Bastille Day 2022: What to See & Do in Paris
La Fête Nationale celebrating the 1789 French Revolution is one of the biggest holidays in France, with a popular military parade and flyover on the Champs-Elysées and an evening of fireworks and music at the Eiffel Tower. But there many more events taking place throughout the city to celebrate, and most of them are free!
This Year’s Program
The Military Parade on the Avenue des Champs Elysées
France’s Bastille Day Parade on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées — with its fighter jet flyover, procession of tanks, and soldiers marching proudly in their dress uniforms from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde — is watched by thousands in person and more on live streaming on French TV (France 2). The two-hour procession begins at 10am with President Emanuel Macron starting at the Arc de Triomphe, leading 4,300 soldiers on foot, 71 planes, 25 helicopters, 221 vehicles and 200 horses of the Republican Guard down to the Place de la Concorde, where a musical choir sings for the grand finale.
About 25,000 people will be allowed into the “corrals” along the Champs Elysées to watch in person, so get there no later than 9:30am if you want to get access, and don’t bring anything like umbrellas, glass bottles, pocket knives, etc, which will be confiscated by security before you’re allowed to access the areas reserved for spectators. This year’s theme is ’Partager la Flamme’’ (Share the Flame), which evokes the Flame of Resistance beneath the Arc de Triomphe that must be renewed daily to keep the memory alive.
Of course, the military flyovers that open and close the parade are one of the big highlights, with the bleu-blanc-rouge plumes of the Patrouille de France getting the most Instagram likes (approximately at 10:30am). You can try to watch from any location that gives you a clear view of the skies above the Champs Elysées. It will also be broadcast, along with the parade and fireworks show, on French TV as usual.
The French Navy is being honored this year for its 400th anniversary, as well as detachments from nine Eastern European countries fighting on NATO’s eastern flank in Ukraine: Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechia, Romania, Slovakia.
“This July 14 will be marked by the seriousness and determination linked to the international context”, explained the military governor of Paris, General Christophe Abad, who plans for this parade “to underline the imperative of strategic solidarity with our European partners on the eastern flank.” The aerial parade will be finished with a flypast by a Reaper drone, while the Parisian Fire Brigade and horseback mounted Republican Guard will bring up the rear of the land parade.
Bonus: If you can’t make the parade (or gate crowds), you might catch the practice flyovers and processions in the days leading up to Bastille Day on July 9th and 13th at Place de la Concorde and Avenue des Champs Elysées, and July 11th at the Arc de Triomphe.
Meet the French Military
At the end of the parade, the public can visit some of the military planes (including the Mirage 2000) and vehicles and chat with the soldiers on the Esplanade des Invalides from 10am-6pm. There’s a blood collection center in the Cour d’Honneur, and military exercise demonstrations in the North Gardens.
Other military demonstrations and stands will be taking place at the Parc André-Citroën, Hôtel de Ville, the Mirie du 19ème Arrondissement, and Place de la Nation throughout the day.
The Bal des Pompiers
The traditional Bal des Pompiers (Firefighters’ Ball) takes place each year on the eve (and night) of Bastille Day was canceled in 2020 and 2021, but as of July 1st they’re still scheduled for 2022 (cross fingers!). Although each station, or “caserne” in French, is free to make their own hours, in general the parties usually start in the evening around 9pm and finish at 4am. The events are free in theory, but a €2 entry fee is usually charged, and raffel tickets are sold to help raise funds to improve the working conditions of the firefighters or local charities. Music is usually a DJ but sometimes live bands play early in the evening, and there are always food and drink stands.
