Every year there are a total of eleven public holidays in Paris (including four alone in May), so having a plan for things to do on public holidays in Paris is important. Similarly, many shops and restaurants in Paris are closed on Sundays, so a plan for Sundays in Paris also makes sense. Many Parisians are also out and about on public holidays and Sundays in Paris so popular museums, gardens and other activities can be quite busy, so what to do in Paris on Sunday and public holidays can be a bit tricky. I’ve therefore come up with a list of great things to do in Paris on Sunday and and public holidays, without battling the crowds or queuing for hours.
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Museums to visit on Public Holidays & Sundays in Paris
While it’s tempting to plan a day trip to Versailles from Paris on Sunday or on a public holiday (and indeed if you want to see the Versailles fountains the weekends are your only choice), or visit the Louvre, everyone else has the same idea and queues can be terrible. Smart travel planners to Paris will therefore schedule their visit to Versailles during the week and use Sunday to visit one of the small museums in Paris. I’ve written previously about free museums in Paris, but there are also plenty of smaller museums in Paris that are well worth your time and effort.
Jacquemart André Museum
The Jacquemart André is a small but charming museum in Paris and is excellent for those who love snooping around other people’s houses. In my opinion it is one of the best small museums in Paris. It was originally the home of a wealthy French couple from the 19th century who collected art and beautiful furniture. Unable to have children they gifted their home and contents to the city of Paris.
The Jacquemart André Museum also has an excellent restaurant, which makes a great choice for lunch or afternoon tea after your visit. While the museum itself is not so busy that you need to book in advance it is essential to reserve a table well in advance if you want to eat. If a visit to the museum doesn’t tempt you, it is possible to book a table at the restaurant without the museum. You can book your entry ticket to the Museum here >>
Note: This museum will be closed for a year from August 2023. As an alternative I suggest the Nissim de Camondo Museum.
Hotel de la Marine
The Hotel de la Marine is an excellent choice for those with no time to visit Versailles or who have already been. Most recently the offices of the French Navy (hence its name) the Hotel de la Marine was originally a storage facility for Versailles, and indeed it does have a mini-Versailles atmosphere to it. But without the crowds, and located right on the Place de la Concorde in the centre of the city. Visiting on a Sunday it was easy just to go to ticket office, buy and a ticket and wander in, but it is easy to buy a ticket in advance >>
Unlike Versailles, it was easy to wander around the rooms and enjoy the detail of this Paris history museum. As well as sumptuous interiors reminiscent of Versailles the Hotel de la Marine also plays homage to its Naval heritage with a display about the history of the French Navy. An excellent included audioguide explains the rooms and brings this museum to life.
There are two very popular eating options at the Hotel de la Marine, both of which need bookings if you want to eat lunch or dinner. On a Sunday afternoon in Paris, there were tables available in the more casual bar/café for a drink or late lunch.
Personally I think one of the best things to do in Paris on a Sunday afternoon or public holiday is to do what Mr Francetravelplanning and I did. We started with a Paris museum visit at the Hotel de la Marine, and spent about an hour enjoying its wonderful interiors, then wandered around the nearby Tuileries gardens and sat taking in the early summer sunshine. Then, we headed just down rue de Rivoli and enjoyed an excellent afternoon tea in Paris at Le Meurice.France Travel Planning tip
Other museums to visit in Paris on Sunday and public holidays
There is a huge range of specialist museums to tempt that are open on Sundays and public holidays, and which are generally less crowded.
One of the most popular fashion museums in Paris is the Dior Gallery, located just around the corner from the Dior flagship store on ave Montaigne. This Paris fashion museum is best accessed via a timed entry booking. When I visited on a recent Paris public holiday there were two queues – one for those with timed entry tickets and those without. Those of us with tickets were admitted right on time, but those without had a two hour wait.
Once inside it is not at all crowded, and you are free to wander around for as long as you like. The Dior Gallery is a stunning history of one man’s creativity and drive, and the legacy which continues to inspire the designers who carry on his name. For those who love fashion I think it is probably the best fashion history museum in Paris.
In my case, it was obligatory to rewatch Mrs Harris Goes to Paris on the way home on the plane, and note the interiors of the museum which found their way into the film.France Travel Planning tip
There are two eating options at the Dior Gallery: the more formal Restaurant Monsieur Dior round the corner from the Dior exhibition, which requires a booking, and the more casual café onsite inside the museum. The latter is solely for the use of Dior Gallery patrons, and while I didn’t eat there I did take a peek inside and everything looked delicious for a light lunch or refreshment.
