Bastille Day Festivities in Paris

Happy Bastille Day!

We’ve been talking about France all week at The Jetlag Experience in honor of July 14, 1789, when the bastille (a fortress used as a prison and a symbol of royal tyranny) was stormed by a crowd of fewer than 1,000. Today, the spirit of French nationalism—the spirit of the people—is celebrated each year with gusto. If you ever find yourself in Paris on Bastille Day, you’ll have no problem joining in the revelry! Here’s a look at how Parisians are celebrating.

The Pre-Party

It wouldn’t be enough to have a city-wide holiday for just one day, non? Parisians begin celebrating on the night of the 13th with various bal de pompiers (Fireman’s Balls), some of which continue on to the 14th. These balls are fun, festive, light-hearted events held at firehouses throughout the city. Admission is often donation-based, and is open to tourists. Leave your ballgown at home and don your best sundress for this event! Donations are used to improve the working conditions at the firehouse.

Dancing at the Bastille the night before the holiday is also a Parisian tradition. The bars in this area will be swarmed with revelers, and you can join right in like a local!

The Parade

At 10am on the 14th, the French President hosts a full military parade along the Champs-Elysées. What a sight!! All of Paris comes out and lines the boulevard, then the crowds disperse to celebrate in their various arrondisements (neighborhoods/districts) for the rest of the day and long into the night.

All Day Long

The merriment continues throughout the day in all the ways you can imagine. Day parties line the River Seine and the Canal St. Martin, and local restaurants and bars open their doors so that the patios are full of gaiety and celebration.

It’s also a great day to have some fantastic tourist experiences. The Opéra National de Paris generally hosts a free matinee performance. The Paris quartier d’été festival offers over 100 free or inexpensive performances ranging from the theatre to concerts and even circuses. Many of these are available throughout the summer.


Americans are certainly on board when it comes to a great fireworks display, and the Bastille Day fireworks show at the Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic displays of artillery blast in the world. Think about it…millions of people go to Paris every year to see the Eiffel Tower lit up; imagine its glory with a backdrop of stunning fireworks!


Pretty awesome, right? If you’re ever fortunate enough to be in Paris on Bastille Day, here are some good places to watch the fireworks:

  • Champs de Mars—The long mall fronting the Eiffel Tower will be the busiest area for good reason…it hosts concerts and serves as the town square on this festive night. If you don’t want to be in the thick of it, here are a few other recommendations for you.
  • Parc de Belleville—way out in the 20th, this park on a hill offers sweeping views of the city and its skyline.
  • Place du Trocadero—these gardens afford one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower, but you’ll need to arrive early to get a good spot.
  • Seine Riverboat Cruise—this would be the ultimate romantic gesture, n’est pas? Each night, riverboats host lovely dinner cruises along the Seine. Taking a cruise on the night of the 14th would require some very early reservations, but would be the most spectacular way to enjoy the fireworks display!
  • Montparnasse Tower and the Sacré-Coeur both offer excellent views of Paris, but you’ll need to arrive quite early here as well.


I’m certainly feeling festive after writing all of that! I’m having so much fun talking about one of my very favorite vacation spots with you this week, and I hope you are enjoying these posts as well. The fun doesn’t stop today! The tips will keep on coming, so be sure and subscribe to the blog if you don’t want to miss out.