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Are you sure you know the drinking laws in France?


There’s so much confusion over the laws about drinking alcohol in France, from the legal drinking age to where and when you can consume alcohol in public in Paris, that I thought it was time to lay it all out for you. Despite the Instagram photos and every misguided “Where to Picnic in Paris” article you’ve read, not only are you not allowed to drink alcohol in public under the age of 18 in France, the City of Paris keeps adding new restrictions to where alcohol can be consumed by anyone in public, including parks and along the Seine. Gone are the days of being able to crack open a bottle of wine anytime and anywhere — as long as you had a corkscrew!

The French government’s official website, Service-Public.fr makes it clear on their page on “Drunkenness-Alcoholism” (translated from the French): “Minors cannot buy or consume alcohol in public places.” 

Furthermore, this notice can be found posted in every establishment that sells or serves alcohol:

alcohol law



The person delivering the drink may require proof from the customer of his or her age, in particular by producing an identity document. It is illegal to offer alcohol free of charge to minors in drinking establishments, shops, or public places. It is illegal to receive minors under the age of 16 in alcoholic beverage establishments who are not accompanied by a parent or a responsible adult.




Not so complicated, right? Except that once upon a time it was legal for 16-year-olds to drink “fermented beverages” such as beer, wine and cider (but not hard liquor). That law changed in March 2009 once the French teenagers discovered the joys of binge drinking. When I was a student in the 90s, only the American and British students were drinking until vomiting, while the French looked at us like we were crazy. But in the past decade, French kids started turning up en masse each weekend in hospitals with alcohol poisoning, or completely trashing public spaces like the Champ de Mars after receiving their Bac, so the authorities have cracked down.

However, when I updated this information on my website’s “Smoking & Drinking” page, ten years later people are still emailing me insisting I’m wrong. Sorry folks. The party is over. If you’re interested in the exact legalese, you can read the detailed laws (and the dates they were changed) of the Public Health Code here: Article L.3342-1, L.3342-3

Places in Paris Where You’re Not Allowed to Drink Alcohol in Public

The laws about where and when you can drink in public in Paris have evolved each year since 2018. The latest directive from the Prefecture de Police Arrêté n°2023-00562, published in April 2023, includes neighborhood-by-neighborhood zones where it’s not legal to drink in public (ie outside of licensed bars and cafés) between 4pm and 7am.

Open Container Laws on Parisian Streets

The 4pm-7am law includes most of central Paris including the Champs de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, a large part of the Marais, Les Halles, the Latin Quarter, the Champs Elysées, Place de la Bastille, the Belleville district, large sections of Montmartre, Place de la Nation, Invalides, and a bunch of smaller outlying neighborhoods rarely visited by tourists. You can see it more clearly on the handy map below. Note that supermarkets and convenience stores in these zones (but not dedicated wine and alcohol shops) are also banned from selling alcohol after 9pm.

Open Container Laws along the Parisian Quays

All alcohol consumption is banned May through October from 4pm-7am along the quays of the Canal St-Martin, Bassin de la Villette, and the Seine River including the Ile St-Louis, Ile de la Cité, the Left Bank from Pont Mirabeau to Pont de Tolbiac, and on the Right Bank from Pont de Bir Hakeim to Pont de Tolbiac. Basically, there’s nowhere on the water within the center of Paris where you can drink alcohol after 4pm. You can still drink in bars and péniches on the Seine as long as you remain on their designated terraces (and obviously drink their alcohol, not yours).

Map of Where You Can’t Drink in Public after 4pm

Here is a handy interactive map, where basically anything shaded is part of the ban from 4pm (municipal parks are included, but not parks run by other authorities such as Luxembourg and Tuileries, which have their own rules against all alcohol).

alcohol restriction map
Zones where alcohol is restricted on the streets in Paris

Picnic Time? It’s Illegal to Consume Alcohol in Parisian Parks

You’ve been dreaming of cracking open a bottle of wine in a Parisian park, but alcohol is banned at all times in all Paris municipal parks and squares, as well as the State-owned parks: Parc de la Villette, Palais-Royal, Tuileries, Jardin des Plantes, Jardin d’Acclimatation and Jardin du Luxembourg. This doesn’t apply to alcohol consumption in licensed bars and cafés found in these parks, but obviously that isn’t the same as meeting up with your friends for a picnic.

Breaking the Law: “But I see people drinking at night all of the time!”

Clearly no one got the memo. But that doesn’t mean the police patrolling the parks and quays won’t visit your picnic to ask that you dispose of your bottles. Because they aren’t the jerks everyone thinks they are, as long as you’re otherwise behaving yourselves and don’t seem drunk, they usually give you a warning on the first pass (try that in the USA), but if they come back an hour later and you’re still sipping your pastis, they will confiscate your alcohol and possibly give you a fine (up to €7500).

