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Paris during French National Day (Bastille Day)

We are planning a trip in July to first visit our former high school exchange student, now living in Denmark. We will visit his sister in Dusseldorf on Friday and Saturday, July 11 & 12, and attend the Rhine Fest. My thoughts are to take the train early on Sunday, the 13th and travel to Paris. We are thinking of leaving Paris on Thursday the 17th and travel to Trier, where our oldest daughter spent a semester studying abroad. Our 30th wedding anniversary is Bastille Day, so I thought it would be great to be in Paris for the celebration and the excitement.

When we were in Paris in 2006, we stayed in Rue des Lévis in the 17th arrondissement, not far from the Arc de triomphe. We really liked the location but are interested in hearing other ideas. Assuming we arrive around noon in Paris in Sunday, what would be the recommendations for the time we are there? Would this make sense:

Sunday afternoon/evening - see Montmartre area
Monday - Invalides and the Champs de Mars area, or watch the parade on the Champs-Élysées
Tuesday - Versailles & evening Eiffel Tower
Wednesday - Louvre and Musee d'Orsay

We have seen Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle, but wouldn't mind seeing them again if we have time.

Posted by
3768 posts

Hi Wesley,

Congratulations on your upcoming 30th anniversary!

From your suggestions, I would split the two museums into two separate days, if possible. Also, you may want to enjoy an evening cruise on the Seine to celebrate your anniversary, possibly on Sunday evening. To stretch your time, the Louvre is open Wed. evenings until 9:45pm.

Enjoy!

Posted by
4889 posts

Like most major parades, it helps to get into place early to get a decent view. You might also care about how many elbows there are beside you. We did enjoy it, especially watching the young French children who had an even better time than we did.

I'm not urging it, but you didn't mention the mob-scene 9:30 (??) fireworks on the Champ de Mars. If you are up to the effort and cost, you could consider (if they aren't already full) booking a restaurant with a view, like the roof of the Quai Branley museum. I'd choose that over unpredictable food on a river cruise-I mean, for an anniversary. It has new management and a new name, but in 2011, we booked a premium-price balcony Eiffel-view room at the, then, Hilton Arc de Triomphe.

Having seen the fireworks from a distance (.75 mile or so) in both 2011 and 2010, I thought they were significantly better in 2010. But I don't know how you can predict something like that.

Posted by
7919 posts

We were at the parade one year and didn't enjoy it. I think it's different each year, but the year we were there it was nothing but Army vehicles... 100's of them and their exhaust which wasn't fun. We'd never take the time to do it again.

The fire works at the ET were fun.
While you're in Paris don't miss a visit to the Luxembourg Gardens, well worth your time.

Posted by
59 posts

I guess I have a related question - I understand Monday will have enormous crowds. Will that continue on into Tuesday and Wednesday? And should there be rain on Monday evening, will the fireworks be postponed to the next evening? Thanks

Posted by
7584 posts

I don't think there will be enormous Parisian crowds as many Parisians are on vacation during July or go away that weekend since it is a three-day weekend. Many others will be sleeping late after the street dances in front of the fire stations all over the city, which begin after dark, around 10 p.m. on the 13th, and will go on until early in the morning. (What a great way to celebrate a 30th anniversary--with a slow dance at the Fireman's Ball.) On the other hand, yes, there are a huge number of tourists mid-July in all the places you have mentioned.

Second, yes fireworks would be delayed for a day in case of rain, or they might just wait until later the same night.

Posted by
11450 posts

Well for many people the fun part of the Fete National is the Firemans Balls.. And those are often held on the evening of the 13 with a few doing both 13th and 14th.. and thats where we are going to be on that day!! We arrive on 13th also.. and are staying in St Germain so I found the nearest firemans station and we plan on going by there.. they are admission by donation that is used for the firestations.. and are often outside .. tables, music dancing etc. There is a website for it, but so far they are only showing last years locations. I will keep you posted if I find out more.

Posted by
11450 posts

Sorry started post on Firemans Balls and didn't post as someone was a door.. anyways.. came back and clicked submit.. not noticing Bets had already mentioned the balls.

PS I looked at doing a Calife Dinner Cruise on the 14th.. normally runs 60-80 euros depending on menu.. but for that day they are going to charge 180 EUROS each( I emailed them since they had nothing on website about it ) .. we will be picnicing on a bridge somewhere for the view.. I don't want to have to stake out my plot of land on the Champs du Mars for hours and hours before fireworks..

Posted by
59 posts

The Firemen's Balls sound great! We are not sure about where will stay yet. Picnicking at a bridge sounds good - any idea on how long one would need to get situated before the fireworks? I work at a State Fair and love fireworks!

Posted by
11450 posts

Everyone says if picnicing on Champs de Mars by ET you should be there by six..i am hoping bridges may be a bit later... I guess we will find out! I have been to Paris quite a few times on july 14th but never bothered to celebrate .. I am not a parade fan either so just used to avoid the whole Champs Elysees area.. but my mate really wants to get in swing of things this time.

Posted by
3533 posts

Les bals des pompiers are held at many neighbourhood fire halls in Paris and elsewhere in France, with dancing and (of course) food and drinks. Some raise funds for firefighter charities. I know Firmen's Ball sounds like a Monty Python concert but these celebrations are probably what tourists call authentic France.
Here is a list from 2013 of Paris locations which were open that night:
http://en.parisinfo.com/discovering-paris/major-events/paris-celebrates-july-14th/fireman-s-ball-in-the-fire-stations/balls-in-fire-stations
The intrepid urban photographer who posts as Kerouac compiled this report from a provincial city several years earlier; the pictures suggest a great time is had by all.
http://anyportinastorm.proboards.com/thread/4254?page=1

Posted by
59 posts

Thanks! The firemen's balls sound very interesting. We haven't booked a room yet so maybe once the festivities are announced we can figure out a location convenient to one and to other sights we want to see.

Posted by
28 posts

We happened to arrive in Paris on July 14 on year, without thinking about it being a holiday. Got in too late for the parade, but we did take a picnic and wine to the park at ET for the music and fireworks. Shared smiles and banter with French couples and families surrounding us. A highlight of our time in Paris. We were on foot and staying FAR from the tower and on the other bank. The boulevard along the Seine became pedestrian-only and literally millions of us walked back to our abodes, lots of anthem singing, everyone friendly. A little fun-loving frolicking by young men, nothing bad. Great memory. Too bad we'll be there in September this year and not July!