Ever asked yourself what to do on Bastille Day in Paris? This bash proves once and for all that Americans don't have a monopoly on patriotic summer celebrations! As France's most popular secular holiday, it draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the French capital for a July day of Parisian-style merriment. As you can imagine there are plenty of options for making the most of your time, including a number of Paris tours tailored to anyone's interests.

What is Bastille Day?

Bastille Day - more commonly known as "National Day" or La Fête nationale in France - is often compared to America's Independence Day. Although the event doesn't commemorate French independence, it marks one of the most important episodes of the French Revolution: the 1789 storming of the Bastille, the Paris fortress and prison that symbolized the abuses of the monarchy. The violent event foretold yet more bloodshed, but a stable, progressive republic eventually arose in its aftermath, and on this day all of France celebrates this.

Bastille Day bears more than a passing resemblance to America's Fourth of July. Fireworks are ubiquitous, and the event is often portrayed as an excuse for the French to let loose and party during the day. Since it takes place just 10 days after its counterpart across the Atlantic, the affinities between these two holidays become even clearer, though there is much to distinguish them.

A closer look reveals Bastille Day's singular approach to midsummer celebrations. The festival is replete with parades, fireworks displays, grand parties and ceremonial military exercises that delight kids and adults alike. Since Paris is the epicenter of festivities there's no better time to visit the City of Light if you want a truly unique perspective.

What you don't want to miss

So, what to do on Bastille Day in Paris? It is renowned for several events. First, the 140-year-old military parade sees units from the French armed services parading down the Champs-Élysée before a formal review and speech by the French President. Untold thousands line the avenue, so be sure to show up early.

On the evening before, the Bal du 14 Juillet features a themed dance that occurs on the Place de Bastille itself (where the building used to stand). It's dancing in the streets at its best, and the spirit is contagious.

The festivities continue with fireworks displays around Paris, including at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Even the city's firemen get in on the act. A longstanding tradition involves local firehouses opening to the public for dancing, games and enjoyment.

Flights and accommodations

Bastille Day is a popular time to visit Paris, so it's best to book hotels as early as possible. For better deals, look for accommodations near Metro stops outside the city's historic center. A slightly longer trip into town might save you a fair amount of money. Likewise, check third-party discount sites to find great flight deals at the last minute. Major U.S. airports like New York-JFK, Newark, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta and Miami all offer direct flights to Paris.

Why not schedule your long-awaited trip to Paris around the most French holiday of all? Start planning your adventure today!