Celebrating the Fourteenth of July - Bastille Day - in Paris, France

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

The Fourteenth of July is the National Holiday of France. On this day, the population of France celebrates Bastille Day. It commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789. On the Fourteenth of July, the three principles of liberté, egalité et fraternité - in English, freedom, equality and brotherhood - are celebrated.

The capital of France, Paris, has one of the biggest celebrations of France on this day. The celebrations begin on the 13th, when in the evening all firestations of the city are open (just like in the rest of the country), and the firefighters organize dance parties in the firestations. Regular people, as well as firefighters, police, and military from all branches attend the parties, that go on until the early morning. These dance parties are held on the 13th and the 14th, in most firestations on both nights. For more information you can visit the website of the firefighters of Paris, www.pompiers-paris.fr. A few weeks in advance the calendar of parties is posted on there. There is also a party on the Bastille square on the evening of the 13th, and there are some other parties in town.

Make sure you arrive in Paris rested and fit. After the party on the 13th, you might want to get up early in the morning on the 14th, to go to the Champs-Elysées to see the military parade. The parade starts at 10 o'clock in the morning, is led by the President and accompanied overhead by jets in formation. The military and firemen march from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde.

There might also be a music festival on the Champ de Mars during that day, and other festivities. Please check the local papers and the website www.paris.fr for more information.

If you want do some sightseeing, you can for example climb the Eiffel Tower, or go up with the elevator. The Eiffel Tower was built by Gustave Eiffel between 1887 and 1889 as the entrance arch for a World Fair in 1889. It is the tallest building in Paris, 300.51 meters high. From the Eiffel Tower you can see the entire town. Especially if you are going to climb the Tower and if it is hot, remember to take water or milk, and some bread or bananas to be able to do the climb. The number of steps walkable by visitors - from Ground level to the second floor - is 704.

In the evening, there is a gigantic fireworks show with music at the Trocadéro. The fireworks can be enjoyed perfectly from under or behind the Eiffel Tower, and from the Champ-de-Mars. The closest metro station - Trocadéro - is closed off and so are some of the streets in the area, so be prepared to leave early and to walk about 1-2 kilometres to reach the Eiffel Tower. After the fireworks, you can choose between the parties at the firestations, or one of the many celebrations in the bars and clubs of Paris.

At the Castle of Versailles there are also celebrations in the month of July. On the 11th and 18th of July there are the Grandes Eaux Nocturnes, a nightly lightshow in the water, with fireworks and French baroque music. In the morning of the 14th of July there is a big picknick on the grounds of Versailles. Taking part in the picknick is completely free, for access to some parts of Versailles you have to pay. See http://www.chateauversailles-spectacles.fr/calendrier.php for the full calendar of events.

Shops are closed on the 14th of July; however, you wil be able to buy your food and drinks. You can also go to a restaurant and try, for example, some of my favourites, French cheese with a tomato salad on the side, or foie gras. On the website http://smartsco.blogspot.com/2006/06/paris-food-and-wine-tips-from-local.html you can find some addresses in Paris where they serve their own specialties, from an alcoholic sorbet to special Crème Brûlées.

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