Picnic like a Parisian
How to do it and where to do it
written by Chloe Martin
The sun is high in the sky, your skin is craving vitamin D, your taste buds are tingling for a glass of rosé and you smile to yourself as you realize…summer has finally arrived!
After a long stint of bad weather here in Paris, we are now basking in the sunshine on a regular basis and good weather can only mean one thing – that picnic season is upon us! Picnic season in Paris has to be one of my absolute favourite times of the year because the Parisians are picnic pro’s. Everything I know about putting on a good picnic and being a great host, I learnt from the French. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The French, as well as serving some of the best food in the world, also invented the word pique-nique back in 1692 and created a concept that would stand the test of time.
Having a picnic is an important part of French culture because it combines the three things that the French love: food, wine and conversation. When you plan a picnic, make sure you put time and effort into it and never have an impromptu one. There’s nothing worse than a picnic with screw top wine and no knife to cut the cheese!
So, after having lived here for almost six years, I believe that I have finally mastered the Parisian picnic and I would like to share my insider tips with you, so that you too, can have the perfect picnic!
First things first, what are the essentials to put in your picnic hamper?
- Several baguettes because one is never enough and picnics can go on for hours and hours
- Wine: if it’s rosé or white make sure to bring a cool bag
- Water (and lots of it): if you want to make it to the end of a Parisian picnic make sure you alternate between water and wine
- French cheese but ONLY in the spreaded form, other cheeses melt in the heat and smell bad which means you won’t be popular with your neighbors
- Fruit and vegetables – make sure you stock up on some healthy snacks
- Multiple bags of chips in assorted flavors
- Charcuterie (pre-sliced)
- A large trash bag for the end of the picnic (Parisian parks get busy and park garbage cans are very full, don’t leave any – take your own bag!)
- Don’t forget the other necessities: plastic cups and plates, a knife for the cheese and a cork screw for the wine!
Of course, you can add whatever else you like to your picnic hamper but this is what you’ll typically find in a Parisian’s panier.
Now that your hamper is ready and your wine is chilled, you have to choose where to go. Although Paris has a large number of beautiful parks to choose from, you can’t actually sit on the grass in a lot of these parks, so be aware of that! Picnicking is much less fun when you’re sat on pebble stones or the dusty ground of the Tuileries. My favourite butt friendly parks are:
Jardin du Luxembourg
Luxembourg gardens is definitely my top pick of all the parks in Paris. There is a specific area at the back of the park where you can sit on the grass and have your picnic and during the summer the park stays open until 9pm, meaning you can spend a whole day lounging about there.
You can also enjoy the view of the Luxembourg Palace. Whilst snacking on bread and cheese. The park has its own toilets (with an attendant so they are always clean) which are next to the picnic area and only cost 50 cent to use. The atmosphere in the park is wonderful and although a number of tourists frequent the park, the picnic goers are mostly locals. Just a tip – it can get busy so get there early to make sure you have a spot on the grass.
Parc Montsouris is another park that is not often frequented by tourists. A little bit further out in the 14th district, it has a wonderful man-made lake, beautiful trees and statues and a number of species of birds.
Opened in 1969 the park is relatively new and remains one of the largest green open spaces in Paris. If you want a little bit of peace and quiet for your picnic, this is the park for you.
Buttes Chaumont is a public park situated in the north-east of Paris, in the 19th arrondissement. The park has been open since 1867 and unlike the other parks in the city, it features rolling hills and a temple that is perched 50 metres above the water on a cliff top!
It offers an incredible view of Paris and includes a lake, a waterfall and even an old railway bridge! Tourists rarely go there so it’s a great place to have an authentic Parisian picnic. Just a tip – be prepared to have your picnic on an angle as the whole park is slanted!
Bois de Vincennes
As both one of the most beautiful and one of the biggest parks in Paris, Bois de Vincennes really stands out among the rest. Located on the eastern edge of Paris, it’s a little bit further from the centre of the city. It has a total of four lakes and a beautiful Temple of Love on the Lac Daumesnil.
On some of the lakes you can rent rowboats and enjoy the beautiful park from the inside of a boat! For a picnic, I would recommend staying on land and finding a spot around one of the lakes so you can enjoy the view and the wildlife. Don’t worry, the park is so big that you’ll definitely find a place to picnic!
Boat hire: €12.50/hour (1 or 2 people) and €13.50/hour (3 or 4 people). For more information call +33 (0) 1 43 28 19 20.
Les Quais de la Seine
Another wonderful place to have a picnic! The best places are near the big landmarks because you can eat and drink with both the view of the Seine and a beautiful monument such as Notre Dame.
Jardin des Plante
This beautiful garden is located in the 5th arrondissement of Paris and is the main botanical garden in France. Enjoy a picnic surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers and take a tour of the greenhouses or zoo after!
Places des Vosges
A popular spot for Parisians, Places des Vosges is a beautiful place for a picnic if you are a fan of architecture. Admire the oldest and finest square in Paris whilst tucking into some cheese and baguette!
Square du Vert-Galant
Also located on the river, this beautiful square resembles a small island and is a gorgeous place to have a picnic!
Parc de la Villette
A unique and very modern open space with wide lawns, this place is great for people who enjoy urban parks!
Canal Saint Martin
The new place to be where hipsters and cool young people like to hang out. Sit by the canal and watch the boats go by whilst drinking beer and having a picnic with the youth of Paris.
Top tip for a romantic picnic…
If you’re looking to do something a little more romantic for your partner, why not try out PARIS PICNIC, a Gourmet service offering “farm-fresh picnics delivered to you in memorable spots around Paris. It’s like Paris in a Basket!”
When is the best time to have a picnic?
Big picnic days in Paris are weekends and of course, the 14th of July where the Champ de Mars is transformed into the biggest picnic area you have ever seen! On the weekend, popular parks will always be busy but the atmosphere is so great that I don’t think it affects your experience. Just make sure you go along early to get a good spot.
So there you have it, my top tips on how to enjoy the precious art of Parisian picnics during the summer months. I hope you find my tips useful and enjoy many perfect picnics this year!
Chloe Martin is a professional blogger and faux Parisian based in Paris. Originally from a small English seaside town, Chloe moved to France after graduation armed with a bachelor’s degree in Publishing and English. The 21 year old planned to learn French for a year but after falling in love with the city, she couldn’t leave! Five years later, Chloe knows the city very well and loves giving recommendations, advice and top tips for living in and visiting the Paris. Chloe is a total foodie, an avid reader and a zealous writer. For more information check out her blog at www.mylifelivingabroad.com
For more great ideas on what to do this summer in Paris check out our top 50 ideas.
Brilliant ideas Chloe, thank you so much for putting these great tips together for Mama Loves Paris. If you enjoyed Chloe’s post or found it useful please like it and comment, it would make our day! For more info subscribe to get our posts direct to your inbox through the MLP newsletter. Follow Mama Loves Paris on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest too.
Escapism for you and the kids in Paris