If you’re visiting France in July, you can’t miss Bastille Day. Held on July 14, France’s national day is filled with fireworks and parties to honor the turning point of the French Revolution. Check out our guide to learn more about the history of Bastille Day and how to celebrate if you’re in Paris.
What is Bastille Day?
Bastille Day, or la Fête nationale or le Quatorze Julliet in French, is France’s national day, observed on July 14. It commemorates the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution in 1789. Similar to the 4th of July in the United States, Bastille Day is celebrated with fireworks, parades and parties. Almost all of France takes to the street and wherever you go, you’re sure to find festivities to join.
The History of Bastille Day
Bastille Day marks the turning point in the French Revolution. The Bastille was the prison that housed political prisoners and many French citizens who were jailed for arbitrary and unclear reasons. It also held ammunition and gunpowder. It symbolized the absolute power and tyranny of the French monarchy, led at the time by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. On July 14, 1789 the people of Paris stormed the Bastille. Hundreds died, but the event forced the monarchy to take notice of the citizens and the process of changing the nation began.
How to Celebrate Bastille Day
Place de Bastille
There are plenty of options for celebrating Bastille Day in Paris. The festivities begin the night before with public dance parties. Typically, one is held at Place de la Bastille where the old prison once stood. Each year has a different theme and the crowds wear costumes and enjoy live music while they dance into the night and prepare for the celebrations the next day.
In the morning, the largest and oldest military parade in Europe is held on the famous Champs-Élysées. Metro stations will be closed to accommodate the crowds and thousands of military personnel parade the streets for the patriotic and festive event. It lasts for two hours and even the president of France will be in attendance, often along with a famous international guest, usually the president of a different country.
Bals des Pompiers
Bals des Pompiers (Firemen Balls) are also held in the evenings of July 13 and 14. These traditional dances are hosted by local fire stations and are often free, although a donation is recommended. France loves its firefighters and these dances are one of the most popular ways that the French celebrate.
Later in the evening, there will be firework displays across France, the most famous of which is at the Eiffel Tower. Fireworks will be set off at Trocadéro for half an hour, accompanied by a free classical music concert. Spectators can watch the breathtaking show from in front of the Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars.
You don’t have to visit on Bastille Day to enjoy the amazing sights in Paris. If you miss the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, you can still enjoy a unique experience and see the world-famous structure on our Eiffel Tower Night Tour with Champagne on the Seine. Whatever time of year you visit the City of Lights, you’re certain to have a magical time.
I Want More Paris!
- Not sure what to do in Paris? Check out our step-by-step guide about how to do Paris in a Day. If you’d rather let us guide you, check out our Paris tours.
- Parlez-Vous Francais? Learn some of the most important French phrases before your trip to Paris.
- Follow our European adventures on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Then, comment and tell us what you want us to cover next.