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Bastille Day in France

Bastille Day is a day of celebrations of French culture. Many large-scale public events are held, including a military parade in Paris, as well as communal meals, dances, parties and fireworks.

Bastille Day Military Air Show
Military airshows have been held in Paris during Bastille Day.
Military airshows have been held in Paris during Bastille Day.
©iStockphoto.com/ cmdawson

What do people do?

Many people attend large-scale public celebrations. These often include:

  • Military and civilian parades.
  • Musical performances.
  • Communal meals.
  • Dances.
  • Balls.
  • Spectacular fireworks displays.

There is a large military parade in Paris in the morning of July 14. Service men and women from various units, including cadets from military schools, the French Navy and the French Foreign Legion, participate in the parade. The parade ends with the Paris Fire Brigade. Military aircraft fly over the parade route during the parade. The French president opens the parade and reviews the troops and thousands of people line the route. Other people spend the day quietly and eat a celebratory meal or picnic with family and close friends.

Public life

Bastille Day is a public holiday in France so post offices, banks, and many businesses are closed. Restaurants and cafes outside of tourist areas may also be closed. However, bakeries and some stores in Paris, as well as at airports and railway stations and along major highways, are open.

Public transport service schedules vary depending on where one lives and intends to travel. Roads in the centers of villages, towns and cities (particularly in Paris) may be closed for parades and other large public events.


The Bastille is a medieval fortress and prison in Paris. Many people in France associated it with the harsh rule of the Bourbon monarchy in the late 1700s. On July 14, 1789, troops stormed the Bastille. This was a pivotal event at the beginning of the French Revolution. Fête de la Fédération was held on July 14, 1790. This was a way to celebrate the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in France.

Official celebrations were held in Paris on June 30, 1878, to honor the Republic of France. On July 14, 1879, more official celebrations were held. These included a military review in Longchamp near Paris and celebrations all over the country. A politician named Benjamin Raspail proposed that July 14 should become a holiday in France in 1880. The law was enacted on July 6, 1880. Bastille Day was a public holiday for the first time on July 14, 1880.

The military parade in Paris has been held every year since 1880, except during World War II. The Free French Forces paraded on this date in London, England from 1940 until 1944. Jean Michel Jarre held a concert in Paris that attracted one million people, then the largest recorded crowd at an outdoor concert, in 1979. Special celebrations were held for the 200th anniversary of the French revolution in 1989. The French football team became world champions on July 12, 1998. This sparked celebrations throughout France on Bastille Day.

Bastille Day celebrations are held in French communities and the Institut de France around the world. Such events in the United States are held in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle. There are festivals of French culture in Franschhoek, South Africa, and Hungary.


The Eiffel Tower in Paris and the French national flag, or tricolor, are important symbols of Bastille Day. The French national flag is one-and-a-half times as wide as it is tall. It consists of three vertical bands of equal width colored blue, white and red. The same colors are displayed in bunting and banners of many shapes on Bastille Day. People may also wear clothing or face paint in these colors.

Bastille Day Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday type
SatJul 141990Bastille DayNational holiday
SunJul 141991Bastille DayNational holiday
TueJul 141992Bastille DayNational holiday
WedJul 141993Bastille DayNational holiday
ThuJul 141994Bastille DayNational holiday
FriJul 141995Bastille DayNational holiday
SunJul 141996Bastille DayNational holiday
MonJul 141997Bastille DayNational holiday
TueJul 141998Bastille DayNational holiday
WedJul 141999Bastille DayNational holiday
FriJul 142000Bastille DayNational holiday
SatJul 142001Bastille DayNational holiday
SunJul 142002Bastille DayNational holiday
MonJul 142003Bastille DayNational holiday
WedJul 142004Bastille DayNational holiday
ThuJul 142005Bastille DayNational holiday
FriJul 142006Bastille DayNational holiday
SatJul 142007Bastille DayNational holiday
MonJul 142008Bastille DayNational holiday
TueJul 142009Bastille DayNational holiday
WedJul 142010Bastille DayNational holiday
ThuJul 142011Bastille DayNational holiday
SatJul 142012Bastille DayNational holiday
SunJul 142013Bastille DayNational holiday
MonJul 142014Bastille DayNational holiday
TueJul 142015Bastille DayNational holiday
ThuJul 142016Bastille DayNational holiday
FriJul 142017Bastille DayNational holiday
SatJul 142018Bastille DayNational holiday
SunJul 142019Bastille DayNational holiday
TueJul 142020Bastille DayNational holiday

Quick Facts

Bastille Day is an occasion to honor the French Republic. It is a public holiday in France.

Bastille Day 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bastille Day 2016

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Name in other languages

La fête nationaleFrench
Bastille DayEnglish
List of dates for other years

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