AIFS Study Abroad Blog

How to Celebrate Bastille Day in Paris

Fireworks over the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day, Paris, France | AIFS Study Abroad

On July 14th, 1789, over a thousand soldiers and armed civilian insurgents stormed the Bastille prison. This was a pivotal moment for the French Revolution, because it showed how much power the people of Paris could have against the extravagant and tyrannical Louis XIV. It was a symbolic uprising, representative of the French people’s refusal to accept the oppressive regime.

Bastille Day is the most important national holiday in France, marking the birth of the French Republic.

Generally referred to as “le quatorze juillet” and sometimes as “la Fête nationale,” celebrations begin at dawn and go long into the night. 

One of the reasons I wanted to study abroad during the summer term was so I could experience Bastille Day in the city that started it all. What better way to celebrate French unity and pride than in the nation’s capital?

This year, Bastille Day fell on a Sunday, so the entire weekend was chock-full of festivities. In the evenings, there were firemen’s balls, organized at fire stations in different districts of the capital. The famous Bastille Day military parade was held early Sunday morning on the Champs-Elysées, but if you’re up to stake out a spot before dawn, it’s definitely worth it!

The crowds at the firemen’s ball were huge, so I would definitely recommend getting there at least an hour early, to make sure you have a good spot in line. That said, it’s the perfect excuse to go dancing with your new study abroad friends! At some stations, the celebrations spill out onto the streets, so if you’re planning on being out late, make sure to wear comfortable shoes, and prepare to have a blast.

Of all the different Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, my favorite was definitely the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. Thousands of people—Parisians and tourists alike—head to the Champ de Mars in the early afternoon to stake out a spot on the lawn to watch the show. Some of my friends and I found a spot in a nearby park with a beautiful view of the top of the tower. I picked up pizza and pastries from a nearby boulangerie, and they brought blankets so we could picnic under the lights. It was a magical night: nothing compares to laughing and drinking with new friends under the Eiffel Tower. Just add fireworks!

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