On the 14th of July every year, the entire city of Paris becomes a hub of celebration and parades for Bastille Day, the French National Day. This is one of the best times of the year to visit this beautiful city, as you will get to experience the festivities in full force. And for that purpose, we’ve written a special guide to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the special events.
Historical Significance of 14th July – Bastille Day is France’s national holiday. However, the significance of this day goes far beyond the boundaries of French history.
Known by the French as le quatorze juillet, Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille on 14 July, 1789, one of the key events of the French Revolution that eventually led to the abolishment of feudalism and absolute monarchy rule in France. Before 1789, France was ruled by King Louis XVI. Towards the end of the 16th century, the country had become plagued by famine, malnutrition, and financial crises due to France’s involvement in multiple wars. While its people suffered, the monarchy remained indifferent to the hardships of the people. During that time, the Bastille was a notorious fortress-prison and stored large caches of ammunition and gunpowder. Above all, the Bastille was also symbolic as the monarchy’s absolute rule, because it was where political dissidents would be locked up and sometimes tortured.
Triggered by the dismissal of a popular minister, the common folk of Paris decided to revolt out of fear that they and the rest of their representatives would suffer further oppression. With the assistance of the French Guard, the Parisians stormed the Bastille 14 July 1789. Exactly 3 weeks later, the monarchy was successfully toppled, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was officially announced. Subsequently, the National Constituent Assembly took over as the government of France. Since then, the 14th July has always been remembered as a triumphant day of freedom and the end of the peoples’ oppression and suffering.
Celebrations and Useful Information
Bastille Day Military Parade – Bastille Day starts off with a massive military parade on Avenue des Champs-Elysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. The parade begins at 10.00 a.m. sharp with the arrival of the President and a fly-past by the Patrouille de France, one of the world’s oldest and most skilled aerobatics team in the world. Get your cameras ready, because one of the grandest sights of parade would be right at the moment where 9 acrobatic jets roar past in a chevron formation leaving a streak of blue, white and red the air!
On the ground, the parade opens with the military cadets of Ecole Polytechnique, Saint Cyr, and Ecole Navale leading the march past in their ceremonial uniforms, followed by the soldiers and motorized vehicles of the Army, Air Force and Navy. The Parade ends with the Paris Fire Brigade, the celebrated firefighters and of Sapeurs-pompiers.
There will be stands and barricades along the procession route, so be sure to head there early for a good spot. Before entering spectator stands, there will be security checks and parade-goers will have to surrender all bulky items, especially their water bottles. So drink sufficient water and prepare some snacks because you’ll be standing there for nearly 2 hours! Have an umbrella or raincoat handy in case it rains, because spectator stands are not sheltered.
Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (Lunch on the Grass)
After the parade, head over to the banks of the Grand Canal and the Versailles Palace gardens for a massive gathering at the Bassin du Fer-à-Cheval. This is the only day where the palace gardens will be open for the public for free. However, only those dressed in white are allowed to enter the Cour des Princes and the Grandes Eaux Musicales (Musical Fountain) area. Visitors are encouraged to dress in white and have picnics on the grounds. All throughout the day, there will be stalls selling specialties and local produce while live music and dance performances liven up the banks of the canal.
After dark, consider heading down to the Champ-de-Mars Park below the Eiffel Tower to watch fireworks bursting from Paris’ most famous sight. The crowds will be immense, so hang on to all your valuables and belongings. Alternatively, any place with a high vantage point or a clear view of the Eiffel Tower would be a good spot to watch the fireworks. Over the years, places like the Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Sacre-Coeur Basilica at Montmarte have become popular spots for the fireworks. Have that bottle of champagne ready at hand, because the fireworks will start around 10.45 p.m. all the way until midnight.
Other Special Events
Other than the parades or festivities, most tourist attractions will still be open on Bastille Day, and admission to the Louvre Museum will be free! All the fire stations in Paris will be open for visiting, with some holding their own celebrations and parties. There will also be open air concerts and dance performances all over Paris with some concert halls doing away with ticket prices on the day itself, so be sure to grab a brochure at the tourism office or check out the official Paris-info website for details!
Moving Around Paris on Bastille Day
Because of the military procession various major roads leading up to the Avenue des Champs-Elysees will be closed, some from the night before, so be sure to check the roads if you’re driving. Also, the Concorde, George V, Charles de Gaulle- Étoile and Champs-Élysées- Clemenceau Metro stations will be closed throughout the parade. However, all other train stations and their train services will continue to run past midnight until 2.00 a.m. to facilitate travelling on this public holiday, so be sure to make full use of them!
Fraser Suites Le Claridge boasts one of the best locations of all hotels in central Paris: right on the Champs-Elysées avenue that sprawls from busy Place de la Concorde to the magnificent Arc de Triomphe. Whether you’re stopping by Paris for work, holiday, or simply relocating, there is no better place for you to enjoy the sights and sounds of Paris.
Catching the Bastille Day Military Parade or the fireworks display? Fraser Suites Le Claridge lets you do it from the comfort of your own apartment. Watch the disciplined cadets of Ecole Polytechnique and Saint-Cyr march past in rank and file, or the French Republican Guard gallop past on their horses right from your balcony overlooking the Avenue des Champs-Elysées!