France National Day – 14th of July (2024 Update)

All about the 14th of July – France’s National Day (known as Bastille Day in English) and the main events in Paris. If you are wondering what to do on the 14th of July in Paris to celebrate the National Day, this article has you covered.

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Bastille Day vs 14th of July

France Travel

Bastille Day” is a term invented by the Anglo-Saxons to define France’s National Day. “Bastille Day,” however, means nothing in France. If you ask your friends in France what they are doing on Bastille Day, they will look at you with big questioning eyes: “C’est quoi le Bastille Day?!” Same, wishing a “Happy Bastille Day!” has no sense in France.

In France, the National Day is called La Fête Nationale, Le 14 Juillet (14th of July), or le Pont du 14 Juillet, if it means a long weekend in France.

For us, the 14th of July is not a big celebration like Christmas, Easter, or Independence Day in the US, but of course, it is a day off. For some, Le 14 Juillet means the beginning of the summer holidays, while for others (me included), it is an excellent opportunity to explore other places in France on a long weekend getaway while waiting for the summer holidays.

So, if you plan to visit France during French National Day and expect to see us with berets, striped shirts, and French flags singing the Marseillaise everywhere, we are sorry to disappoint you!

The French Flag

In France, the use of the French Flag is not the same as in the US or the UK. On the 14th of July, you won’t see French flags in our gardens or balconies. We won’t be buying objects with the colors of the French flag either.

We (the French) have great respect for our flag, but we don’t overuse it. You will see the French Flag in all official places and at sports events to support our national team, but you will never see it on our t-shirts, caps, or decoration objects.

Also, some people see putting out too many French flags as a sign of “extreme right.”

What Does the French National Day Commemorate?

Fête de la Fédération at Champ de Mars, 14 July 1790

The short answer is that it is not clear. The 14th of July – National Day of France was instituted by the Raspail Law of 6 July 1880. Two important events in the history of France took place on the 14th of July:

14 July 1789 | Storming of the Bastille prison, the symbol of the end of absolute monarchy.

14 July 1790 | The Fête de la Fédération, the symbol of the union of the French Nation.

The Raspail Law (single article) does not mention which event is commemorated on the 14th of July. It reads: “The Republic adopts July 14 as the annual national holiday,” so you can choose 😉

What to Do on the 14th of July in Paris 2024?

Apart from the typical activities of any summer in Paris or any July in Paris, here’s the list of the best things to do during the France National Day in Paris 2024:

GOOD TO KNOW: During French National Day, there’s high security in Paris, so you may find some streets or metro exits closed by the police, especially around the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. Leave early so you can arrive at your destination on time!

1. Bal des Pompiers on 13th July

The French National Holiday celebrations usually start with the Bal des Pompiers (Firefighters’ Ball) on the evening of 13th July (from 9 pm to 4 am). These balls are organized in a dozen or so fire stations in Paris and animated by the firefighters themselves.

There’s usually an entrance fee, and the drinks inside are paid apart, but it’s an excellent opportunity to see hot French firefighters and, who knows, dance with them! The money collected this evening will be used to improve the condition of the staff.

2. Le Défilé (Bastille Day Parade)

Arc de Triomphe

The Défilé (or military parade) along the Champs Elysées is what tourists call the “Bastille Day Parade.” The Défilé is the main official event during the French National Day, a traditional parade that honors the French military regiments. It is also a good opportunity to see the French President as he walks down the Champs Elysées.

This year, the traditional 14 July parade, usually held on the Champs-Élysées, will be moved due to the Olympic Games. It will take place in the presence of the Olympic flame on Avenue Foch, renowned for its elegance. The military parade will only be a third of the way around the Arc de Triomphe, stretching through the 16th Arrondissement.

The military parade will start at 10 am. For two hours, spectators will see 4,300 soldiers on foot, 71 planes, 25 helicopters, 221 vehicles, and 200 Republican Guard horses. At the end of the parade, several activities will be offered to locals and visitors on the Esplanade des Invalides and in other places of the capital.

The Défilé is a very popular event, so if you want to watch it live, try to arrive around 8 am to find a good spot.

Watch the replay of the Défilé (2023)

3. Concert – Eiffel Tower Fireworks 2024

The Eiffel Tower Fireworks are the main event of French National Day on the 14th of July. The fireworks display takes place around the Eiffel Tower after dusk (11 pm) and is always spectacular. The 30-minute show revolves around a specific topic. At the time of updating this post, we still don’t know the topic of this year.

