Join the celebrations for Bastille Day 2017!

  • Champs-Elysees on Bastille Day, Paris, France

    Champs-Elysees on Bastille Day, Paris, France

    Champs-Elysees on Bastille Day - © Kiev.Victor-shutterstock

  • Fireworks in Paris celebrating Bastille Day

    Fireworks in Paris celebrating Bastille Day

    Eiffel Tower fireworks - © Sergii Rudiuk-shutterstock

  • Bastille Day in Provence, France

    Bastille Day in Provence, France

    Bastille Day in Provence - © StockCube-shutterstock

Join the celebrations for Bastille Day 2017!

Bastille Day: France’s national day, 14 July 2017

“Allons, enfants de la patrie!” (“Let’s go, children of the fatherland!”)
“Is this a revolt?” the French king Louis XVI asked his most trusted counsellor, the Duke of Rochefoucauld. The reply was: “No, sire, this is a revolution”.

These most ominous words were pronounced on 12 July, 1789. Two days later, the royal fortress of Bastille in Paris – a symbol of dictatorship – was attacked (The Storming of the Bastille). The tide of patriotic passion that ensued led to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen: “Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights.” Nations around the world modelled their bill of rights after this now universal sentence. No wonder France’s national holiday, known as ‘le quatorze juillet’, is world-famous. Every year since 1880* Bastille Day has been marked with parades and festivities, to the rhythm of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise.

What to expect on Bastille Day in Paris

If there’s one event not to miss in Paris, it’s the French national holiday! This festive occasion brings people together for two days of exceptional free entertainment: a military parade, public dances at local fire stations, an outdoor classical concert and a breathtaking fireworks display.

Celebrations start with the Alpha Jets of La Patrouille de France (a division of France’s air force) in the morning. The powerful steel engines thunder past the capital, trailing smoke in the red, white and blue of the national flag. A traditional military parade begins at 11am, in which some 4,000 uniformed soldiers, police officers and firefighters march down Paris’ famous Champs-Élysées.

In the afternoon, Paris comes alive as the city prepares for the fire station dances commonly held in almost every neighbourhood. These are followed by a concert on the Champs de Mars (beneath the Eiffel Tower) – 250 musicians from the National Orchestra of France and the Radio France Choir serenade the sparkling Iron Lady with Mozart, Verdi, Berlioz and Wagner. Then the half-a-million spectators watch in awe as fireworks transform the skyline into a kaleidoscope of colour for 35 minutes. Why not book a cruise on the Seine to admire the fireworks from the water?

What to expect on Bastille Day across the rest of France

Paris is not the only place that observes ‘le quatorze juillet’ – the date is marked everywhere from sprawling cities to small villages, whether with sport, cultural events or gastronomy. Some places hold grand communal picnics with live music or ‘bal musettes’ (French dances accompanied by an accordion band) and fireworks. Others commemorate the event by the side of the road, cheering and waving flags for the French contenders of the Tour de France. Across the country, people of all ages come together to celebrate, and simply enjoy the public holiday.

 

*In 1790, the public event was originally called the ‘Fête de la Fédération’. Bastille Day celebrations became less popular under Napoleon, and it was only in 1880 that 14 July was adopted as a national holiday and celebrated every year, except for during the two World Wars.

 

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