Experiencing Carcassonne Bastille Day is one of my all time favorite travel memories. It is an experience to savor that definitely deserves a place on your bucket list!
This guide to Carcassonne Bastille day will tell you everything that you need to know to plan a visit for this epic yearly event!
Bastille Day (also known as French National Day) is celebrated in France and around the world each year on July 14th. This holiday marks the storming of the Bastille in Paris and beginning of the French Revolution.
Carcassonne Bastille Day Basics
Where: Carcassonne, France (a medieval village with a spectacularly well preserved castle in the south west of France)
When: Bastille Day is celebrated annually on July 14th
Who: Approximately 700,000 locals and visitors descend upon Carcassonne each year for the festivities.
What: A celebration of everything FRENCH that culminates in an epic fireworks display over Carcassonne Castle
Visiting Carcassonne France
Carcassonne is an amazing city to visit. The castle is like something out of a fairy tale. Walking around the ramparts and enjoying the authentic cobbled streets of the Cite is an experience to remember (try to plan an overnight visit so that you can stay after all of the tourists leave…it is much better that way!)
Carcassonne is a particularly nice city to visit with children. The authentic castle is a great place to learn about Medieval life, and there are many options for things to do in Carcassonne with kids!
If you can plan your visit to coincide with the annual Carcassonne Bastille Day festivities, so much the better!
Planning Your Carcassonne Bastille Day Visit
The best way to arrange your trip to Carcassonne for Bastille Day in France is to arrive the day before to soak up the atmosphere of the city before the crowds descend. Late afternoon is the best time to explore the city as the tourist crowds have thinned out by then.
TIP: Something that I didn’t realize until we arrived was that on Bastille Day, many parts of the castle will be closed off in preparation for the show, so plan accordingly.
The Best Places to Sit for the Fireworks
After most of a day of careful reconnaissance and poking about, we are quite sure that we found the two best spots to sit to see the Carcassonne Bastille Day fireworks.
If you have a chair (something that we were lacking), the best place to sit is on the Pont Neuf Bridge, followed closely in priority by the view from the Pont Vieux Bridge. At of 2:30pm in the afternoon on Bastille Day, good spots on both bridges were still available. By 3:00pm, the bridges were full.
Lacking a chair, we looked instead for a comfortable spot to lay out a blanket. We found the best spot to be on the far bank of the River Aude from the castle between the Pont Neuf and Pont Vieux bridges. This is where we sat. We arrived around noon, and by this time the best blanket spots were already taken. Getting here little earlier would have been advantageous.
Here is a map showing our preferred Carcassonne Bastille Day fireworks watching locations:
View Carcassonne France on Bastille Day in a larger map
Making the Most of Your Experience
Once we were SURE that we had found the very best spot, we commenced picnicking and drinking lots of wine with 700,00 French people on the banks of the Aude River!
The vibe in the city for Carcassonne Bastille Day is unique. Thousands of visitors pour into the city to join with thousands of locals for a super laid back day of drinking wine and picnicking, waiting for the spectacle of the grand finale – thousands of pounds of fireworks shot off from the ramparts of Carcassonne Castle in a pyrotechnic display surpassing any that I have ever seen.
There is a festive atmosphere in the air. Local restaurants were playing music and everyone was having fun, making the best of their time while waiting for the fireworks.
We spent our afternoon “doing what the Romans Do”, sitting on the bank of the Aude River on a blanket with locals and visitors, eating cheese and bread and getting a little tipsy on that awesome French wine.
Plan to make new friends. Bring picnic food to share. Relax…you are going to be here for a while so hunker down and plan for a day. While waiting, we got to know the other folks sitting around us. It was like one big party!
Here are my top suggestions for where to stay for Carcassonne Bastille Day on a budget as well as tips for the best way to see the city without the crowds.
Handy Things to Pack for Carcassonne Bastille Day:
Here are a few items that you might not think of that might make your day go more smoothly (particularly if you are planning on sitting at our chosen spot by the river):
- A small pruners or a sturdy scissors (there were a lot of weeds and nettles to cut down near where we sat)
- Anti itch cream (in case one gets attacked by the itch weeds by the river like I did.)
- Gardening gloves (for the aforementioned weeds)
- A large, thick blanket (this will help to shield you from contact with any weeds or nettles nearby where you are sitting.) In retrospect, I would have invested in one at the store earlier in the trip and tossed it when we were done.
- A cork screw (you can pick up local wine at stores nearby towards the medieval part of the city)
- Glasses for wine (check out some of the poly carbonate wine glasses available in camping stores…they are great for travel and can be used for more than just wine!)
- Sunscreen and a hat
- Picnic food (cheese, baguettes, fruit, etc…bring enough to share with new friends)
The Grand Finale
The brightness and heat of afternoon began to fade as the sun went down, being replaced by coolness accompanied by a growing sense of excitement and anticipation that seemed to spread through the crowd.
As it got close to show time, spontaneous chants erupted from the banks of the river around us.
Everyone waited anxiously for the moment when the gradual transition to darkness was complete and the show started (at approximately 10:30pm).
Our long wait was well rewarded. Here are highlights of what we saw on Bastille Day in France:
(If you can’t see the video below, please click on this link):