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Outdoors + Adventure

10 Best Picnic Spots in Europe

Freshly baked bread, artisanal cheeses, a bottle of chilled rosé and a shady spot to nosh alfresco. Nothing says summer like an outdoor picnic, especially when it’s in one of Europe’s prettiest parks. Rachel Beard gives us 10 scenic spots to throw down the blanket, along with the top places to stock up on local treats.

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1

London

Where to picnic: Regent’s Park
Once the hunting ground of Henry VII, this 410-acre park has plenty of stately snacking spots. Cool off by the boating lake, smell the roses (all 30,000 of them) in Queen Mary’s Gardens or set up shop by St John’s Lodge, a private residence with a small public garden accessed by a hidden gate.

What to eat. Where to buy:
Head to nearby Marylebone High Street to pick up your goodies. Shelves are stocked with artisanal cheeses from farmhouses across Europe at La Fromagerie (we love the baked Vacherin du Mont d’Or); there are classic British picnic provisions (Scotch eggs, meat pies) at the Ginger Pig; and La Patisserie Des Reves has mouthwatering pastries. If you’re picnicking on a Sunday, make a beeline for the Marylebone farmers' market for organic juice from Chegworth Valley, honey fudge from Bee Friendly and a crusty loaf from the Old Post Office Bakery.

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2

Budapest

Where to picnic: Margaret Island
Can’t decide whether to lay down a blanket in Buda or Pest? Do it between the two on Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube. It’s completely car free, with a Japanese garden, medieval ruins and a thermal spa.

What to eat. Where to buy:
Start with a trip to the Central Market Hall, a vast three-story neo-gothic building filled with stalls selling classic Hungarian foods like kifli (croissant-shaped bread), lángos (a flat savory donut topped with garlic, sour cream and cheese), kolbász (smoked sausage) and körözött (a cheesy spread flavored with paprika, best served slathered on the kifli). For a sweet treat, grab a thick slice of dobos (a layered cream cake with a burnt sugar topping) from Frohlich Bakery in the Jewish quarter and a bottle of Tokaj, an excellent Hungarian sweet wine, from one of the Bortársaság outlets.

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3

Paris

Where to picnic: Square d’Ajaccio, 7th arrondissement
Sidestep the banks of the Seine and picnic like a Parisian in the Square d’Ajaccio, a secluded spot off the Boulevard des Invalides just north of the Rodin Museum. Pick a patch of grass under an ancient chestnut tree, with a view of the Eiffel Tower.

What to eat. Where to buy:
The lively street food market on Rue Cler sells classic Parisian provisions like cheese from the family-owned La Fermette, cold cuts from Charcuterie Jeusselin and reasonably-priced champagne from Bacchus, a wine shop with a super knowledgeable staff. For sandwiches to go, join the line at Chez Aline, a butcher’s shop that serves huge baguettes stuffed with top quality ham and cheese. You can find fancier fare at Papa Sapiens, a gourmet boutique that sells picnic boxes filled with produce from high-end French artisans like Matthieu & Pauline (who can also arrange delivery for a very lazy lunch).

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4

Rome

Where to picnic: Villa Borghese Gardens
Just off the Piazza del Popolo on the site of a former vineyard, the 17th-century Villa Borghese Gardens provides a quiet refuge for starry-eyed snacking. Lay a blanket for two under a towering pine tree and take a post-picnic stroll around the lake and up to the Galleria Borghese to see sculptures by Bernini and paintings by Titan and Caravaggio.

What to eat. Where to buy:
Put together a Roman banquet with gourmet goods from Franchi, where the counters are piled high with prosciutto, salami, cheese and pastries, and the fridges are stocked with an impressive collection of regional wine. For an authentic Roman snack, grab a slice of pizza bianco (a simple flatbread brushed with oil) from Forno Campo de Fiori. Or you can order a pre-filled wicker basket filled with sandwiches, sweet treats and a flask of coffee from local favorite Gina.

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5

Barcelona

Where to picnic: Parc Ciutadella
Guadi’s Parc Guell is a visual feast for the eyes but Parc Cuitadella has the shady romance. It’s perfectly located between the gothic quarter and the sun-kissed Barceloneta. Kick back under a palm tree by the lake, which has a majestic water fountain that was designed by Catalan architect Josep Fontserè as an homage to Rome’s Trevi fountain.

