The night air was electric as over 700,000 people filled the Champ-de-Mars on July 14, 2009. Friends and families had packed picnic blankets and folding chairs, settling in for an extraordinary evening under the stars. All eyes were fixed on the iconic silhouette towering above, lit up in glittering gold against the darkening sky.

For 120 years, the Eiffel Tower had stood watch over the city of Paris. From its completion in 1889 up until the new millennium, it had borne witness to world wars, social movements, and technological innovations that shaped the modern world. But on this night, the iron lady celebrated her own milestone in spectacular fashion. The largest crowd ever assembled on the Champ-de-Mars had come to honor her with a birthday bash like no other.

As twilight fell, the anticipation in the crowd was palpable. What surprises would this anniversary display have in store? Rumors had spread of awe-inspiring projections that would bring the tower to life, along with a fireworks extravaganza unlike anything the city had seen. But first, a very special guest would kick off the festivities.

Emerging on stage to deafening cheers was Johnny Hallyday, France’s very own “Elvis Presley” and the undisputed king of French rock. At 66 years old, his signature leather jacket, blue jeans and slicked back hair remained unchanged through the decades. But it was his energy and charisma that truly captivated as he launched into his hit “Gabrielle.” Jumping and strumming his guitar with abandon, Hallyday’s raw vocals and magnetic stage presence transported the audience back to the rebellious rocker’s heyday.

As the opening chords of “Que je t’aime” filled the night, a hush fell over the Champ-de-Mars. All eyes were on Hallyday, but also peering beyond to catch the first glimpses of the tower’s transformation. Slowly, images began flickering to life across its iron beams, like scenes from a slideshow projected on the world’s biggest screen. Historical photographs and archival footage traced the tower’s construction and early years, to cheers and applause from the enraptured onlookers.

Video art and imagery gave the illusion of the tower almost dancing to the music. Animated illustrations brought to life its intricate latticework, making it seem to sway and flex to the rhythm. Hallyday’s rousing vocals echoed throughout the park as the tower morphed and moved along with the lyrics. At the climax of the song, bursts of colored lights flashed in tandem, creating the optical illusion that the entire structure was alive and pulsing to the beat.

As the final notes faded into the night, the crowd erupted into a deafening ovation for Hallyday and the mesmerizing display. But the true spectacle was still to come. No sooner had the last echo died away than an almighty whoosh rent the air, followed by an explosion of color and light that set the sky ablaze. Awe and wonder rippled through the Champ-de-Mars as an incredible fireworks symphony lit up the tower in shimmering hues.

Fiery cascades of gold and blue rained down to commemorate the tower’s inauguration colors. Roaring plumes of red evoked the flames that had illuminated its skeleton during construction. Crystalline fountains of sparkling white paid tribute to its steel bones. Vivid displays in the hues of the French flag filled the sky, a moving tribute to the nation the tower had come to represent. The synchronized pyrotechnics painted the tower in a riot of glowing pigments, each new shade bringing gasps of delight from the onlookers.

As the crescendo of booms, bangs and glittering bursts reached its climax, the tower itself seemed to join in the celebration. Projected onto its trusses were ethereal animations, making the iron beams dance and weave as if performing alongside the fireworks. For over 15 minutes, the night sky became the ultimate canvas, transformed into a kaleidoscope of dazzling lights that paid the highest of honors to 120 years of this beloved icon. When at last the final fiery flowers bloomed and faded from view, not a soul was left unmoved. For all who bore witness, it was a night that would live forever in their hearts and minds. The Eiffel Tower’s 120th birthday had been celebrated in the most spectacular of fashions.

The Eiffel Tower and fireworks for a long history

Fireworks have been illuminating the skies above the Eiffel Tower since almost the very beginning. In 1888, just one year before the tower’s grand opening, the first fireworks show was launched from the second level of Gustave Eiffel’s still under-construction masterpiece. Pyrotechnician Ruggieri put on a display that served as a spectacle to preview what was to come for the iconic landmark.

When the tower officially debuted on March 31st, 1889, Ruggieri was once again commissioned to dazzle crowds with a fireworks extravaganza. Launching from the tower itself, his show featured a kaleidoscopic barrage of colors that perfectly complemented the structure’s wondrous silhouette. In the following years, July 14th fireworks became an annual tradition, timed to coincide with Bastille Day celebrations.

As the tower aged, fireworks evolved into grander productions that mirrored advancements in the art form. For the tower’s 50th anniversary in 1939, choreographed fountains of sparks and cascading waterfalls of color wowed onlookers. Later innovations like programmable timers and computerized launching in the 1960s allowed for more sophisticated synchronization of bursts to music. By 1989’s centennial, over 8,000 projectiles created intricate geometric patterns and three-dimensional shapes set to music beneath an artistic light show on the tower.

