There’s a certain rhythm to the week in Paris and it’s better to know what might be open when than to be caught short. For smaller shops, you may have to ask specifically as to their opening and closing schedules. Some shops and restaurants post their hours on the door but these are not always strictly observed. And unfortunately, it’s been my experience that Web sites are not completely reliable on this matter.
Open air and covered markets are typically open at least twice a week, usually from around 8:00 a.m. to around 2 p.m. but the schedules vary by quartier and town. A handful of quartiers also have afternoon and evening markets. Consult the complete list here: http://www.paris.fr/portail/marches_parisiens/Portal.lut?page_id=5675&document_type_id=5&document_id=10926&portlet_id=12148
Mondays: Many smaller food shops are closed, including butchers, greengrocers, and bakeries. Restaurants that are open on the weekend are also often closed on Mondays. Beware: many supermarkets restock on Monday mornings; if your cupboard is bare, you might think about shopping after 2 p.m.
Monday is also not a very good day for museums. Among those closed are all museums run by the City of Paris (such as Musée Carnavalet, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Catacombes), the Musée d’Orsay, and Versailles.
Wednesdays: No school today for kids attending école maternelle ( ages 3-6) and école élémentaire (ages 6-11). Older kids go to school half day. Book your doctor’s and dentist’s appointments in advance to avoid the crush, and sign up early in the year for extracurricular activities like dance, sports, and art. Wednesday is a great day to take little ones to cultural events; many museums have special workshops on Wednesday afternoons for them.
And while we’re on the subject of kids, one savvy mom recently pointed out to me that playgrounds can be crowded and crazy between 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. during the week; better to go play between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. when daylight permits.
New movies come out on Wednesdays as does Pariscope, the guide to all cultural events available at the news kiosk for just 40 centimes. Today’s issue of Le Figaro includes Figaroscope, a similar guide to cultural events but with feature articles.
Fridays: Think twice before doing your grocery shopping on Friday afternoon; it can be a zoo.
Saturdays: Since Saturday is the one day pretty much everything is open and most people are off work, it is an incredibly busy retail day. If you need to go shopping or run errands, do so early in the day. There is no such thing as a quick run to the store on a Saturday afternoon. Expect long lines for cash registers and often a lot of cranky people.
Many Parisian restaurants are closed on weekends so if you want to go out to dinner on Saturday night, make reservations. In fact, making a reservation is pretty much always a good idea in Paris.
Sundays: For the most part, Sunday is still considered a day of rest in France. Most shops are closed all day. Food shops, such as bakeries, fishmongers, butchers, and the like, are often open on Sunday mornings until around 1 in the afternoon. A limited number of small supermarkets are now also open on Sunday mornings.
One notable exception to Sunday closures is the Marais. Once primarily a Jewish quarter, the area has changed its character but remains a lively place on Sundays.
In the weeks before Christmas and the first week of the annual sales in February and July, other retailers, including those selling clothes, electronics, and gift items, are allowed to open their stores on Sundays.
Finally, the first Sunday of the month is always free museum Sunday. Go early to avoid the crowds. Click here for the list of participating museums. Note: The list changes with the season with more museums open for free on Sundays during the winter months.