What is Bastille Day or Fête Nationale or Quatorze Juillet:
Bastille Day is a National holiday in France which commemorates the Fête de la Fédération held on July 14th, 1790.
On the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 and the start of the French Revolution, a huge feast was held – Fête de la Fédération – to celebrate the uprising, the end of the absolute monarchy and the satisfactory conclusion of the French Revolution.
Today, Fête Nationale or Le quatorze juillet (July 14th), as it is commonly referred to, is more associated with grand military parades, festive balls, picnics and firework displays. All around France and especially in Paris there are grand quatorze juillet celebrations which start in all earnestness on the evening before.
Concert at the Place de la Bastille
The festivities in Paris kick off with a huge concert at the Place de la Bastille, on the very spot where the French Revolution began on July 14, 1789.
The Paris Fire Brigade hold their traditional Bastille Day ball on this evening. In addition, many of the Paris fire stations open their doors to the public from July 13th to 15th. This is not a good time for homes or buildings to catch fire!
July 14th – Military Parade
The traditional military parade takes place from 9:00 a.m. onwards on the Champs-Elysées. If you’re planning to be there, the closest metros are Champs-Elysées Clemenceau and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Each year there is a special theme for the parade.
Bastille Day is the day when the French will be at their nationalistic best and military aircrafts will take to the skies of Paris, displaying their aerobatic skills whilst the cavalry regiment of the Republican Guard will march through Champs-Elysées, the most impressive and famous avenue in the world. The march usually starts from the Arc de Triomphe and proceeds to the Place de la Concorde, although the route has been varied previously.
Throughout the day, there are concerts, picnics and other celebrations happening all over the city. Night clubs, bars, cafes and restaurants will also be doing their bit and staging their own celebrations.
No grand celebration is complete without fireworks. The fireworks are usually launched from the Trocadéro and can be viewed from the Champ de Mars near the Eiffel Tower. This annual fireworks display enjoys a magnificent setting.
What is the significance of Bastille Day
So why is Bastille Day important? The Day commemorates the storming of the former high-security prison and the uprising that marked the beginning of the French Revolution.
On July 14, 1789, militant Parisian workers stormed and dismantled the Bastille, a royal fortress in Paris. Originally built as the Castle of St. Antoine around 1370 to be part of the fortifications of Paris, the Bastille was made a state prison by Cardinal Richelieu in the 17th century. Although the number of prisoners held at the Bastille prison averaged about 40, the Bastille came to symbolize the tyranny of the Bourbon monarchs.
On the morning of July 14, 1789, a mob descended on the Bastille and demanded the arms and munitions stored there. When the prison governor refused, the people stormed the fortress and freed the prisoners. Ironically, there were only seven prisoners held at the time. The governor and most of the garrison were killed, and the Bastille was razed.
Storming of the Bastille
The storming of the Bastille signalled the beginning of the French Revolution, after a three-year reign of terror and political turmoil. Eventually King Louis XVI was overthrown and approximately 1,000 people, including the king and his wife Marie Antoinette, were sent to the guillotine near the Place de la Concorde. The Bastille was demolished during the Revolution and although nothing now remains of the Bastille fortress itself, the place where it once stood remains an enduring symbol of the ideals of Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité.
Paris is an amazingly beautiful city at any time and when decked out for Bastille Day it is just magnifique. The city will be jam-packed with people and if you’re on holiday in Paris and want to enjoy the celebrations, it is advisable to get in early to secure your vantage point.