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Where to picnic in Paris, if at all?

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Ingrid Ingrid May 15, 2009 01:50 PM

Hi Chowhounds - My husband and I plan to spend much of our time in Paris (we're headed there next week - yeah!) exploring food shops and markets tasting all the wonderful bread, charcuterie, cheese, pastries, and veggies/fruits that the city has to offer. I have this image/fantasy/daydream of us spending the morning shopping on rue Montorgueil, rue Poncelet, or rue Cler for provisions and then settling down on a picnic blanket to a long, leisurely lunch on the grass in a park somwhere nearby. BUT, a friend who used to live in Paris (many years ago) recently burst my bubble by telling me that Parisians (unlike Americans) don't really picnic on the grass. Many people will eat simple lunches on benches in the park, but not the grass! Is this true? If so, are there any spots where a discrete blanket and picnic won't be looked at as odd or rude? Thanks for your advice.

  1. c
    chochotte Jun 5, 2009 01:53 PM

    - Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
    - Parc Monceau
    - Garden of the Musée Rodin (you have to pay to get in here, though)

    The first two are beautiful parks in the true sense of the word - many Parisian parks are very formal and very well, not very relaxing - lots of gravel pathways, formal flowerbeds, no walking on the grass, etc. These two are much more à l'anglaise i.e. faux-natural landscape gardening with lakes/ponds, beautiful flowers, lots of grass and lots of people on it, but never too many.

    Musée Rodin is well worth a visit in its own right bien sûr, but the garden is, truth be told, my favourite thing about it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: chochotte
      souphie Jun 7, 2009 01:58 AM

      Ditto. Le Parc Montsouris is the other jardin à l'anglaise of Paris. There are also the wonderful parks around town -- Bagatelle, Saint Cloud, Sceaux...

      1. re: souphie
        a
        anneinparis16 Jun 12, 2009 09:36 AM

        I think picnicking at the Bagatelle would be definitely unusual. People certainly do sit on the grass at the Jardins de Ranelagh - I don't remember seeing piccnickers though.. But a picnic on chairs and benches somewhere like the Tuileries would be lovely. We also used to picnic on the dog-free islands (the number of Parisian dogs makes grass picnicking problematic so these dog-free spots are great!) in the Lac Inférieur in the Bois de Boulogne, but there now seems to be a no picnicking rule - not sure how or whether it's policed....And there's a cute little punt to take you across to the islands (for a fee). We avoid the Chalet des Iles - just walk to the left, over the little bridge to the far island. I've even seen people with their cats there - on leads of course!

    2. t
      tmso May 20, 2009 04:35 AM

      The pont des arts was already mentioned, but I have to enthusiastically second it. Also, the place des vosges, the jardin de l'arsenal, and the valée des fleurs in the parc floral. Speaking of this latter, I can't wait for the jazz festival to start.

      1 Reply
      1. re: tmso
        r
        rins May 31, 2009 01:49 AM

        Parc Monceau tops the charts for me. Don't go on weekends or holidays-packed. Enjoy the small pond, the beautiful flowers and the roman-style columns. Sometimes you'll witness pony rides tromping through, or wedding parties. Don't sit next to the outside track or you'll get dizzy watching the runners (small park so you see the same runners 30 times).

        Jardin de Palais Royal is a gem of a spot, not a place to spread a blanket but there are plenty of chairs and benches. This is a beautiful gated garden with rows of trees and a fountain. If you're lucky you will see a Tai Chi class practicing.

      2. h
        haveforkwilltravel May 20, 2009 03:53 AM

        Some of the picnics I've seen are rather extravagant affairs with tables and even flower arrangements and on the grass. Go to rue Cler and then walk over to Avenue Breteuil - the esplanade is filled with picknickers as it is too narrow to play games. On that point avoid Invalides on weekends as it is filled with soccer matches. Also try the Tuilieries just west of the Louvre... Champs de Mars is packed with tourists and drunken teenagers...

        1. purplescout May 19, 2009 10:22 PM

          Two memorable picnics from trips-gone-by:
          1) In front of Sacre Coeur, there are some patches of grass that are perfect for a picnic and for whatever reason, this seems to be an exception to the rule that grass is off-limits. You have a glorious view.
          2) There is a tiny park under (under and sticking out to one side of) Pont Neuf. You can definitely sit beneath the trees on a bench, and it's a lovely place to enjoy your lunch. There is a fabulous charcuterie on Rue Dauphine, just a few blocks away, where you can get provisions. There is some grass in this park, and it's pretty secluded despite the central location, so if you had your heart set on a picnic at ground level, you could probably do it even if the grass is technically off-limits.

