Jardin du Luxembourg is one of the best spots for a Paris picnic. (Photo: Getty Images)
When the weather gets nice, Parisians head outdoors in droves to dine al fresco – but it’s not only those charming sidewalk cafés and bistros that attract the dedicated foodies. The residents of Paris have turned picnicking into a fine art – a pastime as chic and appealing as the city itself, and a great way to escape small, stuffy apartments when the weather heats up. After all, with its abundance of exquisite food, enchanting views and lush gardens, Paris is an ideal destination for le pique-nique, and there are few better ways to appreciate the city’s magic than by enjoying a leisurely meal and lively conversation in a beautiful outdoor setting. Sound appealing? Here are our top tips on how and where to picnic like a true Parisian.
Planning a Picnic Feast
If you’re on a short visit to Paris and you failed to pack a lovely old fashioned, wicker picnic basket, never fear, simple alternatives are easy enough to find. Consider ordering a ready-made picnic from a supplier like Paris Picnic, who will deliver a delicious, locally sourced meal to you at one of the city’s top picnic sites, along with all necessary utensils and supplies.
Picnics can be as simple or elaborate as you like – a quick sandwich on a park bench, or a multi-course feast lasting much of the afternoon. To really make the most of your Parisian setting, however, try picking supplies from local specialty food shops, markets and street stalls, for an authentic taste of French cuisine. For instance, the following are all Parisian picnic essentials:
- A freshly-baked baguette. Grab one from the neighborhood boulangerie on your way
- A selection of cheeses. Many fromageries (cheese shops) offer ready-made assortments, or you can ask the cheesemonger for their recommendation
- Charcuterie, paté and olives from a nearby deli
- Fresh fruit from a produce stall on any street corner. Strawberries and cherries are particularly tasty picnic snacks when in season
- Anything sweet. Think fine dark chocolate, macarons or some buttery éclairs
- Sparkling water (for a fancy, non-alcoholic treat)
- A bottle of wine. Red, white or sparkling (Note that different Paris arrondissements have different rules about drinking in public. Be sure to check on the specifics for the area you’re in.)
Picking the Perfect Paris Picnic Spot
Paris is a city of infinitely beautiful vistas and charming nooks and crannies, which means there are countless inspiring locations for a picnic with a view. Whether you’re looking for tranquil nature, prime people-watching opportunities, a romantic backdrop or room for the kids to run about and play, there’s a picnic spot to suit. Here are a few of our favorites, from the famous to the lesser-known:
Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement has free Wi-Fi. (Photo: Getty Images)
Champs de Mars. For the ultimate Parisian picnic, you can’t beat dining in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. The grassy expanse of the Champs de Mars boasts excellent views of the iconic structure, as well as plenty of space to spread out your blanket and relax. Because this is a quintessential picnic spot, however, it can get a little crowded with tourists and locals alike – but see it as a great opportunity to make new friends and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
Jardin du Luxembourg. Another of Paris’s most popular outdoor gathering places, the spectacular Jardin du Luxembourg is a must-see for visitors. Commissioned by Marie de Medici in the 17th century, these beautiful formal gardens are an ideal place to imagine yourself on a royal picnic – and what’s more, there’s an outstanding playground to keep young picnickers entertained while their parents relax. Be sure to get there early to snag one of the benches or chairs.
Canal St-Martin. Fancy a slightly more urban setting for your picnic – something with a bit of a trendy edge? Head to the Canal St-Martin, a picturesque 19th-century waterway whose shady banks have become a popular gathering place for stylish 20-and-30-somethings, who camp out on the benches or along the water’s edge to eat, drink and socialize. There are plenty of bohemian bars and shabby-chic cafés in the area as well, if you fancy making a proper evening of it.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont. A favorite amongst locals in search of greenery and sunlight, the lovely Parc des Buttes Chaumont occupies a steep hillside that once formed part of a quarry. There are lovely views over the city, as well as pretty lakes and waterfalls that lend the park an idyllic feel. On sunny weekends, the grounds are a sea of picnic blankets, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities for convivial chat with your neighbors; and if you’re here on a Sunday evening, you can even take part in a lively dance party at the popular bar Rosa Bonheur located right in the park.
Île de la Cité. There are few more romantic locations for a picnic than along the banks of the Seine, watching the Bateaux Mouches slowly gliding along the river and the lights twinkling on the opposite bank as twilight falls. Cross the Pont Neuf to the Île de la Cité, then grab a space in the Parc du Vert-Galant at the western tip – you’ll almost feel as if you’re observing the city from afar. It’s the perfect hideaway for an intimate picnic for two.
Parc Monceau. For those who really want to escape the bustle of the big city, take your picnic to the oft-overlooked Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement. Established by the wealthy Duke of Chartres in the 18th century in a less formal “English” style, today the park is a glorious public space complete with meandering paths, quirky follies, elegant statues, and even a duck pond and small waterfall. It also boasts excellent play areas, which make it a favorite picnic spot for local families with children, plus free Wi-Fi for those keen to stay connected (and perhaps share those perfect picnic photos to Instagram!).