On the 14th of July each year, France celebrates its national day. While in Western countries, we know it as Bastille Day, in France it is called le 14 Juillet (the 14th of July) or la fête nationale (the national holiday).
France’s most important national holiday celebrates the Storming of the Bastille in 1789, which was a turning point in the French Revolution, which eventually led to the end of the monarchy.
While there are celebrations and festivities held all over the country, it comes with little surprise that the nation’s capital, Paris is jam-packed with activities for all to participate in throughout the day. If you’re celebrating all things France in la ville de l’amour, these are the top options for activities and experiences that can’t be missed!
Watch the Bastille Day Military Parade
Since 1880, every morning on Bastille Day, there has been a military parade that starts at the Arc de Triomphe and travels down the Champs-Elysées to the Place de la Concorde.
Starting at 10am, trumpets and bugles signal the arrival of the President of the French Republic at the Arc de Triomphe. Following that, drums sound as elite units of the French army parade down the Champs-Elysées and military planes soar overhead, spreading blue, red and white coloured smoke.
As the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe, it does get very busy. If you want to see the parade, be sure to get there early – most metro stations and surrounding roads close from 8am – 12 midday.
Take advantage of free openings
Despite being a national holiday, many of Paris’ museums and attractions remain open. While most people in the city cluster around the parade, it makes for a great time to visit popular museums including the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Château de Versailles.
Watch the evening fireworks display
The highlight of the day is the concert and fireworks display at the end of the night. Starting at 9:15pm, there is a free classical concert performed by the Orchestre National de France and the Choir of Radio France at the foot of the Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars. Following the concert (which finishes with the Orchestra playing the French national anthem, Le Marseillaise), there is the spectacular fireworks display. Starting at 11pm, the fireworks display lasts for 35 minutes.
Attend the Fireman’s Ball (Les Bals des Pompiers)
There’s a quirky tradition in Paris where firehouses open their doors to the public on the 13th and 14th of July for their Bals des Pompiers (Firemen’s Ball). These gala’s, which are hosted by the city’s fire stations come complete with disco lights, music, drinks and dancing. Admission fees can vary depending on the station, however, most only ask for a donation at the door, with proceeds going to charity or improving facilities.
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