What You Need to Know About the Bastille in Paris

It was once a dreaded prison, now it's only a column. On July 14, 1789, 633 angry French citizens stormed the Bastille in Paris (a prison equivalent to the Tower of London), capturing its munitions, releasing its seven prisoners, lynching the governor and demolishing the fortress. This was the dramatic start of the French Revolution.

Yes, there were only seven prisoners! But the Bastille prison tower was a symbol of tyranny. The monument that stands today in the center of the Place de la Bastille commemorates not the original French Revolution, but another, later, revolution.

The Bastille Column

the Bastille in Paris

The Colonne de Juillet was erected at the former location of the Bastille prison as a monument to the revolution of 1830. In this so-called July Revolution, which took place over only three days, the French absolute monarchy was finally overthrown.

Charles X abdicated on August 2, 1830 and a constitutional monarchy was instituted. The current column stands as a symbol of Liberty and a memorial to those who took part.

It's made of heavy cast drums and includes an interior spiral staircase. Names of Parisians who died during the 1830 revolution are engraved in gold on the column. Atop the column is the god Mercury astride a gilded globe.

Bastille Day

The Bastille in 1420 The Bastille in 1420

In France, Le Quatorze Juillet (Bastille Day, July 14) is celebrated with many parades, fireworks and dances, mostly famously those at Place de la Bastille.

The place is also the site of parades and demonstrations throughout the year. Because of its connection with Liberty, Place de la Bastille is the center of political action in Paris when it takes to the streets with protests, speeches, and political rallies.

Another Bastille area landmark is the Opera de la Bastille which was inaugurated in 1989 by President Mitterrand to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille Tower. Today it is the main opera house of Paris, and one of the largest in Europe.

The French Revolution Walking Tour

Things to Do Near Bastille

The French Revolution walking Tour in Paris

On this historical Paris walk, you'll learn about the events that led up to the storming of the Bastille including the capture of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI.

Feel like you're a part of one of the defining events of modern European history as your expert guide fills you in on the little-known, fascinating details.

A Performance at Opera de la Bastille

A Performance at Opera de la Bastille

If you love opera then Bastille is the place to be in Paris.

But even it you're not an opera buff, attending a performance at this famous opera theatre facing the equally-famous Place de la Bastille is something you're not going to soon forget.

What better way to enjoy it than a concert at the modernistic Opera de la Bastille, one of the premier opera venues in the world? It's easy to buy tickets online!

Cruise the Seine and the Canals

Seine River Cruise and Paris Canals

Take a slow boat ride on the canals built by the Napoleons.

Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the construction of Canal St Martin and associated waterways. Half-a-century later his nephew, Napoleon II modernized Paris, including sending part of this famous waterway underground!

Starting in northeast Paris at Parc de la Villlette, the canal boat eventually enters a tunnel and passes right under Place de la Bastille Paris France before finally emerging into the Seine. (Some of the cruises go the other way, starting in the Seine and ending at Villette._

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