As one of Europe’s most enduring romantic and historical cities, Paris has continued to capture the attention of travellers from around the world for centuries. British holiday-makers in particular have enjoyed a long relationship with Paris, partly as a result of its close proximity but also due to its sophisticated allure. But if you’ve been to Paris many times before and you’re looking for something new to enjoy in France’s spectacular capital city, make sure to visit in July when Bastille Day celebrations take over.
Bastille Day, or Fête Nationale, is held every year on July 14th and is France’s most important national holiday. In itself, Bastille Day doesn’t exist to remember the storming of the Bastille in 1789 – an event that’s long been held up as a symbol of the birth of the modern French nation – but rather is a commemoration of the Fête de la Fédération which took place a year later. The Fête de la Fédération was essentially a huge feast that was held to celebrate the uprising of the constitutional monarchy in France, which many people consider to be the mark of the end of the French Revolution.
Today, Bastille Day sees celebrations take place all over France and in Paris in particular. One of Bastille Day’s primary features in Paris is a huge military parade that takes place on the Champs-Elysées. Here, you’ll find the President leading the parade, with jets flying overhead in formation, as the march moves from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde while the fire brigade brings up the rear.
In fact, the fire brigade plays a large part in Paris’ Bastille Day celebrations. The night before Bastille Day sees a range of balls and parties being held all across the capital, and firefighters are at the centre of these bals des pompiers. Bastille Square is also a popular venue for dancing on the eve of the Fête Nationale and there’s a big outdoor Gay Ball for people who fancy a slightly more ostentatious celebration.
After the Bastille Day military parade, the partying in Paris continues in thrilling style. Crowds of people congregate at the Champ-de-Mars to watch the fireworks at the Trocadéro; most bars and clubs will also stage their own celebrations, so if you don’t get a good view of the fireworks, you won’t feel left out. If you’re in France on Bastille Day but can’t make it through to Paris, there’s no need to fret, every town and village in France has its own unique way of celebrating Bastille Day.