July 14th: What’s planned for France’s Bastille Day celebrations this year?

July 14th: What's planned for France's Bastille Day celebrations this year?
Paris's military parade was significantly toned down in 2020. Photo: Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP.
Last year's celebrations were hampered by the Covid pandemic, but this year you will be able to celebrate la fête nationale in style.

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille that was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. Here’s what’s planned for the fête nationale this year.

Military parade

The Bastille Day military parade along the Champs-Élysées has been a staple of the fête nationale since 1880, and it will be making a return this year.

The parade was cancelled in 2020 – the first year it hadn’t taken place since the World War II – and was replaced by a smaller ceremony at Place de la Concorde celebrating healthcare workers and others engaged in the fight against Covid.

This time, the spectacle will include 4,300 marching soldiers, 71 planes, 25 helicopters, 221 land vehicles and 200 horses of the Republican Guard. President Emmanuel Macron will be present for the parade, which is set to begin at 10am.

The general public will be allowed to follow proceedings from the Champs-Elysées, while 25,000 people will be able to watch from the seated stands, according to AFP.

Spectators will be required to show a health pass – with proof of vaccination, a recent negative test, or proof they have recovered from Covid – and will also have to wear a mask.

Numbers will be limited, but it is not possible to register for a standing place in advance, so you may need to arrive early to be sure of a place.

As part of the security measures vehicles will be denied access to a large area around the Champs-Elysées.

A number of metro stations will also be closed to the public during the day. These are: Tuileries, Concorde, Champs-Elysées Clémenceau, Franklin D.Roosevelt, Georges V, and Charles de Gaulle Etoile.

Air show

Some of the best views of the airshow, which will paint the sky the colours of the French flag at 10.30am, are to be had from the Grande Arche de la Défense. The rooftop of the Grande Arche will be open to the public and offers stunning views over the Champs-Elysées.

The same location was also set to host DJ sets from the Doppelgänger brothers and Bob Sinclair in the evening, but these have been cancelled due to the spread of Covid in the Paris region.

Champs-de-Mars concert

For the ninth consecutive year, celebrations will continue with a classical music concert on the Champ-de-Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

The concert will feature the Orchestre national de France, the Chœur and the Maîtrise de Radio France, and will be broadcast live from 9pm on France Inter and France 2.

There is no need to register – anybody is free to turn up at the Champs-de-Mars and follow the concert, but you are invited to arrive 45 minutes early to allow time for security checks.

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Last year, the concert took place with a virtual audience only.

For the first time this year, the Fip radio station will also be organising a “before show” on the Champs de Mars – a 45-minute DJ set which will begin at 7:30pm.

Fireworks

Of course, no July 14th would be complete without the traditional fireworks display. Last year, crowds were banned from gathering to watch the spectacle, but this year, locals and visitors are invited to follow along from Paris’s parks.

Several towns including Lille have decided to cancel the fireworks, amid fears over the spread of the delta variant of Covid. On Sunday, local authorities in Paris confirmed the show would be going ahead, but warned that spectators will have to wear a mask while gathering on the Champ-de-Mars.

“Place du Trocadéro is the best place to witness the pyrotechnics,” the local tourism office advises.

Similar displays will illuminate the sky in towns all across France, but beware – certain local councils will require attendees to show a health pass, with an up-to-date negative Covid test or vaccination certificate, so be sure to look up the local restrictions before heading out.

No firemen’s balls

One of the most cherished Bastille Day traditions is the bals de pompiers, or parties in fire stations.

These are not explicitly banned this year, but in the context of the health situation, many areas have decided not to stage them.

Cities including Paris, Nantes and Strasbourg have cancelled for the second year in a row, but other areas may still be holding scaled down social events.


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