Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité! – La Fête Nationale (Bastille Day) 14th July

July 14, 2011 by

Things To Do, Unforgettable Experiences

In France, Bastille Day is a national holiday that commemorates the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789. An open act of rebellion against the monarchy that ushered in the beginning of the French Revolution, the storming of the Bastille was the first step to establishing a republican government. Two days later, the king officially recognized the blue, white and red flag, symbolising liberty, equality and brotherhood. Today all that remains of the Bastille fortress prison is a small wall on the platform of Métro line 5.

Join in the dancing the evening before the big day at one of the numerous balls around the city. Especially fun are the parties held by the Fire Services, check listings for addresses on Bals des Pompiers de Paris to find out where the many Fire Stations hold a ball on the 13th and 14th July.

The hoi polloi line squeeze onto the Champs-Elysées to enjoy a military parade led by the French President on the 14th July,  planes flying overhead in formation as tanks, brass bands and fire-fighters in uniform march from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. 10 am start.

Alphajets over the Arc de Triomphe - Photo courtesy of Philippe Wojazer

Restaurants were apparently invented after the Revolution, by out-of-work chefs suddenly unemployed upon the demise of the nobility, forced to open public eating establishments, and so the art of fine dining was born. Create your own Bastille Day revolutionary menu with crêpes, quiche and chocolate mousse.

Fireworks start at around 10pm, thousands of people throng the streets to marvel at the pretty colours and Parisians party until dawn at the Champ-de-Mars and Trocadéro as fireworks explode over the Eiffel Tower. To avoid the huge crowds, try alternative viewing from vantage points at the Palais Chaillot, or anywhere along the opposite side of the river from the Eiffel Tower, approaching from Ecole Militaire or La Motte Piquet-Grenelle metro stations. Many people try to stay in a hotel within walking distance from the fireworks as the metro can be very crowded afterwards.

The celebrations take place in every town and village around France, most bars and clubs party late into the night, so wherever you are find some champagne and make a toast: Vive la revolution!

- Jodi Rose

Planning a trip? Browse Viator’s Paris tours & things to do, especially Bastille tours & tickets, and Arc de Triomphe tours & tickets.

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