Last Updated on September 9, 2023 by April | Dreaming in French
Get ready to experience the ultimate celebration of French culture, history, and cuisine – Bastille Day! If you’re in Paris during this time of year, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the festivities than by joining locals as they commemorate one of the most significant events in France’s history. From stunning fireworks displays and lively parades to indulgent food fairs and cultural exhibitions, Bastille Day is an extravaganza that should not be missed.
In this blog post, we’ll show you how to make the most out of your Bastille Day celebrations in Paris – so get ready for a spectacular journey through one of Europe’s most enthralling cities!
What is Bastille Day?
Bastille Day, known in France as La Fête Nationale (French National Day) or Le Quatorze Juillet (July 14th) marks one of France’s most defining moments—the beginning of the French Revolution. On July 14th, 1789, Parisians stormed the Bastille prison in an act of defiance against an oppressive monarchy. This event ignited a series of events leading to sweeping social and political changes within France.
It has become a symbol of unity among the diverse regions and people that constitute modern-day France. From grand parades down Champs-Élysées to vibrant fireworks illuminating city skylines—Bastille Day showcases the essence of French culture: passion, pride, and joie de vivre.
How to celebrate Bastille Day in Paris
If you want to experience the best of Bastille Day in Paris, you have a number of options based on your interests. In addition, no matter where you are in France, there is bound to be a way to celebrate the day, regardless of where you are in the country.
In many larger French cities, you’ll find military parades and firework displays at night. The one thing you’ll notice everywhere in France is the sheer number of French flags!
See the Military Parade in Paris
On Bastille Day, there is a military parade along the Champs Elysees. Since 1880, it has been held annually. It is the longest-running and oldest military parade in the world. A smaller military parade is also held in Toulon and Belfort.
Minute-by-minute description of the parade —
- 10:10 am: The President of France arrives at the Arc de Triomphe at Avenue de Friedland to inspect the troops.
- 10:25 am: A tribute is paid to the President of the France.
- 10:30 am: The opening ceremonies
- 10:44 am: The French acrobatic patrol (Patrouille Acrobatique de France) airplanes fly over
- 10:54 am: The foot troops commence
- 11:36 am: The motorized and mounted troops commence
- 11:51 am: The parade officially ends
- 11:55 am: The President departs
Marvel at the Patrouille de France air display
The Patrouille de France performs traditional air stunts, leaving behind red, blue and white clouds, similar to the Red Arrows in the UK. As part of the Patrouille de France, or PAF, which has been in operation since 1931, nine Alpha jets usually open the military parade in Paris.
Get Free Museum Entry and See Opera Performances
The Louvre museum (the largest art collection in France and the world) is free to visit, along with several other cultural hubs. If you arrive early enough to get yourself some tickets to the Opéra Garnier, there is also a free matinée of an opera at the opera! If you want to get tickets to these events, head to the museums earlier in the day. They’re all popular, and what limited space there is usually fills up quickly.
Enjoy a French Revolution Walking Tour
On Bastille Day, of course, you can learn more about the French Revolution at the actual sites where the events took place! This walking tour takes you to all the important sites, including the Bastille, the guillotines, and the prison where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned.
Have fun at the Fireman’s Ball
It is no secret that the French love their pompiers (firemen). The Paris fire stations hold an open house celebration every year on July 13 and 14. It’s a very popular event, often with long lines, so you should check with your local fire station if there will be any attention paid to crowd size in 2023. There’s dancing, drinking, and plenty of fun.
Bastille Day Firemen’s Balls in Paris —
- Rousseau Station, 21 rue du Jour, 1st Arrondissement, Metro Les Halles
- Sevigne Station, 7-9 rue de Sevigne, 4th Arrondissement, Metro Saint-Paul
- CCL5 Station, 47-59 rue Monge, 5th Arrondissement, Metro Place Monge
- Colombier Station, 11 rue du Vieux Colombier, 6th Arrondissement, Metro Saint-Sulpice
- Blanche Station, 28 rue Blanche, 9th Arrondissement, Metro Trinité d’Estienne d’Orves
- Chaligny Station, 26 rue de Chaligny, 12th Arrondissement, Metro Reuilly Diderot
- Port-Royal Station, 53-55 boulevard Port-Royal, 13th Arrondissement, Metro Les Gobelins
- Massena Station, 37 boulevard Massena, 13th Arrondissement, Metro Porte d’Ivry
- Grenelle Station, 6 place Violet, 15th Arrondissement, Metro Commerce
- Boursault Station, 27 rue Boursault, 17th Arrondissement, Metro Rome
- Montmartre Station, 12 rue Carpeaux, 18th Arrondissement, Metro Guy Moquet
- Bitche Station, 2 place de Bitche, 19th Arrondissement, Metro Crimee
- Menilmontant Station, 47 rue Saint-Fargeau, 20th Arrondissement, Metro Pelleport
Bastille Day Celebration Fireworks
On July 14, a spectacular fireworks display will be set off from the Eiffel Tower. From the Champ de Mars at the base of the tower or the Trocadéro plaza across the river, you can enjoy the fireworks display. The fireworks can also be viewed from Trocadéro in any direction along the Seine River.
The festivities start at around 9:00 PM as people gather in the Champ de Mars for an outdoor music concert. The fireworks start at around 11 PM and last about 35 minutes.
Things to know before visiting France during Bastille Day
What’s Open on Bastille Day
Before visiting France (and Paris) on Bastille Day, you should know that it is a National Holiday, no matter what day of the week it is. Many people get the day off work and banks and the post office close.
It is expected that many supermarkets and French bakeries will operate on reduced hours. For instance, many boulangeries will only open in the morning. As such, if you think you will need anything, plan well in advance.
In July, department stores will be open – including Galeries Lafayette Haussmann, Le Bon Marché, BHV, Carrousel du Louvre, and Printemps – unlike other major French holidays.
We recommend making a reservation at most restaurants. Most grocery stores and other similar services will be open. All government offices, banks, and some museums will be closed.
It is likely that many people will be out celebrating on Bastille Day, so taxis will be impossible to find along the Seine, on the Champs-Elysées, or near the Eiffel Tower in the evening. It will be possible to use the Metro and RER, although Passy, Dupleix, Passy, Ecole Militaire, Iéna, Trocadéro, and La Motte-Piquet-Grenelle stations will be closed at night.