July 14 is France’s Bastille Day: a day of blossoming celebration along every Parisian street. France loves its revolutions, and this day’s pomp springs from one of the most historical revolts in the city’s history. In the 18th century, lower-class Parisians, sick and tired of the bourgeoisie, the ritzy Marais mansions and the monarchy, rushed the Bastille fortress and tore it apart stone-by-stone. They overthrew the king and queen—Marie Antoinette herself!—and created a new France. Just like the American’s July Fourth or the Canadian’s Canada Day, Bastille Day calls for patriotic joy for the great French culture.
Celebrate like a true Parisian with 2014’s Bastille Day events! If you’re in the city the evening before, you must head to the place where the revolution began: Place de la Bastille! Parisians don dazzling costumes and join together for dancing at the Bal du 14 Juillet. Tug on your finest shoes and get moving. It’s truly a grand event—one that brings out the best in Parisian fashion and music!
If you don’t dance too late at the Bastille ball, you can begin your actual Bastille Day at the mid-morning celebratory military parade that starts at the Arc de Triomphe and strides, triumphantly, down the Champs-Elysées to the Place de la Concorde—the very square in which Marie Antoinette and the other monarchy members lost their heads. Planes soar overhead to commemorate those lost in past military wars—a truly stunning view for anyone on the Champs-Elysée or along the Seine.
Although Bastille Day is a national holiday, many museums remain open for your enjoyment. The Louvre is free and ready for massive crowds: watch out! Most restaurants and bistros remain open, and perhaps you'd like to opt for a plate of fromage and charcuterie from each region of France to highlight the conglomeration of cultures and tastes in the greater country. Note: Brie is from countryside southeast of Paris, Camembert is from Normandy, and blue-veined Roquefort is from the south. Thank goodness for France and its dynamic gastronomy!
Your evening activities are cut out for you. The Champ de Mars, the beautiful green park stretching south of the Eiffel Tower, is in full swing throughout the afternoon and evening. Concerts fuel music across crowds of picnicking Parisians. Be sure to remember your bottle of wine and your wine opener—although a friendly Frenchman will surely toss one your way. It’s the nature of the Bastille Day spirit! This year, catch Lang Lang performing with Orchestre National de France and the Radio France Choir from 9:30-11 p.m.
The Eiffel Tower takes center stage for one of the most illuminating firework shows in the world starting at 11 p.m. This year’s theme is “War and Peace” in celebration of the one hundred year anniversary of World War I. Gaze at 25,000 rich explosions from the field of the Champ de Mars or the Right Bank’s Trocadero for some of the best views. Or try the steps of Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre for a stunning view of the entire city with a glittering sky.
No matter where your Paris Bastille Day journey takes you–through the streets, to the parade, alongside the Eiffel Tower for a spectacular display, or simply resting on your Paris Perfect balcony a comfortable distance from the crowds–you’ll feel the vibrant energy of the city pulsing beneath you. If you’re lucky enough to be in Paris on Bastille Day, you’ll experience a once-in-a-lifetime twenty-four hours. Grab your French flag and open your eyes wide to every second!
Allison Krupp is a Midwestern-born traveler who ran away to Paris when the snowstorms swooped in. These days find her exploring Paris’ arrondissements, speaking poor French to people she hopes appreciate the sentiment, searching for the best bottle of wine and discovering all the mystery of this historical city she now calls home.