Bastille Day Festival
at Eastern State Penitentiary
Wigs are welcome at this day-long reenactment of the French Revolution
July 12, 2014
Grab a pitchfork and storm the walls! Whether you’re a revolutionary or a royalist, there’s something for you during the weekend celebration of all things French leading up to the bombastic Bastille Day Festival at the Eastern State Penitentiary.
The annual celebration — this year celebrating its 20th anniversary – has become one of Philadelphia’s most popular summertime events, attracting thousands of visitors each year into the massive shadow of the penitentiary’s main wall to commemorate the storming of the Bastille by French revolutionaries.
From around 2 p.m. until midnight, Fairmount Avenue and Eastern State Penitentiary are home to a festive Bastille Day block party.
Early in the day starting at 2 p.m., London Grill will host outdoor dining, drinking and family-friendly fun including kids crafts, face painting and a photo booth.
The centerpiece of the festival, The Bearded Ladies Cabaret Show, begins at 5:30 p.m. on a stage directly in front of the Penitentiary.
Street admission and sights of the show are both completely free, and VIP tickets, which includes first-come, first-served seating and complimentary Kronenbourg 1664, cost $40.
For a good — free — view of the performance, your best bet is to arrive early. Thousands gather each year to celebrate Bastille Day in the shadow of Eastern State, so expect crowds.
The festival’s main event, starting at 5:30 p.m., features dozens of French revolutionaries, armed with muskets and cannon, and singing “La Marseillaise,” storming the grim walls of “the Bastille” (Eastern State Penitentiary) and dragging Marie Antoinette to a real, functioning guillotine, built for the occasion. As Antoinette yells, “Let them eat Tastykake!”, a flurry of 2,000 Tastykakes will be flung from the prison’s towers.
For more information on what to expect at Bastille Day Festival, click the button below.
After the storming, the party spills into the charming neighborhood of Fairmount, as restaurants and bars host wonderful French dinner specials and alfresco celebrations throughout the evening.
A lively after-party goes down back at London Grill until midnight, and the restaurant will host dancing in the street with The West Philadelphia Orchestra from 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m.
The Penitentiary will reopen for rare twilight tours at a discounted admission price ($10 adults, $5 students, seniors and kids).
Just down the street, London Grill and Paris Wine Bar keep the festivities going strong with food and drink specials all day.
A handful of other restaurants are set to offer up after-party specials on Saturday, too. Visit The Belgian Cafe for a beet Napoleon, Bridgid’s for $3 Kronenbourg beers all day long and Rembrandt’s for French specialties and such cocktails as La Gillotine, Bombay gin, St. Germaine and grapefruit juice.
For a comprehensive list of post-festival after-parties, click the button below.
Traveling to the Fairmount neighborhood is simple via walking, biking, public transit and taxi/Uber. Parking is fairly limited, and the block between Corinthian Avenue and 22nd Street will be blocked off for the all-day street fair, so driving is probably not the best option.
For travel by SEPTA, hop on the number 33, 48 or 2 bus heading north. Or hop on the Broad Street line, hop off at Fairmount and walk the six blocks west.
For more information on the Bastille Day Festival, click the button below.
In the neighborhood
Museums & Attractions
Waterworks Drive, near the northwest terrace of Philadelphia Museum of Art Philadelphia, PA 19130
- Philadelphia Museum of Art
- Eastern State Penitentiary
- The Rocky Statue and the Rocky Steps
- Stephen Girard Collection
- Joan of Arc
- Lemon Hill
- Eastern State Penitentiary Tour
- Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building
- CityPASS Philadelphia
- View more attractions
Restaurants & Dining