The art of the pique-nique is one best mastered in Paris, where good bread, cheese and wine linger around every corner. Parks and gardens pocket the city every few blocks, making it easy to set up a spread while your baguette is still warm. While tourists have staked their claim on Montmartre, the Champs de Mars and other guidebook go-tos, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path places where locals lounge on their lunch breaks or for apéro in the evenings; read on for some of our tried-and-true favorite picnic spots in Paris.
Square du Vert-Galant
There are plenty of places to park yourself along the Seine, but some afford better views and vibes than others. This tiny triangle at the edge of Île de la Cité is always bustling, with groups of friends drinking beers and couples smooching in between cigarettes all along the quai. With a view of the Pont des Arts framed by a weeping willow tree, this cobbled corner is one of the most charming places to picnic at any time of day — but dusk is particularly magical, as the bridges light up and the crowd gets livelier as the night goes on.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont
If you pick one place to picnic in Paris, let it be here. Buttes Chaumont is *the* place to go all-out with the curated picnic of your Parisian fantasies — we’re talking fresh baguettes, a creamy chevre and aged comté, some jambon de pays, and a bottle (or two) of rosé. The crowd is largely local, as the park is far enough away from the major tourist attractions. One of the largest green spaces in central Paris, the hilly expanse offers sprawling views over the city, a man-made lake and waterfall, as well as a stunning temple (currently under construction), from which you can catch a glimpse of Sacré-Cœur. If you run out of wine, fear not — head to Rosa Bonheur, a beloved bar perched atop the park, for a drink, some tapas, and perhaps even a little late-night dancing.
Canal Saint Martin
Not far from the Buttes Chaumont, the Canal Saint Martin is the perfect place to tuck into a pastry from the ultra-popular nearby Du Pain et des Idées pâtisserie. With beautiful bridges arcing over the water, the canal — which connects the Canal de l’Ourcq to the Seine — is one of the most popular places in the area to soak up some sun and grab a bite by the water. The banks are lined with bars and cafés (and in the evenings, plenty of young Parisians), as well as one of the coolest, most eclectic bars in Paris: the African-inspired Comptoir Général, where you should head for a coffee or a nightcap post-picnic.
If you’re wandering along the canal in search of greener pastures to spread out for a proper picnic, Jardin Villemin is your best bet. Tucked away towards the back, there’s a patch of grass covered with wildflowers that offers a beautifully bucolic backdrop. This is a particularly choice spot if you’re picnicking with kids; there’s a playground right beside it.
Canal de l’Ourcq
Wander up the Canal Saint Martin and you’ll arrive at the Canal de l’Ourcq. During the summer, the banks are transformed into a “beach,” with imported sand, lounge chairs and pétanque courts. While it’s another fun and laid-back option for picnicking along the water, the real treat here is renting a boat (no license necessary!) and taking your picnic with you as you cruise along the canal.
Place des Vosges
Located in one of Paris’ most charming neighborhoods, this historic 17th century square is the ideal place to sit and snack after an afternoon of window shopping (or as the French call it, lèche-vitrine, aka “window licking”) in the Marais. The oldest formally-planned public square in Paris is now home to groups of young Parisians chowing down on baguette sandwiches, and sunbathers lounging in the grass or reading on benches; there’s no shortage of prime people-watching here, and the pink facades of the surrounding buildings are pretty easy on the eyes as well. Be sure to take some time to wander around the covered archways surrounding the square — there are plenty of restaurants, art galleries and shops here, but the main attraction is the architecture itself.
Jardin du Palais Royal
You’re sure to work up an appetite wandering through the Louvre — and while a stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries is practically required afterwards, the prime picnic spot is actually a few blocks away. After admiring the Daniel Buren sculptures in the courtyard of the Palais Royal, follow the sound of burbling water to the fountain in the back; pull up a chair and dig into whatever feast you’ve brought along (or grab a snack from Café Kitsuné) before meandering through the surrounding covered passageways.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Bordering Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, this sprawling mix of English and French gardens is a haven for tourists and locals alike. With fountains, carousels, sculptures of French female royalty, crêperies, a museum and just about everything else you could think of, this verdant expanse is one of the most idyllic places to enjoy a truly Parisian picnic — ideally on the grass beneath the tree-lined walkways of the Esplanade Gaston Monnerville.