The Champs-Elysées hosted Paris’s largest picnic: A photo feature


Around 4,400 Parisians descended on the French capital’s Champs-Élysées on Sunday for a giant picnic on a 216 meter red-and-white checkered blanket, in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe.

Needless to say, it wasn’t spontaneous. Le Grand Pique-Nique de Champs was organized by a committee of businesses aiming to get locals back to the area, which has become primarily a destination for tourists over the past few decades.

Over 240,000 people applied for the tickets, which were free.

Firas Abdullah/Anadolu via Getty Images

Guests, drawn at random from over 240,000 applicants, were treated to free culinary delights—both on the picnic blanket and on long benches that were especially set up—that were provided by nearby restaurants, including the renowned Fouquet’s.

Four picnicers pose for a photograph with baskets of bread.
Food was provided by ‘ephemeral’ restaurants set up by local companies.

Firas Abdullah/Anadolu via Getty Images

While Champs-Élysées gets no shortage of visitors, its composition has changed significantly as real estate values have increased, pricing out shops and cinemas that catered to locals. LVMH for example reportedly paid over €1 billion ($1.08 billion) for the Louis Vuitton flagship store, on the corner of Champs-Élysées and the prestigious Avenue George V.

The front entrance of a Louis Vuitton store, illuminated at night.
Louis Vuitton reportedly spent over $1.1 billion on its flagship store, at a premier location on the avenue.

JULIEN DE ROSA/AFP via Getty Images

Alongside luxury boutiques, lower-price but still tourist-friendly chains like McDonald’s and Disney store have also set up shop.

A model in long white veil exits a McDonald's.
The McDonald’s on Champs-Élysées, which has previously hosted catwalks for Paris Fashion Week

Victor Boyko/Getty Images

Locals have additionally complained about rising crime and antisocial behavior on the avenue, which is on the intersection of several Paris Metro lines. As an iconic, central location, Champs-Élysées was also the site of large scale gilets jaunes protests, which began in 2018.

Smoke fills a street with riot police and police vans in foreground
Champs-Élysées was the site of Gilets-Jaunes protests in 2018.

Pierre Suu/Getty Images

The Grand Pique-Nique was not the first attempt by the organizing committee, Comité Champs-Élysées, to get locals back to the area: in previous years, it has hosted a giant spelling contest and open-air cinema. It also comes as rival European capital London has been trying to expunge its famous Oxford Street of its seemingly ubiquitous American candy and Harry Potter merchandise stores.

The challenge is that there’s only so much that can be done in the face of high property costs, which are squeezing out retailers and food and drink businesses that aren’t highly profitable, or at least large enough to justify a location like Champs Élysées as a loss-leading shop window for their online offering.

Revelers enjoy the picnic under an umbrella.
The weather in Paris held up for the event.

Firas Abdullah/Anadolu via Getty Images

Tourists have money, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the most expensive areas adapt to cater to them. Indeed, the only way authorities and businesses may be able to get local customers back is by hosting more picnics. It’s unlikely Parisians would complain.

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