Before the fireworks, there will be a concert with the participation of numerous artists. The Orchestre National de France, the Choeur, and La Maîtrise de Radio France are offering a completely free and particularly original concert as an introduction to the big fireworks display on the 14th of July. This concert starts at 9 pm.

The most popular place to see the Eiffel Tower Fireworks is on Champ de Mars, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Needless to say, it is also the most crowded, and getting a free spot of grass is pretty tough. Some people arrive at Champ de Mars for a picnic a couple of hours before the start of the concert, and they stay there until the fireworks.

Arrive at Champs de Mars well in advance! Come at least 45 minutes in advance for the security check at the entrance points. For security reasons, some metro stations will be closed from 7 pm:

  • Line 6 : Kléber, Boissière, Passy, Trocadéro, Bir-Hakeim, Dupleix, La Motte-Picquet Grenelle, Cambronne, Sèvres-Lecourbe 
  • Line 8 : La Tour-Maubourg, École Militaire, Invalides, La Motte-Picquet Grenelle
  • Line 9 : Trocadéro, Alma-Marceau, Iéna, Rue de la Pompe
  • Line 10 : Javel – André Citroën, La Motte-Picquet Grenelle, Église d’Auteuil, Avenue Émile Zola, Boulogne Pont de Saint-Cloud, Boulogne Jean Jaurès, Chardon Lagache, Charles Michels, Michel-Ange Auteuil, Michel-Ange Molitor, Mirabeau, Porte d’Auteuil, Ségur 
  • Line 13 : Invalides, Saint-François-Xavier, Varenne
  • RER C : Pont de l’Alma, Champ-de-Mars – Tour Eiffel, Avenue du Président Kennedy – Maison de Radio France, Javel, Invalides 

Thanks to the Eiffel Tower’s monumental size, it is possible to have great views of the Eiffel Tower and the fireworks from different places in Paris, so there are many alternatives to the long waiting on the grass at Champ de Mars:

Watch the replay of the Bastille Day fireworks (2023)

4. Special Seine River Dinner Cruise

Seine River at Night

A dinner cruise through the Seine River is an excellent opportunity to admire the Eiffel Tower fireworks from another perspective and without the crowds. Many Seine River Cruises offer a dining option, but the National Day Dinner Cruises are more festive (live music band included) and scheduled around the fireworks.

This Bastille Day Dinner Cruise starts at 9 pm and includes a 4-course gastronomic meal and champagne. Please beware that the reviews below the description do not correspond to this specific cruise.

TIP: rent a private boat for partying and sailing along the Seine River (skipper mandatory)

5. Self-Guided French Revolution Tour

Women's March on Versailles

Learn about Paris during the French Revolution at your own pace with this self-guided French Revolution walking tour. This free tour visits interesting historical sites like Place de la Concorde, the Conciergerie, and the few remains of the Bastille prison.

6. Visit Versailles

Visit Versailles Gardens

Why not spend the French National Day outside Paris? Admire the impressive Palace of Versailles, home to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette during those troubled times. With all that opulent interiors, it is easy to understand why the French weren’t happy with their king!

On the 14th of July, you will also have the opportunity to enjoy the Grandes Eaux Musicales – the special show in the Versailles Gardens, with music and all the fountains of Versailles running – and the Grandes Eaux Nocturnes, the spectacular night fountains show and fireworks in Versailles. Check out this quick Versailles Guide for planning your trip to Versailles.

7. Monuments & Museums Open on Bastille Day

So you were ready for a full day of sightseeing in Paris, and you just realized that the 14th of July is a public holiday in France? Sure, you will have to review your schedule, but nothing is lost as there are many monuments and museums open on Bastille Day. These are our favorites:

Due to the preparation works for the concert and fireworks, going up to the Eiffel Tower on the 14th of July is not possible. The Eiffel Tower will re-open its doors on the 15th of July.

For bars and restaurants, stay central in the touristy neighborhoods in Paris. After all, it’s a holiday. Establishments in lesser-visited districts of Paris tend to be closed on the 14th of July.

Have you visited Paris during the French National holiday? Share your experiences and best tips in our France Bucket List – Facebook Group.

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Quirky Parisian explorer with a preference for lesser-known sights, I am continuously looking for new ideas and tips to bring you the best of the City of Light! Read more about me.