Celebrating Bastille Day in Paris: Our Full 2023 Guide

Last Updated on July 19, 2023

bastille day in Paris usually includes a fireworks show near the Eiffel Tower

Celebrated every July 14th with much pomp, circumstance, good cheer and fun, Bastille Day in Paris is an occasion marking France’s “Fête Nationale”, or National Fete. It’s an opportunity to see enormous, fanfare-filled parades and flyovers on and near the famed Avenue des Champs-Elysées, watch colorful fireworks take over Parisian skies after dark, and to take part in other cultural activities that’ll make you feel closer to French history.

Wondering what’s happening this year in the French capital? Keep reading for full details on Bastille Day celebrations in Paris in 2023.

Bastille Day 2023: Parade & Flyover on the Champs-Elysées

Almost every year without fail since 1880, an enormous military parade has proceeded down the grand Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris to mark the occasion of Bastille Day and the establishment of the French Republic.

Bastille Day celebrations on Paris' Avenue des Champs-Elysées include a military parade and aerial show. 2017/Public domain

Generally attended by the French President and other dignitaries, the parade features thousands of French military personnel dressed in full regalia, triumphant music, dancing and acrobatic performances, an aerial show featuring airplanes and helicopters from the French army and air forces, and other forms of celebration. You can watch the video below to see highlights from the 2022 festivities.

In certain years, the parade has also commemorated victims of past atrocities and/or invited members of other countries and cultures to join the festivities, fostering a spirit of memory and cultural exchange.

In 2023, the parade will kick off at around 10 am on the Avenue, with opening ceremonies taking place at the Arc de Triomphe. We recommend you arrive early in the morning to secure a good view, if you want to see the festivities from the beginning.

The ceremonies and subsequent parade generally last around two hours and are televised, so if you can’t be there in person, you can always watch them on any French TV station or international French cable news channel such as France 24.

Bastille Day Fireworks in Paris: 2023 Program

Fireworks in Paris on Bastille Day, 2010. Image credit: Joshua Veitch-Michaelis/Creative Commons
Fireworks in Paris on Bastille Day, 2010. Image credit: Joshua Veitch-Michaelis/Creative Commons

Elaborate fireworks displays have long been a beloved staple in Bastille Day celebrations in Paris and across France, starting in the late 19th century when color fireworks were invented.

In Paris, official fireworks generally take over the skies of western Paris (near the Eiffel Tower and the Jardins de Trocadero) about an hour before midnight on the 14th.

In 2023, the fireworks will be fired from around 11:00 p.m. from the Jardin de la Trocadero. Spectators are invited to watch the fireworks from the vast lawns of the Champs de Mars (RER station: Champs de Mars-Tours Eiffel).

The show typically lasts for 30 minutes and affords fantastic opportunities to take shots of the Eiffel Tower and Paris skyline dominated by bright illuminations.

But make sure to arrive very early to get a good spot, and remember that all metro stations and RER stations surrounding the area will close at 7:00 pm.

Firefighters’ Balls in Paris: 2023 Happenings

Firemen's balls in Paris are a popular Bastille Day activity.
Image credit: BVJ Hostel Paris

One quirky and delightfully camp Bastille Day tradition in the French capital takes place on both the evenings of the 13th and the 14th July in select fire stations and other special locations around Paris.

These bals des pompiers (firefighters’ balls) feature live music, dancing (sometimes from the firemen themselves), games, brightly colored decorations and other festive events and activities.

See this page for a full list of firemen’s balls in 2023, most taking place in Paris on the evening of July 13th. Some bals charge admission fees, while others request donations. All proceeds go to improving conditions for firefighting stations and staff.

Seine River Cruises on Bastille Day

Interested in watching the Bastille Day fireworks from a cruise on the Seine River? This is an extremely popular and in-demand way to take in the illuminations on July 14th– so make sure to reserve as soon as you can.

In 2023, Paris City Vision is offering a dinner cruise on the Seine that lasts 2 hours and offers an ideal way to celebrate the holiday in an elegant and romantic way. Book now (via GetYourGuide) before tickets run out. The cruise boards at 9:15 am and ends shortly after fireworks light up the sky.

Other Ways to Celebrate Bastille Day in Paris or at Home This Year

Having a Paris-style picnic is always a good idea. Image credit: parispicnic.com

If you’re more attracted by the idea of a low-key celebration away from the biggest crowds, or won’t be in France but want to celebrate Bastille Day at home, here are a couple of great ways to mark the occasion in a more relaxed way.

First, why not stage a Parisian-style picnic somewhere to celebrate la fête nationale? Whether it’s in a Parisian park or square such as La Place des Vosges or on the banks of the Ile Saint-Louis, the vibe is sure to be festive and summery.

I recommend procuring some good bread and cheese, pastries, fruit, quiches and other fare from a local bakery or market, and settling in for a mid-summer picnic as the sun sets over the city. (Remember, you can also do this at home or elsewhere).

I recommend a stroll through markets such as the Marché d’Aligre to stock up on superb and affordable goodies for your picnic.

Add a few mini French flags to boost the festive mood, and/or listen to our free playlist of Paris-themed songs to create an authentic mood.

If you’re having a Bastille day party in your own backyard or garden, consider serving French wines or champagne, and serving easy but impressive French-style appetizers at home (some great ideas here)? You can even serve up a Bastille-Day cake decorated in the colors of the tricolor flag for a festive end note.

Learn More About the History of Bastille Day

The History of Bastille Day in France begins on July 14th, 1789.
Anonymous. Versailles, chateaux de Versailles et de Trianon. MV5517.

Curious to dig a bit deeper and learn about the fascinating history of Bastille Day/”La Fête Nationale”? Its a lot more complex than most people believe it to be, as we explain in this piece.

While most people associate La Fête de la Bastille with revolutionary fervor and the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris– the event that most historians say was one of the key triggers of the French Revolution of 1789– the celebration itself has had different meanings since then, and “La Fête Nationale” was only observed for the first time in 1880!

See more on the history of Bastille Day in our in-depth feature, here.

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celebrating Bastille Day in Paris: Pinterest image by Paris Unlocked/All rights reserved

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