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If you’re traveling to Paris in mid-July, you might be here on Bastille Day. Known in France as la Fête Nationale, or simply by its date, le quatorze juillet (July 14th), this is the country’s national day, commemorating the outbreak of the French Revolution on July 14, 1789. You might be wondering what to do in Paris on Bastille Day and we’ve got you covered in our selection of local events, thematic tours, and other ways to partake in the festivities.

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(WA = Wheelchair Accessible)

This is an image of the French military walking with the Arc De Triomphe in the distance.

Watch the military parade 

If you’ve been searching online for what to do in Paris on Bastille Day, the annual military parade will certainly come up. Originating in 1880 and held on the morning of July 14th, the parade usually goes down the Champs Elysées, from the Arc du Triomphe to Place de la Concorde. However, due to installations for the Paris 2024 Olympics, this summer it’ll go down nearby Avenue Foch instead. Beginning at 10:45 am, the parade includes marching soldiers from different French army divisions, tanks, and other military vehicles. Aim to come a little early if you’d like a good spot along the route. A small word of caution, the métro stations close to the route usually close from 8 am so you might need to get off at a different station and walk a little to reach Avenue Foch. For this year’s route, the closed stations would be Charles-de-Gaule-Etoile and Porte Dauphine and possibly others. 

Military Parade | 8th Arrondissement | 14th July

This is an image of fighter jets flying overhead with red, blue and white smoke.

Catch the fighter jet flyover 

Even if you don’t want to watch the parade in person, from different places around the city you can catch a unique element of it – up in the air. Just before the parade kicks off, around 10:30 am there’s a cool flyover of fighter jets above the city. Called the “Patrouille de France,” the jets soar across the city while emitting a trail of red-white-blue smoke (the colors of the French flag). It’s an impressive sight, which you can usually spot from around the Louvre, Tuileries Gardens, along the Seine, or, from a bit of a distance, the steps in front of Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre. However, their route might be a little different this year since the parade is in a slightly different place.

Fighter Jet Flyover | Various Arrondissements | 14th July | WA

This is a picture of the Olympic Torch being held in the air.

See the Olympic Torch 

There’ll be an additional special event taking place this July 14th – the arrival of the Olympic Torch Relay in Paris. Throughout the day the Olympic Torch, which is currently being carried around the country, will travel through the central arrondissements of Paris and pass by key sites like the Panthéon, Place de la Bastille, and Hôtel de Ville (City Hall). It’ll then stay overnight at Hôtel de Ville, which will be open to the public (a nice and rare chance to see the inside of this beautiful building). Read more information at this link.

Olympic Torch Relay | Various Arrondissements | 14-15th July 

This is an image of the Pantheon in Paris with the French flag raised high above it.

Visit the Panthéon or Les Invalides for free

Some key venues in Paris with links to the French Revolution have free entrance on July 14th. These include the Louvre (WA) (although already fully booked), Les Invalides (WA), which houses several military museums and the tomb Revolutionary hero Napoléon Bonaparte, and the Panthéon, which was turned into a temple for French national heroes during the Revolution (it’ll be closed between 1:30 pm et 3:30 pm). So July 14th is a good opportunity to visit these sites while also saving some euros. If you’d like to visit another museum or monument, most are actually open on Bastille Day, so it’s not a day for only outdoor sightseeing.

Various Arrondissements | 14th July 

This is a picture of a party street full of string that adorns French flags for Bastille Day.

Take a French Revolution history tour

Those keen to learn more about the events surrounding the French National Day, should consider joining this 2-hour French Revolution tour. You’ll find out all about the storming of the Bastille fortress that took place on July 14th, as well as further details about what sparked the Revolution and its long-lasting consequences. You’ll visit sites including Les Invalides, the Assemblée Nationale (the French Parliament), and the Tuileries Gardens.

French Revolution History Tour | Starts in 7th Arrondissement 

This is a picture of the big conciergerie building in Paris.

Learn about the French Revolution at the Conciergerie 

For some independent sightseeing linked to the French Revolution, we suggest you stop by the Conciergerie. The former royal palace was converted into a prison in the late 1300s. During the Revolution, important prisoners were held here, most famously Marie-Antoinette. It’s now a museum, mostly dedicated to the Revolution, featuring a reconstruction of the Queen’s former cell. You can avoid waiting in line by getting advance tickets or a combined ticket of the Conciergerie and Sainte-Chapelle, a popular site located next door that usually has very long lines for those without advanced tickets.

Advance Conciergerie Ticket | Conciergerie | 1st Arrondissement 

This is a picture of a ball held at a fire station, where the fire fighters and staff are serving drinks and enjoying music.

Image Courtesy of Pompiers Paris

Attend a fire station ball 

If you’re looking for what to do in Paris on Bastille Day to be among locals, then you really should attend a fire station party. This year they’ll be held on the evenings of July 12th or 13th, many fire stations (caserne in French) around the city open their doors to the public for a free party (donations appreciated). Most stations have large courtyards where the party happens and where there is a stage with live music or DJs, in addition to food and beverage stands. 

This year they will start at 6:30 pm and go until late. You can find a full list of the balls at this link, but on July 12th we’re fans of the caserne on Rue Boursault in the 17th and on the night of the 13th, the casernes on Rue du Jour in the 1st or rue Carpeaux in the 18th. All ages welcome, although we highly recommend coming on the early side as the lines get longer and longer as the hours tick past.

Fire Station Balls | Various Arrondissements | 14th July | (*Contact firehouses for WA information)

This is an image of big fireworks above the Eiffel Tower.

Watch the fireworks display

There’s also an annual fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower. As it gets dark quite late in Paris in summer, the display doesn’t start until 11:00 pm. Lasting about 30 minutes, it’s quite a spectacular show. This year, the Paris city hall is encouraging people to watch it from afar as the area around the Eiffel Tower already has installations set up for the Olympics. You could try along the Seine on the Right Bank near the tower, such as the Port Debilly or Port de la Conférence, or else a bridge closeby like the Pont Debilly footbridge or the Pont Bir Hakeim. To get the best spots, arrive early (around 7 or 8 pm) and you might like to bring a picnic to keep entertained until the show starts.

Firework Show | 8th Arrondissement | 14th July

This is an image of a tour boat sailing through the Seine River. It is night, so there are lots of pretty lights.

Take an evening Seine River cruise 

We don’t generally recommend the large cruise boats on the Seine, however, there are some better smaller ones, like the Vedettes de Pont Neuf or the Vedettes de Paris – which have a fleet of eco-friendly electric boats. The Vedettes du Pont Neuf offers a special cruise on the night of July 14th that’s the perfect way to see the fireworks without the crowds on land. This particular cruise also includes a glass of champagne. You can book it as of July 1st at this link.

Seine River Cruise Vedettes de Pont Neuf | Starts in 1st Arrondissement | 14th July 

If you liked our article on what to do in Paris on Bastille Day, you might be interested in some of our other tips on cool Paris activities. Read these articles next:

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This is a Pinterest image detailing How To Spend Bastille Day in Paris.
Lily Heise

A long-time Paris resident, Lily Heise is a travel writer whose work has been in Condé Nast Traveler, Huff Post, Fodor’s, AFAR, and Frommer’s, among others. When she’s not uncovering the city’s best secrets, she can be found on a Parisian café terrasse or traveling the globe.

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