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Bastille Day – or Le Quatorze Juillet – is right around the corner on July 14, so it’s time to prepare. The national holiday in France is a serious affair. Fortunately, no matter what your tastes are, there’s plenty to do in Paris all day long without emptying your wallet. Here’s this year’s round-up of events.
The legendary parties thrown by the firefighters light up the nightlife on July 13 and 14 across the city. Not all firehouses are open to the public, and some might ask for an obligatory donation at the door, but the party is one of the wildest in town. Prepare for long lines, hefty crowds, and some gentle shoving near the bar, but the dancing firemen and nonstop DJ are worth the wait – at least once in life.
If you’re an early riser, the parade down the historic Champs-Elysées is a fun way for families to celebrate the 14th. The military ceremony starts just after 9 a.m. while the parade launches down the avenue after the president arrives at 10 a.m. The mix of soldiers, military vehicles, and the aircraft soaring overhead help kick off the day’s festivities, complete with an array of red, white, and blue flags waving in every direction.
3. Free Ballet
If tanks and firemen aren’t your thing, head to the Opéra Garnier and wait in line for tickets to this year’s free ballet, La fille mal gardée. There are no lyrics to try and decipher, just some impressive dancing and a lighthearted story of two lovers and the mother determined to keep them apart. The show is at 7:30 p.m. but get their early to ensure a seat.
4. Free Art
Art lovers know that on the first Sunday of each month national museums open their doors to the public for free. Many forget that on July 14 the Louvre also drops the price to €0. Prepare for crowds, but with so many other things going on that day, it’s worth stopping by if you wanted to say coucou to Mona Lisa before moving on to other events.
Why not celebrate July 14 happily eating and kicking back at Versailles much like Louis XVI, who famously noted in his diary on that fateful day, “Nothing,” (in response to a failed hunting day, but still!). In true royal fashion, a communal picnic around the Grand Canal awaits anyone who wants to attend. Regional specialties will be on the menu (alongside whatever else you’d like to bring) while music and festivities animate the Canal’s banks. There’s only one condition – wear white!
When all else fails, a view of the Eiffel Tower at 11 p.m. is all you need to help finish off the national holiday. A spectacular show awaits onlookers as the tower twinkles in front of breathtaking fireworks set to music, and this year’s theme is none other than disco from the 70s-80s. Try and beat that.
The best view is from the Champs de Mars by the Eiffel Tower, but entering and leaving are tricky. No alcohol is allowed (to keep it family-friendly) and nearby Metro stations are mostly closed, so prepare for a hike to the easiest form of transportation. If crowds aren’t your style, grab a view from bridges like the Pont des Arts or the Pont Alexenandre III and revel in the fireworks with an easier escape afterwards.