Parisian Picnics

Pack your picnic basket, and enjoy a warm summer day or evening in Parisian style.


On a recent trip to Paris, a family I knew quite well in the United States was seeking a break from their museum-laden itinerary. It happened to be a gorgeous Sunday, one of the first warm days of spring, and when posed with the question, “What would you normally do on a day like today?” I answered: picnic.

Prepare Your Parisian Picnic

First, we made our way to the Marché Aligre in Bastille. Although there are many wonderful open-air markets to visit in Paris, this one can be one of the most satisfying for visitors. Teeming with produce stands, it spans over three blocks and annexes a covered market, which sells boeuf, oeuf et fromage (meat, eggs and cheese), as well as a marché aux puces, with an array of knickknacks and various oddities. Outside we bought strawberries, tomatoes and other produce to nibble on, then proceeded to the covered market for sliced cold-cuts, cheese and marinated olives.

Next stop: a nearby boulangerie for bread and a few sweets for dessert. Of course, it’s often easier to cruise in and out of a neighborhood grocery store or boulangerie, where everything is in one place; these are fast and convenient options. For the added charm, however, stock up at a nearby marché, and be sure to bring a blanket and a knife (if you’re really thinking ahead, a cutting board and some paper or cloth towels always come in handy). All that’s left is to choose is where to picnic.

Daytime Spots

I took my guests to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont (19th arrondissement, metro Buttes-Chaumont). On warm days it’s flooded with people of all ages. Perched on the hill of Belleville, it is less known as a must-see Paris attraction, but offers a lovely view of the city below. An expansive park, there are a number of playgrounds for children (some at a small cost, most free), and a faux-cliff face topped with a stylized gazebo that overlooks a man-made lake. There are usually a handful of people strumming at guitars and crooning to friends, and lots of small children rolling down hills or chasing one another with sticks broken off from nearby trees.

The Jardin du Luxembourg (6th arrondissement, metro Odéon or Cluny La Sorbonne) is also a lovely place for a picnic. At first glance, it seems forbidden to sit on the carefully manicured grassy areas, however there is one section of the park near the southeast end where this type of lounging is at the very least ignored, if not permissible. The Jardin du Luxembourg offers countless choices for children. One can rent toy sailboats at a fountain near the park’s center, and there’s also an enormous children’s playground to explore.

Champ de Mars (7th arrondissement, metro Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel and École Militaire), situated at the foot of the Eiffel Tower is another relaxing and spacious place for a picnic. The grass is good for sitting and needless to say, the view is breathtaking.

Place des Voges (4th arrondissement, metro Bastille, St-Paul or Chemin Vert), the former residence of Victor Hugo, is also stunning, though often tightly packed, and there is sometimes the bonus of live music emanating from the terrace of a nearby restaurant.

Evening Spots 

During good weather, one of the more popular Parisian activities is to picnic beside a canal, or near the Seine. Saint Martin’s Canal (10th arrondissement, metro Goncourt or République), quaintly captured in the film Amelie, is a very popular stop. On rue de Lancry, one can grab excellent and affordable wine at the Verre Volé, a friendly wine shop that also doubles as a small restaurant. On the opposite bank, there is also the Bar Jemmapes, where one can get excellent beer in plastic cups, which can then be carried to the water’s edge.

Following the canal west, it becomes the Canal d’Ourcq (19th arrondissement, metro Jaurès). Similar to Saint Martin, the Bar Ourcq also offers drinks in plastic cups to go, as well as a range of children’s games and one in particular for adults: pétanque. The best way to explain it is that it looks a lot like bocce ball, but it’s not. A popular French pastime, pétanque involves tossing a small red ball (the cochonnet, or “little pig”) onto a sandy surface, and then two teams take turns throwing larger metal balls at it, trying to place theirs closest. The Bar Ourcq has multiple sets that patrons can borrow, although many players come with their own.

Closer to the center of Paris, Île Saint-Louis (4th arrondissement, metro Pont Marie) is also an attractive place to picnic. Stairs on either side of the island lead down to a bank that is often crowded with people and offers a charming view of the Seine and all its bridges. Farther down the Seine, Pont des Arts, a wood and metal foot bridge near the Louvre, is another evening picnicking place. It’s a mix of young Parisians and travelers, and like Île Saint-Louis, there is a stunning view of the river, as well as of the Louvre and the banks of Saint Germain.

Destinations: Paris

Themes: Urban Endeavors

Activities: Arts and Entertainment, Parks and Playgrounds, Sightseeing, Pubs and Bars

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