This blog post was updated on July 14, 2021.
“Liberté, égalité, fraternité, ou la mort!” Yep, you guessed it – Bastille Day! On July 14th, 1789 a band of 80,000 French rioters stormed through the gates of Bastille, a fortress in Paris used to detain political prisoners, sparking a coup d’état so monumental, that it’s still celebrated hundreds of years later. Today, this mid-July French holiday means festivals (that can last for 2-4 days), gastronomic bliss, and, of course, overflowing cups of rosé. When the clock strikes 11 in Paris, Francophiles gather amass at the foot of the Eiffel Tower to watch extravagant fireworks displays and enthralling live-action performances.
But, don’t worry, you don’t need to book a ticket to Paris to join in on the revelry. We’ve put together a list of cities across the globe with some of the most exciting celebrations so that you don’t miss out on la Fête Nationale. Vive la France!
Franschhoek, South Africa
When it comes to Bastille Day celebrations, the people of this South African town located 70km east of Capetown really know what they’re doing. Start your day at the lavish Solms-Delta parade, make your way around the day-long carnival, and at last put your athletic skills to the test with the famous barrel-rolling competition. After all of that, you’ve probably built up an appetite, huh? Head to the Food and Wine Marquee for some champagne and pan au chocolat, before you put on your dancing shoes for the dance competition.
If fireworks, croissants, and boozy days are not your ideal ways to spend your Bastille Day, maybe some Bollywood-style Can-Can dance performances, spicy curries, and colorful parades are the answer. After 300 years of occupation, the French have definitely left their mark on Pondicherry. Mixed in with the South Indian customs and coastal flair, you’re for one heck of a cultural experience if you’re headed here for la Fête Nationale!
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Say bonjour to this U.S. island that celebrates Bastille Day celebrations for several days. Home to a large French population, Islanders here embrace their French heritage through drinking, dancing, eating, and… fishing. That’s right. The crown jewel of Bastille Day here is the Kingfish Tournament, a fundraiser held for local schools. Fishermen load their boats and cast their nets in the early hours of the morning, and return by noon, giving them ample time to join in on the rest of the very important activities of the day (many of which are at the local bars).
If spellbinding architecture, rich culture, and non-stop dance parties at exclusive nightclubs seem like the kind of things you’d like to experience on Bastille Day, Budapest is the place for you. Their annual 2-day soiree includes a never-ending supply of éclairs and champagne, dancing lessons, and fireworks just to name a few! Attendees often party on to the wee hours of the morning at some of Budapest’s elite nightclubs, located in the famous recreated Moulin Rouge district.
You may also like: See How People Are Celebrating Bastille Day in France!
Cayenne, French Guiana
If it’s the authentic French experience you’re looking for, Cayenne is the place to go for your la Fête Nationale celebrations. As you can probably tell from its namesake, French Guiana enjoys the same customs, holidays, and currency as its overseas sovereignty. The French presence in Cayenne dates back to nearly four centuries ago when they founded Cayenne as their capital followed by over a hundred years of scattered occupancy. Enjoy fireworks on the coast, day-long feasts, and enthralling reenactments of the Bastille storming, all with a twist of island flavor.
Surprised? Perhaps the most unexpected destination on the list, Milwaukee hosts one of the U.S.’s biggest Bastille Day celebrations. Festivities last a whopping four days, complete with a 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica, hourly light shows, live music, a “Storm the Bastille” themed run, wine-tastings and, of course, lots of cheese! Who knew this Midwestern city had such French charme?
Looking for a place to sport that beret and neckerchief? Bring them to Liege! As gratitude to France for their support in defeating Germany in WWI, this French-speaking town, located in the Wallonia region of Belgium, is known to host one of the world’s largest Bastille Day extravaganzas. Celebrations for Bastille Day here have grown to so grand, that they out stage even the Belgian National Day festivities, making it a great idea to book cheap flights in July! In true French fashion, festivities in Liege include parades, fireworks, and feasts… oh my!
Let us know where you’re going to satisfy your inner Francophile and celebrate this year’s Fête Nationale, in the comments below!