Discover Bastille Day

July 13, 2017

Bastille Day, 14th July, is the national celebration of France, much like 4th July in the USA. Known as la Fete nationale within France, it’s a day of festivities and patriotic pride, commemorating the day the Bastille fortress in Paris was stormed by the revolutionaries, helping to bring about the First French Republic.

A national holiday since 1880, French citizens enjoy street parties, parades, and fireworks displays across the country, making it a great time to visit and experience an authentically French event.

 

Paris

Naturally the capital is home to the biggest and best celebrations, as well as being the site of the event the started it all. Here, Bastille Day kicks off with a fly-past of the French air force, trailing smoke in the colours of the French flag over the city. Then follows one of the largest and oldest military parades in Europe on the Champs-Elysees. Thousands of French military personnel and members of the emergency services process along this famous avenue, cheered on by a huge crowd and the French president.

In the evening, the celebrations move to the Champs-de-Mars, where revellers can enjoy a free open-air classical concert and a stunning fireworks display focussed on the Eiffel Tower. After this comes one of the day’s most delightful traditions, when Parisians and tourists alike attend Bals des Pompiers – parties held at fire stations across the city. They are very often free to enter, but there is usually an opportunity to donate money to the station and its staff.

While there are lots of places to get a decent view of the fireworks display (the Eiffel Tower is hard to miss), a good option is to book a river cruise. You can often enjoy dinner onboard, and it’s an ideal way to avoid the crowds on the Champs-de-Mars. Naturally these cruises book up fast, so it’s worth scoping one out well in advance.

 

Visiting France

While Paris is the centre of Bastille Day celebrations, you’ll find fireworks displays in most major cities across the country, as well as festivities in towns and villages. There are sporting events, markets, picnics, music, and cultural displays, all in the name of celebrating liberty and the French spirit.

Travelling by car to France is a great option, allowing you to easily extend your stay before or after Bastille Day itself, and see some more local sights and attractions. There are several options for getting to France from the UK, including a short ferry crossing from Dover to Calais taking just 90 minutes or Dunkirk in 2 hours, or our Newhaven to Dieppe Channel crossing which takes you straight to the heart of Normandy in around 4 hours.

 

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