The essentials of a summertime French picnic

France, known for its incredible summertime charm, enchants travelers and locals alike with its picturesque landscapes and incredible cuisine. Among the many cherished traditions France upholds, one stands out to us here at Chez Pluie: the art of the summer picnic, an experience that encapsulates relaxation, elegance, and hospitality.

French summer picnic basket

In this blog, we’ll be introducing you to the essentials of creating the perfect French summer picnic, as well as our very favorite must-have picnic items.

But firstly, you’ll need to select all the right food and beverages. Is it really a French picnic without delicious snacks, cheese, and perhaps some French wine? We’re here to tell you, those are essentials.

When it comes to sourcing ingredients for your picnic snacks, consider an adventure to your local marché, or farmers market. These lively centers of local produce and goods offer a variety of fresh and flavorful options that not only bring wonderful tastes to your picnic, but also support the community and promote sustainable food practices.

French farmers market produce

French farmer's market produce

By choosing to buy from your local marché, you’ll discover a beautiful array of fruits, vegetables, artisanal cheeses, freshly baked bread, meats, pastries, sweets and even soaps, lavender, and jewelry. The market is a truly unique experience that creates a hands-on connection to the local food culture and artisanal community.

Another wonderful advantage of shopping the marché is seeing and indulging in the flavors of the season. The produce available is often grown locally and harvested when it is most fresh. In other words, there’s a whole lot of beautiful, fresh food. From cherries to tea and spices to fresh $1 baguettes, you can’t go wrong when choosing for your picnic. Plus, you get to engage directly with the vendors and hear firsthand about the way their goods were grown. This personal connection deepens the appreciation for your picnic ingredients, and also makes for wonderful picnic discussions!

French lavender shop farmer's market

French farmer's market produce

To collect all of these incredible snacks for our picnic, we decided to take a trip to Vaison-la-Romaine, a charming and historic French town in southeastern France, about an hour from the coast. The village, built on Roman ruins, not only holds famous landmarks like its mediaeval town and cathedral, but also hosts this lively marché each week on Tuesdays. 

French farmer's market fruit

French farmer's market honey lavender

Next, you’ll need to find your perfect picnic destination. Places like lookout points, picturesque fields, beaches, and parks make for delightful picnics. 

However, there may also be some things to think about when choosing the perfect spot:

  • Accessibility
  • Practicality
  • Convenience

To begin with, you should consider if you have any guests who will need easy access to the picnic area. If so, you may want to consider a garden picnic. This will make it very convenient for your guests and provide close amenities. In terms of practicality, you should consider what items you’re planning on bringing along. If you have a large number of guests or you’re planning to bring lots of food, consider how you’ll carry everything to your picnic area. If it doesn’t seem possible, move on to the next scenic spot! Lastly, make sure to think about overall convenience, for you and for your guests. Some things to look for are nearby restrooms, pathways, and parking facilities.

And a final tip: Don’t forget to check the weather!

For our picnic, we’ve chosen a lovely spot next to a scenic forest road, overlooking a Provençal vineyard.

French scenic vineyard picnic

French scenic vineyard picnic

However, while it’s enticing to seek out a lovely landscape like the vineyard, there’s also something special and intimate about hosting in your own backyard, not to mention convenient!

Lastly, (and of course our favorite part,) the perfect picnic setup! Some things you may need:

  • Linens and napkins
  • Elegant silverware
  • Antique glassware and wine accessories
  • Centerpieces with floral arrangements
  • And what is any picnic without a beautiful picnic basket!

Now that you’re just about ready to turn your French picnic dreams into a reality, it’s time to decorate.

When styling any setting, whether in your home, your office, your garden, or your picnics, incorporating antiques adds an authentic, aesthetic quality to the atmosphere. Furnishing a French home is often a meaningful lifelong process, as antique décor usually has sentimental value or has been passed down by ancestors. In this way, using antiques is a way to preserve tradition and connect us to the rich culture and history of France in a way that reproductions simply can’t match. You’ll find many antique vendors know exactly when and where their merchandise was made, down to the smallest villages. Furthermore, antiques add charm and nostalgia to the setting, showcasing craftsmanship and attention to detail.

For our vineyard picnic, we’ve decorated with some basic yet elegant antique items. Shop the look below:

French summer vineyard picnic

Provence summer picnic aesthetic

French antique cheese board

Firstly, we’ve chosen this antique French cutting board. Large round cutting boards are a personal favorite of mine, as they’re perfect for styling picnic snacks and make a stylish centerpiece. This board in particular dates from the 1940’s.

Butter imprint design cheese board

We’ve also chosen this small antique French butter mold to use as a smaller serving board/cheese platter, covered by a blown glass cloche cheese dome. The butter mold is from the French alps and has a beautiful hand carved pattern on the reverse side, designed for butter to be spread over the top and then whacked to leave imprints in the butter.

Beautiful French picnic ideas

Antique handmade French bistro glasses

For our glassware, you’ll see a few from our set of antique French bistro wine glasses. This elegant set has a timeless quality that fits with any setting and style. Each is handmade and blown glass, with unique imperfections and bubbles from the glass blowing process.

Chestnut wicker picnic basket

And of course, every picnic needs a basket! For our basket we’ve chosen a woven chestnut wood trug, dating from the 1940’s. Although it was originally used for harvesting wild mushrooms, it makes the perfect picnic basket and adds a lovely touch of French country style to the setting.

Picnic decor inspiration from France

We’ve also chosen a champagne bucket to display, perfect for cooling the wine and adding a touch of elegance to the picnic, as well as some small antique books. 

French antique decor

Finally, for our flowerpot, we’ve chosen a classic antique French confit pot with a rustic yellow glaze. These confit pots originated in southwest France and are wonderful flower vases or additions to antique French pottery collections, as they come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes. 