I don’t want to encourage anyone to break the law, so the easiest answer is to enjoy the gorgeous scenery with some sparkling water or non-alcoholic mixers. If you’re hell-bent on drinking alcohol anyway, and don’t want to risk the embarrassment of being caught by the police (and the fines), then at least make sure your alcohol isn’t in a glass bottle (wine in a box has improved over the years), and avoid drawing attention to yourselves by keeping it tucked away in a bag. And do I really need to remind you to clean up after yourselves? Judging by the state of the parks and quays in the morning (and the number of rats running around gorging themselves on the leftovers), clearly we can do better. Public trashcans full? You hauled your stuff all the way out there; you can haul it all back to your home to dispose of it properly if needed. Encourage your entourage and neighboring picnickers to do the same. 😉

No Glass Bottles at All

I thought I’d also remind you that all glass bottles, even non-alcoholic beverages in glass bottles, are banned in Parisian parks and along the Seine and Canal St Martin because the broken glass left behind has become a nuisance.

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  • You say, “published on June 24th this year”, but nowhere in your article can I find that year. Could you edit your article to read “published on June 24th, [20XX]”? It would be helpful! Thanks so much for the info!

  • The French government takes a good step Minors cannot buy or drink alcohol at public places. Some people do stupid activities on the public plates after drinking alcohol, which causes people to get upset.

  • I think this is an interesting comment thread. The author is just providing the most up to date legal guidelines, and also offers links to the law itself online. The author also gives some personal anecdotes, which are clearly stated as personal. Yet, people like Domi immediately say, the author is making it seem like young people can't drink alcohol – and comment that they can just not in public. When in fact, the author's first sentence clearly states he providing the law of consuming alcohol, "in public in Paris." I guess people will always see and hear only what they want to see and see, not always what is actually there.

  • Hi Steve,Sorry to rain on your party, but alcoholic drinks have never been allowed in Paris parks (well, not in the past 25 years since I've been living here). There are signs at the entrance to each park that show what you can't do, and you'll see an image of a wine bottle and beer can on there. You can find it in writing on City Hall's Paris.fr website here (in French): https://www.paris.fr/jardins#reglementation-generale-des-parcs-jardins-et-espaces-verts_23There's a link on that page to download the official law, which says in chapter 4, article 8: "La consommation de boissons alcoolisées est interdite" (the consumption of alcoholic beverages is forbidden); it is however allowed if the drinks are sold and consumed within the cafés/bars inside the gardens. But last time I checked the Place des Vosges didn't have a café in it.I'm sure you've been able to get away with it many times, but you should be aware it's not legal and can be confiscated by police.

  • I'm coming late to this thread, sorry.One of our traditions over many years when visiting Paris is a daytime picnic in Place des Voges… bread, cold cuts, cheese, olives and a glass bottle of wine.Is the wine still permitted or not allowed any longer?

  • Hey Domi,Good point! I was going to include somewhere that the law in French actually states "in public" for the underage drinking. What you do behind closed doors in France is another story (so you can't send the kids out to buy your wine and cigarettes for you, but you can give it to them in your own home). The binge-drinking thing…having experienced US universities (like Arizona State) before coming to school in Paris, I can tell you it was certainly a big difference! There were always a few French friends getting hammered, but it wasn't a group sport by any means. And for whatever reason, it didn't result in the high number of hospitalizations of students due to alcohol consumption that we see today. The stats definitely have gone up. So has the trashing of the public spaces after Bac celebrations. Maybe in the 90s we could just hold our alcohol better and cleaned up after ourselves? A voir… 😉

  • Ha you make it sound like teenagers are not allowed to drink alcohol in our country… they are, just not in public places…Also I think you should specify that it's really your personal experience: me and my friends (Frenchies!) were totally binge drinking in the 90s and we were not the only ones, trust me!As for glass bottles since it's between midnight and 7am in Paris – people usually picnic before it gets dark – we can still drink our wine in peace on the quais in summer 😉

  • Hi David, the whole point is to stop the public nuisance of drunken behavior and the garbage/broken glass left behind each night in Paris. Unless this improves, the regulations will keep becoming more strict (as we see already). Of course the police are being selective at the moment, thank goodness for all of us trying to behave. But I HAVE seen them ask people to dispose of their bottles (mostly in parks), so it happens. As for the tripods, that is more heavily enforced in public parks; I've seen wedding photographers asked by municipal parks agents to put their tripods away (unless they have a permit, which is another matter).

  • In practice the public laws against drinking in public in Paris are rarely enforced, and like many other similar laws they are only there to give police officers legal standing when they want to get rid of people who constitue a public nuisance.Another example is tripods:It is in fact illegal to take pictures on a tripod in Paris though truly no cop has ever given me a hard time about doing so. I knew about this before because people told me about it, asking questions about the law though the only time someone told me about that in public was some night when a guy in his mid 20s who appeared to be a law student thought it would be fun to get under my skin. That no tripod law exists only for cases when someone has their tripod legs extended very widely causing people to trip over them. In that use the police can tell them to pack it up and go home and if the photographer refuses, they can arrest him or her…