Summer in Paris is all about music festivals and drinks out on terraces, but it’s also about celebrating Bastille Day, one of the most important dates in French history.
What is Bastille Day?
Known simply as le 14 juillet (July 14th) by the French, Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789. What began as an angry mob of anti-monarchists looking for ammunition against royal authoritarianism turned into an enduring symbol of the French Revolution and today’s national celebration of the French tripartite motto liberté, égalité et fraternité.
So how do you celebrate Bastille Day in Paris? While the festivities tend to be of a more jovial affair today, an annual military parade still takes place on the Champs Elysées. However, if that’s isn’t quite synonymous with your idea of fun, then here are some of our favorite Bastille Day staples.
Watch the Dazzling Bastille Day Fireworks
Other than camping out all day on the Champ de Mars, there are quite a few places from which to admire the best of France’s pyrotechnical wizardry. For a low-key evening, a late-afternoon picnic along the River Seine with a view of the Eiffel Tower (near Pont des Arts, Pont de la Concorde or Pont Alexandre III) will do the trick – just stay until the show begins at 11pm.
You can also grab a drink on a boat on the water like Mademoiselle Mouche, a verdant rooftop bar on a bateau mouche river cruise boat. For a luxury experience, book a dinner on the rooftop of Hôtel Marignan or La Maison Blanche close to the Champs-Elysées. Whatever you choose, the key is booking early and getting there before everyone else. Happy Bastille Day!
Dance the Night Away With a Firefighter
Believe it not, yes, partying with fire-fighters at their fire stations into the early hours is a Bastille Day tradition in France. Les bals populaires (literally ‘local balls’) bring together people of all ages and backgrounds for a light-hearted jaunt and is one those annual events high up on the social calendar.
Each fire station has its own ritual and style of ball. The most popular are in the Marais, Saint Michel and La Sorbonne area, but make sure to get there early as there can be queues, especially for the more popular balls like in the Marais (starts at 7pm till 4am – see the full list). If you don’t make it to a bal des pompiers, then numerous venues across the city organize their own version of a bal, like the Monnaie de Paris on the River Seine, to more low-key venues like the Hasard Ludique and MOB Hotel on the outskirts of the city.
Go Boating on the Canal in La Villette
Activities include boat rides, themed cruises, concerts, dance classes, performances, urban art and more. Make sure to duck into the docked houseboats – you never know whether you’ll stumble upon a jazz concert, an art exhibition, or a spot you’ll want to hunker down to some sunset cocktails.
Written by Diana Liu for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates.