Pictures of Bastille Day in Paris

01 of 06

In Pictures: Bastille Day, Past and Present

Bastille Day fireworks in 2010.
2010 Whitenoiser. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons license.

Bastille Day, also known in French as "La Fête Nationale", falls every 14th of July, marking a day of colorful celebrations, but also a solemn remembrance of the French citizens who fought for the establishment of a democratic Republic starting in the late 18th century. The 1789 storming of the Bastille prison was the watershed moment of public disobedience that has become the traditional symbol of the beginning of the first French Revolution (and also gave Bastille Day its name). Click through the gallery of Bastille Day pictures to get a sense of how the day has been celebrated in the past, as well as the traditions carried on today.

02 of 06

History of Bastille Day: The Storming of the Bastille

An illustration showing insurrectionists storming the Bastille.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This historical illustration shows the storming of the Bastille prison in central Paris on July 14th, 1789. The prison, housed in a fortified medieval structure which was later ravaged by fire and destroyed, was targeted due to its large arms stores, and the storming by insurrectionists was a critical moment in the first stirrings of the French Revolution. Today, the Colonne du Juillet stands at the site, though it does not actually commemorate the storming of the Bastille, but rather the 1830 Revolution known as "Les Trois Glorieuses". The ultracontemporary Opera Bastille now occupies the square and is the main attraction here. 

03 of 06

Bastille Day Fireworks in 1935

Bastille Day fireworks over Paris in 1935
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This shot circa 1935 shows firework displays illuminating the skies of Paris for the occasion of Bastille Day in 1935. Fireworks are an obvious staple of July 14th celebrations most years, but expect to compete with large crowds to get a glimpse!


04 of 06

Feting Bastille Day in Cherbourg, 1944 (Before Paris' Liberation)

Allied forces and the population of Cherbourg, France celebrate Bastille Day in 1944.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

While not shot in Paris but in Cherbourg, in nearby Normandy, this photo shows residents and soldiers celebrating the liberation of the city of Cherbourg by Allied forces for the occasion of Bastille Day on July 14th, 1944-- only a little over a month before Paris would in turn see its own Liberation from Nazi occupying forces, on August 25th.

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05 of 06

Air Demonstration Over Concorde

French Air Force planes in Paris for Bastille Day in 2002.
Paul O' Driscoll/Getty Images

A common element of the traditional Bastille Day military parade in Paris is an airshow. This shot shows French Air Force planes flying over the Place de la Concorde in Paris for the occasion of the Bastille Day on July 14th, 2002.

06 of 06

Traditional Military Parade on the Champs-Elysées

The British Cavalry commemorating the Entente Cordiale in Paris, 2004.
(Photo by Mike Harvey/British Army via Getty Images)

Traditional military parades and ceremonies are another common feature in French Bastille Day celebrations. In this shot, Britain's Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment rides down the Champs Elysees on Bastille Day in 2004, invited by the French government to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Franco-British friendship treaty known as the Entente Cordiale.


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