Here are the Parisian locations for July 13th:
- Caserne Rousseau: 21 Rue du Jour, 1st
- Caserne Sévigné: 7 Rue de Sévigné, 4th
- Caserne La Monnaie: 11 Quai de Conti, 6th
- Caserne Colombier: 11 Rue du Vieux-Colombier, 6th
- Caserne Blanche: 28 Rue Blanche, 9th
- Caserne Chaligny: 26 Rue Chaligny, 12th
- Caserne Masséna: 37 Boulevard Masséna, 13th
- Caserne Grenelle: 6 Place Violet, 15th
- Caserne Boursault: 27 Rue Boursault, 17th
- Cité des sciences et de l’industrie: 30 Avenue Corentin Cariou, 19th
- Caserne Bitche: 2 Place de Bitche, 19th
- Caserne Ménilmontant: 47 Rue Saint-Fargeau, 20th
Parisian locations for July 14th:
- Caserne Port Royal: 55 Boulevard de Port-Royal, 13th
- Caserne Montmartre: 12 Rue Carpeaux, 18th
Note: While they’re a ton of fun, they’re also very crowded, so be prepared to wait in lines for everything from entrance to food to bathrooms (wear comfy shoes!) and watch your belongings for pick-pockets.
And don’t think that I forgot to share the famous “teaser” video of the Strasbourg Bal des Pompiers, back after two years for 2022, enjoy!
Bal Latino du Ménilmontant – The gardens of La Bellevilloise, 88 Ménilmontant (88 rue Ménilmontant, 20th) are hosting a festive Latino dance party on July 14th from 6-10pm. Live music by Le Cuarteto Cubano and DJ Ortega Dogo + Captain Cumbia. Free entry.
There Will Be Fireworks
The fireworks show and live musical concert at the Eiffel Tower is taking place as usual starting at 9:15pm on the Champs de Mars with a classical music concert featuring the Orchestre National de France, the Radio France Choir, and various soloists. It will be broadcast live on France 2 television (and on many YouTube feeds), with the Marseillaise sung for the finale. The fireworks show above the Eiffel Tower begins at 11pm and last for about 35 minutes. Many people camp out on the Champ de Mars all day to have a front-row seat, but you can see this from anywhere with a view of the Eiffel Tower (you’ll want to turn on the TV to hear the synchronized music if you’re too far away to hear it in person). Here’s the recording of the 2020 show:
The Prefect of Police usually bans the “acquisition, possession and use” of large firecrackers and fireworks by anyone (except professionals) in Paris and the surrounding Petite Couronne suburbs from July 4th until July 15th. So don’t think that you can pop down to Chinatown in the 13th and pick up some sparklers and firecrackers to throw your own private rooftop pyrotechnics show.
If you don’t want to watch the military flyover or the fireworks on the TV and you don’t have a decent view from your window, the next best option to avoid the crowds is to try and book a spot – quickly! – at one of the many rooftop bars and restaurants in Paris. Advance reservations are a must in all cases and spaces fill up quickly. Here are a few that seem to still be taking reservations:
- The Toit de la Grade Arche de La Défense out in the western suburbs is open during the day at the regular rooftop visit prices (€15) if you want to be there for the défilé aérien flyover 8:30am-1pm (scroll all the way to the bottom for these tickets).
Other Bastille Day Activities
Bastille Day on the Water
You can watch the fireworks show right on the Seine with a cruise on the Bateaux Parisiens (€70/person, includes a box meal; or full dinner cruises from €159); the Vedettes du Pont Neuf (€25/person, includes a glass of Champagne); Les Bateaux Mouches has dinner cruises with live orchestra music from €180; Captain Fracasse has dinner cruises from €129; and the VIP Paris Yacht Hotel is hosting an all-night dinner, casino, and dance party cruise from €145 (with the option to stay in one of their rooms for the night).
You won’t see anything happening on the other side of Paris, but it’s the perfect daytime escape to escape the crowds on the Canal de l’Ourcq with six of your friends in a self-drive electric boat through Marin d’Eau Douce (€200 for boats up to 7 people for the afternoon).
And of course Paris Plage will be open all day and evening on the Quays of the Seine and the Bassin de la Villette.
Museums and Monuments Open on Bastille Day
If you’re looking for something to do, most — but not all — museums will be open on July 14th, including the Louvre (with free entry for everyone!), Orsay, Carnavalet, and the Catacombes, as well as Chateaux Versailles, Chantilly, Vaux-le-Vicomte and the gardens at Giverny. As usual, check online (you’ll need advance booking online anyway) to make sure you get in.
Note that the Arc de Triomphe will be closed all morning (so you can’t watch the parade from there) and the Eiffel Tower will close in the afternoon and evening (so you can’t watch the fireworks from there). The Opera Palais Garnier is closed all day.