Each year on July 14, France celebrates Bastille Day in remembrance of the French Revolution. In 1789, crowds stormed the Bastille (the prison where King Louis XIV held his enemies), marking a turning point for the French Revolution. Today, the holiday is recognized all over France as both a solemn remembrance and a lively celebration.
This year, why not join in the fun and create your own holiday? Below, we’ve outlined 7 ideas for observing Bastille Day, wherever you are.
Toast With a Glass of French Champagne
Every celebration deserves a toast, and what better way to ring in Bastille Day than with a glass of French Champagne? Splurge on a bottle of classic bubbly from Ruinart, Dom Perignon, or Krug, or opt for one of the more affordable–yet still delicious–bottles from Nicholas Feuillante or Piper-Heidsieck. While Champagne only refers to sparkling wine made in the Champagne region, there are other options for celebratory bubbles. Crémant is a type of French sparkling wine made anywhere besides Champagne and can offer a rich and complex flavor that’s worthy of any celebration. Look for crémant from Langlois or Lucien Albert, or ask your local wine store to recommend a bottle.
Cook a Classic French Dessert
Sweet treats should be a part of any holiday and with French desserts, there’s a world of chocolate, pastries, and cakes to choose from. Celebrate Bastille Day with a rich dessert that takes advantage of seasonal fruits, like French Rice Pudding with Rhubarb Compote, Clafoutis with Figs and Plums, Lemon Macarons, or Wine Poached Pears. If you’re looking for a quick and easy recipe with ingredients you already have at home, why not whip up some Crepes Suzette with a Grand Marnier Sauce?
Have a French-Inspired Picnic
Summer is the perfect time to picnic at your local park or beach, or even in your own backyard. Prepare by choosing a blanket or tablecloth to sit on, and elevate the picnic with real cutlery, glasses, and napkins instead of disposable ones. You can visit your local gourmet store to stock up on French picnic supplies: cheese and charcuterie, of course, but also olives, paté, sardines, a baguette, and anything else that looks good. Make sure to bring dessert, too, like a package of macaron or delicious French chocolate.
Host a Cheese and Wine Pairing
Bastille Day is a great excuse to host a get-together and if you’re too busy to cook, you can still have a French-inspired party at home with a wine and cheese tasting. You can ask each of your guests to bring a bottle of French wine, while you supply the cheese and accompaniments like bread, olives, dried fruit, charcuterie, crackers, chocolate, and more. You can taste each wine together, making notes on which bottle pairs best with which cheese.
Have a French-Inspired Dinner Party
With a little time and planning, you can host an entire French-inspired evening at home, starting with an apero of summery cocktails and snacks, followed by a first course of chilled soup or fresh salad. For the main course, you can serve a simple grilled fish with rice and vegetables, or a Shrimp Provencal. Don’t forget the cheese course, which comes after dinner–choose a selection of different textures and flavors, along with a bit of bread and maybe some dried or fresh figs. For dessert, you can make a berry tart and serve chilled coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Dine at Your Favorite French Restaurant
On Bastille Day, make a reservation at your favorite local French restaurant, where you can dine in the company of other Francophiles–they might even have a special menu for the occasion. A holiday is a great excuse for indulgence, so make the most of it with a glass of champagne or a cocktail while you peruse the menu, and don’t forget to save room for dessert.
Attend a Local Bastille Day Celebration
Throughout the US, cities and towns host their own Bastille Day celebrations, ranging from informal celebrations at local businesses to parades and festivals. In New York City, the French Consulate is hosting a festival in Central Park, while San Francisco’s 4th Annual Bastille Day Festival is an all-day block party with food stalls, performances, games, and–of course–wine! Milwaukee hosts one of the biggest Bastille Day celebrations in the country, complete with a replica Eiffel Tower, street performers, concerts, food stalls, and more. In New Orleans, arguably the most French city in the United States, Bastille Day celebrations take over the French Quarter and continue with a party at the Alliance Francaise.