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Bastille Day Fireworks

CHECK OUT THIS YEAR’S UPDATE: Bastille Day 2023: What to See & Do in Paris

Last night I — and about 500,000 other Parisians and tourists — made our way towards the Eiffel Tower for the annual Bastille Day fireworks show. Most people were heading, picnics in hand, to the Champ de Mars at the foot of the Tower. Once you’re in Paris long enough, though, you learn to cultivate friendships with people who have apartments nearby, preferably with a balcony. Not that it’s smooth sailing all the way. I still had to brave the heaving metro line 6 to La Motte-Piquet-Grenelle and meet up with another friend, who thought it would be a good idea to come from the Champs-Elysées by car. Of course, every road is blocked off by the police, not just for the fireworks but because the 7th arrondissement is home to most embassies and diplomatic residences, so all of the visiting dignitaries returning from the Bastille parade earlier in the day had a clear route to their fireworks-watching-perch.

I probably could have walked to Anne-Sophie’s, but out of solidarity (and a sudden need for a/c), I hopped in Fred’s car to keep him company for the hour-long parking spot search. Anne-Sophie is up on the 9th floor of her building with an absurdly huge view of the Eiffel Tower right outside her window. We all gathered on the balcony at 10:45pm, optimistic that the fireworks would begin on time. The weather was perfect: clear, low wind, and mild.

This year’s fireworks theme was “Opéra” so there was opera music blasting out of huge loudspeakers as the fireworks started, amazingly well-coordinated with the explosions. I was the only American in the group, and I must say it wasn’t the first time I heard the French reaction to Bastille Day fireworks: “Voilà, our taxes at work. This better be good.” One woman decided there were too many orange ones, not enough blue. Others thought the rainbow-colored fireworks showed the Mayor’s influence. Even the cool Parisians were happy when the Eiffel Tower sparkled briefly at one point (for most of the half-hour show its lights were turned off). Here is the view from the balcony at La Motte-Piquet-Grenelle:

Here are two songs shot from someone facing the Trocadéro with the Eiffel Tower at his/her back. I love the opera version of “Summertime”! Check out the glow of all of the other cameras recording at the beginning of this film.

You could say the view was perfect if you were willing to tough it out in this standing-room-only crowd…or watch the video. 😉


In the end, most of our group thought they weren’t as good as the ones two years ago (the year Paris was bidding on the Olympics), but hey, they’re pretty. I have to say that I’m disappointed that the French don’t sing the Marseillaise (“We don’t know the words,” says Fred) or drape the town in French flags (only government buildings and the Champs-Elysées).

Actually, what would be really cool would be if they built a huge paper maché Bastille Prison and burned it down. That would be fun. Or they could just burn a few cars instead. Oh, wait. They already do that. 😉

Post-fireworks festivities continued late into the night, either on the crowded Champ de Mars, in private apartments with the music blaring out the windows, or in the fire stations for the second evening of the Bal des Pompiers.

Read the latest tips here: What to do in Paris on Bastille Day

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