The celebration of French culture known as Bastille Day will unfurl with great fanfare on July 14.
The historical significance of Bastille Day is to honor July 14, 1789 when revolutionaries in Paris revolted against the absolute Bourbon monarchy by storming the fortress and prison known as the Bastille. The Bastille symbolized the harsh treatment meted out by the monarchy. This uprising was the spark that ignited the French Revolution and led to the birth of the Republic of France.
In 1880, the French politician Benjamin Raspail proposed that July 14 be designated a national holiday. (His father, François-Vincent Raspail, was a chemist and naturalist for whom the longest boulevard in Paris, and, in turn, the Marché Raspail were named.)
In Paris, La Fête Nationale (the National Celebration)—or, as the French more commonly refer to it, Le quatorze juillet (July 14)—begins with a military parade. It starts at the Arc de Triomphe and continues along the avenue des Champs-Élysées to place de la Concorde.
The French president presides, reviewing the troops in the company of other political leaders. Cadets from the military schools, the French Navy, and the French Foreign Legion march down the broad Champs-Élysées, followed by troops on horseback and motorbikes. The most exciting part is when military aircraft thunder overhead. Planes fly in tight formation as if measuring tape stretches from one wing to the next. Thousands of spectators line the streets cheering or gazing awestruck as the aircrafts’ snub noses pierce the sky.
In the afternoon, many people take to the streets in their dancing shoes. Fire Department Balls take place throughout the city. Come nighttime, spectacular fireworks light up the sky. The classic viewing spot is near the Eiffel Tower on the Champs de Mars or by Trocadéro.
It’s a picture-perfect opportunity for shots of the iconic tower illuminated from behind. Another way to admire the spectacle is by taking a cruise on the Seine. Or stand atop one of the bridges crossing the Seine near the Eiffel Tower and you’ll have an excellent view including the reflections on the water.
The original and largest celebration takes place in Paris each July 14, but Bastille Day is also celebrated throughout France and around the world. Red, white and blue bunting of the French national flag adorn buildings and balconies, while renditions of La Marseillaise, the national anthem, float from speakers.
The military parade on the Champs-Elysées begins about 9:30-10.
A free concert, starting around sunset, takes place on the Champs-de-Mars. It’s followed by a fireworks display which starts around 10:45 or 11 pm and last about 30 minutes.
Markets and most other businesses are closed on Bastille Day. The same goes for many restaurants and cafés. The Louvre and other museums, however, generally remain open. For a list of museums and monuments that are open on Bastille day, check here.