10 Things To See in Bastille
During the 14th century in Paris there stood a very large prison in the city square; this vicinity was known as Bastille. Its main purpose was to defend the king at the time, Charles V. The nation was particularly prone to revolts and the prison served as a point of protection.
On the 14th of July 1789, the Bastille prison was stormed and brought to the ground by an angry mob. This marked the official start of the French Revolution in Paris.
The building was never rebuilt, instead a column symbolizing peace was erected on the site and still stands there today. The square is now known as the Place de la Bastille and is an official historical monument of France.
Since its tumultuous political history, the district of Bastille has seen tremendous development. Today it is one of the most bustling neighborhoods in Paris with many attractions that make a trip to the area worthwhile.
I took some time to explore 10 must see things in Bastille. Since I already mentioned the Place de la Bastille it won’t make the official top 10 — but should definitely be visited by all regardless.
It is the centre point in the neighborhood around which everything was able to grow and the perfect starting point for your day in Bastille since most things are within walking distance from it (Read more about Discover walking tours).
1. The Faubourg Saint-Antoine in Bastille
The Faubourg Saint-Antoine is one of Paris’ oldest passage ways. It is the thoroughfare that connects the Place de la Bastille to the Place de la Nation and has been actively used in daily life since the Middle Ages.
Life on the Faubourg hasn’t changed much since the earlier years. The street is still home to many artisans and furniture makers who keep their workshops here.
The road always has been a prime location for small businesses due to its exceptionally busy nature. As you walk or drive the road you’ll be able to tell that it is still mainly inhabited by craftspeople.
The Faubourg Saint-Antoine is the quickest route between the two neighborhoods and a quick dose of history for anyone looking to better understand the economical development of Bastille.
2. Opera in Bastille
The Opera in Bastille is one of the youngest buildings in all of Paris. It was built somewhat recently when you consider the age of everything else in the city; 1989. You’ll notice immediately that the building is obviously more modern than the rest of the suburb.
Upon opening it became the official facility for the Paris National Opera. The space is comprised of the main theatre, the concert hall and the studio theatre. In total it can hold 2723 people at a time.
It is not always obvious to tourists that the Opera in Bastille is not solely an operatic venue at all. The space offers an array of theatre pieces ranging from ballet to opera to concert performances.
The experience of seeing a show here truly is a spectacle and a privilege if you ever get the chance. You’ll have to check their website for their up coming shows to decipher what it is you’d most like to see.
Personally, I love nothing more than going to the ballet. At the Opera Bastille this happens on Sundays!
3. Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Immigration in Bastille
Over on Avenue Daumesnil you’ll find a Bastille based history museum with a mouthful of a name. The Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Immigration is simply a museum about the history of immigration across the whole of France.
France has always prided itself of being a nation of inclusion. It has been known throughout history to have integrated many migrants into French society. The museum therefore aims to advance the attitudes surrounding immigrant life in both Paris and across France.
The content of the museum is highly fascinating; and I am notoriously a harsh critic when it comes to museums. The accuracy of information regarding the migration of almost every ethnic group into the French land mass is astounding.
Most importantly the museum provides ample evidence as to how immigrants have contributed toward the economical, social, and the cultural evolutions of the country.
It is well worth the €10 entrance fee and the kind of museum you don’t want to rush. Make sure you have at least the better portion of your morning or afternoon to spend here.
4. L’Atelier Charonne in Bastille
L’Atelier Charonne is known on the Bastille streets as the gypsy jazz bar. It is a relatively new addition to the neighborhood but has fast become the place to see and be seen.
The fast earned hype of the bar has seen much criticism on account of the space being a lot more low key than one might expect. Patrons are warned not to expect much from the menu or vicinity itself. But the locals know that one should never go to gypsy jazz for the menu or the venue! We’re here for the music, ma chérie!
This is one area no one can fault L’Atelier Charonne in. Night after night they offer spellbinding performances from some of the lesser known jazz artists trying to make a name for themselves on the scene.
If you do find yourself in need of a meal before the club then find a restaurant called L’Amijoté located on the same street as the gypsy jazz bar, juts a short walk away.
Their mushroom risotto is delicious and you’ll also have your pick from some fine wines to get your evening started.
5. Promenade Plantée in Bastille
Promenade Plantée is my favorite thing to see in all of Bastille. It is a three mile long garden walkway built 10 meters above street level. The path beings at Bastille and winds right through the 12th arrondissement, eventually coming out at coming out at the Bois de Vincennes.
