Category Archives: Bastille Day



Celebrated widely across France and in French-speaking regions around the world, Bastille day or La Fete Nationale in French is the anniversary of the storming of Bastille on the 14th July 1789 and the turning point in the French revolution.

On the morning of the 14th July, the streets on the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs Elysees and onto the Place de Concorde all begin to fill up as everyone eagerly awaits the parade to begin.

Known to be one of the oldest and biggest military parades in Europe it contains service men and women from various units including cadets from military school, the French Navy and Foreign Legion and the parade ends with the Paris Fire Brigade.

Not only is the parade on the ground but also in the air as military aircraft take to the skies.  With the president of the Republic, other French officials and guests in attendance they take their ringside seats as the French President opens and reviews the troops to begin the day’s celebrations.

Everywhere you go in and around France, the streets and houses are decorated in bunting and banners of the tricolor flag and the locals have painted faces and are dressed in the blue, red and white for the occasion. The French moto can also be heard everywhere around Liberte Egalité Fraternite (liberty, equality, and fraternity) along with breaking into singing the French national anthem; La Maseillaise.

14 juillet 2011

After the parade everyone stays in place to witness the finale. The grand operatic works take to the stage at 9:30pm with a grand concert, then at 11pm the fireworks are set off from the base of the Eiffel Tower and the gardens of Trocadero. The uninterrupted 30-minute grand finale show fills the night sky with a kaleidoscope of colour and light.

For some, once the evening’s celebrations are over, they return home to spend the rest of the day with family and friends but for others, the night has just begun as this is when the traditional bals des pompiers (fireman’s ball) takes place. These are parties organised by the Paris fire stations in the different districts of the capital.

All around the world, French expatriates will be remembering and celebrating their freedom, so why not look around your area to see if there are any special events planned to take part in.




Bastille Day or “la fete national” (the national celebration) as it is known in France, is the anniversary marking the storming of the Bastille state prison on 14th July 1789. Also, on this day there is a celebration of the “Fete de la federation”, representing the first major event of the French revolution.

Celebrations take place all over France, not only on the Saturday but also the days leading up to the national holiday. The storming of the Bastille is treated in much the same way as American Independence Day and/or Canada Day. It is a very patriotic and festive event with a great deal taking place including military parades, communal meals, dances, parties and of course plenty of fireworks.

On Saturday, locals and visitors flocked to the Champs Elysees in Paris, lining the streets to get a good spot for the parade. With the president of France starting the parade, thousands of police, firefighters, service men and women from various units, cadets from military schools, the French navy and even the French foreign legion put on a unique and mesmerising display; known to be the largest and oldest military parade in Europe.

Not only was there action on the ground but also in the air. The Alpha Jets of Patrouille de France also put on a fantastic aerial display in both aeroplanes and helicopters, spraying smoke from the back of the engines in the “tri-colour” colours of red, white and blue matching the attire of all the locals. After the parade everyone heads of for a celebratory meal or picnic with family and friends or attending the huge free concert that the city Of Paris provides eagerly waiting for the evening’s festivities.

The fireworks display was the City’s only firework show of the year on the Champ De Mars at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Boats were filled to the brim and dotted all along the river Seine, crowds start to gather along the Seine and at the plaza at Trocadero across the river all trying to get a good spot for the fireworks display.

Around 11pm and with the Eiffel tower in the forefront, the massive pro musical display began, as silence fell amongst the crowd in complete awe of the fireworks. With lasers and lights on the tower the whole display lasted around 35 minutes undisturbed.

Bastille day fireworks



“Is this a revolt?” asked Louis XVI “No Sire, this is a revolution” replied the Duque of Rochefoucal, and so began the French Revolution. The date was the 12th of July 1789 two days before the storming of the Bastille.

On the 19th of May King Louis met with the deputies of the third estate representing the common people who later chose to break away and form a national assembly, swearing not to separate until a national constitution had been formed: The other two estates belonging to the Catholic Church and the French nobility.

On the 14th of July a decision was made to storm the Bastille; a symbol of Royal authority. Unknown to the invaders, the prison at the time only contained seven prisoners … and 30,000 lb of black powder! Very useful when you consider that earlier in the day, the Hotel Des Invalids had also been attacked to liberate the 30,000 muskets and cannons being stored in the cellar to help further their cause.

The words used “Men are born free, and remain free and equal” are still as relevant today as they have always been. In fact many countries use this statement within their human rights declarations.

In Paris, the biggest Bastille Day party on the planet begins at 11am, as the “Alpha Jets” (part of France’s air force) will fly over the Capital emitting plumes of red, white and blue smoke to emanate the tricolour flag and signifying the start of a parade of some 4,000 soldiers, firefighters and police officers will march down the Champs-Elysees where each side of the streets will be flanked by adoring crowds.

In the afternoon, many fire department ‘balls’ take place. These are commonly held in every neighbourhood across France.

The high point of the day takes place at sunset by the Eiffel Tower; overlooked by over 50,000 spectators as music fills the air with 250 members of the French National orchestra joined by the radio France choir who will be singing patriotic renditions of Mozart, Verdi, Berlioz and Wager, followed by a MASSIVE FIREWORKS DISPLAY.

Around the World, French expatriate will be remembering the reason for their freedom and joining in celebrations and in London there are a number of events planning in Battersea Park, Camden Town & Kentish Town.

Over in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, they have held especially themed events since 2008. There will be red, white and blue themed bunting as all things French will be on display around a specially arranged French style market with music, wine and food. The event takes place on Kampa Island, just over the Charles Bridge down the romantic lanes.

In the US, 50 cities have events planned to commemorate the day, from a forty-three foot replica of the Eiffel Tower in Milwaukie to the largest party outside France in the French quarter of New Orleans.

Whilst there is nothing on north of the M25, if you are an expatriate and plan to celebrate, please remember we are here seven days a week, with a whole of host of predominantly red, white and blue firework cakes and rockets to help you celebrate continued freedom!

Vive La Revolution