The new millennium brought even more ambitious displays. As 1999 drew to a close, Paris rang in the year 2000 with a magical fireworks spectacle broadcast to the entire world. Then, on June 15th, 2009, the 120th anniversary show took pyrotechnics to new heights. From barges stationed in the Seine and Champ-de-Mars, a kaleidoscopic barrage in golds, reds and blues lit the sky. But what truly stole the show was the tower itself, brought to life like never before through innovative video projections mapped directly onto its facades.

Under the cover of night, the 1,063-foot iron giant seemed to dance to the beat, rotating and pulsating colors in perfect sync with the musical score. It was a seminal technical achievement that has since raised the bar for every display. In the years following, each July 14th and New Year’s Eve brings new creative ideas that push the limits of what’s possible. Pyrotechnics work tirelessly to create spectacular displays that showcase the tower in all of its animated splendor, using everything from drone choreography to floating water fountains.

Watch more fireworks videos on the Dailymotion page of

Eiffel Tower 1887 Credit: Ruggieri / Etienne Lacroix iconographic collection

Eiffel Tower 1887 Credit: Ruggieri / Etienne Lacroix iconographic collection


Johnny Hallyday rocks the Champ-de-Mars

As the midnight hour approached on July 14th, 2009 and the first bursts of the fireworks extravaganza lit up the sky, the buzzing crowd’s attention turned towards the stage situated directly beneath the Eiffel Tower. They knew the evening’s spectacular celebrations were about to be kicked off in fittingly energetic style by one of France’s most iconic musical artists – Johnny Hallyday.

Dubbed the “French Elvis” for his bad boy image and string of rock anthems that captured the rebellious spirit of post-war French youth, Hallyday had been a household name in the country since the 1960s. Over the ensuing decades, he toured relentlessly and topped the charts with dozens of hit singles that transcended genres from rock to ballads. Classics like “L’Envie” and “Que je t’aime” had become ingrained in the national consciousness.

By the time the 66-year-old took to the stage on this special night, he had cemented his status as the most popular French singer in history, having sold over 110 million records worldwide. Though he kept up a frenetic schedule well into his senior years, performing 200 shows for over a million fans annually, Hallyday’s energy and magnetism showed no signs of slowing as he launched into his set.

The opening chords of “Marie” immediately sent the massive audience into a frenzy, with its classic rock anthem paying homage to youthful rebellion and first love. Hallyday prowled the stage with trademark gusto, strumming his guitar and hitting all the impassioned high notes that made the song a signature fan favorite. As the final cries of “Marie!” echoed over the Champ-de-Mars, the response was deafening.

Seamlessly transitioning to another stone-cold classic, “Que je t’aime,” Hallyday had the crowd hanging on his every word. The romantic ballad, with its poetic lyrics professing undying devotion, never failed to move fans. Its soaring chorus and Hallyday’s emotive delivery brought cheers and swoons in equal measure from couples young and old alike.

After over an hour of hits including “L’Envie,” “Gabrielle,” and “Allumer le feu,” it was evident why Hallyday remained a national treasure. His energy never flagged as he bounced across the stage, interacting warmly with the audience. His gravelly baritone still possessed an irresistible charisma that transported listeners of all ages back to their youth. It was a rousing, nostalgia-filled start to the evening’s celebrations that no one present would ever forget.

Johnny Hallyday’s top songs:

  • Marie – Released in 1965, this rock song about first love became Hallyday’s signature anthem. Its opening lyrics “Oh Marie, tu m’as donné ton amour” are instantly recognizable to French listeners.

  • L’Envie – This 1973 rock ballad about desire was a #1 hit in France. Its sensual lyrics and Hallyday’s smoldering delivery made it iconic.

  • Que je t’aime – A romantic ballad from 1978, its poetic lyrics declaring undying love still move fans. The chorus is massively popular as a singalong.

  • Laura – A tribute to Laura Brassens, daughter of singer Georges Brassens, released in 1973. Its emotional lyrics paid homage to their close friendship.

  • Le Pénitencier – A gritty rock song from 1968 about escaping prison, reflecting Hallyday’s rebellious image at the height of his fame.

  • Allumer le feu – A energetic rock anthem from 1968 with lyrics translated as “Light My Fire,” it became one of his signature concert showstoppers.

  • Gabrielle – A tender ballad from 1967 dedicated to his daughter, it showed Hallyday’s softer side and deep family values.

