My journey around Paris started off at the Colonne de Juillet, located on the Place de la Bastille. My hotel was located in this area, and this was one of the first views of Paris I got. The long column, almost 52 metres high, with the gold statue on top was towering high above anything else in the area. And like everything in Paris this column has a long history to it.
The Colonne de Juillet is located in the middle of the square and is surrounded by a rather busy roundabout. The square and its surroundings are often referred to as the 'Bastille', which is a lively and popular area in Paris, with lots of cafes and bars. But, hahaha, I guess I am getting on a side-track here; back to the column and why it is placed here....
The column dates back to July 28, 1840, and was build in order of King Louis-Philippe (1773 – 1850) who wanted a monument to commemorate both the French revolution of 1789 (also known as the storming of the Bastille) and the "three glorious days" of the July revolt in 1830. The column is located roughly where the medieval Porte Sainte-Antoine once stood.
On a sunny day the glistering gold-leafed bronze statue on top will certainly draw your attention. This is the Génie de la Liberté (the Spirit of Freedom) and was designed by sculptor Augustin-Alexandre Dumont.
Interested in reading more about the history of the Place the La Bastille and the July revolution? Then these two external links might be something for you:
Also located on the Place de la Bastille is the interesting building of the Opéra National de Paris Bastille. It is hard not to notice this building as it is in such a sharp contrast with the more historical surroundings. But I can't say it is ugly, or out of tone with the rest, I actually found the architecture rather interesting and fascinating to look at. Unfortunately with the busy square in front of it, it wasn't so easy to get a good view (especially with the camera) of the whole building.
I haven't been inside, although I wouldn't mind taking a peek there! The design on the outside is quite impressive and it made me wonder how the inside would be like. The Opera building was inaugurated on July 13, 1989, on the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.
When talking about opera, one name here on VT comes to mind right away: VT member Nemorino. He has been to Paris recently and saw no less then 8 operas during his stay. So if you are interested in seeing an opera, do drop by on his pages, he has a wealth of information about the opera on them.
Bastille was a fortress prison.. When we mentoned Bastille we usually think about storming of the bastille on 14 July 1789 and beginning of the french revolution. The bastille doesn’t exsits any more and the former location of the fort is currently called the Place de la Bastille. Also it is home to the Opéra Bastille.
Don't go to the Bastille expecting to find the famous prison there. It ain't there any more, all that remains is a column known as the Colonne de Juillet and the foundation stones in the subway station beneath the square.
(For those of you who don't know what the hell I am talking about, the Bastille was a prison which was stormed by the Mob in 1789 at the start of the French Revolution.)
Today, this square is also home to the Opéra Bastille, an alternative opera built for those who are turned off by the grandeur of the Opera Garnier.
This symbolic place in France's history, where the events of 1789 took place, is dominated today by the July Column.
The construction works to the fortified residence, called La Bastille, were started in 1370.
Among the renowned prisoners closed in La Bastille we can mention Mirabeau and Voltaire, but also the Man in the Iron Mask.
Following the events that took place on July 14th, 1789 La Bastille was demolished and today paving stones mark the former building.
July Column (Colonne de Juillet) is 52m high and is dominated by the statue of Liberty.
Nothing is left of La Bastille, a prison that is still remembered for the events that started the 1789 French Revolution. In the years that led to the Revolution, La Bastille had become known as the prison where people arrested under a "lettre du cachet", an arbitrary order given by the King of France, were sent. Controversial French writer Marquis de Sade was among such prisoners, and he stayed there for nearly 5 years until he shouted from his cell window that prisoners were getting killed, which resulted in a small riot. He was transferred to another facility on July 2, 1789, only 12 days before La Prise de la Bastille (Storming of the Bastille), during which French revolutionarists gained control of the prison. Although stories quickly spread out that several hundreds of unjustly arrested prisoners had been liberated, there were actually only 7 prisoners left in the prison when it was taken over. But still, la Prise de la Bastille was perceived as a major symbolic act - by November 1789, the Bastille had been almost completely demolished.
The area where the Bastille once stood is now called Place de la Bastille. In the middle of the roundaboud, you can see the Column of July (La colonne de Juillet). The column is over 50 m tall and on top of it sits the angel of liberty. Another comparatively new feature around Place de la Bastille is the Opera Bastille, inaugurated on the 200th anniversay of the Prise de la Bastille (July 14, 1989). It is a round, modern-looking building which I didn't find that attractive, but I did enjoy sitting on the steps of the Opera to eat a baguette. There are quite a few good bakeries on the nearby rue de la Roquette (which leads to the Pere-Lachaise cemetery) where you can buy a good lunch at a very reasonable price.
The modern mirror-glass building of Opera de Paris-Bastille was inaugurated by the French President Francois Mitterrand in 1989.
Having a form easily to be associated with a ship, the new opera has an auditorium with 2,700 seats and several revolving scenes.
I suspect that few buildings demolished 200 years ago would remain as well known as the Bastille. As probably everyone knows, the capture of the Bastille prison marked the start of the French Revolution: the dismantling of the building followed later. All that now remains are a few stones inlaid in the footpaths to mark where the walls once stood – and an enormous open area known as Place de la Bastille, the central theme of this tip.
Centred in the Place de la Bastille is the very substantial “July Column” seen in the main photo. It was erected in 1840 as a memorial to those killed in the uprising of July 1830 and, in due course, extended recognition to the subsequent events of February 1848. Now, of course, the column is the centrepiece in the huge traffic roundabout filling the Place: there are no line markings and everyone takes their chances. I’d be nervous driving there, but no way would you find me wobbling through on a treadly! (Photo 2) Far safer to arrive by Métro at the Bastille station, taking time to inspect the appropriate murals seen in photo 3 then continue your visit on foot, as I did.
