Five top spots for the French national celebration

We’ve covered the national holidays of the United States and Canada, and now we’re moving across the Atlantic to France’s special day on the 14th of July. Bastille Day, called simply “La Fête Nationale” in French, commemorates the storming of the Bastille (a medieval fortress and prison) in 1789 which kicked off the French Revolution and united the country under the values of “liberté, égalité, fraternité”- liberty, equality and brotherhood.
The modern Bastille Day is celebrated in true French style - with wine and fabulous food. There are also generally street parties and community events, parades, dances and fireworks displays in towns and cities all over France and its overseas departments. The biggest parade takes place in Paris, but you can experience Bastille Day to the fullest in myriad locations. Here are some of the best - pick up a car rental to visit any of these cities for a 14th of July you’ll never forget.


Paris, France
The capital of France and famously beautiful city of love and lights, Paris is a fantastic place to visit at any time -  but Bastille Day makes it all the more exciting. The centrepiece of the celebrations is the military parade which takes place on the Champs-Elysées, the city’s most famous street running from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. Usually dedicated to commercialism and luxury shopping, it transforms on the day into a serious venue for the oldest and largest military parade in the world. 
Picnics are a popular way to spend the daytime hours, and you will find crowds in many parks across the Paris arrondissements. In the evening of the 14th or the surrounding days, the fire stations (casernes de pompiers) open their doors for balls in a fundraising effort. Fireworks at Trocadéro in the 16th arrondissement round out the day, and many people gather at the Champs de Mars underneath the Eiffel Tower to watch.


Pyrotechnics have never had a more beautiful setting than in Carcassonne. The city in the south of France is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to the fortified medieval fortress which sits on an overlooking hill. It is something out of a fairytale with battlements, towers and imposing stone walls, and the magic continues within the walls where parts of it have been restored to former glory. It also houses shops and restaurants for visitors. 
The town below the citadel is a nice, small French city where you could easily spend a day or two -  but most importantly, it is a great spot from which to watch the fireworks. The spectacular display is set amongst the ramparts of the citadel and the contrast of old and new is simply wonderful. You could hit then hit the highways for a summer road trip in the South of France.


Lyon, France
If you like to party, France’s third-largest city is the best place to be for Bastille Day. Trying the unique local cuisine and traversing the central city via secret passages can happen on any day of the year, but only on Bastille Day can you enjoy an inland beach in a firestation-turned-night club. 
In long-standing tradition, the Caserne de Gerland in Avenue Debourg will become a centre of celebrations in 2015 with an elaborate “Les Nuits Blanches” firefighters ball on the 13th and 14th of July. Smaller versions take place in fire stations around the city, and there are of course the requisite fireworks on the Fourvière hill. These are best viewed with a glass of wine on the banks of one of Lyon’s two rivers.

New Orleans

It could be said that New Orleans embraces its own French heritage even more than France does, and the city in Louisiana is without a doubt the best place for Americans to celebrate if they can’t get across the Atlantic. Known for rowdy partying on any day of the year, the 14th of July is an excuse for the gallic-influenced city to go all out.
For a few days surrounding Bastille day, a range of events takes place across the city. On the agenda for 2015 is a free public festival in Spanish Plaza on the 11th of July, a French Car Club parade and French Market Bartender and Waiter Race on the 12th, a French Cooking Class at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum on the 13th and a wreath-laying ceremony in the French Quarter on the 14th for solemn commemoration. A rental car in New Orleans makes it easy to get from place to place and all around the state of Louisiana.
New Orleans


Borough Market, London
Any friendly rivalry between France and the UK is put aside for Bastille Day in London. After all, the city is just a short train ride from Paris so it’s no wonder that the celebratory atmosphere makes it across the Channel. It’s no substitute for spending the day in France, but if you are already planning to be in Britain on the 14th of July, it’s a fantastic option.
The centre of the action is Borough Market, London’s foodie paradise. Of course, this means that the revelries are food-centred in true French tradition. There is a free festival on the 12th of July at the market and in the surrounding streets which includes tastings and demo kitchens, street entertainments, a waiters’ race and an open-air party in the evening. It doesn’t end there - you can find mini-celebrations of the French national holiday in restaurants, bars and cinemas all over the city. 
Start your travel planning now and get amongst the Bastille Day excitement in 2015. It’s a great reason to visit France, New Orleans, London or any city which gets into the spirit! Where have you spent the 14th of July?