Bastille Day

Bastille Day France

Bastille Day in France in 2020

This year’s Bastille Day military parade will be replaced by a ceremony on the Place de la Concorde square in central Paris. The ceremony, which will include the traditional fly-over by the French air force, will honour the military’s participation in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic as well as frontline health care workers.

Celebrated on July, 14, Bastille Day is the French national day and the most important bank holiday in France! Setting the storming of the Bastille in 1789 as an essential part of the French History. The 14th July has become a major public holiday, traditionally considered as the symbol of the French Revolution.

The French Bastille Day is definitely a joyous national day that causes popular celebrations in the streets as well as political events. The best way to experience the 14 July bank holiday – widely known as Le 14 Juillet – is to go to Paris, more precisely on the Champs Elysees. Expect military parades, public speeches and fireworks, but also convivial gatherings in all cafés and restaurants!

Every single town in France actually commemorates the Bastille Day with excitement and pride as this national day represents the first step to the French Revolution which eventually led France to Republic. On July, 14, patriotic feelings break out throughout the country, French people wear blue, white and red, “tricolore” clothes or make-up and sing the typical Marseillaise (the French anthem) after one – or more! – glasses of Champagne!

Bastille Day in Paris…

Beginning in the morning of the 14th July, on the Champs Elysées in Paris, Bastille Day is the opportunity to admire the French military. Saint Cyr and Polytechnique cadets parade, along with official troops, whilst the French Air Force, Patrouille de France, carry out flying in the sky.

A popular custom on Basttille day in Paris is going for a friendly picnic in a public park, socialising, enjoying French food and wine, before watching the fireworks from the Place de la Concorde for example.

In many French villages, people traditionally get together on July, 13 to enjoy a typical Barbecue and sing and dance all night long – taking the advantage of the relaxing public holiday the day after!

The President of the Republic normally attends all the Parisian festivities and ends the 14th July ceremonies with a public interview from the Elysée (Predisent’s official residence).

French National Day

The well-known storming of the Bastille has become a benchmark in terms of Revolt and Liberty all over the world!

Referring to July 14 1789, when a massive crowd of Frenchmen rose up and invaded the prison, Bastille Day is considered the beginning of the French Revolution. Capturing this prison, a symbol of the Ancient Regime, indeed marked the end of Louis XVI’s absolute and arbitrary power and led France to the three ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Bastille Day has been known and celebrated as the creation of the Sovereign Nation and what would be the “First” Republic of France (in 1792).

Bastille Day became the National Holiday in 1790, originally called Fête de la Fédération (“federation feast”), to celebrate the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille and the end of the French Revolution.

When is Bastille Day?

Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14th and marks the birth of the French Republic. It is the National Day of France.

If July 14th falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is a holiday in lieu. If July 14th is a Thursday, it is common for many people to take the Friday off to create a ‘pont’ (bridge ) to the weekend.

In France, it is referred to as la Fête Nationale (“National Holiday”), le quatorze juillet (The Fourteenth of July) or la fête du 14-Juillet (14th July Holiday).

Technically the holiday marks the Fête de la Fédération of the July 14th 1790, which was a huge feast and event to celebrate the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in France.

History of Bastille Day

However, the holiday is usually seen as a celebration of the storming of the Bastille.

After years of misrule by the Monarchy with increasing taxes and higher food prices, the French people had finally united in a popular uprising in an effort to take control of their own country.

On July 14th 1789, the people of Paris banded together to march on the Bastille. The Bastille was a 14th-century medieval fortress that became a state prison. It was used by the King to imprison his opponents, often without trial and was seen as representing the despotism of the regime of Louis the 16th.

When Louis XVI asked a French duke if the storming of Bastille was a revolt on the evening of July 14th 1789, the duke replied by saying, “No, sire. It is a revolution.”

The duke was correct as the storming of the prison marked the beginning of the French Revolution and came to symbolize liberty, democracy and the struggle against oppression for all the people of France.

In October, Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette were taken from the Palace of Versailles by 4,000 rioters and put under house arrest at the Tuileries Palace, in the centre of Paris.

After a failed attempt to flee to Austria in 1791, tensions about how to punish the King continued, culminating in the storming of the Tuileries by a new mob and the arrest of Louis XVI in 1792.

France was finally declared a Republic in September that year, ending the 800-year-old monarchy, and in January the following year, Louis XVI was executed by guillotine on the grounds of treason.

In the months that followed, thousands of people considered enemies of the new Republic were executed in a “Reign of Terror” – including Marie Antoinette.

On the one-year anniversary of the fall of Bastille, July 14th 1790, delegates from across the country assembled in Paris to proclaim their allegiance as one national community at the Fête de la Fédération.

In May 1880, a Parisian politician called Benjamin Raspail proposed making July 14th a national holiday to commemorate the storming of the Bastille and the Fête de la Fédération. The French Assembly passed his bill and from 1880, it has been a national holiday in France.

