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Bastille Day: What to expect from France's fête nationale in 2023

The Local France
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Bastille Day: What to expect from France's fête nationale in 2023
Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP

Security concerns after riots mean a heavy police presence and restrictions on the sale of fireworks, but expect parades, firemen's balls and a long weekend as France celebrates its national day on July 14th.

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July 14th is the Fête nationale in France, often known as Bastille Day in the anglophone world, which marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in 1789 - the event that symbolises the beginning of the French revolution. 

READ ALSO 22 of the biggest myths about French history

It's also a public holiday with a party atmosphere, so here's what to expect in 2023.

Security

France's interior minister has announced that 130,000 police will on duty on July 13th and 14th in order to prevent further disorder.

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In addition, buses and trams will stop at 10pm in the big cities, although Metro and suburban rail services will run as normal.

Fireworks

It's traditional for towns and cities across France to put on fireworks displays either on the night itself or on July 13th. This year, due to security concerns following rioting across France, the sale of fireworks to individuals is banned.

However, this does not affect town councils or organisations are are putting a public display, so most town's celebrations will go ahead as planned.

Some of the Paris suburbs, which saw the worst of the rioting, have decided to cancel their planned displays, while the Bas-Rhin area; which includes Strasbourg, has recommended that fireworks be cancelled due to the risk of wildfires.

Paris will hold the traditional fireworks display and concert at the foot of the Eiffel Tower - entry is free but getting there early is advised (or you could avoid the crowds and watch the fireworks from the numerous other vantage points in the city). 

Day off

July 14th is a public holiday in France and this year falls on a Friday, making a nice long weekend. Plenty of people will take the opportunity for a weekend away, so expect traffic to be heavy leaving the cities on Thursday evening.

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On Friday most offices, banks and government offices will be closed and shops will usually either close or have reduced opening hours. The larger chains such as supermarkets, especially in the cities, will be open but may have different opening hours. Bars, cafés, restaurants and tourist attractions will open as normal.

Parade

Paris always hosts a giant military parade on the Champs-Elysées where the French army get to show off their latest kit and their best uniforms (look out for the Foreign Legion 'pioneer' unit in their leather aprons, axes and beards). It's often used as a political and diplomatic occasion - this year Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the guest of Emmanuel Macron at the parade.

Most other towns and cities have their own parade or civic event on July 14th.

Firemen's balls

French firemen traditionally open up their stations to visitors on the evening July 14th (although some opt for July 13th instead) and host the famous bals des pompiers (firemen's balls).

Some of these events are family-friendly and laid back, while others - especially in Paris and Marseille - are a little more raunchy where les pompiers show off their famously well-honed physiques to an appreciative audience.

No Macron on TV

President Emmanuel Macron usually makes a TV address to the country on July 14th, but has announced that he will not do that this year. Instead, he will speak to the nation "in the coming days" and is expected to address issues such as the recent riots and 'reset' he promised after the pension protests.

There is widespread speculation that he will also announce a cabinet reshuffle of his ministers. 

Weather

The weather is expected to be hot across most of France, with the possibility of storms in the south.

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