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The Belle France guide to Bastille Day

Vive La France!

Bastille Day is THE public celebration day in France, France’s national day. Celebrated on 14th July each year, it is celebrated to remember the Storming of the Bastille on 14th July 1789 at the beginning of the French Revolution.

Vintage engraving of the Bastille
Vintage engraving of the Bastille

The Bastille was a fortress and prison in Paris, which held political prisoners (as well as a huge stash of ammunition and gunpowder!) and the attack was seen as symbolic of bringing down the monarchy.

A year later, the Fête De La Fédération was held on 14th July to celebrate the unity of the French nation and to symbolise peace. And so the annual celebration of the French Republic began.

Today, celebrations and parties are held all over France. A military parade takes place on the morning of 14th July in Paris, and has done so since 1880 (except during the Second World War when under German Occupation where the ceremony took place in London under the command of General Charles de Gaulle). It is the oldest and largest military parade in France.

French veterans in Paris
French veterans in Paris

The parade starts at the Arc de Triomphe and makes its way down the Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Concorde. Here the President welcomes the troops as they file past.

Of course, it is a national public holiday, so institutions are closed, and people celebrate the day with family and friends.

So what’s going on this year? Of course, there will be the parade in Paris, where you can be part of the audience witnessing the military marching down the Champs-Élysées.

You can tie it in with our Landscape of the Kings cycling holiday which tours around the suburbs of Paris, ending at the Palace of Versailles. (plus we also have a special offer on this holiday at the moment, get in touch with us for more details).

Celebrations aren’t just limited to Paris. All over the country, public events, parades and parties will be taking place. If you are visiting, you will more than likely be witness to a ‘bal musette’ which is a French dance accompanied by an accordion band, or fireworks which will be present from north to south.

The Tour de France also falls on 14th July, and the stage that happens on this day is always marked in a special way. It’s the ultimate goal for a French cyclist to win the stage that happens on Bastille Day! This year, the route will be starting in Montpellier and finishing at the summit of the legendary Mont Ventoux. A huge stage which will see many French riders jostling to get to the front along the way.

Cyclist Thomas Voeckler climbing Mont Ventoux
Cyclist Thomas Voeckler climbing Mont Ventoux

The stage passes through Saint Rémy-du-Provence, which you can also do as part of our 'Week in Provence' cycling holiday (don’t worry, you don’t have to cycle up Mont Ventoux!)

One last thing – if you miss the 14th July celebrations, then head to the small town of Viriat in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. Residents there are allowed to celebrate France’s National Day in August after the completion of the harvest!

If you’d like to coincide your trip to France around the celebrations of France’s National Day, then we’ll be more than happy to accommodate your timings. Plus, we’ve been to a few celebrations ourselves, so can recommend places to visit, either in Paris or outside it. Enjoy Bastille Day!

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