", so dear to nineteenth-century romantic poets like Verlaine and Baudelaire. Dare to explore the city without a particular aim or destination, and I can nearly guarantee that surprises and inspiration will surface in unexpected places. Read the following guides as launch points:

Sunday Brunch and Cafe-Loafing

As previously mentioned, Parisians largely spend Sunday in one of two ways: either indulging in a long Sunday lunch with their families, or loafing around at cafes, brunching, nursing drinks and, of course, people-watching. Visit this guide for some great ideas on brunch in the city of light, and then bookmark these resources for more ideas on cafe-loitering, Parisian-style:

Take a Day Trip

Since the city runs at a slower pace on Sundays, getting out and into the environs for a day trip from Paris can be a great idea. Explore Claude Monet's gorgeous gardens at Giverny, or pop over to Versailles to see how French royals once lived.

Cinema and Entertainment

A true cinephile's paradise, Paris boasts more cinemas per capita than perhaps any other major city, and Sunday is a perfect time to enjoy a good film or two. Hit the Cinématheque Française (French Film Center) for a double treat of movies and a fascinating film museum exploring the history of celluloid, or check out our complete guide to the best cinemas in Paris, from multiplexes to old arthouse venues.

Alternatively, you might book a show (and perhaps dinner) at one of Paris' best traditional cabarets, including the Moulin Rouge or Lido. This can be an entertaining and wholly relaxing way to spend a Sunday evening.

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