The picnic in Paris is an art form and has all of the elements that I love. Picnics are about getting together with people you care about, enjoying the outdoors and participating with nature, and of course eating delicious, fresh foods! I adore the open and friendly culture when gathered with friends in the park. The convivialité, as the French say.
Paris is a perfect city for picnics. In fact, the French basically invented the art of picnicking. Right after the French Revolution, the royal parks and gardens across Paris were all opened up to the public. It didn’t take long for picnicking to become a popular past time. Picnics were also a source of inspiration for many of the most famous French painters, including Manet, Monet and Berthe Morisot.
One of my favorite times to picnic is on weeknights as an alternative to going out to dinner. Dining al fresco with the warm evening air is such a great alternative to restaurants, and also saves a lot of money, especially for groups.
In terms of food, French cuisine is quite well suited for picnicking. Fresh baguettes, a wide selection of cheeses and charcuterie, market fresh produce…and of course the wine! I prefer rosé during the summer, and also lighter red wines from Côte du Rhône and the Bourgogne regions, depending on the food and the temperature. Cherries have been in season for a few weeks, and I’ve nibbled on my fair share of wild strawberries already this summer.
Tip: if you are on-the-go and are able to pick up some fresh fruit, you can wash them at one of the public fountains across Paris that provide clean drinking water.
I have a few favorite places to picnic in Paris depending on the season, weather and desired ambiance. Here are some of my pique-nique picks:
Where: Parc Buttes Chaumont
When & for what: On Sunday afternoons during the summer. Sunday = Funday. Once the food runs out, there’s a Sunday evening dance party at Rosa Bonheur in the Parc that’s lots of fun. Or you can sneak down for a walk along the Petite Ceinture, the abandoned train tracks that are now overgrown and a great place to discover some street art along the way.
Where: Canal St-Martin
When & for what: On weeknights, it’s great to sit along the canal for an evening picnic as the sun sets, surrounded by trendy 20- and 30-somethings.
Where: Place des Vosges and Square du Vert Galant.
When & for what: For an evening picnic with mon amour, enjoying some champagne dangling our feet over the Seine and watching the boats pass under Pont Neuf (for Vert Galant), or admiring the beautiful galleries and stately homes (including Victor Hugo’s old house) around Place des Vosges.
And for a couple more tips on how to have a wonderful, easy and chic picnic in Paris: wear something comfortable and fashionable for sitting, and so that you can go with the flow wherever the afternoon or evening takes you.
Bring your sunglasses, something to sit on, and to add a special and romantic touch to your spread, pick up some candles and flowers. An easy option is to pick up votive candles (these can be found at any grocery store) and use extra wine or water cups as candle holders. And of course, don’t forget a wine opener and bring extra plates and cups. A picnic for two can quickly expand into a larger group! Being the holder of a wine opener also makes you quite popular in the jardin…
Picnicking is definitely better in Paris than any other city I’ve lived in, but it’s also very important to plan ahead. Lots of shops and markets close early, and most of the city is closed on Sunday. This is why we always keep a fresh stock of picnic supplies in our apartment in case we decide on an impromptu picnic. Petanque is a great activity to accompany picnicking, and I also just picked up a fun Finnish lawn game called Mölkky.