Better known to locals as La Fête Nationale, Bastille Day takes place on the 14th July each year and is one of the biggest annual celebrations in France. The public holiday owes its roots to the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, a historical day which moved the country towards revolution and eventually becoming a republic. Now, each year the whole nation joins together to celebrate the anniversary of the momentous day with parties, fireworks and live events; and there is nowhere better to experience the incredible atmosphere than Paris.
The revelry begins the night before the 14th with Les Bals des Pompiers – a series of parties held in fire stations across the city which are transformed into nightclubs for the evening. The Bastille Day Firemen’s Ball is a free event, though they usually have a box for donations, and offers an opportunity to experience something truly unique; a party hosted by the firemen themselves. Expect live entertainment, flowing champagne and dancing till the wee hours.
A highlight of the festivities for many, especially families, is the military parade on Avenue des Champs-Élysées on the morning of the 14th. Renowned as the oldest and largest military parades in Europe, the procession will see everything from cavalry regiments, infantry and even tanks parade before your eyes. The event is massively popular, so the best advice is to arrive early and secure yourself a good position. If you don’t want to get into the crowd, there’s also a spectacular airshow you can enjoy anywhere from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre. Thundering a few hundred metres above you, the jets perform incredible barrel rolls and death-defying maneuvers while forming festive red, white and blue condensation trails in their wake.
After the military procession ends, the most popular place to be is around the base of the Eiffel Tower, where the whole of the Parc du Champ de Mars becomes a giant picnic area. Bring along a crusty fresh baguette, ripe brie and some local wine (no glass bottles allowed) and enjoy the atmosphere as the party gets started. The evening kicks off with live music as a stadium style stage is set up at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, where a free concert with everything from orchestras to choirs will entertain the crowds.
All of the festivities build up to an incredible firework show which forms the highlight of Bastille Day, and draws the day to a triumphant close. Best viewed on a picnic blanket on the Parc du Champ de Mars, across the Seine at Trocadéro or from a nearby rooftop bar; the themed show is simply breathtaking. Watch with awe as fireworks light up the Paris skyline with a kaleidoscope of colour and ingenious pyrotechnics illuminate the Eiffel Tower with sparkling lights.
If you have been inspired to join in with this celebration of freedom, don your tricolour red, white and blue facepaint and head to Ferries to France via a P&O Ferry. Vive la Revolution!