How is Bastille Day celebrated?

In the morning of July 14th, Parisians celebrate the holiday with a grand military parade along the Champs Élysées. Known as ‘Le Défilé’ (the parade), this is the oldest and largest military parade in Europe with more than 4,000 servicemen involved and is attended by the French President and other key dignitaries.

The parade began in 1870 to improve national morale after the defeat in the Franco-Prussian War.

Parties, colourful fairs and fireworks displays take place throughout France in celebration of Bastille Day.

La Fête Nationale is also a public holiday on July 14th in French Guiana, French Polynesia, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Réunion, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre et Miquelon and Wallis and Futuna.

Last year I researched my ancestry and traced familial roots to France—this led me on a whirlwind tour of the gorgeous country and you bet, I fell head over heels for its charm. France has always held a special place in my heart, but now more than ever! To truly channel my French roots, I’ve got to get down with Bastille Day, right?

In France, Bastille Day is a big deal—though it’s really only referred to as Bastille Day outside of France!

Called la Fête nationale (or sometimes just le 14 juillet) in France, the holiday commemorates the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. It’s a public holiday and most places close up shop for the day.

What does the day commemorate?

This was the flashpoint of the French Revolution, which ultimately transformed the country and European culture as a whole. Nowadays, the entire country comes together to celebrate the end of the French monarchy.

If you are lucky enough to be there on the big day, here is everything you need to know about how to celebrate Bastille Day in France!

champs elysees france

Champs-Élysées Military Parade

Avenue des Champs-Élysées is one of the most beautiful places in Paris at any time of the year, and it truly comes alive on Bastille Day. People line the avenue early in the morning to get a good view of the president strolling by, followed by the patriotic Military Parade on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It is a dream photo op and the perfect start to the day.

Catch a Firework Show

Though it symbolizes something different, Bastille Day is similar to America’s Independence Day. In fact, it’s the only time of the year that Paris actually has a fireworks show. Paris puts on a huge free concert at Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower and fireworks start at 11 pm.

They light up the Eiffel Tower for yet another picture-perfect scene.

Versailles is a prime place to be on Bastille Day. Beginning at 9 pm, there is a fireman’s dance followed by an incredible show. Just note that this year there won’t be fireworks directly in front of the palace as there were in the past.

Instead, there will be a display at the Versailles Orangerie. Inspired by the lavish soirees Louis XIV used to put on, Versailles gives a fascinating look back at French history and culture.

Fireman’s Balls

I know, I know, the English translation is pretty cheeky…in French, these celebrations are known as Bals des Pompiers.

In addition to fireworks, the fireman’s balls are a common tradition! Cities throughout France celebrate Bastille Day by opening up fire stations for visitors. The tradition dates back to 1937 when a group of firemen opened their doors for curious locals.

They put on a show and the tradition continues each year as fire departments display their gymnastic prowess and set off small fireworks.

Keep It Simple à la Française

Rather than fighting the crowds, many French people opt for a low-key celebration. They enjoy their extra day off work by getting together with friends and family at a BBQ or picnic (here’s why I am always ready for a French picnic).

Want to blend in with the locals? Get in the revolutionary spirit by belting out the French national anthem with the help of this handy phonetic guide.


There is no better time to visit Lyon. Tout L’Monde Dehors (Everybody Outside) runs from June 21 to September 1 and fills the city with more than 200 outdoor events. On the actual Bastille Day, fireworks are set off over Fourvière Hill and light up the Basilica of Notre-Dame for an unforgettable view.

How did Bastille Day start?

America and France have a long relationship, which started during our own Revolutionary War. Motivated by a desire to diminish England’s power, Louis XVI helped fund the war chests of the American colonies. This spending was part of a callous pattern of extravagance by the Royals, whose own subjects were starving, unemployed, and increasingly discontent.

France’s citizenry was suffering. In desperation, a large mob of angry revolutionists stormed the Bastille in Paris, a large, military prison, surrounded by moats and 100-feet high walls. In addition to prisoners, the Bastille contained vast amounts of much-coveted supplies, such as food and gunpowder. The Bastille was also a hated symbol of France’s monarchy. Its destruction signaled the beginning of the French Revolution, and the end of Louis XVI’s reign.

How is Bastille Day celebrated today?

Bastille Day is a public holiday, earmarked by parties, parades, and jubilation. Magnificent firework displays can often be seen in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower and near Montparnasse. Place de la Bastille, a public park located where the Bastille once stood, fills with elaborately-costumed dancers and revelers on the eve of Bastille Day each year, where they listen to live music and dance the night away. On July 14th, a vast, well-attended military parade takes place near the Arc de Triomphe.

If you can’t get to Paris this July 14th, you can enjoy Bastille Day festivities in many locations, including New Orleans, which has a rich, French heritage. Francophiles worldwide can also indulge in French delicacies that don’t include French fries, or in other “French” things that aren’t actually from France.

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