How Locals Spend a Sunday: Paris
Bon Appetit executive editor Christine Muhlke has exquisite taste in everything. Especially real estate: She has apartments in New York City and in Paris. She let us tag along on a perfect Sunday. Read more about in Bon Appetit.
PARIS – Sundays in Paris are unfathomable to most Americans – What do you mean all of the stores and restaurants are closed?! — but they don't have to be a complete wash. While Parisians spend the afternoon eating home-cooked meals with their families, I have a quietly lovely day.
I got priced out of the at Cligancourt a decade ago. Luckily, a local friend (and master chineur, or bargain-hunter) told me about . The manageable market at the edge of the 14th arrondissement sells what fans like John Derian call "smalls," i.e., things you can pack. There are plenty of fine wares available on the tables, but I love digging around in soggy cardboard boxes tossed around them for 1-euro silverware, postcards, art books, chipped bowls and the like. You can find great furniture, too. The market dog-legs around a corner, and that's where things get really haggle-y and interesting for diggers like me. You have to get to Vanves early: The main drag (avenue M. Sangnier) closes at 1 p.m. sharp (start your serious bargaining at 12:30: you'll be surprised), while the vendors on avenue G. Lafenestre stick around until 3 or 5 p.m.
If you want to find one of the little brocantes (flea markets) that pop up in neighborhoods around the city, go to and search in département 75 (Paris).
Because it's Sunday, your lunch options are limited, but not as limited as they'll be at dinner. I reserve a table at and walk the 20 minutes from Vanves, sometimes giving myself extra time to browse at the book fair that occasionally pops up on the rue de l'Ouest along the way. The chef was Alain Ducasse's go-to guy for years — I've loved his escargots and cassoulet at , and his coddled eggs at . Now on his own, he modernizes the classics while keeping the lusty flavors that have me mopping up every last bit of sauce with the crusty country bread.
If I'm still in the mood to walk, I'll hike over to 's outpost on the rue Vaugirard to stock up on macarons for the week. (This location is open on Sundays, while the one I usually go to, in the 6th, is closed Monday. One must plan!) And — I'm not done yet! — I'll walk a few blocks to , a masterful shop opened by a female baker who trained with Hermé. So many treats here, from bread to pastry to chocolate.
Other days I'll take the metro right back where I started, at the Place de Clichy in the 18th, and walk a block or so to the alley where my new favorite restaurant, , is hidden. The chefs, young British women, worked at and Rose Bakery. That means they turn out an incredible, unpretentious brunch, with some of the best coffee in Paris. (They also have fantastic natural wines, if you're leaning that way.)
If you've rented an apartment and want to cook, you have until 1 o'clock to stock up on the market streets and in the grocery stores. I love to shop along the rue Lepic in the 18th, getting tarts at and blue cheese-studded sausage at (my other favorite sausage, made with hazelnuts, is sold at , just up the hill at 50 rue des Abbesses), and then winding down the rue des Martyrs in the 9th, stopping for a bacon quiche for Monday's breakfast at and a vanilla éclair at .
When I can hack it (it's busy...and expensive), I'll make the trip to the marché biologique, or organic farmers' market, on the Boulevard Raspail in the 6th from 9 a.m. till 2 p.m. and get a 25-euro rotisserie chicken and a salad for dinner. Personally, I'd rather hit on Saturday.
I tend to see art on Thursday or Friday evening, since most museums have night hours that tourists skip in favor of dinner. (Note: Weekday lunchtime is also quiet.) But on Sunday, I love to see whatever photography show is up at the , then people-watch in the Tuilleries. Not a bad way to kill an afternoon.
Sunday's also a good day to visit (which is temporarily closed for renovations), (the Paris history museum; there's a great Atget show through July), or oddball spots like the , where Marie Curie worked for 20 years. And, of course, you can always get out of town and see .
If it's rainy and crummy, I'll see whatever's playing at the wonderfully named movie theater. There's always a great old film showing. I like to imagine Susan Sontag, who was a regular, sitting behind me.
A few years ago, when I was researching a story on the 20th arrondissement — a neighborhood I'd never really explored beyond dinners at — I walked through the to find , an old snack bar that turns into a super-cool party at night. I was charmed by both. The hilly, picturesque park is reminiscent of those in London. The scrappy Rosa Bonheur is the kind of place where I want to hang out on the terrace and write (and eat cheese) all day, then dance all night, drinking whatever punch they've put out on the bar. Whatever you do, print the map before you go.
The Dinner Problem
Sundays are tough! Be sure to reserve several days in advance, or you'll end up eating rotisserie chicken in your room. A few favorites: Try for ultra-classic dishes at a steep (but worth it) price, or eat as much as you can on their 35-euro lunch menu and skip dinner. has wonderful buckwheat crepes, made with organic, well-sourced products. is as touristy as they come, but the untouched décor is a Keith McNally fantasy come to life. Food is so-so, and super cheap. couldn't be cooler. The natural wine store cum restaurant (a favorite of young chefs) serves rustic, ingredient-focused dishes like boudin noir, jambon de paris with puree de pomme de terre, and octopus carpaccio. is the tiny holding area for the excellent (excellent, as in three-month waiting list) where you can drink Champagne while eating charcuterie, crisp fried nibbles and excellent crepes and sandwiches. A fun scrum. My friend swears by the , which has delicious, unpretentious, gently priced seasonal menus.
Finally, if you want to learn something rather than just shop and eat (!), has interesting tours led by local experts, whether it's an architect-led view of modernist architecture, a Monet seminar with a painter, or a glimpse of Zola's Belly of Paris led by culinary historian . My stepfather, having missed his tour of covered markets, instead hired a young artist through Context who gave him a private tour of the best places to photograph in Montmartre. Everyone was happy. Even on a Sunday.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Get more restaurants, hotels, and ideas about what to do in our Paris guide.
. (Google Maps)