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There are also options for those travelling with kids to Paris. Science museums in Paris are always a popular choice for families in the Facebook group, and my favorite to recommend is always the Natural History Museum. This museum has become quite famous as it features the well known novel All the Light we Cannot See, but it remains an excellent choice of museums for kids in Paris.
The museum itself is a fully restored version of what was initially created in the nineteenth century, complete with specimens in bottles and hand written labels in the most beautiful handwriting. There are also plenty of model dinosaur skeletons to keep the little paleantologists in your life happy.
Because of some of the specimens in the bottles, this museum may not be suitable for very young or more sensitive children. When we visited with MissG at aged 6 she adored it, but do your research to confirm it is a good choice for your family.France Travel Planning tip
Everyone knows the Musée d’Orsay for its Impressionist art, but like the Louvre it is not a great choice of museum to visit on public holidays and Sundays in Paris because everyone else has the same idea. But did you know there are other options for Impressionist museums in Paris? I’ve not visited these museums personally but they look excellent and come highly recommended by people whose opinions I respect.
First up, the Musée Marmottan. The Marmottan is a bit out of way in the largely residential sixteenth arrondissement, but this makes it an even better choice for smart art lovers. Featuring over 100 works of Claude Monet (including waterlilies) this is a great choice for Sundays or public holidays. You can book tickets for the Marmottan Museum here >>
Closer to the centre of Paris, the Orangerie also features Monet as well as some more modern choices.
Other small Paris museums worth considering for public holidays and Sundays in Paris include:
The Musée Rodin – excellent gardens and an onsite café.
The Musée Invalides – the museum of the French army and site of Napoleon’s tomb. Also an excellent choice for children.
The Musée Cluny – newly renovated, this museum is dedicated to Medieval art. In my opinion, worth the visit just for the stunning tapestry series La Dame à Licorne (the Lady and Unicorn).
Enjoy afternoon or high tea in Paris
It comes as no surprise to regular readers of my frugal first class travel blog that I recommend afternoon tea as one of the best things to do on a Sunday in Paris. Most large hotels will also offer afternoon tea on public holidays.
My recommended afternoon teas in Paris (in no particular order):
Ritz Hotel Paris in the Salon Proust: the Ritz Paris afternoon tea in the Salon Proust has a real sense of occasion. It is an all sweet Paris afternoon tea. You can read my Ritz Hotel Salon Proust afternoon tea review here >>
Le Meurice afternoon tea: personally I think the afternoon tea at Le Meurice is the best all round choice for a Paris afternoon tea. This Paris afternoon tea experience needs to be booked well in advance, as it is very popular. You can read my Le Meurice afternoon tea review here >>
Le Bristol afternoon tea: this afternoon tea is my latest find, and is a real hidden gem. Less well known than many of its competitors, means it is less crowded, even on a Sunday or public holiday. Even though it is unlikely to be crowded, this afternoon tea must be booked in advance. You can read my Le Bristol afternoon tea review here >>
Shopping in Paris on a Sunday or public holiday
In my experience, public holidays in Paris seem to be divided into two discrete groups – those where the shops don’t open, and those where many of them do. “Big public holidays” such as Bastille Day, Christmas, New Year’s Day and over Easter are hard closures with most shops, apart from small corner stores, closed. The myriad of religious public holidays that dot the Parisian holidays calendar are different. You will find many shops open, although small boutiques and family run shops may be closed.
The grands magasins on Boulevard Haussman, Galeries Lafayettes, and Au Printemps open on Sundays. Some designer shops may also open, but check their websites to confirm for what to buy in Paris on a Sunday.
If you like markets, they are a fun thing to do in Paris on a Sunday. My favorite flea market in Paris, the Vanves is open on both Saturday and Sunday. I prefer it over the St Ouen flea market as it is less crowded, and is far easier to get to. It offers easy browsing over a smaller site and stalls sell all sorts of things that are easy to pack to take home.
Last time I visited the Vanves flea market I was particularly taken with the range of kitchen wares and linen.
For food markets, the street market on boulevard Raspail is an organic market on Sundays and again is not too crowded.
For more information on Paris street markets I recommend the book Markets of Paris by Dixon Long and Marjorie Willing. If you love markets it features an encyclopedic range of markets that cater to all tastes and interests:
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