How to Pack a Perfect Paris Picnic
Leah Walker November 14, 2016

Along with terrace sitting and pétanque, picnicking is a national sport in France, especially in Paris. Much of this tradition goes back to the French Revolution, when the royal gardens and parks became public. Plus, have you seen the size of most Paris apartments? Green spaces in Paris are the living rooms and backyards for Parisians. Picnicking in Paris is much more than throwing a couple of PB&J sandwiches, some Cokes, and a bag of chips into a grocery sack. No, like all things French, there are rules as to how to pack a perfect Paris picnic.

How to Pack a Perfect Paris Picnic

How to Pack a Perfect Paris Picnic by Leah Walker

The best places to have Parisian picnics include parks, gardens, and along the water. Opt for green spaces that actually allow you to step foot on the grass, i.e. not the Tuileries and Luxembourg Garden. Along the Seine is quite nice, as is Canal Saint Martin, if you’d like a view of the water. No matter which setting you choose, you’ll want a blanket. It’s not essential, but makes the experience even more enjoyable. The one I own is water resistant, folds and zips into an easy-to-carry size, and has a handle. A similar one is found here.

I’m down with this picnic set for two. It has basically everything you need: plates, napkins, silverware, cutting board for meats and cheeses, and a cork screw, possibly the most important of all the picnic equipment. It’s small, cleans up easily, and is ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Picnic Supplies

How to Pack a Perfect Paris Picnic by Leah Walker

The Holy Trinity of French picnics includes bread, cheese, meat, and wine. OK, so that’s actually four things and not technically a trinity, but you get the idea. These items are the basic elements for a perfect Paris picnic. Of course, this is France and the variety of bread, cheese, meat, and wine is eternal. It can be down right daunting to choose, but don’t fret. It’s not like you’re choosing the next president or anything. It’s just food.

Bread

How to Pack a Perfect Paris Picnic by Leah Walker

Despite the drop in consumption, bread is as essential as oxygen in France and always part of a Parisian picnic. In my recent article, “The Best Foods to Eat in Paris {and were to find them},” I explain the two main types: baguette de tradition {rustic in appearance} and baguette ordinaire {made only from yeast, salt, and four}. But where to get the best bread? Ask ten Parisians and you’ll get ten different answers. Look for an artisan boulangerie, which means that the bread is made on the premises. Apparently, the bread should produce a crunchy sound when squeezed and be golden brown in appearance. A baguette per two people is probably enough, unless you’re carb loading for the Paris marathon.

Cheese

How to Pack a Perfect Paris Picnic by Leah Walker

The other day I was at my favorite fromagerie picking out a chévre. Surrounded by creamy goodness and enveloped with the distinct smell of fromage, I chatted with the cheese monger. As a Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, he has been awarded with the highest artisan award in the country. With around 1,400 different types of cheeses, it’s helpful to enlist the help of an expert. I walked in looking for a goat cheese and walked out with a Brie. Whether made from cow, goat, or sheep milk, the selection is seemingly endless. Pressed, soft, blue…get a variety. Just be warned. On a sultry summer day, a soft cheese could get messy really quickly. My go-to picnic cheeses include Comté, Crottin de Chavignol, and Brie de Meaux.

Meat

How to Pack a Perfect Paris Picnic by Leah Walker

Charcuterie in France is art, a smorgasbord of savory goodness. And when packing a Paris picnic, the sky is the limit when it comes to protein. Pâtés, terrines, rillettes, boudin, jambon, saucisson, and mousse {yes, meat mousse!} are some options. Within those categories are countless variations of meats, seasonings, and preparation. This is France, so nothing is clear-cut. Perhaps the standard picnic fare is saucisson, which is a dry-cured, fermented pork salami. It packs a flavorful punch and doesn’t need to be kept cold.

What about those who don’t partake in the deliciousness that is pork {or duck or beef}? Consider tuna. I know; canned tuna is an unconventional choice. However, it’s convenient, tasty, and doesn’t need to be kept cold. It’s also a super-healthy choice, if you pick the right one. I’ve discovered a canned tuna called Safe Catch. It’s sustainably caught and is the only tuna brand to test every fish for safe levels of mercury. Made with sashimi-grade wild tuna, there are no additives or fillers in Safe Catch tuna. Eat it straight from the can, put it on top of a green salad, or mix it with some mayonnaise and smear it on to a baguette. Just watch the mayo in warm weather.

