What to Do for Bastille Day in Paris

Our Guide to Celebrating in the Capital
Fireworks at the Eiffel Tower for Bastille Day.

Photo by Yann Caradec [CC BY-SA 2.0]

November 21, 2019
July 14, festivities take place all over France to celebrate the Fête nationale. Here is our guide to ensure you enjoy the best of the holiday activities happening in Paris.
Portrait of Urbansider Paris writer Karina
by Karina

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The biggest celebration in France, Bastille Day commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution, when rioters stormed the Bastille prison on July 14th, 1789.

Though there were only four lonely prisoners there at the time of the attack, it was the event that marked the beginning of the end for the French monarchy. It would take a few more revolutions to bring forth democracy, but France celebrates this day as the birth of the French Republic.

So what should you do in Paris for Bastille Day? See our picks for the best things to do for the 14 (quatorze) juillet.

Flyover in bleu, blanc, rouge for Bastille Day.

Daytime Events

Watch the Military Parade

Wake up early to watch an epic spectacle — the traditional military parade on the Champs Elysées. Beginning promptly at 10am, spectators gather on the sidewalks of the famous avenue to view the French military march from the Arc de Triomphe all the way to the Place de la Concorde. The impressive fighter jets soar through the sky leaving behind a patriotic trail of bleu, blanc, rouge behind. President Macron will be in attendance along with other important guests, as is the tradition every year.

Visit a Museum for Free

Many museums around the capital offer free entry for the Fête nationale. You can visit the iconic Louvre Museum for free and catch up on your art history and see one of the most famous revolutionary paintings, La Liberté guidant le peuple by Eugène Delacroix (although the scene depicted is from the Révolution de juillet of 1830 and not the initial ‘French Revolution’ in 1789).

Les Invalides, the military museum and home of Napoleon’s tomb, also opens its doors for Bastille Day, and the Panthéon is also free from 1-7 pm and offers special events including conferences and guided tours.

Famous Eugène Delacroix painting, Liberty Leading the People
Liberty Leading the People – Eugène Delacroix 1830. Oil on canvas, 260 x 325 cm.

Enjoy a Concert at Musee du Quai-Branly Jacques Chirac

Catch a free jazz concert at the beautiful Musée du Quai-Branly in the 7th Arrondissement. If you’re planning to view the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, then this is a good place to be right before as it’s very close to the Iron Lady! It’s just a short walk to your next destination!

Nighttime Activities

See the Fireworks Show at the Eiffel Tower

The pyrotechnic spectacle at the Eiffel Tower is a sight not to be missed. Beginning around 11pm and lasting about 35 minutes, the city is lit up by impressive firework display that you will never forget. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, then steer clear of the Champs de Mars and the metro stations near there. Instead, see the spectacle from aboard a Bateaux Mouche on the Seine or get off at metro station Passy and walk towards the river — it’s a little further away but still provides a good vantage point from which to see the fireworks.

Fireworks at the Eiffel Tower for Bastille Day.
Photo by Yann Caradec [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Climb Up to Sacré Coeur 

Watch the fireworks alight from the highest hill in Paris, the Sacré Coeur Basilica in Montmartre. Take a blanket, a wine bottle, and see the whole city sparkle from here.

Dance All Night at a Bal des Pompiers

If you want to dance and drink with some of the bravest men and women in Paris, don’t miss the Bal des Pompiers, The Firemen’s Ball. Taking place at certain fire stations throughout the city, it’s a chance to enjoy a little music, and meet a few French firefighters. Admission fees vary by location, but you can find participating stations here.

Happy Bastille Day!

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