Whether you call it Le Quatorze Juillet or La Fête Nationale, Bastille Day celebrations are a big deal in Paris and throughout France. On Avenue Champs-Elysées there’s a military parade that is a high point of the national holiday celebrations. The parade starts at the Arc de Triomphe and ends on the Place de la Concorde.
In the evening, the city of Paris stages a massive free concert and the city’s only fireworks show of the year. The concert takes place on the Champ de Mars right near at the base of the Eiffel tower. Let’s take a look at the complete list of the festivities.
The Bastille Day is the most important national holiday in France. The Bastille Day perpetuates the start of the French Revolution.
The celebrations are held all over the country where the most beautiful are in Paris.On 10:00 o’clock the celebrations start with a traditional military parade along the Champs Elysees, and an aerobatic spectacle.
During the day till midnight, various culture shows take place in various venues in the city.
Music is heard everywhere.In the evening when the lights on Eiffel Tower are turned on, the city sky are covered with colorful noisy fireworks shows.The festive atmosphere and the celebrations last until the late hours.
Fun Things To Do On Bastille Day
Bastille Evening Dinner Cruise
There’s no better way to celebrate Bastille Day in Paris than a dinner cruise on the Seine. Sip French wines and dine on French classics in a festive atmosphere, while you drift past historic monuments and museums like Notre Dame, the Louvre, and Musée d’Orsay. After the cruise, you can either be whisked back to your hotel or stay near the Seine to see the incredible fireworks show emanating from the Eiffel Tower. Book now as it will sell out.
VIP Dinner Cruise with Marina de Paris
This luxurious dinner cruise really delivers. Firstly, it is one of the few Seine river cruises operating on Bastille Day. Secondly, it has all the touches you’ll appreciate, like a glass of champagne to start, a multi-course tasting menu, and some of the best views from your window table. As you glide under the ornate bridges and dazzling monuments of Paris you can reflect on the incredible history of France and the revolution that changed everything.
Bastille Day Lunch Cruise on the Seine
Spend Bastille Day afternoon cruising down the river while having lunch on a bateau. This fun, casual, and affordable lunch cruise shows off the sights of Paris while you dine on a classic 3-course meal. Combine great dining with a tour of Paris on Bastille Day. This lunch cruise is very popular, so book early.
Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon Tour of Versailles
What a way to spend Bastille Day! Experience Marie Antoinette’s private estate at Versailles, the Petit Trianon. This is where she and her ladies would escape demanding court life to pretend they were shepherdesses. What you’ll discover is there’s nothing simple about this jewel of a French palace. Of couse, you’ll also have a chance to explore Versailles and the Sun King’s gardens.
Versailles Musical Fountain Show
Instead of fighting the crowds in Paris, go the royal route by visiting Versailles to take in the spectacular fountain show. There once were 2,400 fountains operating at Versailles. Today there are something like 50, and there are special fountain shows set to the music of the country of Louis XIV.
This is only available during the summer months and only on weekends and July 13 falls on a Saturday this year! Take advantage of how the universe has unfolded. This half-day tour also includes skip-the-line access to the chateau.
Royal Evening at Versailles Nighttime Fountain Extravaganz
This is even better — experience the fountain show at night, two days before Bastille Day on July 12 with this tour that includes transportation from Paris. There’s skip-the-line access to the Royal Apartments and the Hall of Mirrors, where you’ll be surrounded by musicians and dancers in Baroque costumes. This incredible evening finishes up with a fantastic fireworks display over the Grand Canal. This is really the way to see fireworks during Bastille week.
See the Best of Versailles
Even though the French Revolution, which began on July 14, 1789, eventually ended the monarchy, a good way to celebrate the enduring legacy of the French kings and queens is a skip-the-line visit to Versailles on Bastille Day. Take in the majesty of the gardens and the chateaux that ultimately were the downfall French royalty. This full-day tour includes a classic French lunch and round-trip transportation from your Paris address.
