Paris and picnics. The two go together like … gooey brie and crusty baguette!
Which also happen to be, of course, essential elements of the Parisian picnic. Along with market-fresh berries and a bottle or two of rosé, naturellement.
So why is Paris such a perfect scene for picnics? It could be that picnics have such history here.
Etymological types aren’t quite sure how the curious word ‘picnic’ came to be. But it was French in origin, and coined in the late 17th century to denote a casual new form of feasting where high-society friends would meet outdoors with their own dish to add to the table. Or grass, as the case might have been.
And then came Impressionism, with Manet and Monet celebrating the dappled delights of en-plein-air dining.
But I also think the delicious synergy is because Paris, the city of extravagant luxuries, is also the city of small pleasures. Of stopping to savour the moment. Which is just what a picnic is about.
Read on for five ultimate Parisian picnic spots …
This summer the legendary hotel has transformed its gorgeous interior garden, the Grand Jardin, into an outdoor eating oasis. Nestle into one of the lattice alcoves, by a row of clipped linden trees, and feast on a wicker basket of exquisite delights. Priced at €250 for two people, reserve by phone: +33 1 43 16 33 74.
Place des Vosges
King Henri IV commissioned this lovely square, in the early seventeenth century, to be a place where Parisians of all walks of life could meet and mingle. The lively plaza was eventually made over into a tranquil park, but the original civic spirit remains, especially in summer, when you’re allowed to laze on the plush lawn, among the shimmering fountains, for as long as you like. Stock up at the nearby gourmet grocery, Maison Plisson (93 Bld Beaumarchais, 75003); and, for treats, at Carette, on the northern edge of Place des Vosges. Note: it’s best in the height of the day, when the sun is overhead.
Square du Vert-Galant
If you prefer a sunset picnic, head to the western tip of Île de la Cité (swinging by Rue de Buci, just to the south, for all your goods), and claim a spot on the cobbled southern banks, legs dangling towards the Seine. Sure, this location might not boast the thick carpet of grass that makes Place des Vosges so inviting, but it makes up for that mild discomfort with a stunning view: look how the setting sun sets the dome of the Institut de France all a-glitter, and throws the lacy ironwork of the Pont des Arts into chic relief. Nibble your berries in the syrupy golden-hour light, then raise your glass of wine to a rosé-hued sunset.
Jardin du Luxembourg
In the south-western corner of this beautiful park, you’ll find an English-style garden, less formal, more rambling, with beehives and an espalier orchard helping to put you into bucolic state of mind. As with Place des Vosges, the lawn just here — the green carpet rolled out between the clipped chestnuts — is open to all in summer (note the sign: ‘pélouse autorisée’). If a spontaneous picnic means you haven’t organised your swag (for the most glamorous spread, stop first at La Grand Épicerie, Le Bon Marché’s ultra-chic food barn), you can always get some takeaway treats at the nearby kiosque à crêpes, or Angelina, which has an outpost by the entry to the Musée du Luxembourg.
Champ de Mars
A picnic by the Eiffel Tower is surely one to tick off the bucket list. It’s great for families (there’s plenty of space for kids to run around, as well as a gorgeous old carrousel) and families-to-be (spot the proposal picnics!). Stock up at Rue Cler, the celebrated market street, before you go.