Since the turn of the millenium Parisians and visitors alike have gotten into dinnertime picnicking as a way of enjoying the nonchalant beauty of Paris in spring and summer.
What had previously been isolated Seine-side clusters devoted more to afternoon sunbathing than to evening picnicking, has now developed into a popular ritual whereby, picnickers both French and foreign congregate at various choice setting in the capital.
From May through August, in tune with late sunset and lengthy twilight, the most popular of these settings are:
– on the Champs de Mars by the Eiffel Tower,
– along the right bank of the Seine,
– on the western tip of Ile de la Cité,
– on the eastern tip of Ile Saint Louis,
– Pont des Arts, the pedestrian bridge,
– on the eastern side of Bassin de la Villette (19th arr.),
– in Parc de la Villette (19th arr.), and
– along Canal Saint Martin (10th arr.).
Click on the “View Map” tab to see the location of these various picknicking hotspots.
Peak picnic time at all of these locations is between the hour before and after sunset. Some arrive 6-8 p.m. for the aperitif then move on. After nightfall the average age drops as the emphasis is less on picnicking and more on hanging out.
The most photogenic of the major Paris picnicking sites is the pedestrian bridge called the Pont des Arts, between the French Institute and the Louvre. You have only to look at the surroundings to understand why: the side of the Louvre, the dome of the Institute, the riverbanks and bridges, the Eiffel Tower peeking out beyond the Orsay Museum, the towers and spires on Ile de la Cité, and of course the river itself, Paris’s raison d’être, with its parade of barges and tour boats.
The atmosphere on the Pont des Arts is at its best in June and early July, before vacations reduce the number of locals on the bridge, but it remains a choice picnic spot whenever the weather allows.
Brandon Echkoff and I went to the Pont des Arts one evening in June to catch the pulse of the bridge, as you’ll see in the accompanying audio slide-show. Watch it by clicking on either the “View Video” tab above (video may take 10 seconds to load) or on the Youtube screen below. Enjoy the view.
© 2009, Gary Lee Kraut
Picnicking on the Pont des Arts, audio slide-show
Interviews, text, some photos: Gary Lee Kraut
Audio and most photos: Brandon Eckhoff
Several photos: Jackson Shaw