How to Spend a Sunday in Paris


My favorite way to spend Sunday in Paris—a day when museums are filled and most shops are closed—involves walking, looking, and eating.

9am: Parisians sleep in, so get up early and stroll the quiet banks of the Seine. Even a brief early morning walk is worth the effort, as you’ll have the river to yourself. I prefer the Left Bank between Quai Voltaire and Quai de Montebello for their views of the Louvre, Grand Palais, and Notre Dame.

10am: With its flea market, open air green grocers, and historic covered market, the Marché Aligre (an easy walk from the Bastille) engages all five senses. Snap up vintage clothing on the cheap; stock up on olive oils and tapenades; sample cheese, figs, and sweetened mint tea amidst the clatter of vendors and shoppers.

12pm: Two blocks away is Square Trousseau, a hip café with a turn of the century feel. Tuck into poached salmon with ginger, a burger with glistening fries, or a beautiful salad, while seated on a comfy banquette.

2pm: Ile St Louis is a haven for history buffs and people-watchers. 17th century Eglise St Louis has a bright Baroque interior, alabaster carvings, and one of the best organs in town. Famed Berthillon ice cream has several shops here, and Café Regis, shown above, is one of several cafés with a great view. Street performers use pedestrian bridge Pont St Louis as their stage. Acoustic guitar, classical piano, magicians, puppeteers, and dancers are all possibilities.

7pmLes Chouettes doesn’t have a view of the Eiffel Tower — but the restaurant’s iron and glass construction is reminiscent of the city’s icon. The 3 story, luminous space is open daily, and details like gravlax maison topped with savory ice cream made with Charroux mustard make it a wonderful place to end the day.

Restaurant Les Chouettes in the Marais

At first glance, Les Chouettes is a small café in the Haut Marais, where locals gather at dark round tables and watch the world go by. Perched at the edge of a square, with a white awning and slim terrasse, the place looks casual, even ordinary.

But inside is a chic, luminous space with 3 floors of seating, and a limited menu that deserves a rave.

At lunch on a weekend, I chose the gravlax maison from among 3 starters. The delicate strips of salmon were dusted with morsels of cauliflower and broccoli, and topped with a pale yellow, speckled quenelle, which I expected to be crême fraiche—but it was a savory ice cream made with Charroux mustard.

The cod was a work of art, and another study in taste, color and texture. The combination of bright fresh peas, fava beans, and ginger confit should have dominated or distracted me from the perfectly cooked fish—but only enhanced it.

Portions were generous, and I didn’t need dessert, but couldn’t resist ordering the dessert maison: St Honoré, reinvented. The traditional cake is an elegant round cream puff flavored with vanilla, orange zest, or liqueur. I was curious to see how they had improved on an already divine pastry.

Their version consisted of 4 small rounds, joined to form a voluptuous bar. Inside was piped cream that tasted of chestnut, and a thin, crisp, dark chocolate wafer. I smiled when I saw it, and again after my first bite.

Quality food, gracious service, lovely ambiance, and reasonable prices: I will be back!

Will you be in Paris soon? Les Chouettes will close for summer vacation, reopening Aug 25.