Bastille Day is one not to miss French holiday, celebrated on 14 July. Every year, this date commemorates the storming of the Bastille in Paris on this very day in 1789. The whole of France celebrates this symbolic ‘Fête de la Fédération’ (Federation Feast), created in 1880 to symbolise the nation’s unification. Everywhere in France, you can eat and dance the night away at the many locally organised balls. To be concluded with spectacular fireworks.
Bals Populaires and fireworks
Literally every village in France celebrates 14 July with the so-called “Bals Populaires”. Some are even organised for the day before, on the 13th of July. For the best fireworks in Languedoc-Roussillon, you might want to go to a bigger town like Nîmes. Other good places are Pont du Gard and the port of Cap d’Agde. But according to many, the best firework display in the region, and even France, is at Carcassonne’s medieval citadel. The family and I have been to Carcassonne on 14 July before. We were rather unprepared back then. However, we managed to see the fireworks quite close to the citadel, somewhere near the Rue Gustave Nadaud. It had been over nine years though, so I was very eager to go again.
We planned to go early, as it gets very crowded on this festive day. Keep in mind that about 700,000 people visit Carcassonne during this yearly event alone! Therefore, we left to be in Carcassonne around 19h00, had dinner at Le Clos des Framboisiers, and walked towards the citadel from there. I had a little difficulty finding the best spot. Most people seemed to stand on the Pont Neuf, but that was too crowded for us. After walking around for a bit, we ended up on the Rue Trivalle. Not the best spot, but we did see the fireworks above a part of the ramparts. You can also watch the show from the rest area Belvédère d’Auriac along the A61 highway between Narbonne and Toulouse. However, expect it to be crowded there as well. They close the parking lot after a certain number of cars and people.
From our spot, the waiting began. So, we waited. And waited. The kids had brought a card game to pass the time, but it went by very fast in the end. All of a sudden, a couple of loud bangs caught everyone’s attention. 22h30: the start of the fireworks display! And it sure was spectacular. For almost half an hour, the most amazing fireworks lit the fortified city. At one point, it even seemed like the city was set on fire. I was glad to have read that the city of Carcassonne takes sustainability seriously and uses a new generation of fireworks and LED light projectors. It was definitely worth the drive and the waiting. As we live about one hour from Carcassone, we drove home after the display. But if you’re up for it, you can put on your dancing shoes for the free Bal Populaire on Place Carnot.