 French summer picnic inspiration 

Below we’ve also curated a collection of additional favorites from Chez Pluie, carefully selected to give your picnic a French, antique charm.

Although we included some lovely antique French bistro glasses in our vineyard picnic’s Shop the Look, we’d love to show you some more glassware options that we think would be perfect for a Provençal summertime picnic.

Antique french crystal wine glasses

Similar to the bistro glasses, we have a set of twelve antique crystal glasses in perfect condition. If you’re looking to host an elegant garden picnic, this glass set would be the perfect touch.

Silver-plated French wine glasses goblets This set of twelve French silver-plated wine glasses would look beautiful with almost any setting. They date from around the 1950’s and have a rich coloring.

1930's drink service set

Lastly, if you’re hosting a picnic in your own garden, this drink service set is a wonderfully fun way to serve cocktails, juice, tea, etc. It dates the 1930’s and includes 11 glasses, a pitcher, (all with opaque bases and gold stripes,) and a mirrored serving tray.

Also, to have a proper picnic, you may be needing some silverware!

 Antique French silver flatware set

This silver-plated antique French cutlery set, dating from the early twentieth-century, would be a beautiful addition. It comes in its original box from Frionnet François, which makes convenience and display perfect for a picnic. However, this timeless set can truly bring an elegant touch to any setting.

Next, we’ve chosen a small collection of lanterns and candleholders, which are a wonderful touch to a romantic evening picnic.

 French lanterns and candleholders

These gorgeous handmade lanterns have decorative bird lids and perforated walls to allow candlelight through.

Rustic antique French candleholderAntique French candleholder with handle

However if you’re looking for more of a rustic look, perhaps for a farmhouse picnic in the garden, we also have these beautiful antique French candle lanterns in brown and black. Both lanterns date from the nineteenth or early twentieth century. 

Likewise, you can never go wrong with simple candleholders to light the picnic and set the mood.

maritime canldesticks silver

A personal favorite, this pair of silver candlesticks was designed for and used on a ship. The large-footed weighted base makes these candles perfect for balancing on the grass or blankets, as it was meant for balance out on the ocean.

Silver mercury glass candlesticks

Similarly, this pair of stunning blown glass mercury candlesticks is perfect for an outdoor picnic.

Or, if you’re looking for a bit of a rustic design, iron and bronze are always a beautiful choice.

 Bronze candlesticks

Similar to the pair of weighted maritime candlesticks, these seventeenth century bronze candlesticks have wide bases and would be perfect to use out on the grass.

Bronze and iron spiral candlestick

Or, for a very eccentric, rustic look, we also have this timeworn spiraled bronze and iron candlestick, dating from the 1920’s. This antique is incredibly unique and makes a wonderful centerpiece and conversation starter. 

Lastly, we’ve included some more of our favorite pitchers and buckets that are perfect for serving drinks or holding flowers in a beautiful summer picnic.

 Emile Tessier pitcher

For classic, elegant ceramics, Émile Tessier is one of our favorite artisans. Tessier was born in 1887 in Malicorne, Sarthe, (a town in northern France,) and became one of the most renowned ceramists from the area. This pitcher, which would be a gorgeous vase, is very characteristic of his work, with its clean, white coloring and relief details of vertical lines and flowers.

Green pitchers from Aubagne

However, for more summery picnics, it’s also great to use glazed pottery to add a bit of color to the atmosphere. These two glazed terracotta pitchers from Aubagne are perfect water pitchers or vases. They date to the 1960’s or 70’s and have a beautiful deep green coloring.

Champagne buckets also make for beautiful vases or add a wonderful aesthetic element to the picnic. Below are a couple of our favorites at Chez Pluie:

Bistro ice bucket

This elegant silver-plated ice bucket, dating from the 1930’s was used in a bistro as an ice or wine cooler. It has a unique inverted hat shape for the bucket.

 Art Deco ice bucket

This similarly chic Art Deco style ice bucket was made in the 1970’s by Saint Médard. It is silver-plated and perfect for picnicking in style.

Finally, click here to shop Chez Pluie's collection of antique French baskets, perfect for decor, picnicking, or foraging fresh flowers. Below are a couple of our favorites:

Wicker harvest basket

Wicker harvest basket

These wicker baskets are perfect picnic baskets, foraging baskets, or indoor decor items with flowers and garland. 


Now that you’re ready to host the picnic of your dreams, we’ll go through some final FAQ’s!

  1. What should I bring to a picnic?
    • Besides what we’ve showed you to create the perfect picnic setting, (things like a basket, plates, glasses, flatware, and pitchers,) also consider bringing a picnic blanket, napkins, a trash-bag, sunscreen, insect repellent, and some just-in-case items like scissors and an extra dish/glass.
    1. What food should I bring to a picnic?
      • When you’re choosing what to buy for a picnic, our advice is to go with the staple picnic snacks. Things like sandwiches, cookies, fresh fruit, bread, cheese, and salads are always great choices. On the other hand, you can really bring anything you want to a picnic!
      1. What are some fun things to do on a picnic?
        • It’s always fun to bring games along on picnics! Pack a deck of cards or a board game if you think someone might like to use them, or even some musical instruments!
        1. Can I picnic on a public beach or park?
          • The answer to this question greatly depends on the area. After you’ve chosen a couple potential picnic destinations, do some quick research on the area’s regulations on public use, picnicking, open flames, and alcohol consumption on the premises.
          1. How can my picnic be more eco-friendly?
            • In the spirit of sustainability, please avoid single-use plastics! As opposed to disposable napkins, paper plates, and plastic cutlery, consider linens, dishes, and silverware. Not only do these create no waste, but real dishes, glassware, and silver tends to look much more elegant and aesthetic.

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