As soon as sunny days return to Paris, you’ll see picnickers start to pop up on the city’s grassy knolls, like geraniums on balconies. The parks are under attack by city-dwellers, eager to commune with nature after a long winter. A picnic is the perfect way to get a taste of the great outdoors!
Picnics were first popularized in the 19th century in France, during the festivals established by the first Republic. The spirit of the picnic embodies the idea of sharing and conviviality. While picnics were once associated with poor workers, who spent their days toiling in the fields, today, the picnic exemplifies leisure time, especially for city-dwellers. It’s an idea that allows people to take advantage of the beautiful weather and share food with family and friends.
Picnics were once defined by wicker baskets, red-and-white checked tablecloths and a variety of cold salads, but the new Parisian picnic is a completely different story. It’s healthy, gourmet and delicious! Mix seasonal fruits and vegetables into a salad. Bring spring cherries, strawberries, apricots, melon, nectarines and peaches along for dessert. Don’t forget summer tomatoes, cucumbers and rosé (kept cool in the ice box, bien sûr), and if the weather stays nice, you can even keep picnicking well into autumn, with figs, pears and fall peaches.
Here are just a few ideas to help your picnic step out of the ordinary! Combine melon with mozzarella and olive oil, for an interesting play on Caprese salad. A combination of grilled eggplant, hard-boiled eggs and mimolette cheese creates a salad of new and interesting flavors. Cherry tomatoes, carrots and radishes can be dipped in tzatziki or hummus. Also, consider making an apéro cake – a traditional French savory quick bread, filled with ingredients like olives, sundried tomatoes, bacon or cheese. If you’re having a picnic in Paris, give in to the new fad: reed flatware is light and naturally biodegradable, so you can abandon plastic plates and forks once and for all.
Certain parks in the city such as the Luxemburg or the Tuileries don't have much lawn available for picnics and the the Place des Vosges can be unpleasant in the summer when the crowds are fighting it out for some space on the sparse lawn. Localers gives a run-down of the favourite local haunts and hidden spots in and around Paris.
Les Buttes Chaumont
This park is a perennial favourite with the locals, and it's easy to see why it draws the crowds: the magnificent views from its green slopes are unequalled. Created during the late 19th century, the Buttes is atypical in its form and layout: boasting fake cliffs and waterfalls, a suspension bridge and a faux ancient ruin that is raised on a manmade promontory — it draws parallels with theme parks like Disneyland. The park also has some great cafés and bars, particularly the Rosa Bonheur which is found at the top of the park near the entrance to Botzaris Metro station.
Having a picnic on a pedestrian bridge over the Seine is a Parisian rite of passage. At the end of a hot sweltering day there is nowhere better to cool down than by the banks of the Seine. Many Parisians set up shop on the magnificent Pont des Arts, that iconic Parisian foot-bridge which connects the Louvre and the Academie Française. But the real Parisians avoid the crowds by choosing instead to lay their picnic rugs on the equally fabulous but less well-known Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor. This modern footbridge, which resembles the Pont des Arts, has the advantage of being linked to the Tuileries garden, so after a pleasant walk under the shade of the trees, grab a spot on the bridge, watch as the barges pass underneath, and enjoy the glorious sunset.
Jardin d’Anne Frank
The Jardin d'Anne-Franck is a nice little hidden spot of green found right beside the Centre Pompidou in an otherwise very urban area. Inaugurated in 2007 by the Mayor of Paris and the director of the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, this is definitely a recommended oasis of peace for a midday lunch break or picnic.
14 impasse Berthaud, 75003
Le Jardin Francs-Bourgeois-Rosiers
This secret garden in the Marais is well worth the detour providing a perfect hideaway. Once the private gardens of the surrounding Hotel Paticuliers, which were once owned by the French aristocracy, this garden has been open to the public for a number of years but news of its existence has been slow to get out. Unfortunately it's only open from 2pm, which is finally not a bad time at which to take some much-needed respite after your morning shopping. Access is through the courtyard of the Maison de l'Europe.
35-37 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 75004
Métro Saint Paul
Opening hours: 14h à 19h
Bassin de la Villette
A little bit further down from the notoriously trendy Canal-Saint-Martin district, the bassin de la Villette offers a favorably peaceful spot away from the crowds. We would recommend the Quai de la Loire section right beside metro Laumière. During the summer there is the wildly popular free open air cinema that takes place at the nearby Parc de la Villette. Screenings take place from 28 of July to the 28 of August. So after you have suitably eaten your fill make you way to a free screening under the stars.
Quai de la Loire, 75010
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