Bastille Day celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison on July 14th, 1789. This marked the beginning of the French Revolution which forced the creation of the modern French Republic. In 1880, July 14th became a national holiday and is now known as Bastille Day, France’s own version of Independence Day.
How to celebrate July 14th in Paris?
Air Show over the Seine:
The day begins with an air show of past and present military planes. The planes will follow the Seine and leave a trail of the French tricolor behind them. Look out for the first jets at around 10:30 am and head to the bridges near the right bank which will give you the best viewing spot. You will be sure to hear them before you see them…
Champs Elysées Military Parade:
Shortly after the flyover ends, at around 11:00 am a military parade will march down the renowned Champs Elysées. The parade will last for around an hour and the marching troops are followed by military motor vehicles and horses.
Francois Hollande will be making an appearance and the parade ends with parachuters jumping out of a helicopter and landing spectacularly on the review stand.
The Champs Elysées will be very busy so get there early to secure your place. Also note that the metro stations along the Champs Elysées will be closed in the morning in preparation for the parade.
Bals des Pompiers/Firemen’s Ball:
On the night of the 13th & 14th July, each district’s fire station hosts a party where residents of the area come together to eat, drink and dance. Be warned that some of the parties can get a tad wild and finish at around 4 am – the pompiers definitely take advantage of this night off work…!
The Eiffel Tower/Champs-de-Mars Grand Finale:
The grand finale of the day is the firework display at the Champ-de-Mars. Many people take picnics and set up camp there from the early afternoon in order to bag the best spot. Before the firework and light show begins at 11:00 pm, there is a show by the Orchestra National de France starting at 9.30 pm. The firework show lasts for around 30 minutes and the sky behind the Eiffel Tower is filled with colour and sparkle. After the display, the Eiffel Tower itself is lit with thousands of sparkles for the grand finale. It really is a fantastic display and one not to be missed if you are in Paris!
People often mispronounce the word ‘Bastille’. It is actually pronounced like ‘bah-stee’, the ‘lle’ becomes a light sounding ‘y’. Give it a go if you want to fit in with the locals!