Last year, while planning a vacation to London and Paris, we came across an interesting event called Le Grand Feu. It’s an annual fireworks display – apparently the largest in Europe – that takes place each September in a beautiful park on the western outskirts of Paris.
Although there was very little information about the event online – and what little information we could find was all in French – Le Grand Feu was a wonderful experience and well worth the hassles of figuring out how to order tickets and how to get to the park by Métro. Best of all, given its low profile amoung non-Parisians, the event felt more authentic than some of the tourist traps we visited. It was fun and refreshing to be surrounded by locals.
Unlike most of the fireworks displays I’ve seen, Le Grand Feu was presented as a series of scenes, each artfully choreographed to a different piece of music. I was impressed not just by the variety of scenes, but also by the depth and layering of light the producers were able to create. I got a sense that they were focused on creativity and artistry rather than the all out ‘shock and awe’ I’ve come to expect from North American fireworks displays. That said, the grand finale certainly rivalled any other show I’ve seen in terms of intensity – in fact, it was so bright at times that I could barely keep my eyes open!
If you happen to be in or near Paris in September, it is definitely worth attending this unique event. Take a look at some of the videos to get a feel for show, but keep in mind that they don’t really do it justice.
If you’re interested in attending the show, below you’ll find information and tips based on my experience:
Tickets and Seating
The event is held in a large public park but the area is completely fenced off so you’ll require a ticket to get in. As it generally sells out in advance, I recommend ordering tickets online. There are several different seating options, from lower cost general admission space on the grass (i.e. no actual seats), to medium cost chair seating, to higher cost elevated bleacher seating. We opted for the medium-priced chair seating, identified as section T and S on the below image.
These seats were good, although I would recommend sitting further back if possible. Sections V and U on the seating chart are actually less expensive but I think they are more desirable for two reasons:
- The fireworks are launched relatively close to the seating area, so the closer you are to the front, the more likely you are to get covered in ash during the performance. This is probably highly dependent on the direction of the wind during the performance, but we had a significant dusting of ash in our hair by the end of the show and at one point I had to deal with a tiny piece of debris in my eye.
- Since fireworks are fired into the sky, the closer you sit to the front, the more you’ll have to crane your neck to see everything. Sitting further back would reduce your neck strain and provide a wider viewing angle to take everything in since the fireworks launch from all over the park, not just from a central location.
Tickets range from €30 to €80 and can be purchased online through FNAC, the French equivalent of Best Buy with a ticketing subsidiary similar to Ticketmaster. We ordered tickets online and opted to pick them up at one of FNAC’s retail stores – in our case the Champs-Elysée location. Just remember to bring the credit card you used when ordering tickets with you as you’ll need to present the card in order to pick up your tickets.
Le Grand Feu takes place in the Parc de Saint-Cloud on the outskirts of Paris. Given the number of people attending the event, we took public transit from our apartment in the 6th arrondissement. If I remember correctly, it took just over an hour to arrive, including a 10-15 minute walk from the Boulogne – Pont de Saint-Cloud Métro station to the park entrance.
There were lots of people heading to the event at the same time as us, so it would have been pretty hard to get lost – we just followed the crowd. Keep in mind that there are two entrances to the park and depending which section your seats are in you’ll need to enter from one side or the other.
I recommend arriving at least 30-45 minutes early as there are a few bottlenecks in the admission process. We arrived with plenty of time to spare, but there were many others filtering into the park after the start of the show.
As the event takes place in a park, there are fewer amenities than you might expect. There were several food trucks and a spattering of portable toilets, but not really enough to satisfy the crowd of 20,000+ visitors. We brought a backpack full of drinks and snacks, so I can’t really speak to the length of the food truck lines or the quality of the food. If you need to pee, do so well before the show starts as the lines were very long just prior to showtime. On the plus side, the portable toilets seemed pretty clean!
This is an outdoor event, so be prepared for the weather. I recommend bringing warm clothes and a few blankets as the temperature definitely dropped toward the end of the performance.
If you’ll be lucky enough to be near Paris on September 13, 2014 then why not treat yourself to a great fireworks show? Visit the official Le Grand Feu website for additional information, although you might have to brush up on your French to understand it!