          1 Reply
          1. re: purplescout
            Delucacheesemonger May 20, 2009 04:34 AM

            Think you are referring to Place Dauphine at the tip of Isle de Cite on edge away from St Louis, agree completely as perfect place, go there daily to read and when lucky have picnic as well On other side of the bridge, directly across, still on Cite, there is a grassless park with many children which is more crowded but acceptable nonetheless. In through small alley next to jewelry store.

          2. c
            chaussonauxpommes May 18, 2009 11:52 AM

            I often picnic in Paris, sometimes on the ground, other times in the wonderful chairs and benches in most parks. A few spaces not yet mentioned: There are great benches in the shade in the Jardin des Plantes, but a blanket would be strange there. The Vert Gallante park, right on the west peak of the Ile de la Cite, down at water level, is my very favorite spot. You can't have alcohol (though can sit on the grass and can eat) inside the fenced park, but you can sit right on the tip of the island on the stones by the water and eat and drink whatever you like. You can also picnic along much of the Canal st. Martin, though again, the whole blanket spread might be a little unusual. I'm suprised no one has yet mentioned the Pont des Arts. This pedestrian bridge is a very popular picnic/drinking/hang out spot on warm evenings.
            Doing some quick google searches for lists of temporary food markets well leave you with an even better food shopping experience than many of the market streets. My personal favorites are Moufftard (market and street and near Jardin des Plantes), Raspail, and Convention.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chaussonauxpommes
              PhilD May 18, 2009 12:23 PM

              Yes, the Pont des Arts is very good especially early in the evening on towards sundown. It may seem odd to picnic on a bridge, but it is pedestrian and picnics are a tradition here amongst young locals (probably due to the minute apartment which are tricky to entertain in).

            2. h
              hychka May 16, 2009 06:12 PM

              In the last week we picniced in both Bois de Boulonge and Bois de Vincennes. No problems.

              1. o
                Oakglen May 16, 2009 10:25 AM

                You will have no problem in the large park areas. However in the small parks, especially those which abut public buildings, you may get rousted by the guards who usually patrol those areas. And be careful, there are a great many Parisian dogs who chose the grass for other purposes.

                1. s
                  souvenir May 16, 2009 09:11 AM

                  I think your dream of picnic-ing in beautiful gardens is possible, as long as you revise it from sitting on the grass to using the chairs available in many public gardens. Some of my favorite picnic spots are by the fountains in the Tuileries, at the Palais Royal, the Luxembourg Gardens... There are typically 2 types of chairs -- ones that are more upright, and then the slightly lower ones that lean back at an angle (my preference).

                  Hope you have a wonderful time! -sou

                  1. t
                    tuttebene May 16, 2009 08:21 AM

                    Don't know how clean or romantic it would be but what about on the banks of the Seine down below street level? It's all concrete and some locals use it to sun bathe (with clothes). Otherwise, if you're OK with sitting on benches, another good green space would be Place des Vosges. (but if I recall, there were a number of young people just sitting on the grass so it may be allowed here).

                    1. PhilD May 16, 2009 12:19 AM

                      Some of the big formal gardens like Luxembourg or the Tuileries keep people off he grass. My favourite central garden is the Rodin Museum, you have to pay to get in but it is really nice especially if you appreciate sculpture....but I can't remember if you can sit on the grass, I though you could.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: PhilD
                        Beach Chick May 16, 2009 09:50 AM

                        We loved having a picnic at the Musée Rodin in the gardens..funny, I can't remember either if you can sit on the grass..

                      2. j
                        jock May 15, 2009 05:29 PM

                        Buttes Chaumont is one of the most picturesque parks in all of Paris and you can picnic on the grass. Large and uncrowded. Very beautiful. Not too near your shopping streets. But not too long a metro ride from Montorgueil or Poncelet.

                        Parc Monceau is close to Poncelet and you can also picnic on the grass there at least I do it often and never been hassled.

                        1. h
                          hychka May 15, 2009 03:07 PM

                          It's hit or miss, but mostly people are on the grass.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: hychka
                            f
                            f2dat06 May 15, 2009 04:28 PM

                            The Esplanade des Invalides is another one where people commonly set up camp on the grass. My observation is similar to riot grrl in that at many parks the grass is more for viewing than lounging.

                          2. r
                            riot grrrl May 15, 2009 02:57 PM

                            My experience has been that in most parks/gardens, the grass is off limits. I think there are some places where you can sit on the grass, but I've also been chased off the grass in even small parks by the guards (I actually felt kind of bad for them: everyone was breaking the rules and enjoying the first spring day and here's this guy who has to ruin everyone's fun in the sunshine!).
                            However, you can picnic on Champ de Mars, next to the Eiffel Tower! It's not uncommon, every so often I get an invite on Facebook to impromptu, "everyone come picnic on the Champ de Mars" events. Another advantage is that it's not far from rue Cler.
                            Enjoy!

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