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Bastille Day Celebrations Around the World

Bastille Day Celebrations Around the World


There’s more than one red, white and blue celebration to tempt travelers in July. 

Ten days after the United States marks Independence Day, France waves its tricolor flag to celebrate Bastille Day. The holiday commemorates a turning point in the French Revolution that took place on July 14, 1789, — the storming of the Paris prison that represented the authority of the monarchy.

The largest celebration takes place in Paris, highlighted by a military parade and aerial show along the city’s grand boulevard, the Champs-Elysees. Art lovers can take advantage of free admission to the Louvre on Bastille Day to see priceless works like the Mona Lisa. In the evening, the city stages a concert at the base of the Eiffel Tower. This symbol of France serves as a backdrop for a dazzling fireworks display. But that’s not the end of the festivities. Fire stations across Paris traditionally host parties on the evenings of July 13–14 that stretch into the next day. 

If you can’t get to France, there are plenty of places in the United States to celebrate Bastille Day and get your fill of French culture.

New York. In New York City, French Restaurant Week takes place July 3–16, with establishments offering special fixed-price menus. The French Institute/Alliance Francaise holds its annual Bastille Day block party on East 60th Street from noon to 5:00 P.M. July 9, featuring food, entertainment, a marketplace, and children’s activities. And on July 13, New York’s Committee of French-Speaking Societies puts on a Bastille Day Ball. On Bastille Day itself, head over to the Museum of Modern Art or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, both of which have superb collections of French impressionist paintings. 

New Orleans. Founded in the 18th century as a colony of France, New Orleans is undoubtedly the most French city in the United States. Bastille Day is celebrated throughout the city, but the main event takes place on July 14 at the New Orleans Museum of Art. The museum’s Bastille Day Fête includes arts and crafts, costume contests, children’s activities, music and dancing and French food. And of course no visit to New Orleans is complete without spending time strolling the French Quarter. The city’s oldest neighborhood is filled with shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, and historic buildings. 

Bastille Day activities pop up in some less-expected places, too.

Milwaukee hosts one of the nation’s largest celebrations, this year taking place July 13–16 in downtown’s Cathedral Square Park. Activities include a Storm the Bastille 5K run/walk, an international marketplace, French and Cajun cuisine, chef and wine demonstrations, street performers, a Mardi Gras-style parade, and an hourly light show from a 43-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower. 

Philadelphia holds a Bastille Day party July 15 at the Eastern State Penitentiary, a former prison that’s now a museum. Activities include a French carnival, complete with a Tastykake-eating contest. There will also be tours of the prison and a reenactment of the storming of the Bastille.

For help planning a trip to celebrate Bastille Day, contact Travel Leaders COS at 800-273-0793, locally 719-597-0004, or send us an email at

© Travel Leaders Group