The French Revolution Walking Tour
Visit the pivotal locations that changed the history of France beginning with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 — including Place de la Bastille; Place de la Concorde, where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were beheaded; the Jardin des Tuileries, where the royal palace stood; and the Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette spent her last days. This walking tour with an historian guide makes history come alive.
Join in the 14th July celebrations in Carcassonne.
Hundreds of visitors flock to Carcassonne on 14th July to enjoy the spectacular Bastille Day fireworks, the biggest firework display in France.
Bastille Day is a national holiday in France which 231 years ago this year, commemorates the storming of the Bastille in Paris in 1789, which started the French Revolution.
The medieval city becomes bathed in light and the spectacular display can be seen from miles around.
We advise arriving early, parking the car and spending a full day exploring Carcassonne. There is plenty to do to fill the time before the display starts at 22:30.
The best views are from the bridge over the river, however good viewpoints can also be found on the riverbank below the bridges, the canal, the peripherique (ring-road) South of Carcassonne and the vineyards close to the Lycée Agricole.
This is a real French experience to be savoured rather than hurried with a relaxed party atmosphere and a great opportunity to get some unforgettable holiday snaps.
Bastille Day is a nationwide celebration and many towns and villages also hold celebrations and firework displays. These will be well advertised so look out for posters with the times and details.
How to make the most of Bastille Day fireworks 2020 in Paris and its surroundings? Wherever you are staying in Île de France, this program will help you organize your vacation in Paris on July 13 and July 14, 2020.
Besides Paris, Île de France is full of tremendous fireworks. Take your pick among our selection.
Bastille Day fireworks 2020 per department:
- Bastille Day fireworks, July 14, 2020 in Paris (75)
Will we be able, as usual, to enjoy the magnificent firework show let off from the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day, on July 14, 2020? The question has no answer yet…
- Bastille Day fireworks, July 13 and 14, 2020 in Seine et Marne (77)
In this exclusive context, will Seine-et-Marne sky be lit on July 13 and 14 by the traditional fireworks of Bastille Day? Discover what fireworks are sustained and which ones are unfortunately cancelled.
- Bastille Day fireworks, July 113 and 14, 2020 in Yvelines (78)
To make Bastille Day 2020 a success, it’s important to know where to go on July 13 and 14, 2002. But with the current epidemic context, some firework shows are cancelled, others are on hold for news, but fortunately enough, some are still sustained!
- Bastille Day fireworks, July 14, 2020 in Essonne (91)
Let’s hope Bastille Day 2020 will be all rage in Essonne despite the current epidemic events. Discover now what Bastille Day firework shows are sustained and which are unfortunately cancelled.
- Bastille Day fireworks, July 13 and 14, 2020 in Hauts de Seine (92)
If you happen to be in Hauts de Seine and want to enjoy Bastille Day 2020, several cities have announced they unfortunately have to cancel their firework show, but others are waiting to give an answer whether their show will be let off or not on July 14.
- Bastille Day fireworks, July 13 and 14, 2020 in Seine Saint Denis (93)
Will Bastille Day 2020 and its unmissable firework shows be let off in some Seine-Saint-Denis cities despite the current contex? Discover what shows are sustained or cancelled in Seine Saint Denis.
- Bastille Day fireworks, July 13 and 14, 2020 in Val de Marne (94)
Will July 14’s firework shows in Val de Marne be let off in this oh-so special coronavirus epidemic context? Discover now what fireworks are sustained and those cancelled!
- Bastille Day fireworks, July 13 and 14, 2020 in Val d’Oise (95)
French National Day is also celebrated in Val de Marne! Discover what shows are sustained in the department and which ones are cancelled.
The magnificent firework show will be let off from the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day, on July 14, 2020. The city of Paris yet adds conditions. It will be visible from the distance, on television and online, gatherings around the Eiffel Tower having been banned by the Prefect from July 14, 2020 at 11 a.m.
