How to Pack a Picnic in Paris like a Local

Location:

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 picnic in Paris.

How to Pack a Picnic in Paris

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.

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.

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

Drinks for a Picnic in Paris

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 picnic in Paris. 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.

Sign up to receive news and updates!

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

14 Comments
  • Rebecca Plotnick
    November 14, 2016

    This looks fabulous! Sign me up for a Parisian picnic when I am back this Spring!

  • Gokul Raj
    November 19, 2016

    Now that sounds like plan and I love it when food goes by it 🙂

  • mark and kate
    November 19, 2016

    Great items to include for a picnic in Paris. Parisians certainly know how to enjoy life and enjoy food like no other I’ve seen thus far.

  • Indrani
    November 19, 2016

    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.

  • Christina
    November 19, 2016

    Croissants, cheese and champagne..Who can resist a picnic in Paris. Paris has so many scenic spots for a picnic too. I’m in!

  • Mindi Hirsch
    November 20, 2016

    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.

  • Toni Broome
    November 20, 2016

    What a beautiful picnic selection. Those cheeses, oh my goodness they really do look too oozy and divine.

  • Kaaya
    November 20, 2016

    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!

  • Fiona Maclean
    November 20, 2016

    I love french cheese and charcuterie – it is just so full of flavour. And the bread is just so good. You forgot the champagne though;)f

  • Trisha Velarmino
    November 21, 2016

    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.

  • Ashna sharma
    November 23, 2016

    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.

  • Our French Oasis
    November 23, 2016

    So happy to have just found your blog, a picnic is always a good idea in any weather, one of our favourite simple activities. So easy with a baguette and cheese x

  • Anita Hendrieka
    November 23, 2016

    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.

  • Annelise
    April 13, 2021

    Your post is great inspiration for a picnic in Paris! Thanks for sharing!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers

Have the world delivered to your inbox
Well, maybe not the whole world, but some of it. Either way, subscribe to my newsletter for news from Paris and wherever else the road takes me.