Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2008
Sundays in Paris. Here’s another example of when your trusty restaurant guidebook isn’t worth the dollars, the Euros or the luggage space you used to bring it along. For example, I told you in a past post about one of my favorite guidebooks “Les Meilleurs Restos a Petits Prix by Catherine Jarrige, but guess what? Most of those really excellent quality/price ratio restaurants are closed on Sunday and sometimes for the entire month of August.
So, instead of using a guidebook, I decided to wing it and head out this Sunday afternoon on the tail end of the lunch hour (around 1:30) to see what might be open. Just like you, when I’m really hungry, I don’t want to eat junk food – and especially not in Paris. You can find plenty of cafe/brasseries, but the food is predictable. I was looking for the kind of place you might want to hang out for a while on a lazy Sunday, and enjoy the ambiance.
You might be surprised at my choice. I wended my way over to the Pantheon and St.Etienne du Mont church. Directly across from St. Etienne du Mont church’s entrance on Place du Pantheon, right at the corner where Rue Mont St. Genevieve begins, you’ll find the beckoning entrance (particularly if you’re a British soccer fan) of the Bombardier Pub. So, you’re saying, “Well, we didn’t come to Paris to spend our Sunday lunch at an English pub.”
And I’m saying, “Look at the options.” Do you really want to turn down a full roast beef and yorkshire pudding Sunday meal for 11 Euros? Plus smiling, attractive staff who speak impeccable English (and may very well be English). Besides roast beef, you can also have an English brunch. I had no problem finding a table for one person at the end of the luncheon meal. Service was perfect, polite and speedy.
Now you could have popped into one of the restaurant chains that span the boulevards, or you could have ducked into one of the gazillion restaurants along Rue Mouffetarde – but I doubt you could do better for the quality/price ratio here at the Bombardier. (And the big screen TVs). This is also an ideal pub/restaurant for anyone who truly feels intimidated when it comes to speaking French.
At the same time, if your heart is set on dining in a French restaurant, continue down the hill along Rue Mont St. Genevieve and you will definitely find other cafe/restaurants open for business on Sundays. I saw a number of promising looking facades as I walked down the hill. When you get to the Ecole Polytechnique, turn right at the cafe on the place, head uphill and you will find yourself at the Contrescarpe Rue Mouffetarde. If you can’t find a restaurant here – you made a wrong turn getting off the Eurostar and you’re not in Paris.
There’s no way around it – Rue Mouffetarde is touristy – not to the same degree as Montmartre, but it’s getting close. Nevertheless, you’ll find plenty of restaurants offering some of the traditional dishes such as confit de canard (simmered duck), Savoyard ‘raclette’ (melted cheese and potatoes), beef burgundy, etc. There are also some Greek, Indian, Tibetan and South American restaurants in this neighborhood.
(Rue Mouffetarde – traditional style restos)
If all else fails, head over to Luxembourg Gardens or the Lutece Arena and have yourself a picnic. But from now on, Sundays you’ll find me at the Bombardier.
By the way, on your way to the Luxembourg Gardens, if you have a sudden urge to try out couscous, be sure to stop in at Stella Luxembourg Bar Brasserie at 6, Rue Gay-Lussac (It’s located on the same side of the Luxembourg gardens as the Pantheon). Althugh I haven’t tried out their couscous (which is available on Saturdays and Sundays) for 10.90 Euros, this sounds like a very fair price. The Stella Luxembourg is open seven days a week from 6:30 am to 2 am. Non-stop service. And music. Definitely worth dropping in for a closer look.
General guidelines for Paris on a Sunday without a guidebook
Avoid the main boulevards. Restaurants tend to be more expensive and the food will often be served up ‘a la usine’. Obviously there’s exceptions to this rule – if you’ve booked at one of the well-known spots such as
Le Dome, La Coupole or Closerie des Lilas, for example, in the the Montparnasse area, you will undoubtedly have a good meal, but don’t expect to find any great bargains on the main avenues (the rents are too high).
Head toward the pedestrian walking areas such as Rue Mouffetarde, the St. Germain-des-Pres neighborhood (Rue Buci, or Rue Cannette, Rue Princesse, etc), Odeon or Centre Pompidou and Bercy Village if you’re on the Right Bank. You can also have some reasonably good meals at some of the museum cafes ( in particular, the tea room at the Musee d’Orsay).
If you plan on going to a museum on Sunday, get an early start. For example, today I went to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs for the last day of the Christian LaCroix show. If you arrive just before opening time (10 am), you should be able to spend your morning enjoying the museum, have a leisurely lunch, and fritter away the afternoon walking through the neighborhood where you choose to have lunch. Finish off your Sunday at the park – parks stay open later in the spring and summer months, so you can catch that excellent afternoon light to take some great photos.
Sundays in Paris are wonderful when you know where to go for lunch.
The Bombardier Pub
Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding on Sundays
2 Place du Pantheon 5eme
Metro: Luxembourg (RER)
Couscous on Saturdays and Sundays
6 Rue Gay-Lussac 5eme
(Near Luxembourg gardens)
01 43 26 13 04
Looking for more general information on where to eat?