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Bastille Day Festival
at Eastern State Penitentiary

Wigs are welcome at this day-long reenactment of the French Revolution

Bastille Day Festival at Eastern State Penitentiary

At the Bastille Day Festival, experimental theatre group The Bearded Ladies reenact the French Revolution in an hour-long spectacle of song, dance, and beheading. Credit: R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia


July 16, 2016

Note: The information below is from 2015. Stay tuned for more information about this year’s event as it becomes available.

Everything You Need To Know About The Bastille Day Festival

Philadelphia’s Bastille Day Festival is an epic celebration like no other. Get the lowdown on the block party, the reenactment, the raining down of Tastykakes and more with our official guide by clicking the button below.

everything you need to know about the bastille day festival


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 wild, annual festival — now in its 21st year – 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.

The Festival

Fairmount Avenue and Eastern State Penitentiary are home to a festive Bastille Day block party.

Prior to the main event in front of Eastern State Penitentiary, enjoy live entertainment from OOLALA starting at 2:30 p.m.

The centerpiece of the festival begins at 5:30 p.m. with an hour-long spectacle of song, dance and “beheading” featuring The Bearded Ladies Cabaret Show. The “historically accurate” reenactment of the storming of the Bastille features special appearances from Napoleon, Joan of Art, Benjamin Franklin and a gigantic French baguette.

Be there as dozens of French revolutionaries will storm the grim walls of “the Bastille” (Eastern State Penitentiary), capture Marie Antoinette (played by Terry McNally, co-owner of London Grill and Paris Wine Bar) drag her to a real, functioning guillotine. Prepare for cries of “Let them eat Tastykake!” as 3,000 Tastykakes are flung from the prison’s towers.

Street admission and sights of the show are both completely free. A limited number of VIP tickets are available for $40 per person and include seating, beer, refreshments and a front row view of the exciting performance.

For more information on what to expect at Bastille Day Festival, click the button below.

What to expect at the the Bastille Day Festival


After the storming of the walls, the revolution spills into the charming neighborhood of Fairmount, as restaurants and bars host wonderful French dinner specials and alfresco celebrations throughout the evening.

The Penitentiary will reopen for rare twilight tours at a discounted admission price ($8 online in advance or $10 at the door).

Local restaurants, including London Grill, Paris Wine Bar and Rembrandt’s, will be offering a variety of French specials, discounts and themed events throughout the celebration.

For a comprehensive list of post-festival after-parties, click the button below.

Bastille Day Festivals, Events and Dinners

Getting There

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.

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