You might still be recovering and cleaning up from the Fourth of July here in the United States, but it’s not too late for some Independence Day travel-in France, that is. Bastille Day, a national French holiday, is a great time to experience authentic French culture, and the traditional festivities make a fun start to a summer trip in Europe.
On July 14, 1789, the people of Paris stormed the Bastille in a revolutionary uprising against feudalistic control, initiating the French Revolution. Today, La Fête Nationale, known to the English-speaking population as Bastille Day, is celebrated all across France with military parades, local street dances, fireworks displays and small gatherings of family and friends—much like Americans celebrate July 4th.
Wherever your feet, wheels or wings take you this Bastille Day, be sure to carve out some time for these fun Bastille Day traditions:
1. Plenty of pomp
Bastille day begins with the défilé du 14 juillet, a military parade that takes place in many towns throughout the country. The largest of these parades occurs in Paris, winding down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde. Get there early for a prime spot.
2. Dance dance revolution
Local organizations in almost every city, town and village organize and host lively street dances in honor of Bastille Day. With bars and live music, these parties are the perfect opportunity to meet new people and dance the night away.
3. Fireworks, French style
Every city in France lights the night sky with its own display, but Paris boasts the largest Bastille Day fireworks show, held at the Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars. Most people gather on the Champ de Mars to watch, but there are many other spots around the city from which to view the show, including the Sacré-Cour in Montmartre or a spot along the Boulevard Pasteur.
4. Music in the great outdoors
Many cities host concerts and festivals. On Bastille Day, Annecy lures locals and tourists alike to the lakeside Pâquier promenade for outdoor musical festivities, or celebrate in the city of Avignon, where a month-long, city-wide arts festival is held each year—you’ll find the center of the festivities in the courtyard of the Popes’ Palace.
Bastille Day has centuries of meaning in France, but the day and its celebrations can mean something new to you. Planning a trip to France this July? Be sure to pack our guides and maps to France and its regions to get the most from your Bastille Day adventure.