Guinguettes are outdoor restaurants featuring small dance venues (nicknamed after a popular, poor-quality white wine called Guinguet) that originally sprung up on the outskirts of Paris during the 18th century. High taxes in the capital pushed Parisians to seek fun outside the city walls, and guinguettes have remained popular ever since. To this day, people flock to these retro open-air establishments to enjoy festive and convivial atmospheres.
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Below, discover five guinguettes situated just outside of Paris that will dazzle you with their beautiful outdoor settings.
On a long barge (what the French call péniche) overlooking the river Seine, this floating guinguette is a hot spot for a sunny afternoon. You’ll be charmed by the elegant balance between Bohemian and tropical decor, with couches, straw hats and ping pong tables (enjoy a cocktail with your feet in the sand on their summer beach terrace “Polpo Plage”). Designed by young and sought-after architect Laura Gonzalez, it is a relaxed and chic environment. The interior is sophisticated and soothing, the open terrace and high windows bathe the barge in sunlight and lush plants add a jungle-like mood that matches the wicker and rattan furniture.
As the name Polpo suggests, it is a seafood brasserie, so you expect fresh fish and shellfish on the menu.
47 Quai Charles Pasqua, 92300 Levallois-Perret
Chalet de l’Oasis
With its Vichy printed tablecloths and vintage umbrellas, this guinguette takes you back to France in the 1950s. Set in the beautiful Saint-Cloud park, the Chalet de l’Oasis is a little green haven away from the bustle of the city (it’s worth going for a walk to see the gardens designed by famous landscape architect Le Nôtre; there’s an extraordinary view of Paris from the belvedere).
Chalet de l’Oasis wrought iron tables, flowerpots and lights create a beautiful, homely atmosphere. Enjoy a game of pétanque, or relax on one of the deckchairs while admiring the view from the lawn in front of the terrace. It serves bistro-type cuisine – traditional French food sans chichi (the French way of saying simple and unpretentious). On the menu, expect dishes like classic entrecôte (rib steak) with French fries, steak tartare and magret of duck. It will even provide you with picnic baskets if you wish to explore the gardens or find a quiet spot under a tree.
Butte aux chèvres Parc de Saint-Cloud, 92210 Saint-Cloud
If you’re looking for a unique and surprising French experience, dinner in a vineyard should do the trick. Issy Guinguette, located just west of Paris, is a restaurant that’s part of the family-run wine cellar, Chemin des Vignes. Founded in 1912 as an épicerie (small grocery shop), the family later built cellars and even planted their own vines on a slope next to the eatery.
At Issy Guinguette, there is no place for faux pas when it comes to pairing food and wine. Only the best vin is selected to accompany their artisanal cuisine de marché (food made with fresh seasonal products straight from the local market). A traditional guinguette, enjoy its idyllic view of the surrounding vineyards on the terrace shaded by olive and fig trees and be taken back in time to the
113 B Avenue de Verdun, 92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux
A beautifully curated guinguette on the island of Saint-Germain situated in the western outskirts of Paris. Historically a lodge built for Napoleon III, it has kept its ancient charm with its colonial iron structure. However, the updated interior design – with its beautiful white fireplace, floral motifs and vintage furniture – lends a bourgeois country house feel. The main attraction is the huge, shaded terrace overlooking fruit trees and a vegetable garden, and long wooden benches and woven bistro-style chairs with floral and striped cushions add chicness. This is contrasted by rustic tabletops, which are made from rough stone that add a garden-like mise-en-scène.
L’Ile’s menu offers a large choice of starters to share and main courses. On Wednesday evenings, the giant brazier (barbecue) is lit up for their special outdoor events, warming up the terrace as the sun goes down. Indulge in perfectly grilled steak with homemade béarnaise sauce, or share a plate of tasty marinated spare ribs. The outdoor bar also serves drinks and fruity cocktails that are perfect for an apéritif. If you wish to get away from the city and feel like you have gone away for the weekend to the countryside, then look no further, L’Ile is the place to be.
170 Quai de Stalingrad Parc de l’Ile Saint-Germain, 92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux
Chalet des Isles
This charming guinguette, with its chalet-style architecture, never ceases to attract Parisians of all generations. Set on an island hidden within the park of the Bois de Boulogne, you must access it by boat, while you admire the bucolic scenery. Known for its trendy soirées and casual chic ambience, the Chalet des Isles is a hit for relaxing lunches and Sunday brunches. Be sure to book in advance!
Chalet des Isles an ideal place to enjoy a hot summer day on the water, and in winter, its cozy interior transports you to the French Alps with rustic cabin decor – hunting trophies, traditional English club sofas and large wool rugs (the main building was actually an authentic Swiss chalet that had been moved from Berne and rebuilt piece by piece for Empress Eugenie (wife to Napoleon III) during the 19th century!).
Chemin de ceinture du lac inférieur du Bois de Boulogne, 75016 Paris
Text adapted from a version by Nicole Venegas.