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Inexpensive Ways to Enjoy Bastille Day Weekend in Paris

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Bastille Day flyover
Read our guide to free and cheap ways to celebrate Bastille Day in Paris. Photo: Stunned

Here are some budget-friendly ideas for how to celebrate French independence if you find yourself in the nation’s capital for Bastille Day this weekend.

Warming Up

Every year, Bastille Day (July 14) kicks off with the fireman’s brigade ball on the evening of July 13, where you can go and dance the night away (until 4 a.m., to be exact) with the studly firemen of Paris in stations citywide. A small fee is sometimes charged at the door; if not, be prepared to make a small donation.

If you’d rather party in the open air, head over to the newly revamped Place de la République, which has just reopened after 18 months of renovations to make it more pedestrian-friendly and inviting, for a night of music and letting loose starting at 9:30 p.m. and continuing through dawn.

Fireworks light the sky behind the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day. Photo: MargoryJune

Fireworks light the sky behind the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day. Photo: MargoryJune

Bastille Day Classics

If you’re not too tired (or hungover) on Sunday morning, the annual military parade down the Champs-Elysées starts just after 9 a.m. Europe’s largest military parade has 4800 men and women marching in uniform, 265 military vehicles, 58 airplanes and 35 helicopters.

Sunday afternoon, a citywide meet and greet with French military personnel is a chance for locals and tourists alike to meet active duty soldiers and talk to them about their work, on the Esplanade des Invalides, the Place de la Nation and elsewhere. Free of charge.

The night of July 14 is a mob scene on the Champ de Mars as thousands of people crowd in for a birds eye view of the spectacular fireworks display starting at 11 p.m. To keep the crowds who arrive early to secure a spot, a classical concert begins at 9:30 p.m. and ends just before the fireworks begin with a group singalong of France’s national anthem, “The Marseillaise”.

Note that all Vélib stations around the Champ de Mars will be closed and inaccessible and don’t think about coming by car. Walk or take public transport and again be sure to arrive early.

Bastille Day on the Fly

Don’t feel like joining the throngs on the Champs-Elysées? Plan to be outdoors around 10:40 a.m. on Sunday morning and look up to catch a glimpse as military air jets do a patriotic fly over in normally restricted airspace above central Paris, leaving photogenic blue, white and red streaks in the Paris sky. (Ditto for Sunday evening, where the fireworks can be viewed from along the Seine, the Pont des Arts and elsewhere around the city.)

Bastille Day is a national holiday, but not all city attractions take the day off. Check out this list of museums and attractions that are open (ouvert) or closed (fermé) on the 14th if you’re not in the mood to treat it like anything but just another day.

Special perk: free parking on national holidays, including the 14th.

This Year’s Ode to the French Revolution Will Be Televised

Don’t like crowds? For the first time this year, the Bastille Day concert and fireworks will be broadcast live on French TV. If you aren’t in the mood for a rowdy scene, there’s nothing wrong with staying in like many Parisians do, grabbing a bottle of wine and kicking back in your room to watch the festivities on the small screen (or online at Paris.fr).

For more ideas on ways to celebrate, see last year’s post on Bastille Day events.

About the author

Kristin Hohenadel

Kristin Hohenadel is a writer and editor who lives in Paris.

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