Bastille Day, known as “La Fête Nationale” (French National Day) or, more commonly, Le Quatorze Juillet (July 14) in France, is a momentous occasion that signifies the country’s national pride and unity. It is also an official national holiday in France. This annual celebration on July 14 commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison, a pivotal event that sparked the French Revolution.
Bastille Day traces back to July 14, 1789, when a crowd of Parisians stormed the Bastille fortress prison, a symbol of the monarchy’s oppression. The fall of the Bastille became a pivotal point in the French Revolution, representing the people’s triumph against the authoritarian regime. This moment in history marked the beginning of the end of absolute monarchy and paved the way for the formation of a democratic nation.
Celebrations in Paris
The three highlights of the July 14 celebrations are the morning parade on the Champs-Élysées, the classical music concert on the Champ de Mars in the evening and the fireworks.
1. Morning Parade on the Champs-Élysées
Like every year, there will be the traditional July 14 military parade on the Champs-Élysées which honours the women and men who have committed themselves to the service of France and the French people. It will start at 10 am at the Arc de Triomphe with formal military exercises and the arrival of the President of the French Republic.
This year, the parade theme is “Strategic Solidarity with Allies”, with fifteen of France’s allies expected to attend. Among them is India, this year’s guest of honour, with the presence of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
The event sees thousands of military personnel, police and vehicles make their way from Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde.
At around 10:30, you can watch a magnificent flyover of military plants featuring the colours of the French flag takes place overhead.
After the parade, the army invites everyone to meet the soldiers across Paris, including on the Esplanade des Invalides and Hôtel de Ville.
2. Evening classical music concert on the Champs de Mars
Just before the fireworks from the Eiffel Tower, a major classical music concert is being held on the Champs de Mars beginning at 9.15 pm. This year’s two-hour show will bring together the French National Orchestra, the Radio France Choir, the Children’s Choir, as well as great international soloists to offer you a concert on the theme of fraternity before singing the French national anthem La Marseillaise before the fireworks display. This year’s edition concludes a three-year cycle dedicated to the French motto: Liberty (2021 edition), Equality (2022 edition), and Fraternity (2023 edition).
3. Fireworks above the Eiffel Tower
The fireworks are the most anticipated event on July 14 and are truly unmissable. As the clock strikes 11.00 pm, the sky above the Eiffel Tower erupts into a dazzling spectacle of lights and colours for about 30 minutes. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, announced that the theme of this year’s celebrations is overseas French territories and Creole.
The sky will be lit up with the colours of the Carribean, Portuguese-speaking countries, and Cuba and an accompanying musical tribute will pay tribute to these territories.
In 2022, the fireworks cost the city of Paris 750,000 euros, a significant portion of the estimated 3.5 – 4 million euros spent on July 14 celebrations in Paris every year.
Access to all events is free and without reservation. There will be huge crowds wherever you go to watch the highlights so plan ahead and arrive in advance, whichever spot you pick. Take a look at metro station closures on this day and prepare to make your way on foot, if needed. You can also follow the celebrations live on television on France 2.
Get a glimpse of what to expect by watching a video of last year’s fireworks: