Picnic season is in full swing in Paris. And because nearly everything (eating included) is better when done outdoors, now is the time to take advantage of the city’s best picnic spots. While lunch is often a serious sit-down affair, a Paris picnic in summer is more relaxed. You’ll notice everyone from schoolchildren to businessmen grabbing a sandwich and a spot on the nearest bench to mellow out for a bit.
And while benches and sandwiches are great, pro picnickers prefer to take it to the next level. We want to find the perfect spot. With real grass to sit on (I’ll make exceptions for the right cobblestones), hours to waste, an assortment of delicious things in our picnic basket to sample, and lots of friends to come and go as they please. Oh, and lots of wine.
Many of my more memorable afternoons and evenings in Paris seem to have involved those elements. They often began somewhat spontaneously. Then suddenly, five hours had passed and we’d discussed everything from the latest exhibit at the Pompidou to the rise of bionic cats (my friends are a little weird). But this is what picnics are for. Musing, lounging, making sense, not making sense, and practicing the ever-important art of doing nothing.
Here are a few spots where picnickers of all kinds can find their bliss.
Family picnic: Luxembourg Gardens
Round up your crew and head to one of Paris’ most idyllic public spaces, the Jardin du Luxembourg. While most of the grass is off limits (ah, the French) there is a wide swath on the south side that is a great place to relax on a picnic blanket without getting covered in limestone dust. Enter on rue Auguste Comte for easiest access to this spot. It’s the perfect place for kids. They can sail boats in the central pond, ride ponies, and run on the park’s winding trails until they’re nap-ready.
Access: boulevard Saint-Michel, rue de Vaugirard, rue Guynemer, rue Auguste Comte, rue de Médicis, 5eme and 6eme arrondissements. Metro: Odéon (Lines 4 and 10), Luxembourg (RER B).
Ultra-Parisian picnic: Champ de Mars
Romantics and first-time visitors would do well to set up on the vast Champs de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Make sure to make a pit-stop on rue Cler on your way there for your favorite picnic foods. There’s plenty of grass to spread out on. If you go between sunset and 2am, you can catch the tower sparkling each hour (thanks to 20,000 embedded flash bulbs).
Access: Avenue Gustave Eiffel, Avenue Charles Floquet, Avenue de la Motte-Picquet, Avenue Emile Deschanel, Avenue Elisée Reclus, 7eme arrondissement. Metro: Ecole Militaire (Line 8).
Picnic with a view: Parc de Belleville
As the city’s highest park, this off-the-beaten path refuge has one of Paris’ most breathtaking and best views. The trek to the 20th arrondissement is well worth it, especially if you come in the evening to watch the sun sink behind the Eiffel Tower. The park stays open until 9:30pm during the summer, after which you can grab a drink on the terrasse of nearby bar La Mer à Boire.
Access: rue des Couronnes, rue Piat, rue Julien-Lacroix, rue Jouye-Rouve 20eme arrondissement. Metro: Pyrénées (Line 11) or Belleville (Lines 2 and 11).
Endless picnic: Canal St. Martin
The 4.5 km-long, trendy Canal Saint-Martin provides plenty of space for mellow groups to gather and while away the evening hours, without having to worry about “closing time.” It’s a Parisian picnic spot where picnickers hang out until well into the night, when you can slip into any of the neighborhood’s low-key bars.
Access to canal at various points; we recommend Quai de Jemmapes or Quai de Valmy between rue du Faubourg du Temple and rue de Lancry, 10eme arrondissement. Metro: Republique (Lines 5, 8, 9, 11), Goncourt (Line 11), or Jacques Bonsergent (Line 5).
And Some Other Ideal Picnic Spots:
Parc des Buttes Chaumont
To escape the tourist crowds head to this haven in the north of the City, where locals go to enjoy the good weather and sunny days. This is a large park so there’s plenty of room to roam. Find a great spot perched on the slopes and you can savor views of Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. And if you turned up without picnic supplies but still want to linger for hours and soak up the sun? Rosa Bonheur (2 avenue de la Cascade – 75019 Paris) is great for drinks, tapas and dancing. Better yet, it’s right in the park.
Bassin de la Villette
Another favorite amongst locals. Spend the day at the nearby Parc de la Villette and then stroll over to the Bassin de la Villette. It’s the ideal place to loiter with groups of friends from late afternoon until night.
Place des Vosges
If an elegant picnic is what you’re after, this is your spot. Picnic nestled amongst the finest, most noble Parisian architecture, in the heart of the Marais.
Square du Vert Galant
This beautiful square in the Île de la cité offers a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city. And you can enjoy views of the Seine to boot.
Bois de Vincennes
This is the place for lakes, ponds, waterfalls and 850 hectares of trees. For nature lovers, a perfect way to spend your day is a picnic at this oasis to the West.
The Banks of the Seine River
For a postcard pretty picnic head anywhere along the Seine. Picture perfect and classic for a reason.
The Perfect Picnic Accoutrements and Where to Find Them
Though some think picnic etiquette dictates effort in the kitchen, I disagree. This is no time for slaving away in the kitchen. French people don’t shy away from going store-bought. The perfect Parisian picnic is about one thing: simplicity. A baguette, indulgent accompaniments, a few sweet treats, and some drinks (bien sûr) are all you need for a delicious picnic. C’est simple comme bonjour!
Les petits commerçants: for cheese, charcuterie, wine, salads, butter and more
Make the rounds at les petits commerçants. Stop at the neighborhood cheese shop, a butcher for charcuterie and other deli meats, and wine shops for chilled rosé. And don’t forget French butter! The traiteur will also have things like hearty salads that won’t wilt after a few minutes. Think carotte râpée, salade niçoise, salade de lentilles or even a roast chicken if you fancy a feast. Traiteurs offering international foods will have spreads like hummus, taramasalata, and more. Perfect eaten with a freshly baked baguette.
The local boulangerie: for baguettes, salads, quiche, sandwiches, and pastries
Which brings us to your next stop…the local boulangerie. Here you will find all the sustenance you need for an afternoon/evening of picnicking. You could forgo les petits commerçants, and grab some sandwiches, salads, quiches, a baguette and delectable pastries. You’re set!
The marché – for local, seasonal fruits, crudités, bread, cheese, and more
You’ll find all you need here too, at reasonable prices and likely of exceptional quality. Local, seasonal finds include cheese, bread, charcuterie, seasonal fruits, crudités and more.
The grocery store – for chips, cold drinks and other snacks
Grab some nibbles like chips, cold drinks and affordable wines here. You can get everything you need for a great picnic at the grocery store though it will be more industrially produced compared to what you find at the marché or petits commerçants. You’ll still have a great and delicious time, but try to get at least your bread and pastries from the boulangerie.
Of course, you don’t need to plan a “destination picnic” to enjoy relaxed moments in the outdoors in Paris or to find the perfect picnic spot. A beautiful garden, the city’s hidden squares, green grass, sprawling staircases and winding riverbanks provide perfect places to spontaneously settle in for an unplanned afternoon of time-wasting. And isn’t that what the summer months are all about?
- Live like a local on your next Paris trip with one of these Paris vacation rentals to dream of.
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- More places to lounge or to picnic in from the author: Best Places to Loiter in Paris
- Need ideas on what to do this month? Check out Paris in July for events, exhibits, and more.
Written by Tory Hoen; updated by HiP Paris. Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.