If there’s one firework you don’t want to miss is the Bastille Day firework, July 14 on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. But amid this never-seen-before period, the following question grows relevant: will it be a Bastille Day firework show in Paris?
The news has dropped this Wednesday July 8. It will be let off on Tuesday July 14 at 11 p.m. but without crowds. Access restrictions will be set up from 11 a.m. on the Champ-de-Mars and starting from 4 p.m. around the Trocadéro and the Pont d’Iéna bridge in order to avoid the traditional gatherings around the Eiffel Tower. According to the city hall’s press release, from 7 p.m., the entire area from the “Pont de Grenelle bridge to the Pont de l’Alma bridge including the Champ-de-Mars and the Trocadéro” will be banned to the public. Residents, people staying at hotels and professionals on a mission will be allowed to access these areas upon supporting documents.
By the way, a concert will be held at the Champ de Mars to close Bastille day 2020 as per usual. The show will be conducted by Eun Sun Kim. Are expected, the Orchestre National de France, the Maîtrise and the Choeur de Radio France, without forgetting several great international soloists! Because of the current context, the show will air live at 9:10 p.m. on France Inter and on France 2 TV.
The City Hall also wishes to make of this firework show “the symbol of the resilience of our capital and of our Nation, and a tribute to all the heroes of the daily life who have been working hard throughout the epidemic”. It will be possible to attend the show from the Montparnasse Tower as it has just put tickets online to enjoy the firework show from its rooftop and from a few cruising boats.
Celebrating Bastille Day In Paris On July 14
July 14 is BIG in France. While English-speaking countries know it as Bastille Day, in France, it is La Fête Nationale or Le Quatorze Juillet. It is France’s national holiday and one of the biggest summer events in the country, and especially Paris where there is a lot of celebrating and fireworks.
Historical Event: July 14, 1789
It all started on July 14, 1789. A mob stormed the fortress and prison known as the Bastille. In addition to holding political prisoners (only seven of them), it also held gunpowder and munitions which is what the crowd really wanted. They were revolting against the dictatorial rule of the monarchy. At the time, King Louis XVI was the reigning monarch and his excesses had led to economic turmoil. The majority of French lived off the land, had high taxes and were starving.
This attack was a symbol of the French Revolution. It was the end of the feudal system and the beginning of the Republic. Soon after, the Third Estate (commoners) gained power.
Bastille Day Traditions In Paris
Firemen’s Balls: Le Bals des Pompiers
Today, celebrations for Bastille Day actually begin on July 13 with festivities in the main squares and in fire stations. One of the traditions are the firemen’s balls, called “Le bals des pompiers”. The Paris fire brigade was created in the early 19th century by Napoleon. Today the balls take place on July 13 and 14. They are open to the public with drinking, dancing and partying outside the stations in Paris’ 20 arrondissements. The party continues into the wee hours of the morning.
Guingettes Along The Seine
If you’d prefer to do your dancing during the day instead, do consider heading to the banks of the Seine River. There you will find “Guingettes” taking place. These are open-air dance venues with live music, dancing and food. Much more informal “pop-up” guingettes can be found along the Seine where someone brings an amplifier and people spontaneously start dancing.
Lunch At Le Jules Verne Restaurant In The Eiffel Tower
Many, many years ago (embarrassed by my hair and shoulder pads in this photo, but it was the early 90’s!), I celebrated Bastille Day and my birthday at the Eiffel Tower with my friend, Laurie. We had lunch at Le Jules Verne Restaurant. While our table wasn’t right by the window, the experience was truly special.
Today there are 4 restaurants/bars at the Eiffel Tower:
- 58 Tour Eiffel on the 1st floor (closed until Autumn 2020)
- Le Jules Verne Restaurant on the 2nd floor
- Champagne Bar on the 3rd floor
- La Bulle Parisienne on the 1st floor
Military Parade Down The Champs Elysée
1880 was the first year there was a parade to celebrate Bastille Day. It was held at the Longchamp Racecourse in Bois de Bologne on the edge of Paris and continued there until 1914.
