Picnics in Paris
June 01, 2014
Summer is coming, and for all Parisians one thing immediately comes to mind: picnic season is open. When the sun is out and temperatures are above 25°, several areas in Paris draw many picnickers with their bags full of baguette, cheese and wine. What better way to enjoy Paris than this? Here are some of the best ingredients and places to have your perfect picnic.
Parisianist Fun Fact: the word picnic etymologically comes from 13th century French word “pique” (meaning “take/steal”) and “nic” (meaning “something of no value”). Together it adds up to “stealing something of no value,”which is the essence of a picnic: everyone adds his/her own contribution and everyone happily shares.
To have the perfect Parisian picnic, here are the things that you might want to buy so that you will blend in nicely with the Parisians:
Food: A baguette (without it, there is simply no picnic!), cheese, pâté, dried sausage (saucisson), chips and vegetables such as carrots or radishes. If you want to get really authentic, you can also prepare a pasta salad, a rice salad, a quiche or a North African Tabbouleh (parsley salad).
Drinks: Your best bet would be a bottle of Rosé wine, but beer and fruit juices are always welcome.
Objects: A corkscrew, disposable cutlery, plates and glasses, napkins and a blanket to sit on.
Now, where should the mouthwatering picnic take place?
Here is a selection of top iconic spots for your summer picnic. Why iconic? Because they either offer a view on a symbolic monument in Paris or because they are simply iconic themselves.
Champ de Mars: the large park at the foot of the Eiffel Tower offers a great view on the Iron Lady as well as the Ecole Militaire on the opposite side, built by Louis XV in 1751.
Luxembourg : A 250 year old iconic garden, with beautiful french and english style gardens. The grass is off limits, but you can sit on the many chairs or public benches.
Jardin du Sacré Cœur: The garden in front of the Sarcé Coeur in Montmartre is a perfect picnic spot with a view of Paris. You’ll have to find a place on the eastern side of the park to unfold your blanket though, because the grass in the perspective of the Sacré Coeur is off limits.
Quai de la Tournelle: The best picnic area where you will be able to enjoy a full-on view of Notre Dame Cathedral (not the main façade though) is on the Quai de la Tournelle, on the banks of the Seine next to the famous Tour d’Argent restaurant. Being next to the water is always a local favorite.
Place des Vosges: The first ever square built in Paris by King Henri IV in 1605 now attracts many picnic lovers that gather on the lawns surrounding the statue of King Louis XIII. Quiet and beautiful, a place that reflects the chicness of Paris.
Versailles: Gardens are free except on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays between April and October. This might not be the closest picnic spot, but just thinking that Louis XIV himself used to picnic on the other side of the Grand Canal makes it quite royal!
The purest of picnickers usually tend to privilege a spot next to the water. Here are some of the best places to picnic on the water without needing a bateau (boat).
Quais de Seine: the banks of the Seine (left bank) between the Musée d’Orsay and the Invalides is very animated. Find a place amidst the different activities (sports, games, restaurants) and enjoy the animation and the view!
Square du Vert Galant: Located on the tip of Ile de la Cité island, the Square du Vert Galant offers a nice view of the western side of Paris (Louvre, Pont des Arts, Eiffel Tower). The sunset is also great here.
Quai Saint Bernard: Located in front of the Jardin des Plantes and Jussieu University, this newly built bank may not offer a great view, but the people dancing tango or salsa in the evening will most definitely leave you captivated.
Canal Saint Martin: If you still want to be next to the water, but yet don’t feel the need to have to wave at every tourist boat on the Seine River, the Canal Saint Martin is a great substitute. Between Place de la République and metro station Jaurès is where most of the Parisian bohemians tend to sit down and enjoy their picnic, with guitar and drums as musical background.
Water might be an essential element for Parisian picnickers, but large grassy fields are equally as cherished. Here are some of the parks Parisians like to go to for a good picnic:
Buttes Chaumont: With the large pond and the 30m (98 ft) high island, the steep slopes of the Buttes Chaumont Park welcome a large number of picnic aficionados (fans). Don’t miss the waterfall should you spend some time here.
Quai André Citroen: Located on the southwest corner of Paris, along the Seine, this modern left bank park has a network of canals, fountains, 2 greenhouses and a hot air balloon. It’s also very suitable for kids.
Both the Bois de Boulogne (West) and the Bois de Vincennes (East) / Parc Floral are also very popular spots, especially their fields next to lakes. When you want to feel like you’re in the countryside, this is where to go.
There are other places where you can unfold the blanket. These places are off the beaten path and perfect for small parties of 4-5 people.
Archives Nationales: There is a quiet and almost unknown tiny park in the Archives Nationales (the beautiful building dedicated to housing Paris’ national archives). The grass is off limits, but you can always enjoy the area while sitting on the public benches.
Coulée Verte of the 15th Arrondissement: This former circular railroad track surrounding Paris has been transformed into a park in 15th Arrondissement. The tracks are still visible. Take a walk there before heading to the Park Georges Brassens and start the picnic, although it is possible to start the festivities on the Coulée Verte itself.
Père Lachaise: A picnic in the middle of a cemetery could be considered an odd thing to do, yet the sheer beauty of the Père Lachaise Cemetery, its history and its small green areas make it a great place for a small picnic.
Cité Universitaire: In the south of Paris, this international student residence offers a wide field where anyone can sit and eat.
So there you have it. Perfect places and perfect ingredients to make the perfect Parisian picnic! Have as much fun as you want, because that’s what it’s all about, but make sure you keep the area clean when you leave! So enjoy the picnic season while you can…because it only lasts a couple of months!