Remember studying Bastille Day in high school French class? Maybe you never studied French, but even if you did, chances are you’ve forgotten everything by now anyway. Bastille Day, or July 14th, is France’s national holiday. It all goes back to the storming of the Bastille in Paris on July 14, 1789 by revolutionaries, which marked the beginning of the French revolution. But enough with history – you’re coming to Paris and you want to know what to see and where to go out on France’s biggest day of rest.
An oldie but a goodie, the annual July 14th military parade along the Champs-Elysées is the best way to start your Bastille Day festivities. Get out on the streets early to secure a spot with adequate viewing of the various French military regiments, who begin marching around 10am. Choose your place well and you may even catch a glimpse of the French President, who makes his obligatory annual appearance here. Make sure to stick around for the military airshow late morning as well as music and other celebrations.
Where: Avenue des Champs-Elysées
When: From 10am on
A Free Day at the Louvre Museum
After you’ve had a bite to eat, head over to the Louvre Museum, where entry is free for everyone on Bastille Day. You’ll have access to all parts of the museum, with the exception of the temporary exhibition in the Napoleon Hall. [More info]
Metro: Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre
Picnic Near the Eiffel Tower
Once you’ve had your fill of artwork, stop by the nearest deli or supermarket and get all the fixings for a picnic. You’ll need fuel if you plan on seeing the fireworks near the Eiffel Tower – undoubtedly the most popular spot in Paris to do so. But revelers get there early, so if you want to beat the crowds, take the metro to the 16th arrondissement and sit down for a picnic in the vicinity – the Trocadéro gardens, along the Seine or on the Champs de Mars. Then, when the impressive fireworks show begins, you’ll have prime viewing.
Metro: Bir-Hakeim or Trocadéro
Bals des Pompiers
It’s a Paris tradition and one that you should definitely join in on – the Bals des Pompiers are large street parties at the various fire stations around the city. While you may have to pay for entry at some, most are free or ask for a donation. Watch the city’s firefighters dance and be merry, with partying going into the wee hours of the night. [More info]