Since 1919, this parade, Défilé de la Victoire, (also known as the Victory parade celebrating the victory of WWI), has been held annually on the Champs Elysée starting at the Arc de Triomphe and ending at Place de la Concorde. The only exceptions were during WWII when there was no parade when the Germans occupied Paris (1940-1944). And on various occasions during the 1970s some different routes were used (ie. Bastille to République); however. since 1981, the parade has remained on the Champs Elysée.
The parade’s opening ceremony begins with the President inspecting the troops and the playing of the national anthem, La Marseillaise. The President then joins the Chief of the Defence Staff in an open army vehicle and they travel to Place de la Concorde where the foreign dignitaries and special guests are.
France’s allies from WWI were invited to take part in the parade in 1919 and have continued to take part ever since. Female military personnel didn’t take part in the parade until 1971.
Bastille Day Parade In 2019
As I was celebrating my birthday in Paris in 2019, I HAD to attend the Bastille Day parade. Each year the parade has a theme and for 2019, the theme was “Action Together”, referring to the military campaigns that France has joined with other European nations. Today, the Bastille Day parade is one of the oldest and largest military parades in the world.
Events At the Parade
There were over 4000 military personnel who took part in the ceremony and they included:
- an aerial flyover of aircraft. Trailing smoke from their engines painted the sky with the colours of the French flag in red, white, and blue stripes.
- foot soldiers (from various military divisions and academies, the troops of France’s invited allies, national gendarmeries, the French army, air force, and foreign legion) marched past
- helicopter fly-past
- French army in mobile column (ie. armoured tanks)
- military regiments on horseback
The one thing we did not see (but it is in the video above) was the flying soldier—yes he was flying on a Zapata Flyboard. It was done right in front of the President and foreign dignitaries. Pretty cool.
In 1990 I got a photo of President Mitterrand and in 2019 I got one of President Macron, so I was happy. But what brought the biggest smile on my face was hearing the loud cheers for the fire brigade and for the police dogs.
If You’re Interested In Attending The Parade
The first year I attended (in 1991) I got there fairly early (ie. 8:30 am) so I was able to get a good spot close to the Champs Elysée road. In 2019, we got there at about 10:00 and it was very crowded. There’s not a lot of room on the sidewalks due to the barricades. There were probably 5-8 rows of people in front of me so of course there were times that someone was blocking my view. If you really want an unobstructed view of the parade, you need to get there early.
The President of the Republic (Emmanuel Macron) didn’t inspect the troops until 10:00 and once he got to Place de la Concorde, the opening ceremonies officially began which was at about 10:20 and the parade was over by noon.
Crowds And Security
When timing your arrival, keep in mind that there is a lot of security. The Metro stations near Place de la Concorde (ie. Concorde, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George V, Champs-Elyésée-Clemenceau) and Charles de Gaulle-Etoile are typically fully or partially closed from 8am-noon. It’s best to just avoid them completely.
Regardless which stop you get off at, the Metro in Paris will be jammed. If you can, walk to the parade.
Celebrate Le Quatorze Juillet On Champ de Mars?
Many months before I started my 2-month trip (which culminated with the Bastille Day celebrations), I decided I wanted to celebrate my birthday in Paris in a special way. I had considered doing a picnic at Champ de Mars, the grassy area in front of the Eiffel Tower because there are often concerts and entertainment. It’s one, big party.
I changed my mind when I found out one would have to get there incredibly early (ie. early afternoon) and it would be very crowded—-thousands of people. The bigger problem was that there are no toilets and you can’t just use the facilities at a nearby restaurant. So I decided to nix that idea.
