French picnic ideas + food menu

by | Nov 11, 2023 | picnic ideas

The French picnic is a beloved tradition woven into French culture and gastronomy. Let’s discover more about the art of the French picnic, combining delicious food, beautiful settings, and a touch of history for an unforgettable experience.

What is a traditional French picnic? 🇫🇷🧺🥖

A traditional French picnic embodies the art of savoring exquisite food in scenic outdoor settings, celebrating nature and the simple joys of life. It includes:

  • a spread of freshly baked baguettes 🥖
  • an assortment of cheeses 🧀 and charcuterie
  • salads 🥗
  • seasonal fruits 🍇
  • classic French pastries 🥐
  • a selection of beverages, typically featuring local wines 🍷

This tradition emphasizes leisurely enjoyment and conviviality, reflecting the French love for fine cuisine and communal gatherings.

Celebrating the French picnic tradition

Picnicking in France is more than just a meal outdoors; it celebrates life’s simple pleasures. The French picnic tradition encompasses a passion for exquisite food and the joy of gathering in nature or amidst historical surroundings. It’s an opportunity to slow down, savor flavors, and relish the company of friends and family.

french picnic ideas

The tradition of picnicking in France dates back centuries, beginning with aristocratic “fêtes champêtres,” where the elite would enjoy sumptuous outdoor feasts. This practice democratized over time, influenced by the political and cultural shifts of the French Revolution and the rise of the bourgeoisie. The Impressionists, captivated by the beauty of these gatherings, further immortalized picnics in their art, showcasing them as idyllic, leisurely pursuits.

Learn more: What Is a Picnic: The Origin, Meaning, and Definition

Choosing your picnic ensemble: from baskets to blankets

The selection of the correct French picnic basket is crucial. While traditional wicker baskets exude charm, modern picnic backpacks offer practicality and ease, especially for locations that are a bit off the beaten path. Your choice should balance aesthetics with functionality, ensuring ample space for food, drinks, and utensils. Complement your basket with a comfortable, stylish blanket and perhaps some cushions for luxury.

For example, a traditional wicker picnic basket and portable picnic wine table, available on Amazon, is an excellent choice.

Creating the perfect French picnic menu

The heart of a French picnic is its menu.

french picnic food menu

Here are some essentials:

1. Baguette🥖. No French picnic is complete without a freshly baked baguette from your local boulangerie. Its crispy crust and soft interior make it the perfect accompaniment to every component of your meal. The baguette is a beloved staple in French picnicking, whether it’s spread with creamy butter, used to mop up flavorful juices, or enjoyed on its own.

2. Cheese 🧀. The variety of French cheeses is vast, and a picnic offers the perfect opportunity to sample this richness. From the creamy, mild Brie to the distinctly sharp and crumbly Roquefort, each cheese brings its unique texture and flavor to the table. Consider including a soft cheese like Camembert, a firm Comté, and perhaps a tangy goat cheese for a well-rounded selection.

3. Charcuterie. A selection of cured meats is essential for adding a savory depth to your picnic. Classic choices like thinly sliced saucisson, rich and flavorful pâté, and delicate slices of ham are delicious and easy to eat outdoors. These meats pair wonderfully with the crispness of the baguette and the richness of the cheeses.

4. Salads 🥗. Refreshing and light, salads are a must for balancing the heavier elements of a picnic. A traditional French potato salad dressed in a vinaigrette rather than mayo offers a delightful tang. Salade niçoise, combined with tuna, olives, and anchovies, is a flavorful option that pays homage to the cuisine of Southern France. Find the best easy picnic salads here.

5. Fruits 🍇. The sweetness of fresh fruits perfectly counterbalances the picnic’s savory flavors. Grapes, strawberries, and the regionally beloved Charentais melon are excellent choices. These fruits add a burst of freshness to your meal and serve as a light and healthy dessert option.

6. Desserts 🍰. To end your picnic on a sweet note, include classic French pastries. Éclairs filled with rich cream, delicate macarons in various flavors, and buttery madeleines are delicious and quintessentially French. These desserts from a local patisserie will add an elegant finish to your meal and delight your guests. Find the best 20 best picnic desserts of all time.

Beverage selection for the French picnic 🇫🇷

Incorporating a range of beverages, from traditional French wines and champagne to local artisanal drinks and homemade refreshments, ensures that your French picnic is a well-rounded and enjoyable experience for everyone.

