Bastille Day 2016 is the French equivalent of the Fourth of July in the United States. This celebration of French independence and freedom commemorates the "Storming of the Bastille" that occurred on the morning of July 14, 1789 when the common people of Paris stormed the prison known as the Bastille.
Bastille Day History and Facts
In 1880, almost 100 years after the seminal event, Bastille Day was declared a French national holiday. This popular uprising against oppression was the flashpoint of the French Revolution and has become a symbol of freedom around the world. In France, the day is referred to as La Fete National (The National Celebration) or simply as "le quatorze juillet" meaning, the 14th of July. In 1848, the revolution's motto of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" was reinstated. These cornerstones of French freedom are reflected in the three colors of the French flag.
Bastille Day Image: Paris Tourist Office / Amélie Dupont
Just as with the Fourth of July, the holiday today occurs amid an atmosphere of exuberant patriotism, marked by fireworks and parades. These are held around the country in just about every city, town, and village. Places that are or once were French territories also celebrate the holiday, including Caribbean islands like St Martin and French Polynesian Islands like Tahiti.
Bastille Day 2016 Events
It is, however, Bastille Day Paris France where you will find the penultimate celebrations (all covered in depth on French television). The festivities begin on the evening of July 13 with numerous private parties and elegant balls. The Paris Fire Brigade holds their annual ball on this evening, and an invitation is a highly sought item not available to the general public. The city's nightlife is especially active on both the 13th and 14th, but do make reservations at the most popular spots. There is also a huge free public concert held in the Place de Bastille where the historic prison was once located. This concert is held on the evening of the 13th, and the square is located in the 11th Arondissement less than a mile to west of Ile de la Cite and magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral.
On the following morning, a grand Bastille Day Paris France military parade begins about 8:45. It progresses along the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. In addition to numerous units from the French military, there are guest troops from former African colonies like Morocco and from other countries. Guest marchers in the past have included the United States Military Academy (West Point), the Spanish Legion, and the Swedish Royal Guard. Even a battalion from the United Nations has marched. Additionally, there are military flyovers. This is the largest and oldest military parade in the world.
The Bastille Day Paris France parade is free and open to all. If you want to find the best places to view it, it pays to camp out the night before at places along the route. Be prepared to walk, since many of the Metro stations will be closed. On the evening of the 14th, the entire celebration is capped with an extravagant fireworks display—also free. The fireworks are staged from the Trocadero, which is just across the River Seine from the Eiffel Tower. There are many places that provide great views of the fireworks, including any of the Paris neighborhoods with views of the Eiffel Tower, including the hill of Montmartre and its Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre. You might also consider making reservations at the pricey Georges' Restaurant on the top floor of the Centre Pompidou.
Top image: y.caradec (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0