The walkway was originally just an abandoned rail way line from the mid-19th century. In 1993 it was converted into the sky garden it is today and has become one of the most cherished landmarks to the locals since.
On many free guided walking tours of the area, attendees report that had the structure not specifically been pointed out they would never have noticed its unique function through the suburb. A true hidden gem of Parisian city life.
6. Marché Bastille
If you’re an early riser you’ll want to stroll over to Boulevard Richard Lenoir in Bastille on Thursday mornings. There you’ll find the neighborhoods most bustling morning market — one of the biggest markets in all of Paris, I might add.
The available goods range from fresh product and seafood, to meats and decadent bricks of French cheese.
On Saturdays the same space is transformed into the artistic version of the original market; Le Marché de la Création Bastille.
The fresh produce is replaced with paintings and other home made items for decorative purposes. Occasionally you’ll find a great deal on a few pre-loved Parisian artifacts such as jewelry and scarves.
Well traveled people always say that the best way to get a feel for a new location is to head straight to the marketplace. I must agree.
Walking through Marché Bastille you are forced to take in many of the surroundings that would previously have been easy to over look. Simple pleasures!
For all those who prefer to sleep in, there are also night markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays with a similar array of goods for purchase.
7. Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Bastille
While Cimetière du Père Lachaise is not fully part of the Bastille district, it does share a north eastern boarder with the neighborhood as it spreads up into the adjacent 20th arrondissement.
The Cimetière du Père Lachaise is easily accessible from the anywhere in Bastille and one of the most iconic landmarks in the city.
The cemetery is the largest one in all of Pairs. It is also arguably one of the most famous in the world. In spite of the looming death at every bend, the cemetery is notably pleasant and somewhat mystical all year round.
The cemetery gains most of its fame due to it being the resting place of some high profile individuals who left our planet years ago.
When I’m feeling particularly nostalgic its quite something to be able to walk by the graves of Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison.
8. Gare de Lyon in Bastille
The architectural wonder that is the Gare de Lyon is one of six main railway stations situated around Paris. This one in particular is the exit point for all people wanting to travel by train to the South of France.
Even if you are not catching a train to the sunnier side of the country, the Gare de Lyon is worth a visit while roaming around Bastille.
The building is home to an array of incredible painted murals that depict monuments from cities around Europe that the train routes have served.
In 1972, the stations restaurant Le Train Bleu was declared a historical monument by the city of Paris. Enjoy a hot pot of tea here as you watch the travelers take their routes out of the city of lights!
9. Parc Zoologique de Paris in Bastille
This Zoological park is property of the National Museum of Natural History of Paris. It is situated in Bastille on the park edge of the 12th arrondissement.
The park is a newfound attraction for both locals and tourists of Bastille as it was only recently reopened to the public after many years of much-needed renovations. As far as zoos go, the Parc Zoologique is thought to be one of the better ones.
This is not a part of Bastille you’d likely find me by choice, however I do understand that the zoo makes a big difference to families traveling Paris with young children.
The park in which the zoo exists, the Bois de Vincennes, boasts a ton of outdoor attractions that are equally as fulfilling a way to spend your day.
It is the largest public park in the city and home to an array of floral life and water features. Lazing out here on a summers day you’ll feel the slow passing of time in true Parisian style.
10. Port de l’Arsenal in Bastille
There are some little spots in Paris that make you feel like you’re in another country entirely. The Port de l’Arsenal is one of those spots! The port connects the river Seine to the Saint-Martin Canal.
It was originally intended as a point of defense for enemy attacks. Today the port resembles that of a beachside harbor… right here in the city of Paris. The blue waters are lined with boats and seagulls flock between the docks.
The port banks are even home to some great seafood restaurants, just incase you weren’t already feeling the beach vibe enough.
This is a great spot to bring a picnic or simply to sit and enjoy a book as the marine life goes by. The body of water drowns out most of the city noice and passing traffic; a truly refreshing way to experience the neighborhood of Bastille!
Visiting Paris without visiting Bastille would be like France without patisseries, or the Louvre without art. The two simply go hand in hand. It is my hope that this guide of 10 things to see in Bastille will help lead the way for a successful trip to this very historic area.
As always: be excited, be open, take lots of photographs and walk, walk, walk as much as you can! See you in Bastille!