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July 14th: What to expect from France's Fête nationale this year

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
July 14th: What to expect from France's Fête nationale this year
French elite acrobatic flying team "Patrouille de France" (PAF) perform a flying display of the French national flag over the Louvre pyramid during celebrations for Bastille day in 2020. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

From military parades to fireworks and the arrival of the Olympic torch in Paris, here is what to expect on Bastille Day, or July 14th, this year.

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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. 

There are many ways to celebrate, including fireworks displays, traditional parades and the highly popular bals de pompiers, where French firefighters host parties in their station houses.

Normally, July 14th is a public holiday, meaning most workers get a day off, but as it falls on a Sunday this year, there will not be an extra day away from work. 

This year the event comes just a few weeks ahead of the Olympic Games, and it also coincides with the final match of the Euro 2024 tournament, which will take place at 9pm.

Here is what to expect for the 2024 Fête nationale;

Parades

Most towns and cities across France have some sort of event on July 14th.

In Paris, there is a large military parade, with the President in attendance, to mark the event. Normally, this takes place along the Champs-Élysées, but this year it has been moved to Avenue Foch (which runs from the Arc de Triomphe toward the Bois de Vincennes) due to the Olympic Games preparation.

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It will take place in the morning of Sunday, July 14th at 9.20am, and it will run until close to noon.

This year, the event will have two themes - the Olympics and the Armed Forces. There will also be a recognition of the 80th anniversary of the Liberation of France. 

As part of the parade, there will also be a flypast with 23 helicopters and 45 planes involved. The first will take place at 10.30am.

Olympic Torch arrival

July 14th will also mark the arrival of the Olympic torch in Paris. It will start off at about 12.50pm from the Champs-Elysées traffic circle.

Afterwards, it will visit several landmarks across the city, including the Luxembourg Gardens, the Île de la Cité, and the Louvre before arriving at the Hôtel de Ville. 

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You can see the full schedule on the town hall's website here.

READ MORE: MAP: Where will the Olympic torch visit on its journey through France?

Fireworks

It's traditional for towns and cities across France to put on fireworks displays either on the night itself or on July 13th - these happen even in quite small towns so check your local mairie's website or Facebook page for details.

In Paris, the famous Bastille Day fireworks will still happen at the Eiffel Tower, but there will be no viewing area at the Champ de Mars or Trocadéro this year, as they are undergoing preparations for the Olympic Games.

You can watch the fireworks from different locations in the city or on television on France 2. They will go from 11pm to 11.35pm.

Concert

If you are visiting the capital, there will be a 'Concert de Paris' with choir music and an orchestra. This time it will take place at the square in front of the Hôtel de Ville, located in the 4th arrondissement.

According to Radio France, the concert will be free with no need for a reservation.

Many other French towns and cities will be holding concerts too.

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Bals de pompier

French firefighters traditionally open up their stations to visitors on the evening July 14th, but this year most will do so on July 13th instead (owing to the fact that July 14th is on a Sunday), and they 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.

Euro final 

Sunday also marks the conclusion of the Euro 2024 football tournament, although since France got knocked out in the semis this won't be as big an event in France as it might have been. The match kicks off at 9pm and is showing on French free to air channel TF1.

READ MORE: How to watch the Euro 2024 semi-finals on TV in France

Traffic and weather

According to La Chaîne Météo, the weekend could see mixed weather across France, with a possible cold drop, showers and unseasonably low temperatures on Saturday.

As for Sunday, forecasters say that the weather may be unstable in the north and east of the country, with a risk of rain and chilly temperatures. In the south and the west, they expect a return to calmer, drier weather. 

Maximum temperatures may range from 17C in north-east France to 28C near the Mediterranean. Overall, they are expected to stay about 1-2C below seasonal norms.

When it comes to traffic, the most congestion will occur on Saturday.

On Friday, though there will be some slowdowns across the country, and traffic will be most heavy for departures in the upper north-west, with Bison Futé predicting that zone will be 'red' for 'heavy traffic'.

Bison Futé predictions for Friday

On Saturday, departures across the north-west and into parts of central and south-eastern France will also see red-level heavy traffic, with the rest of the country expected to experience moderately more traffic than usual.

Bison Futé predictions for Saturday

As for Sunday, the roads will be mostly clear, with some slowdowns in the Paris area for departures and returns, as well as parts of eastern France for departures.

Bison Futé predictions for Sunday

Closures and operating hours

As the Fête Nationale falls on a Sunday this year, several places will already be closed, such as banks and government offices. Shops may also have reduced opening hours.

Larger chains such as supermarkets, especially in the cities, may be open for part of the day, but may have different or limited opening hours. Bars, cafés, restaurants and tourist attractions should be open as normal.

Politics

Historically, it is not uncommon for the French president to make a speech on July 14th - however France is in a turbulent period right now, so whether Emmanuel Macron will make a speech or not remains to be seen.

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