Visit Paris: 10 Top Activities to Celebrate Bastille Day

Night view of Arc de Triomphe

Every July 14, Paris becomes ground zero for Bastille Day celebrations, and with good reason. It’s where the Storming of the Bastille took place, ushering in the French Revolution in the process. The City of Light marks Bastille Day with reverent patriotism and cheerful revelry, adding an extra touch of enchantment to an already captivating city. Here are some of the best ways to join the Bastille Day fun in Paris.

Bastille Day-Paris-Bastille Day Parade

1. See a Bastille Day Parade Along the Champs Elysees

One of the French National Day’s signature events is the military parade that marches down the Champs Elysees, a Bastille Day Paris tradition that dates back to 1880. The march typically starts around 10:45 AM along with an Air Force flyover, and the route stretches from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. There’s plenty of pomp and circumstance worth checking out in the two hours leading up to the main event, including a ceremony where the President of France inspects the troops as he rides down the world-famous thoroughfare. If you’re planning on using the metro to line up for this special parade, be prepared to arrive early – most of the metro stations shut down around the area from 8:00 AM to Noon because of security. If you’re lucky, you may find a second-story window seat in one of the Champs Elysees’ cafes to catch the Bastille Day festivities.

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Bastille Day-Paris-Eiffel Tower Fireworks

2. Catch the Eiffel Tower Fireworks

Bastille Day concludes with dazzling fireworks lighting up the night sky above the Eiffel Tower. You can catch this bright Bastille Day show anywhere in Paris where the landmark is visible. However, plenty of Parisians choose to take in the roughly 35-minute exhibition near tower’s base on the Champ de Mars.The lengthy greenspace hosts a classical Bastille Day music concert a couple hours before the Bastille Day fireworks go off, providing an extra reason to get close to the action. You’ll want to arrive early if you come here – people tend to arrive on the grounds during the day to stake a prime spot and picnic. On this day, alcohol is cut off on the greenbelt at 3:00 PM, public bathrooms are scarce, and select Metro stations may close early for security reasons, so plan accordingly. Patience is important wherever you choose to see the display – the Bastille Day fireworks don’t go off until 11:00 PM. Across from Champ de Mars on the other side of the Seine, the Les Jardins du Trocadero offers a slightly less crowded spot to catch the Bastille Day fireworks in the Eiffel Tower’s shadow.

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3. Attend the Firemen’s Ball

The fire stations around Paris turn into informal gathering spots for fundraising and entertainment on Bastille Day. A modest entrance fee gets you into one of these Paris Bastille Day parties, where food, drinks, and raffle tickets are available for purchase. People of all ages are welcome to attend the Bastille Day affairs. Once the children leave, the Bastille Day balls take on a nightclub-like atmosphere with DJs and dancing. These special gatherings tend to go late into the night, and Metro passengers should note the trains run until around 2:00 AM. Can’t wait until Bastille Day to celebrate? Some of the fire stations start their revelry on July 13.

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Bastille Day-Paris-Louvre

4. Visit the Louvre for Free

Even though Bastille Day is a national holiday, all of Paris‘ s main cultural sites will be open, including the Musee d’Orsay and Musee de l’Orangerie. The city’s most famous museum, The Louvre, allows guests to visit their permanent collection free of charge on Bastille Day. Expect the crowds to be a little larger on the French National Day, particularly around iconic works of art like the Mona Lisa. Other museums and monuments around town also offer free Bastille Day entry, including Les Invalides and The Pantheon.

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Bastille Day-Paris-Cruise on the Seine

5. Take a Cruise on the Seine

Because the Bastille Day fireworks can be enjoyed from anywhere in view of the Eiffel Tower, people have plenty of options to take in the breathtaking sight. One of the more unique ways to enjoy the fireworks over Paris is to book a Bastille Day dinner cruise on the Seine. Several companies feature fleets featuring dining options, from casual meals to gourmet experiences built around dishes like smoked duck foie gras, escargot, and cote de boeuf. The time on the water varies by boat, as does the boats’ river position when Bastille Day’s Parisian fireworks shoot off. Some get near the Eiffel Tower, while others hang back and position their craft to put you in the landmark’s line of sight.

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6. Sneak in Some Bastille Day Shopping

Paris‘s monuments aren’t the only things surprisingly open during Bastille Day. The stores are also ready for business, from the famous luxury jewelry stores found along the octagonal Place Vendome to other popular shopping hubs like Galeries Lafayette, Shopping Center Beaugrenelle, and Bercy Village. Some stores may even have special Bastille Day sales happening to further coax money from your wallet.

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Bastille Day-Paris-the Paris-Plages

7. Hang Out on the Paris-Plages

Why not enjoy Bastille Day in Paris at the beach? Every summer, two sections of the Seine’s banks transform into a free urban coastline. You can gather along the river-adjacent Parc Rives de Seine between the Musee d’Orsay and the Pont de l’Alma and take in the Bastille Day scenery under a parasol surrounded by palm trees. If you prefer, you and your kids can also drop by the La Villette canal basin and take a Bastille Day dip in a swimming pool. At either spot, you can grab a book from nearby kiosks, play table football, or eat a scoop of ice cream. The Eiffel Tower can be seen from the beaches, allowing you to enjoy its Bastille Day fireworks from a deck chair.

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8. Take a French Revolution Walking Tour

Several landmarks associated with Bastille Day and the ensuing French Revolution still stand in Paris. A handful of guided tours can help you trace the history of the important yet bloody conflict around Paris on Bastille Day. Typical points of interest include The Conciergerie, the prison where captives awaited the guillotine, and Place de la Concorde, the public square where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette met their fate. You’ll also see the Place de la Bastille, the monument that stands on the site of the Bastille Prison. Tours usually take about two hours. There’s also a self-guided tour you can take by downloading a special app if you’d prefer to move at your own pace on Bastille Day.

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Bastille Day-Paris-Bois de Boulogne

9. Enjoy an Afternoon in Bois de Boulogne

The sprawling, 845-acre Bois de Boulogne Park provides you with the opportunity to spend Bastille Day surrounded by nature. This former hunting grounds for French kings is a haven for outdoor activity in Paris. On Bastille Day, it serves as a terrific alternative if you wish to have a picnic without having to deal with the crowds gathered at Champ de Mars or Les Jardins du Trocadero. You can also rent a boat and take a leisurely ride on the park’s Lac Inferieur. If you do, be sure to cruise to the lake’s island and find a monument to the park’s builder and Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew, Napoleon III.

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Bastille Day-Paris-Tuileries' Fair

10. Spend the Day at the Tuileries’ Fair

If you’re spending Bastille Day in Paris with the family, you may want to check out this funfair heled every summer in the Jardin des Tuileries Garden. The space plays host to about 60 classic attractions such as bumper cars, shooting galleries, a hall of mirrors, and several carousels. The showstopping attraction is the spinning swings, which allows you to fly over the Rue de Rivoli as you take in birds-eye views of the Eiffel Tower and other city attractions. Booths selling gelato, cotton candy, doughnuts, and candied apples supply ample opportunity to satisfy your sweet tooth on Bastille Day. Entry to the fair is free, but it will cost you money to experience the rides and attractions.

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