Every 14th of July, France—and those who partake in French culture—observes an independence day that marked the finale of the French Revolution and the end of the French monarchy. This celebration has brought on the tradition of a parade along the Champs-Elysées, balls hosted by Paris fire stations, concerts at the Eiffel Tower, and, of course, fireworks! Come see what Bastille Day is all about and learn how to celebrate comme les Français.
Bastille day is a French national day that marks the climax of the rebellion against King Louis XVI’s monarchical reign. At the time, the Bastille served as a royal fortress and Louis XVI’s prison for his personal offenders—usually from upper-class society. The storming and eventual siege of the Bastille was organized by common citizens of France; thus, forming the National Guard, which took down the royal military and resulted in the surrender of Louis XVI and the end of the French monarchy.
Fête de la Fédération
On July 14, 1790—one year after the end of the French Revolution—a celebration was held on the Champ de Mars. This event was held to commemorate the national unity achieved during the storming of Bastille (a successful, bloodless battle) and the birth of the French Republic.
Défilé militaire du 14 Juillet
Bastille Day in France, or as the locals call it le quatorze juillet, officially begins at 10 a.m. with French military regiments marching down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. During the parade, soldiers, officers, tanks, horses, and even helicopters make their way down the avenue lined with flags. To join the celebration, simply watch from the sidelines and stay until the parade ends to observe a grand parachute display!
Sur les plages
After the excitement of the parade, kick back and relax before moving on to the evening celebrations. Spend a refreshing afternoon along the Seine. The river’s banks are decked out with parasols, chairs, and palm trees for a resort-like atmosphere. You can sunbathe, stroll, or even take a leisurely pedal boat or canoe ride along the river.
A les musées
Many museums are open (and even free!) on Bastille Day. The go-to is usually the Musée du Louvre, but if you’ve been before, try the Grévin Paris. It is home to over 200 realistic historical and celebrity replicas, all placed in diorama settings, a.k.a. photo ops waiting to happen. If Surrealism is more your thing, visit Espace Dalí and peruse through over 300 Salvador Dalí originals. If you’re traveling with children, or just happen to be an adult with an affinity for fairytales (guilty!), spend the day roaming the sculpture gardens and majestic rooms of the Château de Breteuil, just outside of Paris. The château grounds are home to wax figures of fairytale lore, like Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty.
Profite de la vue
After you’ve had your fill of art, architecture, and fairytale dreams-come-true, head over to a good vantage point near the Eiffel Tower to catch the fireworks show and symphony. The Paris tourism website offers options for the best places to view the show. Our top pick is the Bateaux Mouches, one of a handful of boats that cruise the Seine while you enjoy dinner, drinks, and live entertainment, all before docking across the Eiffel Tower in time for the grand fireworks display. If seafaring isn’t really your jam, you can simply wine and dine on a restaurant terrace along the Seine. OK with crowd-mingling? Celebrate and join the locals and tourists, alike, at the Champ de Mars or in the slightly less crowded Parc de Belleville or the Trocadéro gardens.
Bals de Pompiers
After the grand fireworks finale, you can turn in or you could get ready for the ball! Several Paris fire stations host balls with live music, open dancing, drinks, and more. Profit from entrance fees are used to upkeep the fire stations and improve workplace conditions for their staff. And don’t worry if you forgot to pack a gown, these balls are very casual and a great place to meet locals.