By Jason Vu

On July 14th, France celebrated La Fête Nationale (The National Day). In English, we know it more commonly as “Bastille Day”. In 1789, French revolutionaries stormed the infamous Bastille prison in Paris to free prisoners and acquire weapons. The action marked a significant turning point in the French Revolution, marking the end of the monarchy in France. Given the importance of this occasion, the celebrations in Paris were sure to be magnifique!


Festivities began bright and early in the morning with a grand military parade on the Champs Elysée. Led by French President Emmanuel Macron, the parade showcased France’s military marching from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde. Even though I got there pretty early, I still had to jostle my way up to see the parade. In the end, I was able to snag a couple of shots of the passing troops, but none were as spectacular as the cavalry that trotted by.

Bastille Day Military Parade on the Champs Elysée.


After the end of the parade, I wanted to try out another perk of Bastille Day in Paris. In celebration of their cultural heritage, France marks Bastille Day by granting free access to all its museums and monuments that would normally cost around 10 Euros or more. Since Bastille Day also commemorates the troops who defend the French Republic, I decided to stop by Les Invalides, France’s national military museum and monument.


To say that Les Invalides was just like any other French monument would be a great understatement. Instead of being known for one thing or another, Les Invalides is actually made up of several buildings that either serve as museums of French military history or monuments dedicated to fallen French soldiers. Some of these buildings include La Musée de l’Armée, La Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and two churches connected back-to-back. These two churches were my favorite parts to see of the complex mainly because of their rich history and artistic design.


The older of the two was the Cathedral of St. Louis-des-Invalides, which was intended to be a chapel for veterans of France. Constructed under the reign of Louis XIV, the church was built in a Baroque-style and featured the flags of France’s enemies throughout history. On the other side of a glass wall was the Dôme des Invalides, another church that was eventually turned into the resting place of the late Emperor Napoleon I. Surrounded by statues of angels and portraits depicting mythicized scenes of his life, the tomb of Napoleon was made into the center of the Dôme and visitors have flocked to honor le petit caporal ever since.

The Cathedral of St. Louis-des-Invalides

The tomb of Emperor Napoleon I in Le Dôme des Invalides

With afternoon getting nearer, I eventually made my way out of Les Invalides and headed to the Pantheon for another feature of Bastille Day. All over Paris, free public concerts were taking place in historic monuments and churches to celebrate the storming of the Bastille. At every event, you could hear the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, being played proudly for all to hear. The concert I was going to was composed of wind instrumentalists from the French military academy who were playing several famous French pieces of classical music. I don’t remember the names of the songs they played, but being there was something I won’t forget!

Celebrating Bastille Day with a free wind instrument concert in the Pantheon


To conclude my first-ever Bastille Day, I met up with some friends at Trocadéro Park where we would watch the firework show from the Eiffel Tower. The show lasted a whole 30 minutes and every second of it was fantastic! Not only were fireworks being shot through the sky, but the show featured light effects and music to celebrate the end of a national day of celebration. Now I’m a big fan of 4th of July fireworks back in the States, but I have to say, we definitely can’t compare our shows to fireworks of Paris…

Bastille Day Firework Show at the Eiffel Tower

Jason studied abroad in France in Summer 2019.