On July 14, France will once again celebrate Bastille Day, a national holiday honoring the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789—an event widely regarded to have started the French Revolution. And, just as Americans do on the Fourth of July, the French often take to the streets for fireworks and fêtes of all kinds.
If you're in the country and hoping to get in on the action, here are seven places to visit that will have you feeling more patriotic than ever.
Celebrate with Champagne in Champagne
There is perhaps nothing more appropriate for a celebration of freedom than popping a bottle of Champagne. But why not up the ante and actually do that in the Champagne Valley?
Located about an hour north of Paris by train, the region has plenty to offer visitors when it comes to showing off the country’s deep and rich history. For example, at the Caves de la Veuve Clicquot, visitors can watch a brief film about the history of champagne, learn how it’s made, then descend into the caves to see how it's preserved. Both private and group tours are available.
Opt to stay at the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa, the region’s newest wellness resort. There, you’ll spend your evenings in a 19th-century post house and relax in a 16,000-square-foot wellness center. The property's restaurant is helmed by Michelin two-starred chef Jean-Denis Rieubland.
Eat Dinner and Watch the Fireworks at the Bottom of the Eiffel Tower
On Bastille Day, Paris comes alive with celebrations, including a spectacular fireworks display over the Eiffel Tower—and perhaps the best view of it all is from the Seine River.
Visitors can book a dinner cruise on one of the many boats, including the La Marina, which will offer a menu of refined French options—including scallops, mi-cuit de bœuf, croustade of snails, braised chicken leg, Viennese biscuit with chocolate ganache, and Strawberry poppy macarons—for about $138 per person. Another option is a special sightseeing tour onboard the Bateaux Parisiens, which will take passengers down the Seine before docking back at the foot of the tower for the fireworks show ($75 per person).
See France's Best Fireworks in Carcassonne
Since 1898, Carcassonne—a small, hilltop town in the south of France—has put on a Bastille Day fireworks display like none other. Located on the banks of the River Aude, the 25-minute show is attended by more than 700,000 people each year, according to the town's tourism site. Following the fireworks, visitors can join in on the free fête with Guy Lacroux Orchestra on the Place Carnot.
While visiting, book a stay at Domaine D’Auriac, where guests can dine at its Michelin one-star restaurant, dive into the hotel’s glimmering outdoor pool, or play a round of golf at the estate’s course.
Take a Helicopter Tour Over Cannes
Sometimes you need a new perspective to truly appreciate all that France has to offer—and getting a bird’s-eye view of Cannes might be the best way to do it.
This Bastille Day, book a helicopter tour of the stunning community in the South of France. Visitors can choose from a variety of tours including a brief six-minute flight over the Lerin Islands, a 12-minute tour of the Wink of Croisette & Golfe-Juan, a 25-minute tour of the Lerin Islands and Esterel Red Rocks, or even a one hour tour of the Gorges du Verdon.
Our favorite stay in the area is the Villa Claudia Hotel, a boutique property located inside a 150-year-old building surrounded by lush, green gardens. Its central location allows guests easy access to just about everything in Cannes.
Explore Mont Saint-Michel
For a more intimate Bastille Day celebration, head to Mont Saint-Michel, an island community that has acted as a military vantage point for millennia and has been home to a monastery since the 8th century. On the island, book a private tour to maximize your time, then spend a night or two in the Hotel La Croix Blanche. The nine-room hotel offers supremely personal service and provides each guest with a panoramic view of the bay below.
Pro tip: the island community is only accessible via one bridge, which can be submerged in water if the tide is high enough. But, as long as the skies are clear, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with a spectacular place to visit.
Pay a High-Altitude Visit to Chamonix
Fun fact: The Alps aren’t just cool in the winter. This Bastille Day, head to the mountains to see the gorgeous village of Chamonix. There, visitors can catch a glimpse of Mont Blanc, Europe's tallest summit, swim in the Alpine Lakes, or take the famous red train known as the Montenvers Railway up more than 1,000 feet for some truly spectacular hiking with views to match. Sporting activities in the mountains also abound—including hiking, golfing, mountain biking, and more. Alternatively, visitors can opt to relax at one of the spas in the area.
Book a stay at the Hotel Mont Blanc Chamonix, a historic hotel located at the foot of Mont Blanc. At the hotel, guests can indulge in wellness treatments, dine in the hotel’s exquisite restaurant, and simply sit outside on its stunning lawn to take in the breathtaking scenery.
Grab a Seat Along the Tour de France Route in Dreux
On Bastille Day, the eighth leg of the Tour de France will be kicking off in the city of Dreux, located in Northern France. And the town of just over 31,000 people is more than happy to welcome both racers and visitors alike.
Visitors can once again learn about France’s history by visiting the 19th century Saint-Louis royal chapel that overlooks the city’s historic center. In the church, visitors can gaze at gorgeous original stained glass art, then learn how to make it themselves at a local studio in town. Following a bit of arts and crafts, visitors can explore the footpaths and trails in the national Forest of Dreux.
Stay overnight at the L’Hôtel Jehan De Beauce, an Art Deco hotel that was renovated in 2014 but still displays an old-world charm. At the hotel, guests can relax in the herbal tea room or sip champagne and cocktails in the lounge as the Tour de France racers do all the work outside.