If there’s one event not to miss in Paris, it’s the French national holiday on 14 July!
This festive occasion brings people together for two days of free entertainment: a military parade, public dances at local fire stations, an outdoor classical concert and a breathtaking fireworks display.
Celebrations start with the Alpha Jets of La Patrouille de France (a division of France’s air force) in the morning. The powerful steel engines thunder past the capital, trailing smoke in the red, white and blue of the national flag. A traditional military parade begins at 11am, in which some 4,000 uniformed soldiers, police officers and firefighters march down Paris’ famous Champs-Élysées. If you want to stake out a good viewing position for the parade, plan to arrive by 8am or even earlier.
In the afternoon, Paris comes alive as the city prepares for the fire station dances commonly held in almost every neighbourhood. These are followed by a concert on the Champs de Mars (beneath the Eiffel Tower) – 250 musicians from the National Orchestra of France and the Radio France Choir serenade the sparkling Iron Lady with Mozart, Verdi, Berlioz and Wagner. Then the half-a-million spectators watch in awe as fireworks transform the skyline into a kaleidoscope of colour for 35 minutes.
Perhaps the best place to see the fireworks is from a cruise boat on the Seine. Enjoy a special gourmet dinner and fine wine as you float past all the iconic landmarks along the Seine, and then watch the dazzling fireworks overhead.