Celebrating Bastille Day in Paris

Bastille Day celebration in Lyon, France
Bastille Day celebration in Lyon, France. Yanis Ourabah / Getty Images

Every July 14th, Paris celebrates Bastille Day (referred to as La Fête de la Bastille or La Fête Nationale in French), which marks the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 and the first major event of the French Revolution of 1789.

The destruction of the Bastille prison in central Paris was chosen as a symbol of France's first stirrings of democracy, though it would take several reinstated monarchies and bloody revolutions to establish an enduring Republic.

Similar in spirit to American Independence Day or Canada Day, Bastille Day is a festive event that splashes fireworks and patriotic processions across Paris. It's a great way to enjoy some summery outdoor parades and laid-back ambiance while learning more about (and taking part in) French and Parisian history.

Events and Celebrations

Bastille Day celebrations in 2018 take place not only on the 14th of July but in the days leading up to the national holiday. For a comprehensive guide to this year's special events, including parades and celebrations, consult the city's official website. Also, scroll down for info on traditional activities and festivals held on and around the holiday.

The Holiday and Its History

Read this useful guide to the French public holiday, and you'll have the vocabulary you need to really bring in the Fête Nationale (national holiday) in an authentic, wholly native way! After all, knowing something about the local language is a good way to learn about the culture itself.

How to Celebrate the Holiday Elsewhere

Can't be in Paris for this fun occasion? Not to worry-- there are plenty of other places around the world where you can bring in France's national holiday.

Pictures of Bastille Day, Past and Present

Want to get a more visual sense of how Bastille Day celebrations and ceremonies unfold in the city of light? Check out these pictures of Bastille Day to see images from as far back as the original storming of the Bastille in 1789. Having a good grasp of the history will enable you to enjoy the holiday even more. 

Military parade on Bastille Day on Champs Elysees
mmeee / Getty Images

Traditional Bastille Day Activities

  • Fireworks are almost always on the menu in Bastille Day celebrations in the French capital and usually light up the skies at around nightfall. Often launched in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower, the Saint Germain des Près district, and around Montparnasse, fireworks displays can be enjoyed from other spots around the city, providing you are high up enough to get a good vantage point. Some suggested spots are the viewpoint from the roof of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Montmartre, or Belleville.
  • The Bal du 14 juillet is a giant dance party traditionally held on the Place de la Bastille (where the stormed prison once stood) on the evening before Bastille Day (July 13th). A different theme is chosen each year, usually providing an opportunity to don elaborate costumes and hear live music.
  • A traditional military parade on the Champs-Elysées starts near the Arc de Triomphe on the famed Avenue on the afternoon of July 14th and spreads across Paris. A moving tribute, or pomp and circumstance? A matter of taste.
  • Firemen Galas: France has a unique-- and decidedly quirky-- tradition of firehouses opening their doors to the general public on July 13th and 14th for the occasion of Bastille day, offering live demonstrations and dancing. Kitschy fun guaranteed. Donations are generally asked for at the door.