I love and I mean LOVE having a picnic in Paris. Between the abundance of good baguettes, cheese, and sandwiches, and the numerous gorgeous parks and gardens around Paris, it feels like Paris was made for picnics!
Plus, restaurants in Paris aren’t generally cheap. While lunch at a café or restaurant can quickly exceed 15 euro per person, you can enjoy a fantastic Parisian picnic for two for around 10 euro total.
I’ve visited Paris 7 times now (including a 3 month stint in college where I was always looking for an economical meal), so I’ve had a lot of experience with picking up a little something here and a little something there, and eating outside at a square or park.
Not only is it a good way to save money, you will also be eating some absolutely delicious food (honestly, Paris is worth visiting almost just for the food), and having a lovely time in the beautiful Parisian outdoors. Definitely a win-win-win.
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Food Options for Your Parisian Picnic
There are many places to get food for a delicious picnic in Paris – here are some different places and items you can consider picking up:
1. Boulangerie Items
Boulangeries (bakeries) can be a great one stop shop for lunch, OR they can lay the groundwork for a delicious spread.
If you want a quick, one-and-done-type lunch, just about every boulangerie carries a variety of sandwiches. You will often see variations of chicken + vegetable sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, or ham + butter sandwiches. If they don’t offer outright, you can ask to turn your sandwich into a panini.
Some boulangeries will also offer quiche, salads, croque monsieurs (a toasted ham and cheese sandwich with béchamel sauce on top) or a pizza-like slice. These are all great takeaway lunch items, and generally cost around 5 euro.
And of course, it’s never a bad time for a pastry in Paris! There are two main categories of pastries: viennoiseries and patisseries.
Viennoiseries are more “bready” and are commonly eaten for breakfast: croissant, pain au chocolat, croissant aux amandes, pain aux raisins, chouquettes, une suisse, une brioche, etc.
Patisseries are more dessert-type items, such as éclairs, Paris-Brest, réligieuse, millefeuille, tartes, etc.
You’d be hard pressed to go wrong with any of these pastries, and you can buy all types all day long. Some of my favorites are the fruit tarts, the millefeuille (lots of super flaky layers interspersed with custard), croissant aux amandes, or a suisse (sometimes also called a pain suisse or a brioche suisse).
Whatever you end up choosing, it will make a great addition to your Parisian picnic.
If you are wanting to create a nice lunch spread (more on that below), you absolutely must start by picking up a baguette from the boulangerie. A great Paris lunch always starts with a baguette!
Lunch for one? You can also ask for a half baguette (a demi-baguette).
2. Grocery Stores
Okay, if you’re going the route of a “lunch spread” instead of a one-and-done sandwich or salad from the boulangerie, we’re going to pick up a few items from the grocery store.
I love doing this, both because you can quickly and easily create a lunch with interesting variety, and because I find it very fascinating to visit grocery stores when I travel internationally. I just really like looking at what types of foods people are eating in their day-to-day lives.
Little grocery stores are all over Paris and you’re usually never more than a few minutes from the closest one. The most common grocery stores are Monoprix, Franprix, or G20. A quick Google search will show you your closest options.
Some Grocery Store Favorites:
This concoction of couscous, vegetables, and herbs tastes so fresh. I like the taboulé orientel, poulet roti (roast chicken) or the taboulé libanaise.
Carrottes rapées are just grated carrots in a marinade. This is a common and popular side dish for a casual meal in France. I like how crisp and flavorful these carrots are!
While French yogurt is delicious, the yogurt drinks are over the top. We drink these all the time in France. You can find YOP brand drinks everywhere, but the Vache a Boire brand is the absolute best. It’s so thick and creamy!
➡️Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
Just about every grocery store in France has one of these fresh orange juice machines in them. For a couple of euro, you can fill up one of the bottles with fresh orange juice that gets fresh squeezed at the press of a button! It’s delicious! (And Matthew wants to point out that the machine is mesmerizing.)
Oh French butter, I love you oh so very, very much. French butter (beurre) is sweeter and saltier than its American counterpart, and some butters have a unique flavor to it as well. Skip the “beurre doux” (unsalted butter) and always, always get the “beurre demi-sel” (salted butter).
Pro tip: If I have a checked bag, I like to pack plastic silverware in my suitcase specifically for these picnics. I usually bring several plastic knives to cut butter and cheese, and spoons for taboulé, yogurt, or shredded carrots.
Pro tip: I love bringing butter home with me – it makes for a great souvenir that I enjoy for the next 2 weeks as I eat toast at home.
No explanation necessary on this one. Just be prepared for the grapes to be seeded!
There are a lot of varieties of high quality deli meats available, if you want to make a sandwich with your baguette.
You absolutely can get cheese at the grocery store and it can be really good cheese! But I think hitting up a fromagerie is such a fun and authentic experience, I highly recommend you go at least once. I’ll go into types of cheese in more depth in the fromagerie section below.
In every grocery store, there is an aisle that is dedicated solely to French cookies! I love getting a sampling of many kinds and have several favorites.
With all of these cookies, I usually buy the off-brand instead of the name brand. If you get the off-brand, most of these packages are between 1-1.50 euro each – not too bad!
These are a fun little dessert for your picnic, but we also always bring a bunch of boxes home with us – they make excellent gifts!
Pro tip: in French, “biscuit” means cookie.
To me, these are the OG French cookies, the most iconic type. A tablette of chocolate is set on a crispy, slightly buttery shortbread cookie. I like the milk chocolate, but I ADORE the white chocolate variety.
These are your standard butter biscuit/cookie. While they are “plain,” I’m a fan!
These are Matthew’s favorite. The cookie is soft and chewy and light-as-air, and there is a strawberry jam-type filling in the center. You can also find raspberry and chocolate flavors.
These cookies are a little more difficult to find, but I have the most success at Franprix. The cookie is buttery and the chocolate filling is similar in texture to ganache. You can also find these in an apricot flavor!
Speculoos are nearly identical to biscoff cookies, which are becoming more and more common in the US (hallelujah!). Since I can get essentially the same thing at home, I technically don’t neeeeeed to eat these in France, but I do anyway because I love these crisp, cinnamon-y cookies!
Palmiers are super flaky and sprinkled with sugar. I think they are delicious! (Though a bit crumbly.)
Hitting up a fromagerie (cheese store) is one of my favorite activities in Paris. Fromageries are not nearly as ubiquitous as, say, boulangeries around Paris, but you can usually find 1-2 in every arrondissement of Paris.
I love the whole experience of buying cheese from fromageries. There are these massive blocks of cheese out in the display sitting next to these cute little single serve rounds. And there’s something about seeing the blocks with sections cut out that just gives this air of authenticity and liveliness to the display.
You can discuss what types of cheese you want with the fromager and maybe sample a small bite of one you are considering. After deciding on the type of cheese, you specify how much you want as they place a large knife on the block of cheese (a little more, a little less, etc).
Then they wrap up your (delicious) selection of cheese in wax paper and you’re ready to go. I recommend you ask them to write the name on the paper to help you remember what you got and which one is which if you get a variety.
If you are buying cheese to bring home, you can also ask them to vacuum seal it. This helps contain the smell and helps preserve the cheese too!
How to Eat Cheese Like a French Person
The French always eat cheese with a crusty baguette, never with crackers. I love ripping off a chunk of baguette and spreading or sticking on a slice of cheese. Heaven!
Types of Cheese
There are several ways to categorize cheese. The first is by what animal it comes from: cow (vache), sheep (brebis), or goat (chevre).
You can also categorize by hardness (dur) or softness (molle).
Or, you can categorize by the strongness of the taste of the cheese (aka how “stinky” it is). You can get a stronger cheese (fort) or a milder cheese (doux).
I personally prefer mostly cow cheeses, though I do enjoy sheep cheese as well. I also tend towards cheeses that are mild to medium strongness, and aren’t too strong (“pas trop fort”). I personally don’t prefer chevre or blue cheeses, and never choose those.
With that introduction, here are some of my favorite French cheeses:
My Favorite Cheeses
- Comté: This cheese is hard, nutty, and salty and is my absolute favorite French cheese.
- Brie: You can’t come to France and not try a really good brie! At a fromagerie, you’ll most often see “brie de meaux” – a type of brie from the city of Meaux that is very soft and creamy.
- Tomme de Savoie: Creamy, nutty and salty. It’s harder than brie but not as hard as comté.
- Cantal: Very mild and hard
- Roblochon: This cheese is soft, similar to brie, but has a stronger flavor. I like it though!
- Camembert: Another classic French cheese. I personally think Camembert has a similar flavor to brie, just stronger. It is fantastic when it’s baked! I love adding some pesto to it.
- Boursin: A super soft, spreadable cheese that is seasoned with garlic and herbs. This cheese is absolutely delicious and pairs perfectly with a baguette. And if you love it, it’s pretty easy to find in the US.
Grocery Store or Fromagerie for Cheese?
You can absolutely get great cheese from a grocery store in France! I do think that for many of the cheeses, the quality is even better at a fromagerie.
However, grocery store cheese is more practical, especially if you are pressed for time, as it is just more accessible. But I think it’s a fun and interesting experience to go to a fromagerie at least once in your Paris itinerary.
I will say, I have never seen Boursin at a fromagerie – so you’ll have to get that at a grocery store.
4. Fruit Stands
At different places around the city, especially on market streets like Rue Cler, you can find fruit stands set up, with particularly fresh fruit offerings. If I happen to pass a stand like this when looking for lunch, I usually stop and grab something, so keep your eyes open!
How to Put it All Together
So, how to put all that information together into a great picnic experience?
Obviously there are many options, but here are some combinations we eat regularly and recommend:
- Sandwich from boulangerie + fruit (if we can find something easily)
- Baguette + butter and/or cheese + fruit
- Baguette + butter and/or cheese + taboulé OR grated carrots
- Taboulé + fruit + biscuit cookies or pastries
Honestly, you won’t go wrong adding dessert to any meal 😉 And, we always add either water, juice, or drinkable yogurt to our meals.
Best Places For Your Picnic in Paris
It’s not hard to figure out where to have your picnic, as there are parks and gardens and squares all over Paris that are absolutely perfect for enjoying an easy outdoor meal. Some of my favorite are:
The Champs de Mars – the green space right in front of the Eiffel Tower. Lounging on the grass while you have a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower is a very romantic activity in Paris.
The Jardin de Luxembourg – A lovely, expansive park in the Latin Quarter with so many great photo spots: reflecting pools, statues everywhere, the beautiful Fountain de Medici, landscaped flower beds, tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds, a historic palace where the French Senate meets, and lots and lots of park chairs to sit on.
The Jardin de Tuileries – Is just adjacent to the Louvre, and runs along the Seine River. From the middle pathway of the garden, you have great views down to the Arc de Triomphe. There are multiple pools and fountains with plenty of park chairs surrounding them, which are good places for your picnic.
Sitting along the banks of the Seine – there are areas where you descend down the stairs to walk right on the banks; you’ll often find locals hanging out and enjoying a meal.
Place des Vosges – this is a great place to have a picnic that is popular with a younger, trendy crowd in Paris.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont or Parc Monceau – These pretty parks are where to have your picnic if you wan to go to more residential gardens, away from the tourists crowds.
Pro tip: It is rare to find a bench on most streets. Your best bet is to find a park or go to the river bank.
Final Thoughts on Crafting the Perfect Parisian Picnic
I hope this guide gives you a lot of confidence to create a great picnic in Paris, from choosing the foods you are going to eat, to finding the best picnic spots in Paris. There are a lot of options, delicious things things to eat, and great parks and gardens to eat them in.
Traveling Around France? Check Out My Other France Articles:
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- Visiting Aix-en-Provence: The City of Fountains
- The Ultimate Guide to Hiking to Calanque d’en Vau
- How to Spend a Day in Menton, France
- Visiting Pont du Gard: An Old Roman Aqueduct
- Is Marseilles Worth Visiting?
- The Strasbourg Christmas Market: A Super Detailed Guide to What to See, Do, Eat, and Buy