In Paris, Sunday is a day when the office is left behind and family is the main focus. After the habitual grasse matinée, or ‘fat morning’ in English, the city has little to offer in terms of activities, seeing as France retains a traditional view with regards to Sunday, meaning that very few establishments remain open.
When venturing the Champs-Elysées, the busiest and possibly most iconic street in Paris, the situation is no different. In fact, the only shop that remains open is the Disney Store. It is, therefore, essential to think outside the box and consider other interesting ideas.
‘Paris Respire’ is a scheme whereby the Mairie de Paris closes the roads by the River Seine. It is likely that most people have walked past and ignored the signs entitled, Un Bon Plan de Paris, including me – until recently. Upon closer observation, the true scale of the operation becomes apparent. The scheme means that the roads are closed every Sunday and public holiday between 9am and 5pm. The scheme also runs in the Marais, the Canal Saint Martin, Montmartre and many other specific parts of the city.
With this much empty tarmac, walkers, pushchairs, rollerbladers, cyclists, and even unicyclists (I have witnessed this) can enjoy the freedom of a car and the bustle-free zone. On the left bank, or Rive Gauche, the road runs between Pont de l’Alma and Quai Voltaire and on the right bank, or Rive Droite, between the Tuileries Gardens and Pont de Charles de Gaulle in the 12th arrondissement.
If you are not lucky enough to own a bike, the city’s Vélib bicycles are always available. Subscription for a day costs only 1€, and the first half an hour is free. Be aware, though, that it is not possible to return a Vélib and immediately take out another from the same stand. Therefore, if you are intending to pay only 1€, it is necessary to plan a route in relation to the Vélib stands along roads or cycle paths, if the roads scare you! Please note that it is forbidden to cycle on the paths unless otherwise stated.
Address: Access at Quai des Tuileries (1st) to Pont Charles-de-Gaulle (12th), and Quai Anatole-France (7th) to Quai Branly (7th).
Hours: 9am – 5pm, Sundays and Public Holidays, all year round