I didn’t visit the Opera, but the Opéra Paris Bastille is the large modern round-fronted building seen behind the July Column in photo 4. It opened in 1989 to celebrate the bicentenary of the Revolution and apparently is most impressive to visit for a performance. If opera excites you, I’d strongly recommend that you visit the Paris page of my VT friend Nemorino who has far more detail.
Further around the Place de la Bastille, you may notice that the Bde Richard Lenoir has a particularly wide median area between its carriageways: that is because the Canal St Martin passes beneath the centre of the road (and under the July Column). In this area on Saturdays (every week?) you will find the very pleasant street market in photo 5. Yes, it tempted even me to do some shopping!
Place de la Bastille
I'll never forget my first glimpse of the Colonne de Juillet! The grand July Column greeted me during my April 2003 trip to Paris. It was my first day in the city & I was on my way to my hotel with my rolling suitcase bumping along behind me. I came up out of the Metro & there it was! HUGE! Monumental! Glorious! Soaring! What an impression to be made upon exiting from the underground - wow.
This past February I headed out to the Place de la Bastille with the intent of getting a good close look at this monument & to do some people-watching at the Cafe des Phares, one of the philocafes on the Place. It was a perfect day to watch the Sunday crowds stroll by & to do a fashion review. The lady in the fur coat is one of the fashion statements caught on film - many fur coats throughout Paris this February even in working-class Bastille.
Photos: Feb 2006
The Place de la Bastille is the place where the history of France was made. It may not be just as nice-looking like the Place Vendome, the Place de la Concorde or the Place des Vosges, but the Place de la Bastille definitely is a place where you must have been to feel the history.
At this place the Bastille was built in 1380, to protect the Eastern entrance of Paris. It had been a fortress for a long time, when it was turned into a prison. People that disagreed with the situation of inequality were locked up, like the famous Marquis de Sade and the writer Voltaire. In those days the power was with the Royalty and with the aristocraty, the wealthy people.
At the 14th of July, 1789, the poor people of Paris revolted against this situation and attacked the Bastille. It was the start of the French Revolution where the monarchy was brought down and the republic was started.
Today nothing is left of the Bastille as it was before the Revolution. Instead in 1840 the Colonne de Juillet was placed here to memorise the victimes of this hard period of French history. It´s 50 metres high and has all the names of the victimes written on it.
A sign of the modern Paris also is very clear at the Place de la Bastille. The hypermodern Opera de la Bastille has a dominant place at the square. But of course the Colonne is the sign where it´s all about at the Place de la Bastille.
The Opera Bastille has been criticized as being too large and shiny for its historic location. I shared that opinion until, during an evening in which we attended an opera, I got a chance to view the building inside and out, in daylight and the darkness. As the photo montage shows, the design is based on a grid, which once you see it, makes the facade of the building much less monolithic.
The Place de la Bastille is a great area for all the senses.
For the eyes, the Columne de Juillet itself is a beautiful landmark and the cafes surrounding the circular plaza is great for people watching.
For the ears, there's not only the Opera house, but FNAC (large music store chain) is next door.
For the smells and tastes: don't miss the Sunday market along Richard Lenoir (the 2-lane boulevard running north from Bastille).
Open Thursdays and Sundays (even Easter Sunday to my surprise), this open air market located amidst the Place de la Bastille hosts several boulangers, bouchers and everything in between. You'll find every cheese imaginable alongside every cured meat possibleall within the confines of this thriving market. Taste regional wines, sample organic fruits, buy handcrafted toys, watch entertainers juggling while buying freshly roasted rabbit. Absolutely the best way to experience the Parisian pace.
My suggestion: buy a great baguette, some meat, cheese and a great bottle of wine. Then walk the few blocks to Place des Vosges and have a picnic. Fun!
This tip is to go to 'Place de la Bastille'. This is a beautiful and busy area of the city. Here is a lot to see and a lot of cozy cafés and bars. You'll find the Opera here too as well as some good shopping-streets nearby!
The only way to have a look at the backstage areas of the Opéra Bastille (unless you have business there) is to take a guided tour. These begin at 5.00 pm on some afternoons. The dates are not listed on their website, but there is a list at the box office or you can call +33 (0)1 40 01 19 70 to find out. Tickets go on sale ten minutes before the tour at window A of the box office, 120 rue de Lyon. Tickets cost 11 Euros, or 9 if you get a reduction.
The tours are in French, basically, but on the tour I took there was a young Asian couple that didn't understand French, so our guide repeated the main points in English. And he apologized profusely to the three Italian ladies that he couldn't do it in their language ("the language of opera, after all").
We started out by descending six floors (by escalator) to the lowest level, thirty meters below street level.
Second photo: From the lowest level there are huge elevators to bring things up to the stage.
Third photo: The workshops are huge compared to those in most opera houses I have seen. In fact everything about the Opéra Bastille is huge: the area at ground level is 22,000 square meters, and the total height is eighty meters, including the thirty meters below street level.
Fourth photo: One of the storage areas at stage level, with the same dimensions as the main stage.
Fifth photo: Part of the stage set for Wagner's Lohengrin, ready for use on the following evening. All the performances of Lohengrin were sold out, by the way, even though the large hall of the Opéra Bastille seats 2703 people.