As soon as the first bright rays of sun pierce the summer skies, the
rush to find a calm spot to picnic in Paris will be on! Whether it is in a park or on a riverbank, alone or with the family, the city dwellers will in the coming months dedicate themselves to the ritual of a ‘déjeuner sur l’herbe’; if you live here or are just visiting take care, not all the green grass is authorized to picnic on – this is a selected insider trail of the best locations where to spread your table cloth, set down the picnic hamper and rediscover the joy of a pastoral setting in or around the capital.
Parks and Gardens:
A rare hidden gem in the Marais, Les Jardins des Francbourgeois-Rosiers and its labyrinth-like entrance is tucked well away behind the Maison de l’Europe which protects it from the crowds – a late lunch date is required since it doesn’t open until 14h! There is great take-away food in the rue des Rosiers. 35-37 rue des Francs-Bourgeois (IVe).
A stone’s throw from the emblematic store Le Bon Marche, where there is a superb deli market for provisions, is a truly well kept secret – Le Jardin Catherine-Labouré. This lovely garden was formerly the kitchen garden and orchard to the adjacent convent, Les filles de la Charité de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. The many mature fruit trees and large swathes of grass provide all the peace and tranquility needed to imagine you are in the heart of the countryside but to enhance the sensation, close your eyes and listen to the discreet church bell calling the nuns to vespers! 29 rue de Babylone (VIIe).
Le Square Villemin is wedged between avenue de Verdun/rue des Récollets /quai Valmy (Xe) and was also a former Convent. The largest green space in the 10th you’ll find it close by the Gare de L’Est and the yuppie area of canal Saint-Martin. For music lovers there is a bandstand where, if you are in luck, you can catch a performance.
Parc Floral (image by Peter Olson)
For the classique ‘déjeuner sur l’herbe’ Le Parc Floral’s promenade of the Chateau de Vincennes has themed gardens, woodland and charming pavilions. Several ‘buvettes’ are in the vicinity if you have forgotten the picnic. route de la Pyramide (XIIe)
In addition these parks all have fine dedicated green spaces where it is authorized to picnic.
Le Parc André-Citroën, Quai André Citroën (a personal favorite)
Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, 1 rue Botaris (XIXe)
Le Parc Monceau, 35 Boulevard de Courcelles (XVIIe)
Les Jardin Luxembourg, place Edmond Rostand, place André Honnorat, rue Guynemer, rue de Vaugirard (VI)
Riverbank and Outer City spaces:
For another world experience but in the very heart of Paris try L’Ile aux Cygnes which has as its backdrop the Eiffel tower. You can find the access by the Bir-Hakeim bridge. It offers a haven of relief from the buzz of the city with its 11 meters of turf nestling under the vigilant eye of the statue of Liberty. Have a peaceful picnic while observing the moored river houses, the silent to-ing and fro-in under summer skies of the bateaux-mouches on the Seine. Allée des Cygnes (XV)
Waterfall in the Rothschild garden
Follow the Seine a little further up river and discover the Le Parc Rothschild. In the ‘Remains of the day’ atmosphere of landscaped parkland, vast expanses of grassland await your rug and hamper – the prime spot is undoubtedly just before the bright red Japanese-style bridge. Here culminates a succession of magnificent cascades whose water from the nearby river Seine is unfailingly supplied by the ingenious hydraulics system created by the original owner, Edmond de Rothschild. rue des Victoires, Boulogne Billancourt.
Still only a mere 15 minutes from the centre of the city, Le Parc Robinson is where the working-class mingled with the emerging Impressionist movement. Today it is a place to enjoy a picnic while stretching out in a bathing suit under willow trees. A singular experience would be a visit to the ‘Cimetière des Chiens’ just along the same Quai; a fascinating relic of the 19th century. Quai du Docteur Dervaux, Asnières (92)
Isle de Nancy’s jetty
Downriver where the Seine converges with the River L’Oise, a jetty gives you access Wednesdays to Sundays to L’ile Nancy where there is free access by barge to the pretty wooded island of the Barbizon artists fame. 4 Boulevard Nöel-Marc in Andrèsy (78)
For the more mobile of you, wishing to stray further a-field, either visit Le Parc Départmental des Cormailles. While a beacon for professional landscapers, partying with a picnic hamper has also a confirmed place of honour! Avenue Georges-Gosnat, Ivry-sur-Seine (94)
In another register, the Domaine du Château de la Chasse, is a favorite for informal family escapades and botanical buffs alike! Chemin de Montlignon, Bouffémont (95)
Elaine Jarvis is an online and onsite garden consultant.
Get off the beaten track and see more of the best parts of Paris that tripists often miss. Download our self-guided walking trips as pdfs or smartphone apps.