Celebrated on July 14, French National Day or Bastille Day commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution and the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. Celebrations are held all over France, but thousands line up along the Champs-Elysees in Paris to watch the oldest and largest military parade in Europe. These annual festivities aren’t limited to the celebration on the ground, but locals and tourists can look high above the crowds to see the Patrouille de France aerobatics team in action.
Bastille Day isn’t the only thing tourists should add to their agenda when visiting Paris in the summer. Here’s a quick list of 5 fun summertime experiences you don’t want to miss when vacationing in Paris.
1. Work on Your Tan at Paris Plage (Paris Beach)
Yes, Paris is a landlocked city, but that doesn’t stop the city from transforming into a beach town from mid-July to mid-August. Take a stroll along the banks of the Seine to see a full-fledged beach with sand, games, chairs and umbrellas. Sip on a cocktail from one of the open-air bars while you work on your tan. Insider’s Tip: It’s not uncommon for friends and family to congregate along the river around dusk. Bring a bottle of Bordeaux, duck pate and artisanal cheese — you’ll fit right in.
2. Return to Your Zen State at These Green Spaces
In addition to the Seine, Parisians take advantage of their parks and green spaces to unwind and relax with friends and family. And if you’re a visitor — you should, too. The City of Light has more than 30 gardens and parks to stroll through, play soccer or to just experience people-watching as locals and tourists pass by. Enjoy some of my favorite places to “park it,” like the Jardin du Palais Royal, Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin du Luxembourg and Parc du Champ de Mars.
3. Experience the Adrenaline Rush of the Tour de France
Cheer on cyclists as they wrap up the final stage of one of the largest sporting events in the world, the Tour de France. Cyclists pedal the last 85 miles in Paris to cross the finish line of this 23-day race that covers more the 2,000 miles of open road with teams consisting of up to 9 bikers. Get up early to camp out along the Avenue des Champs-Elysees or near the Place de la Concorde to watch the cyclists whizz by. It’s an experience you don’t want to miss!
4. Roll with the Parisians Every Friday Night
Go roller skating every Friday night for “Le Friday Night Fever,” organized by Rollers-et-Coquillages (Skates and Snail Shells). If it’s not raining, more than 10,000 top-notched skaters of all ages gather on Place Raoul-Dautry — in front of the Montparnasse metro station — for a fast-paced, 3-hour, 12- to 15-mile circuit on skates. Join the group on Sunday afternoons if you’re looking for a more leisurely roll.
5. Take a Day Trip to Explore Old-World Lux Living
Take the metro or RER (regional train) to explore some of the Paris’ most popular castles or palaces near Paris. Head west of Paris, to the town of Versailles, France, to visit Chateau de Versailles (Versailles Palace), the residence of Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI. Take a tour of the palace, walk through the gardens, see Marie-Antoinette’s estate or take a romantic row in a paddle boat on the Grand Canal. I recommend stopping at La Petite Venise — one of 2 on-site restaurants — for seasonal dishes and daily specials. Chateau de Vincennes, Chateau de Fontainebleau and Chateau de Rambouillet are a few other notable palatial estates to visit. Or, you can go with complete fantasy and explore the castles at Disneyland Paris — just a 35-minute ride from Paris on the RER A or Regional Express Train.