  • Sang pour sang – A bluesy rocker from 1982 comparing love to blood, it demonstrated the evolution of Hallyday’s sound over the decades.

  • Le Chant des Vikings – A rousing rock song from 1961 reflecting Norse mythology, one of Hallyday’s early hits that captured his rock star persona.

  • Ma gueule – A defiant rock song from 1972 with provocative lyrics that cemented his bad boy image.

The Eiffel Tower celebrated its 120th anniversary Starting with a concert given by Johnny Hallyday In 2009

The Eiffel Tower celebrated its 120th anniversary Starting with a concert given by Johnny Hallyday In 2009

A magical night under dancing lights

As the final notes of Johnny Hallyday’s rousing performance faded into thunderous applause, dusk had fully descended over the Champ-de-Mars. A hush fell over the vast crowd as all eyes turned expectantly skyward, waiting with bated breath for the magical spectacle to begin. At the stroke of midnight, the first explosions rent the air, sending showers of crimson sparks cascading heavenward.

A gasp rippled through the audience as the mesmerizing synchronized display lit up the night. From their vantage points on blankets and chairs, spectators craned their necks in awe as a kaleidoscope of radiant colors danced above the tower. Great blooms of gold and sapphire flowered and faded, trails of emerald pinwheels whirled. The percussive pops and rumbles of each explosion vibrated through their bodies like a rhythmic heartbeat. As the fireworks crescendoed to a dazzling finale of fizzing white comets, cheers and oohs of wonder rose up from the captivated onlookers.

But it was what happened next that truly took their breath away. As the echoes of applause faded, the first minute projections began mapping themselves onto the towering ironwork in stunning synchronization with a soaring musical score. Suddenly, the tower seemed to come alive as dazzling patterns of light rippled up and down its beams. Great swirling auroras of teal and rose writhed like celestial ribbons blown by a heavenly breeze.

Mesmerized gasps arose from the audience as the tower appeared to twist and undulate to the crescendos, its glistening facets transforming into an ethereal giant coming alive before their eyes. When projections of flickering flames whooshed up the pillars like roaring infernos, spectators jumped at the uncanny realism. As the show built to its climax, the entire structure pulsated in a blinding stroboscopic dance that left onlookers dizzy with wonderment. When the tour de force production wrapped to a finale of flashing “Vive la Tour!” slogans, the thunderous cheers could be heard for miles.

As families and friends spilled out onto the moonlit Champ-de-Mars afterward, their excited chatter was filled with exclamations of how the tower had never looked more magical. Children’s eyes still shone with reflections of the dazzling colors as parents reminisced on memories made.

The Eiffel Tower celebrated its 120th anniversary Starting with a concert given by Johnny Hallyday In 2009 (1)

The Eiffel Tower celebrated its 120th anniversary Starting with a concert given by Johnny Hallyday

Family visit guide to Eiffel Tower & Champ-de-Mars

Visiting the iconic Eiffel Tower and surrounding Champ-de-Mars park is a must for any family trip to Paris. Between taking in panoramic views from the top observation decks and enjoying sunny picnics in the grassy fields, there is plenty to fill a fun-filled day. Here are some tips to help plan the perfect family outing to these beloved sites.

To avoid long entrance lines, reserve tickets online ahead of time for a designated entry time. Strollers and young children can take an elevator up for breathtaking panoramas with less tiring stairs. Pack a picnic basket for enjoying in the parks, or find family-friendly restaurants nearby like Angelina’s tearoom, serving hot chocolate and pastries.

On sunny days, the Champ-de-Mars is perfect for flying kites, kicking balls or having picnics in the wide open green spaces. Look for the tulip flower beds and fountains to the west for photo ops. For rainy days, try the nearby Palais de la Découverte science museum with hands-on exhibits that entertain kids.

Be sure to check the Eiffel Tower’s website for the lighting show schedules in the evening. The twinkling displays at the top of each hour are enchanting for children. Summer brings additional attractions like puppet shows, face painting and outdoor games on the lawns.

The Trocadéro gardens across the Seine also have fountains, snack stands and sweeping tower views. On July 14th, stake out a spot early for the fireworks extravaganza. Winter weekends mean ice skating on the rink installed annually as well.

No trip is complete without souvenirs! Nearby shops sell toys, books and mini Eiffel Tower replicas. After a full day of exploration, relax with a boat tour along the river for a new perspective on the lit-up tower before heading home with wonderful family memories. The iconic sites of the Eiffel Tower and Champ-de-Mars make a perfect Parisian adventure for all ages.

All the replays of the fireworks and the Paris Concerts are available on the France Télévisions channel’s replay platform.

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