Want to know how to take Bastille Day by storm like a real Parisian? Here’s everything you need to know…
Bastille Day, or the ’14th of July’ as they say in France, commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution which eventually led to the monarchy’s downfall. It’s been celebrated every year since 1880 and is an ‘old fashioned’ knees-up, with glamorous balls, parades, brass bands and accordion music. Everyone gets involved, families and hipsters alike, so whether you’ve a penchant for fireworks or men in uniform, we’ve got every angle covered.
The traditional ‘défilé du 14 juillet’ happens on the 14 of July in several towns acroos France, but naturally the biggest ones happen in Paris. Troops go from Etoile to Concorde Square, via the Champs Elysees. Performers roll by on foot, horse or floats to the March of military bands and the president, government and foreign ambassadors in Paris all watch the show and some foreign representatives are invited.
More on the ‘fun’ stuff, most of the fire stations are open and organise balls where, you can introduce yourself to handsome militaries, no doubt a little tiddly since their appearance in the parade. The fire station of the rue du Jour in the centre of Paris is throwing one from 8pm to dawn and you’ll find cheap drinks, old fashioned music with a band outside and a DJ inside. My vivid memory is of legionnaires acting like gogo dancers and taking off their shirts! Entry is free so most venues in the centre of Paris are packed. One alternative is the fire station on the rue du Colombier located in the trendy neighbourhood of Saint Germain and a must for all hipsters. Like most venues, it’s better to show up early to avoid queuing for hours. You can also try the fire station of Ménilmontant, here the firemen prepare a striptease show…apparently.
This is definitely the main events and this twinkling gunpowder display epitomises Bastille Day. Every city in France organise their own on 13th and/or 14th July. Paris boasts the biggest display at the Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars and it’s where most people congregate. But we’ll let you in on a little secret; head to one of these quieter and strategic spots for optimum viewing.
The Buttes Chaumont Park: This beautiful park on top of a hill offers an outstanding view over Paris. Here you can enjoy the fireworks and the surrounding suburbs lazily laying in the grass. No craning the neck required!
Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre: It’s another elevated position. Remember, this is a popular tourist spot so it won’t be the quietest, but the nice panoramic views make up for it!
Passerelle Debilly: This bridge is on the Quai Branly and quite close to the Eiffel Tower. Here you can enjoy the reflection of the fireworks in the river and the banks of the Seine for a scenic backdrop.
Georges restaurant: Located on the top floor of the Pompidou Centre, the restaurant one of the most amazing panoramic views of the city. It’s perfect if you’re after a romantic setting. The food is a bit overpriced so I’d stick to a drink.
Breteuil Square: Perhaps the least-known setting of the list, this square is close to the Duroc tube station and perfectly aligned with the Eiffel Tower.
Finally, be warned; lots of museums and shops are closed on Bastille Day as on other public holidays in France.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments…
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