Insider Tips

Bastille Day: Tips for Celebrating the French National Holiday in Style

By Valerie Moses

Last summer, I celebrated Bastille Day in the heart of Paris. The French National Holiday takes place on July 14 and commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789. It symbolizes France’s freedom from its former monarchy. Because I spent my Fourth of July in the United Kingdom and missed out on American traditions, I was excited to celebrate Bastille Day in France and become immersed in the French culture.

For those who plan to visit Paris in summertime, schedule your trip for mid-July and add Bastille Day to your itinerary. The city bursts to life with events and traditions that are enjoyable even to non-French, but it can become a bit overwhelming for those who haven’t experienced the holiday before. This article provides a few tips on how to appreciate all that Bastille Day has to offer without getting lost in the crowd.

Watch the parade on television.

This may sound counter-intuitive; after all, why would you watch a parade from your hotel room when you can watch it in person? Unfortunately, the Bastille Day Military Parade which takes place on the Champs-Elysses draws in such large crowds that it is nearly impossible to find a spot from which you can actually see the parade. Instead, open a bottle of champagne, turn on your television and stay by a window. If your hotel is near Bastille itself, you may even see the Patrouille de France jets fly by.

Spend your day in the city.
Once the parade is over, go outside and participate in all the revelry Bastille Day offers. Take pictures with cadets from military academies, climb the iconic Eiffel Tower (what better day to do it than on Bastille Day?) and eat an early dinner outside if weather permits. The excitement of Bastille Day in Paris is contagious, and by spending the holiday among locals, you will feel even more a part of the experience. Be sure to watch your belongings, though – it is easy to lose track of your bags in these crowds.

View the fireworks from the Eiffel Tower.
The Champ de Mars (lawn of the Eiffel Tower) is the perfect place to view the Bastille Day fireworks. Although the fireworks show doesn’t occur until late evening, arrive early with your camera, a few snacks and a towel or blanket to sit on. My friends and I selected our spot six hours before the show, to give us a fair share of seating. The fireworks are accompanied by music, so you will find yourself singing along among complete strangers from all over the world and having the time of your life.

Leave early.
Although the streets and subways are going to be inundated with people, you can avoid the crowds by leaving the fireworks show five minutes early. This will help you skip the big rush and get back to your hotel safely.

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