How best to celebrate Bastille Day in France

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How best to celebrate Bastille Day in France
Photo: AFP

Fireworks, military parades, firemen's balls - here are some of the best ways to celebrate July 14th in France this year.


July 14th in France, often called Bastille Day among English speakers, marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress in Paris, a key kick-off point for the French Revolution. 

It’s France’s national day and naturally a day off work. So what do people do?

These days in France it’s a big party, with events often kicking off the day before. 

If, like US president Donald Trump, you’re lucky enough to be in France on July 14th there will be plethora of events and activities around the country to choose from, but here are some of the highlights you won’t want to miss. 

Catch a fireworks show

Photo: AFP

First things first: the fireworks.

There are fireworks shows all over the country on the 14th, but one of the most spectacular displays is in Paris at the Champ de Mars, the gardens stretching between the Eiffel Tower and the Ecole Militaire. 

This year’s fireworks theme is "Paris and the Olympics" and they're due to kick off at 11pm. Check out some photos and videos of 2015's stunning show for an idea of what to expect. 

The pyrotechnics will be preceded by a classical music concert with performances by France’s National Orchestra and the Radio France Choir, starting at 9pm. 

Be sure to show up early to snag a good patch of grass.

If you’re not up to braving the crowds at the Champ de Mars, take in the fireworks show from one of the bridges crossing the River Seine - we recommend either the Pont des Arts, Pont de la Concorde, or Pont Alexandre III. 

Otherwise just find some high ground such as the Montparnasse tower, the Sacré Coeur Basilica in Montmartre, or a friend’s rooftop for an optimal view of the show. 

Another fantastic Bastille Day fireworks show takes place in the southern city of Marseille, where you can watch more than 10,000 rockets exploding over the Old Port on the Mediterranean Sea. 

Firemen's balls

Photo: AFP

After being dazzled by some feux d’artifice, why not not dance the night away with some firefighters? 

The traditional Firemen’s Balls are held in Paris and the surrounding suburbs the nights of the 13th and 14th of July, with stations opening their doors to the public from 9pm to 4am.

Some stations might charge admission fees but in most cases there will just be a barrel for public donations, which go toward better working conditions for the staff.

CLICK HERE for the full list and locations of the fire stations around Paris. 

Salute the French armed forces at the Champs Elysées military parade

Soldiers rehearse for the 2017 military parade. Photo: AFP

The Bastille Day military parade down the Champs Elysées boulevard in Paris has taken place on the morning of nearly every July 14th since 1880. 

At 10am at the Arc de Triomphe, drums and trumpets will announce the arrival of President Emmanuel Macron and this year's honoured guest US president Donald Trump, who will watch as troops parade down the Champs-Elysees, marking 100 years since America entered World War I on France's side.

Don’t forget to look up for the aerial show - planes and helicopters will also be putting on their own   spectacle in the sky. 

The procession will move from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde.  

Horse racing, champagne, and electro music

Who says there’s nothing worth doing in the suburbs of Paris?

The place to be this July 14th just might be southwest of the city centre in Saint Cloud, where the annual garden party will see a mix of racing and DJs in celebration of France's national day. 

The first race starts at 4pm and then from 9.30pm, the race course will transform into a giant dance floor until the early hours.   

Celebrate like royalty at the Chateau de Versailles

Photo: Chateau de Versailles Official Website

Celebrating the French Revolution and the overthrow of the monarchy at the Chateau de Versailles might seem a bit paradoxical, but you’ll certainly feel like a French monarch (pre-guillotine, that is) as you watch the illuminations exploding over the gardens of the famed chateau. 

The show is inspired by the huge displays that were organized by Louis XIV during the construction of the chateau. 

This year, the hour-long shows will take place on July 14th and 15th, beginning at 10pm. 

Glamorous beach revelry in Deauville

If fashionable beach parties are your thing, take your Bastille Day celebrations to this upscale resort town in northern France.

After an afternoon concert on the 13th and a firefighter-honoring ceremony the next morning, merrymakers will gather at 10 pm at the Olympic swimming pool. Lanterns will be distributed before everyone makes their way down to the beach for the fireworks show.

All the festivities will be serenaded by the Isle of Wight brass band. 

Keep it simple à la française

Many French people actually keep their July 14th celebrations relatively low-key, taking advantage of the day off by hanging out with with friends and family in the form of a BBQ or a picnic, perhaps playing a little pétanque. 

If you take this route, the least you can do is get into the revolutionary spirit by belting out the French national anthem.

Only know the first line? Refresh your memory with the lyrics below, plus a handy phonetic guide:

Vive la France!

by Katie Warren/Evie Burrows-Taylor



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