Place de la Bastille in Paris
The Place de la Bastille or Bastille square as it is also known, is famous for the fortress that used to stand here and the Storming of the Bastille, which marked the start of the French Revolution.
However, it is also home to the Colonne de Juillet, or July Column, that commemorates the overthrow of King Charles X and more recently it is now where the new opera in Paris called the Opera National de Paris Opera Bastille stands.
About the Place de la Bastille in Paris today
The Place de la Bastille is one of the very busy intersections in Paris with numerous streets all intersecting, just like the Place de Charles Gaulle where the Arc de Triomphe stands and therefore this is yet another notorious traffic circle.
Now some of the roads that you may recognise the names of are the Rue du Faubourg, the Rue Saint-Antoine, the Boulevard Henry IV and the Boulevard de la Bastille, and incredibly there are three different Arrondissements that are joined at this intersection, which are the 4th, 11th and 12th Arrondissements.
And even though the history of the Bastille with its fortress turned prison is fascinating, unfortunately none of the original castle remains intact, but there are special stones that have been laid out on the paths, etc of the square, which depict where this fortress once stood and these can still be observed today.
Yet if you went on holiday to Paris in the 1980s you would have found that this area was more of a working class area with not much else to see around the Bastille square itself apart from the July Column in the centre and the old train station called the Gare de Vincennes, but things have changed quite a bit since then.
The old train station had been there since 1859, but closed in 1969, yet art exhibitions were displayed in the building after this date until it was eventually demolished in 1984 to make way for the new opera in Paris.
So, for the July 1989 celebrations to commemorate the bicentenary of the French Revolution, the imposing modern design of the Opera Bastille was erected, being inaugurated on the very day of the 14th July, plus there was substantial re-development of the surrounding area and the streets around the square.
These actions have now made the area a chic and popular place with numerous clubs, galleries, theatres, bars and restaurants in Paris that have become very popular both with tourists and with Parisians themselves.
Getting back to Place de la Bastille itself, you will find that there are often open air concerts and festivals held here and has become a meeting place for many, but it is also a place that is well known for demonstrations and especially political demonstrations, when you care to consider the rich history of Paris in this area.
However, on the Southern side of the square, it is a popular place for skate boarding with moveable ramps set up most of the time and it has become a great place for the younger generation to hang out.
Underneath the Bastille square is the Metro station, which is aptly named the Bastille stop and this can be accessed via lines one, five and eight. In fact, it was when they were excavating the area to build the Metro station that they found some sections of the old fortress foundations and these can be found in the park of the Henri-Galli square, which is located nearby, just off the Boulevard Henry IV.
In addition, for those of you interested in seeing more of this history, on the Bastille Metro line 5 platform in the direction of Bobigny you can see remains of the eastern moat from the former Bastille prison, which was destroyed in the 1700s after the Storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution, and as we mentioned earlier, this is why there are major celebrations on 14th July each year and has become one of the most major French National holidays.
Also, when you look beyond the Place de la Bastille square, it overlooks the Porte de Plaisance de Paris-Arsenal, and here you will see a pleasure boat marina that is located where the original fosse or large ditch was located at the back of the fort.
Separated by locks, this is on the first stretch of the Canal Saint Martin that starts on the River Seine and there are many different types of pleasure boats, river boats and cruises, which means that if you get the time, you can even have a short boating holiday in Paris while you are there.
There are also short cruises along the canal from the Bassin de l’Arsenal with commentary, and these pass through tunnels under the old foundations of the Bastille fortress and the Bastille Square itself, then re-emerge and pass through several locks before reaching the Bassin de la Villette, which is an unusual way of seeing Paris in a completely different perspective, and one such company offering these sightseeing cruises is Canauxrama, as they have a dock at this marina.
However, perhaps you prefer being on land rather than water and for something completely different again, if you leave the square and venture to the right of the Opera Bastille, then go on to the Avenue Daumesnil, you can go up some stairs and access a promenade. It has a lovely garden, which has been planted along an old railway viaduct and you can even walk as far as the Bois de Vincennes, which makes for a pleasant change of scenery on a nice day.
Visiting Place de la Bastille
Now when it comes to getting to Bastille Square, there are several different options you can choose, with the Paris Metro lines 1, 5 and 8 all stopping at Bastille itself and Metro line 7 stops only a short walk away.
There are also numerous Paris buses that will get you within walking distance of this historical square and the Opera Bastille including bus line 24, 57, 61, 72, 86 and 91 along with the Noctilien night bus service via lines N01, N02, N11, N31, N144, etc. Yet to find out all the options including street maps, timetables and plans, please do take a look at our dedicated page for how to get to Bastille.
Paris Metro lines 1, 5, 7, 8
Bus lines 24, 29
Bus line 57
Bus lines 61, 63, 67, 69
Bus lines 72, 76, 77
Bus lines 86, 87
Bus lines 91, 96
Night bus lines N01, N02
Night bus lines N11, N16
Night bus lines N31, N34
Night bus line N144