Don’t miss Bastille Day in Paris!

We were lucky enough to be in Paris during the 2009 Bastille Day celebration. For who that is not familiar with Bastille Day (or La Fête Nationale as French people call it), it is the French national day, celebrated in 14th of July every year. This event marks the anniversary of the storming of the fortress-prison Bastille, which was a symbol of royal tyranny, located right in the centre of Paris. The fall of Bastille is an important turning point of the French revolution, and thus became an important icon of the French Republic.

Eiffel tower
We were in Paris

Every year, Bastille Day in Paris is celebrated extravagantly. The morning starts with the huge and very popular Bastille Day Military Parade, involving many many troops of cadets, infantry, cavalry, navy, tanks, artillery, fire trucks, acrobatic air units, and also sometimes guest foreign army, which was from India this year. In fact, this is the biggest and oldest regular military parade in the world! The parade takes place along the Paris most prestigious and world famous avenue Champs-Élysées. The 2 km route starts from the Arc de Triomphe and ends in the Place de la Concorde (that’s the plaza with the Luxor Obelisk by Pharaoh Ramses II), where the President of France and other VIPs stand.

So… We knew that it was going to be very crowded that morning, and we heard many people typically arrived many hours in advance to get the best view. However we didn’t think it was going to be this bad. We arrived an hour earlier which apparently was not early enough. Wherever we went along the parade route, people were there already making thick walls of human. I mean really thick, several meters! Being 187 cm tall, Ryan has no problem seeing the main road from above or between people’s heads. As for me, which is only 157 cm, I could only saw people’s back!

The wall of crowd waiting the parade to start

Apparently, I was not the only one that felt like needing a better view. Some people, following Zacchaeus example, were climbing on trees.

Bastille Parade - Zacchaeus
Zacchaeus strategy

There were not enough climbable trees for everybody, so some people decided to climb on gates. Besides, the trees were too leafy, it covered your view. The gate became quite popular. That’s OK, the gate was tall and wide, could fit many people there.

Bastille Parade - people climb on gate
Some climbed the gate

They were cozy up there, but the first group of men in uniform they saw were not the troops participating in the parade. Instead of that they were security guards. The guards didn’t like it and told them to go down. Some insisted to stay up, “don’t worry it’s safe up here”. The guards didn’t like the answer. It took a while pushing and pulling, fun for us to watch, and finally everybody was on land on their feet.

Bastille Parade - people climb down gate
The security guards didn’t like it

I let Ryan watched the parade and tried to make myself busy. I spend most of the time playing with a little two years old girl that was also too short to see the parade. She gave me (or rather, fed me) her peanut puff snack. She loved doing it, and my hungry self loved it as well.

Peanut puffs
Not sure it was the brand

I was able to enjoy bits of pieces of the parade from our camera.

Bastille Parade - troop
Marching troop

The cavalry with their handsome horses were fun to watch. I was lucky that they entered the parade from a side road close by, where I was able to actually see them myself (the human wall was only 1 meter thick here).

Bastille Parade - cavalry
The cavalry entering  the main road

There were many different kind of military vehicles. Armoured cars, trucks, and tanks from the light to the heavy ones.

Bastille Parade - tanks
Bastille Parade - artillery

There were also fire trucks, because apparently Paris Fire Brigade is a French army unit.

Bastille Parade - fire trucks
Fire trucks

My favourite part was the air show. For this one, I got quite a clear view. There were many jets from the French Acrobatic Patrol, which is the precision aerobatic demonstration team of the French Air Force (one of the oldest and best in the world!). They were flying in small groups, doing formations and acrobatics in the air. That show was fantastic. The best one was the last group of jets, with the blue, white, and red trailing smokes, leaving the blue-white-red streaks on the clear sky, the color of the French national flag. Breathtaking!

Bastille Parade - air show
Air show

In the end of the parade, we saw parachuters raining down the sky, and there were many helicopters as well decorating the sky.

Bastille Parade - helicopters

As we walked away after the parade was over, we encountered the military vehicles and the personnel from the parade. People were taking photograph with them. Ryan thought taking picture with them was too cute for him, instead he sent me there.

Bastille Parade - trucks after parade
After the parade

Whew, what a morning! So, if you happen to be in Paris around the Bastille Day, make sure you don’t miss it! After the parade, they still have an open concert in Champ de Mars (that’s the field adjacent to Eiffel Tower), and a spectacular firework show right from the Eiffel Tower. So you can’t miss Bastille Day in Paris. Or rather, arrange your visit so you can be there on the Bastille Day!

Bastille Day Fireworks
The spectacular Bastille Day fireworks, you definitely can’t miss this!

When: 14 July 2009
Where: Paris

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8 Responses to “Don’t miss Bastille Day in Paris!”

  1. Dina
    28 March 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    If you think I’m not that short seeing the picture titled “After the parade” above, that’s because…. psssstttt…. I stood on my tiptoes!

  2. Emily
    14 July 2010 at 1:24 am #

    I was also lucky to be in Paris for F̻te Nationale last year! It was a remarkable experience. Missed the parade but I caught the practice flying over the Champs Elys̩es the week before. The fireworks alone.. such a great pyrotechnic show! Not sure anything can top the fireworks shooting out of the Eiffel Tower with images projected on it. I came back to the USA the next day Рwhat a way to leave Europe after 6 1/2 months abroad.

    • Dina
      18 July 2010 at 3:16 pm #

      Wow Emily, we were there in the same time! At least during the super spectacular fireworks. It was magnificent, wasn’t it! So, were you In Europe for traveling?

  3. dawn
    9 December 2010 at 6:26 am #

    Sounds like you had a good time, you reminded me of peanut wotsits,ahhhhhhh there lush. Ate them by the ton when we were in France!

  4. Acony
    14 July 2011 at 8:18 am #

    When i read this article , i’m so proud to be french : )
    Today i have watched this parade ( like every years) and the firefighters were so great ! This years BSPP ( Brigade des Sapeurs Pompiers de Paris ) is 200 years old . If you want to see : )


    • Dina
      14 July 2011 at 3:39 pm #

      Hi, thanks for commenting! I’m so glad that I’ve been in Paris for Bastille Day, the airshow during the parade was superb!


  1. Top 3 Pieces of Traveling Advice by Travelers Around the World | Vagabond Quest - 26 July 2010

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