How to Spend One Perfect Day in Paris

Flâneuring, café hopping, and museum going around Paris with in-the-know locals.

A small pedestrian cobbled street in the old district of Le Marais

The cobblestone pedestrian streets in Le Marais are perfect for flaneuring, no matter the season.

Photo by olrat/Shutterstock

During their childhood in the suburbs of Paris, Kimberley and Anne-Cécile Blanchot, the sisters who keep their fingers on the pulse of travel and design trends for their public relations firm August 28 Studio, knew that Sundays were for “lazing around and getting ready for the week ahead,” namely because so much of the city was closed on Sundays.

Still, Paris has plenty to offer on quieter days, especially if the weather’s nice—and the Blanchots are the ideal guides. From bakeries, chic shops, and crêperies to the best hotel to book, here are all their insider tips for a perfect Sunday Funday.

Option 1: Breakfast in Montmartre and shopping in the Marais

When we’re both in town together (Anne-Cécile is based in New York and Kimberley in Paris now), we like to stay or meet up at Hôtel Rochechouart; it’s so Parisian, with a design that feels both modern and retro. It’s at the foothills of Montmartre, so very close to so many amazing shops, bakeries, and restaurants. We’ll probably start the day with a croissant or brioche from Le Pain Retrouvé or Mamiche; if we really want to indulge, we’ll get a pistachio babka from Babka Zana.

When the weather permits, we do most of Paris on foot; it’s the best way to soak it all in. Our first walking option is to stay on Rive Droite and continue heading east toward the Marais and Bastille neighborhoods. We’ll make our way over to Jardin du Palais Royal for a cappuccino (for AC) and matcha (for Kimberley) from Café Kitsuné. We like to settle into one of the green chairs surrounding the fountain for a catch-up if we’re together or tuck into a good read if we’re solo.

Since it’s Sunday, we’ll head to Gramme, a truly tiny “café-cantine” that serves really simple, good food that changes daily based on what’s in season and available. (Sometimes it’s a bahn-mi dog, sometimes an incredible chocolate pear cake.) Then we’ll walk the meal off . . . unless we spot Glaces Bachir for atcha, a traditional Lebanese ice cream flavor that blends milk and orange blossom with crushed pistachios on top. We also love Maison Aleph for their little pastry “nests” (they call them nests—we didn’t make that up!). It’s a crunchy angel-hair pastry confection topped with cream and confit. The caramel salted butter with bourbon vanilla is heaven—good thing we’re walking about 20,000 steps on this itinerary.

Chocolate at Alain Ducasse's Le Chocolate shop in Paris.

Those with a sweet tooth (or teeth) should prioritize Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse for treats to bring home.

Photo by Premier Photo/Shutterstock

Otherwise, we’ll save ourselves for tea time at Le Loir dans la Theière (perhaps more suitable on a colder day) for their house-made cakes and pies; their lemon meringue tart and savory tarts are legendary.

Luckily, many stores in the Marais are open on Sundays. Ysé is a French lingerie brand that makes delicate and sustainable lingerie in Europe; they also have an incredible collection of bathing suits for the summer that we love to browse. This is also the neighborhood where a lot of the emerging French brands set up shop, so it’s worth taking the time to stroll around (flâner in French). Magnanni sells very high-quality leather shoes made in Spain—their loafers are especially nice.

While we’re in the area, we might visit the Musée Picasso, housed in a 17th-century building; it has more than 5,000 pieces from Picasso’s own art collection and archives and cool exhibits year-round. Then, go all the way to concept store Merci or call ahead to book a visit to the Saint-Lazare workshop while in the 9th—it’s worth perusing their collection of accessories, prints, stationary (great gifts). It’s truly the coolest atelier in Paris (though may be hard to arrange on a Sunday so might need to save that one for a weekday).

As we near the end of our Rive Droite expedition, we land in Bastille and have a few other mandatory stops. First, Frappe, a new boulangerie by couple Thomas Padovani and Solenn Le Squer. Thomas is a very good friend (he and Kimberley met while working for Alain Ducasse in New York) and everything from his bread to his pastries is delicious. We have a very soft spot for the honey brioche—the honey is sourced directly from his hometown in Corsica. And speaking of Ducasse, nearby is his original chocolate manufacture, Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, where you can see how it all gets made while stocking up on gifts for family and friends and yourself (our recommendation: the non conché bar).

 The Three Shades statue outdoors at the Musee Rodin in Paris

In the company of “The Three Shades” at the Musee Rodin in Paris

Photo by Susan Montgomery/Shutterstock

Option 2: Rive Gauche, Musée Rodin, and other southside adventure

Our second option is to cross the Seine and head to Rive Gauche for some southside adventures. We’ll swing by coffee shop Noir for our respective morning drinks (cappuccino and matcha, bien sûr) before going into Le Bon Marché to check out current collaborations. The world’s first department store is always showcasing emerging designers, so it’s really fun to browse the unique pieces. We also like to peruse the children’s level and get a couple knickknacks for our kids.

Sundays are good for museum hopping and we love Musée Rodin. It’s set on the grounds of a breathtaking hôtel particulier, near Les Invalides and the Eiffel Tower. The landscaped gardens, sculptures, and architecture make for a really relaxing Parisian escape. After, we’d head to Italian restaurant Marcello, which has a lovely terrace, or Sauvage, where they do honest French cooking with great wines. Once lunch is done, we’ll hang out in the Jardin du Luxembourg for a bit, and perhaps grab an afternoon pastry and tea from Treize Bakery, before making our way back across the Seine.

Along the way, we’ll stop by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, which always has cool exhibitions; its latest pays homage to graphic artist Étienne Robial with a retrospective running November 10–June 11, 2023.

If we are feeling Fancy (with a capital F, yes) we’ll do apéro at Loulou in the Tuileries gardens. By now the day is probably coming to an end, so we’ll plan to get cleaned up and maybe grab a drink on the Rochechouart rooftop before dinner. On Saturday nights we would have oysters next door at Citrons & Huitres but another great spot nearby, open on Sundays, is Café Compagnon for the hyper simple and seasonal French fare, like the homemade smoked salmon. Here, the owner makes his own wine, and coffee blends. Desserts are killer, too, and boy do we have a sweet tooth, if you haven’t already noticed.

Mary Holland is South African writer based in New York. She has written for WSJ Magazine, the Financial Times, HTSI, GQ, Condé Nast Traveler, and W Magazine. She is the New York correspondent for Monocle Magazine.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR