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With its combination of inspiring outdoor views and great food sellers around most corners, Paris seems custom-built for the perfect picnic. If you’re interested in dining en plein air during your stay, here are five top locations offering picturesque backdrops and a healthy dollop of local flavor.
Champ de Mars: Like Times Square or the Coliseum, locals know to steer clear of the Eiffel Tower during peak hours. Instead they wait for l’heure bleue, or dusk, to picnic on the grassy expanse of the adjoining Champ de Mars. It’s a perfectly Parisian way to chat with friends over charcuterie, foie gras and fresh baguettes as the tower changes color with the sinking sun. Once night falls, revelers are treated to a sparkling light show at the top of each hour via the monument’s 20,000 lightbulbs. Nearby Rue Cler (7th arrondissement) is a great option for picnic provisions.
Place des Vosges: Visitors are often surprised by the amount of off-limits grass in Paris. This royal square in the 4th arrondissement is one of the few exceptions, and the nearby residents take full advantage. Stop along Rue Saint-Antoine for a block of aged comté at Fromagerie Laurent Dubois and a bottle of affordable Bourgogne just two shops down at Caves Saint-Antoine. Find a patch of green at Place des Vosges and carve out your place in the old-world elegance of 17th century pavilions, elegant street lamps and gurgling fountains. Be sure to finish up before dark when the square closes.
Roof of the Galeries Lafayette: Add a touch of haute couture to your picnic by venturing to the 6th floor of the Galeries Lafayette to grab a sandwich or sweet snack, then climbing one more floor to a rooftop observation deck with breathtaking panoramic views of Paris. Pull up a front row seat on one of the outdoor chairs as you gaze down at the grand boulevards and sophisticated architecture of the Opera district. A local tip: don’t miss a hidden view of Sacré Coeur behind you to the far left! Location: The rooftop is accessed via the main store at 40 Boulevard Haussmann.
Banks of the Seine: They say Parisians really “own” their city, and this is most apparent on warm evenings when the quays of the Seine become one big cobblestone living room. Tap into this youthful and convivial buzz by grabbing a savory crêpe and a scoop of Berthillon ice cream on Ile Saint-Louis, then descend one of several staircases to the walkways that surround the area’s two central islands. Dangle your feet inches from the water while taking in sights of Notre Dame, Hotel de Ville, or the lazy parade of river traffic.
Jardin Catherine Labouré: While the trellis walkway and shaded lawns alone are enough to make it a contender, this park’s true picnic potential lies in its proximity to the stunning Grande Épicerie. This gourmet grocery store of the historic Bon Marché is a foodie revelation, with the real potential of transforming your picnic into the best meal you’ll have in Paris. Top off the indulgence with nearby chocolate haven Foucher and a to-go beverage from Coutume, known for the best coffee in the neighborhood (if not the entire city). Located at 9 rue Babylone in the 7th arrondissement.
Lead photo credit : The view from the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette by Corey Frye