Fruits & Vegetables

How to Pack a Perfect Paris Picnic by Leah Walker

The French have an undeniable obsession with fresh. Ask about a market or restaurant, and they will absolutely mention the freshness of the products. Coming from the land of processed foods, it’s a refreshing change. Not only do fruits and vegetables help off set the calorie consumption from the bread, full-fat cheese, and cured meats, but they’re also low maintenance. Just wash and go.

Cherry tomatoes, berries, baby carrots, cucumbers, pears, and cherries are just a few ideas. The key is to pick what’s in season. How do you know what’s in season? Well, you’ll see plenty of the items all over markets and menus. The French are really good about making the most of seasonal fruits and vegetables, many of which are grown around France. Pick up some hummus or a tapenade to go with the veggies

Drink

How to Pack a Perfect Paris Picnic by Leah Walker

It’s impossible to have a perfect Paris picnic with out something to drink. Undeniably, wine is the most popular choice. In the summer, bottles of rosé fill the store shelves and disappear just as quickly. It’s a light, refreshing, and inexpensive choice. Of course, I love rosé from Provence. It’s the birthplace of the pink vin, producing some of the best bottles in the world. {Learn more about rosé wine from Provence.}

When it’s not rosé season {yes, there is an unofficial season for rosé}, look to white wine for something served chilled. I gravitate toward whites from Bourgogne, Alsace, and the Loire Valley. Of course, a nice brut Champagne is always a welcomed addition to a Paris picnic.

Red wine is actually my favorite, but can be quite heavy in the summer. Once the temperature drops, I like a light rouge from Beaujolais made from Gamay grapes and a chilled Pinot Noir from Sancerre. Although Sancerre is most famous for its Sauvignon Blancs, I really enjoy their reds {read more about Loire Valley wines here}. Don’t overlook options for red from Provence, either. Red wines don’t need to be kept cold and pair nicely with the meats and many of the fruits.

Not a wine lover? Don’t fret! Beer is also acceptable, especially on a hot summer day. Kronenbourg, 1664 is the best-selling French beer, and Heineken is everywhere. Enterprising rogue street vendors carry around twelve packs of the Dutch beer, selling individual bottles at a premium price, so make sure to bring your own supply. A bottle of water, either still or sparkling, is also good to have. Once you’ve finished off the bottle, fill it up for free at one of the Wallace Fountains located around the city.

How to Pack a Perfect Paris Picnic by Leah Walker

So, there you have it: How to pack a perfect Paris picnic. However, picnicking in Paris isn’t just about stuffing your gullet with food and swilling wine. Instead, it’s a social tradition, part of the French joie de vivre. With a few key supplies and a picture-perfect setting, the only thing to add are great people, and perhaps busker music playing in the distance.

 

How to Pack a Perfect Paris Picnic by Leah Walker

Note: There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I make a small commission if you make a purchase through my links. It costs you nothing more, but helps keep me stocked in French wine {and a roof over my head}.

Leah Walker

Leah’s a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that’s in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah’s thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don’t extend to speaking French. Yet.

13 Comments

  1. Very thoughtfully packed up picnic packets!
    The greenery patches Paris is so soothing, I hardly explored the gardens there.
    The whole idea of snacking while sight seeing is so good, I wish to go there again.

  2. After living like locals in Lyon earlier this year, we are big fans of France for many reasons but especially the food. Of course we love the fabulous meals, but we also love shopping at markets and making picnics like you describe here. You are definitely inspiring us to plan a return visit sooner than later.

  3. I’ve done it when I was in Paris in last October and my host packed about the same! They don’t joke about their food and I listened ten minutes to a dude in the shop ranting about the freshness of his cucumbers!

  4. They said that If you want to enjoy Paris like a real Parisian, there is no better way than having a picnic. And your post is awesome for people who love to have a picnic in Paris. Your ideas are great on what to prepare for this fun experience.

  5. Hello Leah,
    Its very zestful post and like to see your wonderful picnic. You are a joyful person as I can read your experience here. Paris is one of my favorite place for travel. As I can see in all pictures all testy food and wine its nice idea i will keep it safe. Thank you so much and keep it up.

  6. Oh my gosh, I really shouldn’t have read this so close to lunch time! YUMMY! I really miss the fresh bread in Paris and the gooey cheese, it’s just not the same anywhere else. I think a French picnic should be on everybody’s bucket list.

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