What to eat. Where to buy:
It may be packed with tourists but La Boqueria, a huge market housed in a Modernist building just off La Ramblas, is where locals and the city’s top chefs go to shop. Fill a basket with classic Catalan cuisine including bacallà salat (dried salted cod), creamy Garrotxa goat cheese and xuxo, sugar coated flaky donut-like treats filled with thick custard. There are plenty of stalls from which to buy chilled cava but beyond the bubbles, you can refresh with a cool glass of horchata from La Valencia, a family-run horchateria that dates back to 1910.

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6

Amsterdam

Where to picnic: Westerpark
On the site of a former gasworks, this hipster enclave is made up of several repurposed industrial buildings that house an art house cinema and a jazz cafe. This being Amsterdam, you’re never far from the water, and this park is no exception. Carve out a spot on one of the sheltered waterfront decks near the shallow ponds.

What to eat. Where to buy:
For a taste of Amsterdam, fill up on Dutch delicacies at De Foodhallen, an indoor market in a former tram depot. We recommend Caulils for farmhouse cheese and BBrood for fresh bread. Head to Van Dobben for the best croquettes (served with mustard mayo) in the city.

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7

Lisbon

Where to picnic: Belem Tower grounds
Shoot the breeze by the Tagus river in the shadow of the Belem Tower, a 16th-century fortress and jumping off point for Portuguese explorers back in the day. The grassy patch opposite the UNESCO World Heritage site is shaded by trees and dotted with benches. Climb to the top of the tower for views of the city before lunch.

What to eat. Where to buy:
Pick up classic Portuguese fare from Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon’s indoor food market. It offers a well-curated selection of food from the city’s best artisan producers including charcuterie from Manteigaria Silva and sardines packed in colorful tins from Conserveira de Lisboa. Pop into the Vini Portugal tasting rooms to find the right bottle of Vinho Verde to complement your meal. And of course, you’ll need dessert. Swing by Pasteis de Belem for a couple of Pasteis de Nata, flakey tarts filled with custard.

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8

Florence

Where to picnic: Boboli Gardens
Across the Arno river from the tourist-trodden piazzas, this gorgeous green park is dotted with Renaissance marble sculptures. Follow in the footsteps of the Medicis, who owned the gardens, and set up by a fountain. You can work off the meal with a hike to Forte Belvedere, which offers eye-popping views of the city.

What to eat. Where to buy:
It’s near impossible to pack a bad picnic in Italy. Keep things simple by grabbing a classic schiacciata (a Florentine take on focaccia filled with salami or cheese) or a slice of hearty pizza topped with thin slices of garlicky potatoes from Forno Sartoni. Supplement the carb loading with fresh fruit and vegetables from Mauro Frutta and pick up a bottle of wine from the surrounding vineyards at I Fratellini.

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9

Berlin

Where to picnic: Volkspark Friedrichshain
This is Berlin’s oldest park, with plenty of space for sunbathing, BBQ-ing, rock climbing, skateboarding and playing beach volleyball. Snag a spot by the fairytale-inspired Märchenbrunnen fountain decorated with sculptures of Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and more. Or head to the top of one of the two ‘bunker mountains’ made from WWII rubble.

What to eat. Where to buy:
A good starting point is the iconic department store KaDeWe, home to Europe’s largest food hall. This labyrinthine emporium stocks sausages from every region in Germany, more than 400 different types of bread (including freshly baked soft pretzels) and the finest schnitzels in town. You can find standout currywurst at the 85-year-old Konnopkei, which pairs perfectly with cold brews from the park’s traditional biergarten, Restaurant Schoenbrunn.

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10

Istanbul

Where to picnic: Gulhane Park
Where else can you picnic on one continent while looking at another? In Istanbul’s Gulhane Park on the European side of the Bosphorus, you can see Asia as you snack on Turkish treats. A grand tree-shaded promenade runs through the park, which once formed the outer garden of Topkapı Palace.

What to eat. Where to buy:
Most street vendors throughout the city sell simet, a sesame-seeded Turkish take on a bagel, which makes an ideal picnic in these parts. They go particularly well with chunks of feta or tulum cheese and slices of cucumber, tomato and olives. At Antre, a charming wood-paneled shop, you’ll find the classic national dessert baklava and nearby La Cave sells great Turkish wine.