French drinks

The key is to offer a diverse selection that complements the food and caters to all tastes, making the picnic a memorable gastronomic event.

1. Wine 🍷 and champagne 🍾. Wine is integral to the French picnic, reflecting the country’s rich vinicultural heritage. A crisp, chilled white wine like a Chardonnay or a light red such as Pinot Noir can beautifully complement the variety of flavors in your picnic. Champagne adds a celebratory touch, perfect for special occasions or elevating the picnic experience. When selecting wine or champagne, consider the food pairings to ensure a harmonious blend of flavors.

2. Local craft beverages. France’s regional diversity extends to its beverages. Exploring local craft drinks can add a unique and authentic touch to your picnic. This could be a local cider in Normandy, a refreshing Pastis in the South of France, or artisanal lemonades and sodas from small-scale producers. These beverages support local businesses and introduce you and your guests to the distinct tastes of different French regions.

3. Refreshing homemade drinks. For a more personalized touch, homemade drinks can be refreshing and delightful. Consider classic French lemonade made with freshly squeezed lemons 🍋, a touch of sugar, and sparkling water. Infused waters with combinations like cucumber-mint or strawberry-basil offer a healthy and hydrating option. Try a lavender or rosemary-infused lemonade for a non-alcoholic twist on traditional French flavors.

4. Non-alcoholic options 🧃. It’s essential to cater to all guests, including those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages. Sparkling water, iced herbal teas, and fruit juices are excellent choices. Offering various non-alcoholic options ensures everyone at your picnic can enjoy a refreshing drink that suits their tastes and preferences.

Preparation and presentation: How you present and serve your beverages is as important as their selection. Use glassware appropriate for the drinks – wine glasses, flutes for champagne, and perhaps mason jars or highball glasses for homemade concoctions. Serving drinks in the right glassware not only enhances the drinking experience but also adds an element of sophistication to your picnic.

Learn more: The Best Picnic Drinks: Delicious Recipes.

A Parisian picnic: elegance and sophistication

A Parisian picnic epitomizes elegance. Choose a picturesque spot like the banks of the Seine or a charming park. Elevate your picnic with sophisticated tableware, fine linens, and fresh flowers. A Parisian picnic is an opportunity to dress up, embrace the city’s beauty, and indulge in high-quality, gourmet offerings.

Picnicking with pets: a family affair

Including pets in your picnic can add joy to the experience. Choose pet-friendly locations and bring essentials for your furry friends, such as water, snacks, and toys. Remember to respect other picnickers and the environment by controlling your pet and cleaning up after them.

Mastering the art of the French picnic

Embracing the French picnic tradition is about more than just food; it’s about creating an atmosphere of relaxation, joy, and cultural appreciation. Whether a simple affair or an elaborate setup, the essence lies in the details and the spirit of sharing. A French picnic is a delightful way to celebrate the art of living, combining the pleasures of gastronomy with the beauty of the outdoors.


What is a charcuterie picnic?

A charcuterie picnic features a spread of cured meats, cheeses, and accompaniments, ideal for outdoor gatherings. It’s a delicious assortment of meats, cheeses, fruits, and more, perfect for a casual outdoor feast.

Can I host a French picnic in a public park?

Absolutely! Public parks are ideal for French picnics. Just make sure to check local regulations regarding alcohol consumption and waste disposal. Some parks may require permits for larger gatherings, so it’s best to confirm beforehand.

What are some kid-friendly foods for a French picnic?

For kids, consider more straightforward cheeses like mild Brie or Gouda, and add finger foods like mini quiches, fruit skewers, and ham and cheese sandwiches. Desserts could include chocolate croissants or fruit tarts, usually a hit with younger picnickers.

How can I keep food at the right temperature during a French picnic?

Use insulated bags or coolers for items that need to stay chilled, like cheeses and charcuterie. For hot items, a thermos or insulated casserole carrier works well. Ice packs are essential for keeping things cool, especially on warmer days.

Are there any vegetarian options for a French picnic?

Certainly! French picnics can easily cater to vegetarians. Options include a variety of cheeses, baguettes, vegetable tarts (like ratatouille tart), a selection of olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and salads like tabbouleh or a green salad with a French vinaigrette.

Find Best 20+1 Vegetarian Picnic Food Ideas

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