Dinner Cruise And Fireworks On The Seine
As this was a big birthday for me (turning 60), I decided to get all out and got tickets for a dinner cruise on the Seine River. I was floored that the Bateaux Mouches were sold out in mid-March. So, I booked with Bateaux Parisiens. My friend and I arrived at 8:00 pm and the boat did not set sail until we were partly through our meal…which was outstanding (as was the service—friendly and not pretentious). Our 6-course dinner included wine and champagne and the meal that night consisted of:
- Foie gras
- Smoked-salmon tart
- Veal with vegetables and potatoes
- Cheese and a mixed green salad
- Sorbet and cake
- Petit fours
- Still and sparkling water
- Coffee and tea
The cost of the cruise was about 190 Euros per person. It was a bit more expensive because we had a table by the window (rather than in the centre of the ship, although in hindsight the views were very good there too). I also think the price was higher booking in March (if you consider 4 months ahead of time late!). I will say, however, that it was an experience I will never forget.
Throughout the cruise there was live music (a singer and a violinist) and the boat cruised on the Seine past all the iconic monuments such as Les Invalides, Cathedral Notre Dame, La Conciergerie, Musée Louvre, and ended at the Eiffel Tower. It docked right in front of it in time for the fireworks which began at about 11:00 pm. We went outside onto the deck and watched the colourful explosions for about 30 minutes. It was the perfect location to see the show.
Plans For July 14, 2020
Due to the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, there will not be a parade down the Champs-Elysée for the first time since 1944. Understandably, the need for social distancing is needed and gatherings of more than 5,000 people are banned.
Instead, there will be a ceremony at Place de la Concorde with 2000 participants and 2500 invited guests. There will be a tribute to the frontline healthcare workers and military who helped out with the pandemic. Other recognitions include:
- countries who also assisted France by taking in French patients. These include Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Luxembourg.
- the 50th anniversary of the death of President Charles de Gaulle
It was announced in mid-June that the Firemen’s balls have been cancelled for 2020 in Paris and the French Departments 92, 93, and 94. And, on July 8, the Paris tourism board announced that there WILL be fireworks on July 14 in 2020!
Celebrating La Fête Nationale In Other Parts Of France
While much of this post has been about Bastille Day in Paris, I should point out that cities all over France also celebrate in a big way. I attended one of the best (ever) fireworks display on July 13 in Normandy in 2018. Etretat had the most amazing fireworks which lit up the famous alabaster cliffs. I don’t think I’ve seen anything better.
Honfleur and Le Havre had their fireworks scheduled for July 14 that same year, but I did not attend them. I just felt nothing could top what I had seen the day before in Etretat. Carcassonne is well known for having impressive fireworks; however, the crowds can be massive.
Tips For Celebrating Bastille Day In Paris
- Book your dinner cruise more than 6 months in advance.
- A day or two before your dinner cruise, double check with the company about security. With Bateaux Parisiens, we were sent “passes” to get through security at the dock. I’m glad I checked out what wharf (quai) to go to ahead of time.
- It’s better to use a Metro station away from the events to get to or from the event. Just walk there. The ones near the Eiffel Tower or Place de la Concorde will be too packed.
- Get to the parade by 9:00 am to get a good spot.
- Do not bring a knapsac or big purse to the parade. As you approach the area it will be packed with lots of security and your bags will be searched.
- For the parade, wear comfortable shoes and clothes, and bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a bottle of water (and a camera/smartphone, of course).
- Be prepared to stand at the parade for a long time. There won’t be any places to sit.
- If you decide to go “partying” on July 13, areas like Place de République will be crowded and noisy, and often people set off firecrackers.
- Many boutiques and department stores will be open.
- Many museums will be open—but likely crowded.
If you’d like more information about Bastille Day events and the French revolution, check out these articles:
- Remains of the Bastille
- Where To See The Best Bastille Day Fireworks In Normandy
- Historical Walking Tour: Life In Paris During WWII
- The French Revolution and Historical Sites In Paris
- 2 Month Trip To France (Trip #33)
Have you ever attended a Bastille Day celebration in France? Please let me know where you were and what you thought.