Free Paris: Top Five Picnics

The summer weather has finally arrived, and you know what that means – it’s time for a visit to the local market to stock up on the essential French picnic supplies: fresh bread, cheese, charcuterie, a couple of sun-kissed veggies and a bottle of wine.

Choose a destination from the list below, and don’t forget the candles, some sort of musical instrument, and a blanket.

1. Pont des Arts: Spanning the Seine just downstream from Ile de la Cité, this footbridge offers an unbeatable vista of the city’s original core. Before you lies the graceful span of Pont Neuf and the spire of Ste-Chapelle poking above the rooftops, while the Louvre and the Institut de France face off from opposite sides of the river. It doesn’t get much better.

2. Sacré Coeur: It may veer towards the tacky and it’s always humming with crowds fresh off the tour bus, but who cares, everyone still loves Sacré Coeur. The sloping hill that tumbles down from the basilica parvis – one of Paris’ most extraordinary views – is taken over daily by picnickers of all ages, itinerant musicians, and performance artists looking for an audience. Grab some gourmet supplies down below on rue des Martyrs, huff up the hill until you find a patch of green and you’re all set for a fantastic meal.

3. Eiffel Tower: A best Paris picnic list would be nowhere without Paris’ most famous icon. Although the views are less dramatic when sprawled out on the grassy Champ de Mars, it’s still the perfect way to end – or begin – the obligatory visit up to the viewing platforms. The secret here is to take the stairs up instead of the elevator: you’ll work off the calories from that decadent strawberry tart much faster that way. Pick up your supplies at rue Cler, a fifteen-minute walk to the east.

4. Notre Dame: The food around Notre Dame may be mediocre, but the picnic spots sure aren’t. The backside of the cathedral has a few options for riverside lounging, including the eastern tip of the Ile de la Cité (Sq de l’Ile de France), which has the added bonus of being within earshot of the musicians on Pont St-Louis. Tree-shaded Sq Jean XXIII is just across the street, while Promenade Maurice Carême is less busy and particularly convenient: it’s just down the steps on the south side of Notre Dame – perfect for watching the boats pass by.

5. Jardin du Luxembourg: Quintessentially Paris, the Jardin du Luxembourg is the place to watch the city at play. Tennis courts, puppet shows (guignols), pony rides, toy sailboats, and lots of lawn and trees – this is hands down the most enjoyable park in the city. Even cold weather won’t stop Parisians from flocking here to enjoy their lunch break – be it a slice of homemade quiche or a baguette sandwich and buttery pastry from one of the legendary St-Germain bakeries. During the summer, look for the 19th-century orangerie (a greenhouse for growing oranges), which turns into a free art gallery.

Looking for more tips for your next Paris visit? Check out the Free & Frugal Paris app.
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