The Bastille neighbourhood

The actual Place de la Bastille was created in 1803 where the forteresse of the Bastille was once standing before the July 1789 storming. Bastille is a French word meaning “castle”.

The Bastille was built as an irregular rectangle with eight towers, 70 meters (220 ft) long, 30 meters (90 ft) wide, with towers and walls 25 meters (80 ft) high, surrounded by a broad moat. It was initially built to defend the east end of Paris and the Hôtel Saint-Paul royal palace. After the war, it was reused as a state prison, with Louis XIII the first king to send prisoners there.

The Bastille became the symbol of the King’s tryanny, as it housed prisoners and armaments. It even held famous people such as Voltaire and Sade. Sealed letters from the King would send prisonners there and God only knew, or more exactly, the king only knew when they were to come out ! Until the storming of the Bastille… !

The event was commemorated one year later by the Fête de la Fédération and been ever since, The French national holiday, celebrated annually on 14 July.

The original outline of the fort is marked on the pavement of streets and sidewalks that pass over its former location, in the form of special paving stones. Some undemolished remains of one tower of the fort were discovered during excavation for the Métro (rail mass-transit system) in 1899, and were moved to a park (the Square Henri-Galli) a few hundred meters away, where they are displayed today.

Straight after the fall of the Bastille, demolition started. (on the 16th July 1789). Napoleon 1er The cut stones of the fortress were used in the construction of the Pont de la Concorde (Paris). In 1840, the July Column was place in the center of the Place de la Bastille, to pay tribute to the 509 people who died during the Trois Glorieuses, the “three glorious” days in July 1830.


The Colonne de Juillet is 154 feet high, containing an interior spiral staircase. The column is engraved in gold with the names of Parisians who died during the revolution. The column is surmounted with a gilded globe, on which stands a colossal gilded figure, Auguste Dumont’s Génie de la Liberté (the “Spirit of Freedom”).

The large ditch (fossé) behind the fort has been transformed into a marina for pleasure boats, the Bassin de l’Arsenal, to the south, and a covered canal, the Canal Saint Martin, extending north from the marina beneath the vehicular roundabout that borders the location of the fort. You can take a cruise at the port of the arsenal. (métro Bastille) The cruises go from Bastille to the Villette. Canauxrama, 50 boulevard de la Bastille

Port de l Arsenal

Today it is still a meeting place for all demonstrations, protesters and events. In the eighties, the Opéra bastille was part of a big renovation programme. It has given a new revival the area.

Opéra Bastille, 2-6 place de la Bastille, 12è (métro Bastille) (architecte Carlos Ott, 1989) The venue holds 2700 seats.

Opera Bastille

But today, the Bastille area is mainly known and appreciated for its relaxed atmosphere with lively music bars.

A few tips to the neighbourhood :

At the n°26 rue de charonne, the passage L’homme : cobblestones, green, and filled with art and crafts galeries. At the end of the passage, take a left on the avenue Ledru Rollin. At the angle with the rue Charonne, un café has kept its 1900 design. Moving 100 meters forward in the rue de Charonne, n° 53 is a hôtel from 1660, (but unfortunately it’s hidden by a modern construction).