Bastille Day: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

by olivia hoffman

Photos via

Bastille Day, known in French as le 14 juillet or la Fête Nationale, is a booming celebration historically commemorating the start of the French Revolution and eternally symbolizing the country’s defining principles: liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity).

In the late 18th century leading up to the Revolution, citizens of Paris had been suffering from famine and poverty due to the monarchy’s lavish spending while the country was still greatly in debt. Fed up with the king’s actions (and inactions) as the nation starved and paid hefty taxes, on July 14th, 1789, angry revolutionists stormed the Bastille prison, a medieval stone building which housed a handful of political prisoners and, more importantly, gunpowder.

Fighting for liberty and equality, French citizens joined together in fraternity to successfully bring down the corrupt monarchy rule of King Louis XVI. Today, these values are just as prevalent in the French people’s psyches as they were back in the 1700s. Proud of their heritage, the holiday honors the sacrifices made by those who fought for the ideals that shaped modern France, inspiring citizens to uphold those values and work towards a more just and inclusive society.

To observe this pivotal moment that sparked the Revolution and honor the ardent commitment to the foundations of the French Republic, cheerful celebrations abound! All around France, cities and towns organize communal meals, parades, concerts, and street performances, fostering a sense of community and togetherness. At night, fireworks light up the night sky, casting a colorful spectacle that captivates both young and old.

In Paris, the nation’s capital, here’s what you can expect to see on this jubilant holiday…


Kicking the day off with the annual military procession from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, soldiers and horses march in formation down the Champs-Élysées. Overhead, the Patrouille de France – the precision aerobatics demonstration unit of the French Air and Space Force – flies in unison to create precise trails of the tricolor French flag. Citizens and tourists line the streets to catch a glimpse at the stunning patriotic display.

Bleu, Blanc et Rouge

The nation’s colors are definitely more prevalent around the city on this day from apartments to storefronts. The display of bleu, blanc, et rouge (blue, white, and red) of the French flag is also accompanied by proud citizens singing the rallying French national anthem “La Marseillaise” at public events and celebrations.


Ending the day with a bang, one of the world’s most impressive fireworks display is launched off the Eiffel Tower. Anywhere around the city where the monument is in sight is a good place to watch the show, but the best place to fully appreciate the performance is without question on the Champ de Mars. Just be sure to pack a picnic and arrive early – the show starts at 11 p.m. but the park is easily filled by 8. Those lucky enough to secure a spot and brave the crowds are treated to a mesmerizing fireworks show synchronized with artistic lights and spectacular music, leaving everyone on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower in awe and wishing it would never end.

If you’re in France on this symbolic day, don’t forget to sport your best bleu, blanc, et rouge!
Vive La France!

Read next: Dîner en Blanc: An Inside Look at the Most Exclusive Event in Paris

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