One of the easiest day trips into Europe from the UK with the best return is the annual “Bastille Day” celebration and flypast in Paris. It is also pretty easy to schedule this in to your plans in advance, because it is always seems to be held on the 14th of July for some reason.
More correctly known as la fete nationale, this is a national holiday in France, and includes a large flypast over the centre of Paris, which is viewable from a number of locations.
To see an example of a typical flypast, the 2022 Programme PDF file is available here.
However, there a couple of popular places for photographers, but there are advantages and disadvantages to both these places.
- Les Invalides (48.861888°, 2.314155°). This is in the centre of Paris, and very popular with the locals, consequently it can get very busy. The flypast will pass in front of you from left to right, but you are slightly too far underneath and too much looking into the sun as the aircraft pass. But, some of the flypast helicopters usually land in Les Invalides, and there are also usually a few static aircraft here too.
A selection of flypast images taken from Les Invalides in 2022 are below.
- Av. de la Republique in Nanterre (48.907063°, 2.212672°). The flyover above this road is situated further out of the city, so is less busy, and is much easier to access and depart from. The aircraft pass from right to left, and you are more side-on to them, however there are some tall lamp stands to try and avoid. On occasion some of the smaller formations have missed this location.
A selection of flypast images taken from Nanterre in 2019 are below.
Whichever location you choose, a trip across can also include the bases that the aircraft and helicopters depart from (Orleans, Evreaux, Villacoublay, Chartres etc), and you will usually be able to find a Mirage somewhere too. Paris also has plenty of other busy airfields to visit like Le Bourget, and the central heliport at Issy usually has some helicopters parked up.
The 80-odd aircraft flypast is usually mid morning, so an early start across The Channel will give you plenty of time for these other locations prior to arriving in Paris at your chosen venue.
All in all, a trip to Paris on the 14th of July can result in a very large return, for relatively little effort.