Recently,someone asked me how Paris was different than New York. It took me awhile to answer because the two cities are very similar. They’re both big, metropolitan, diverse, tourist destinations. But there are some differences (see chart below). The biggest difference I’ve found, besides the fact that in Paris you’ll find a lot of French people and in New York you’ll find a lot of Americans, is that Paris shuts down on Sundays. In New York some stores are closed, but you can basically find what you need on a Sunday, regardless. In Paris, all the grocery stores close at 12pm. All other major stores — stationery stores, bookstores, music stores, the gym, the pool, department stores, thrift stores, home improvement stores — are closed. The boulangeries are usually open, though. Apparently French bread does not impede people from having “family time”, the reason everyone gives for the city virtually shutting down on Sundays. It’s obvious, though, that these laws are leftover from a time when Parisians were more religious and Sunday was for church, not shopping.

Interestingly enough, the stores in the Marais are open. The Marais is the Jewish quarter, so these stores are open on Sundays and closed on Saturdays. The Marais is a VERY small area, though. And the open stores are mostly boutiques selling overpriced, but nice, clothes and jewellery. I’ve also noticed that the flower shops tend to be open on Sundays. Even though these laws are beginning to change nowadays (thanks, Sarkozy), it’s still impossible for me to buy things I need on Sundays.

Things being closed on Sundays makes you go out on Saturdays. Yesterday at 7pm I made a mad dash to the stationery store to buy index cards because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to find anyplace to buy them on Sunday. (By the way, the store was closed when I arrived, so I am still indexcardless.)

But, like I said, there are a lot of places closed on Sundays in New York, too. So, I’m starting to wonder if the problem is just the lack of 24 hour stores in France. In New York, you can find a Duane Reede or CVS open all night, and you can basically get whatever you want, from drugs, to stationary, to food … France has not embraced the 24 hour drug store that sells more than just drugs. And there is only one 24 hour drug store in Paris that I know of, on the Champs Elysées. It’s the size or my apartment (I have a studio) and they sell 4 euro toothbrushes. Anyway, I’m beginning to think that the lack of a CVS is really the problem.

Take a look at my chart, highlighting some these cities’ good and bad points. Then take the quiz and tell us which place you’d prefer to live in and which place you’d prefer to visit! Plus, there are a lot of things I’ve missed in my “highlights”, so feel free to add ideas in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

The Highlights

New York

  • Tourist attractions include: Ground Zero, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Bronx Zoo
  • Notable Museums: the Met, MOMA, the Guggenheim
  • Foods to try: hot dogs and pretzels from a street vendor, New York pizza, bagels and lox,  steak
  • Popular Restaurant types: diners, delis, street vendors
  • Things to do that you can’t do anywhere else: see a Broadway show, see talented street performers, find people on the streets at all hours
  • Negative things: it’s a pretty dirty city, compared to a lot of others I’ve seen


  • Tourist attractions include: the Sacre Coeur, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Opera, the Champs Elysées, the Arc de triomphe
  • Notable Museums: the Musée d’Orsay, the Picasso Museum, the Louvre
  • Foods to try: crêpes from a crêpe stand, pastries, fresh bread, cheese, sausages, wine, roasted chestnuts
  • Popular Restaurant types: cafés, brasseries
  • Things you can do here that you can’t do anywhere else: spend the night on the quais of the Seine, see “les ponts de paris” lit up at night, which some say is the most beautiful sight in the world, see the lovely Haussmann architecture
  • Negative things: many stores are closed on Sunday and there are almost no 24/hour stores, the transportation strikes, most bars (not clubs) close earlier than in New York, the cloudy weather, the RER (regional rail line), the euros is currently at 1.5!!

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