All About Paris

The Bastille and The National Opera of Paris

The Bastille holds a special place of importance in French history. By crossing the Seine and following the Boulevard de la Bastille, you will find the site of the Bastille Saint-Antoine, which was a major part of the defenses ordered by Charles V in the dark ages. Original construction began back as far as the year 1370!

Louis XIV had the ramparts demolished but kept the structure as a “luxury” prison for people of “quality”. Seen by the commoners as a symbol of the arbitrariness of the old monarchy, the prison was stormed by local Parisians on 14th July 1789, and later razed. A column surmounted by the “Spirit of Liberty” on place de la Bastille was erected not to remember the surrender of the prison during the French revolution, but the July Revolution of 1830, which replaced the autocratic Charles X with the “Citizen King” Louis-Philippe.

The top of the Bastille monument in Paris.
The top of the Bastille monument in Paris.

Months after the birth of the Second Republic in 1830, workers took to the streets demanding fairer treatment. All of eastern Paris was mobilized, with the fiercest fighting taking place on the rue du Faubourg-St-Antoine. The rebellion was quelled with a horrible massacre and deportation of the survivors, however it is the less contentious 1789 rebellion that France still celebrates. Political protesters have always used the area as a rallying point, and still do.

The Opera Bastille

The Opera Bastille was built by architect Carlos Ott and was inaugurated on July 14th, 1989. The modern building was designed to fit into the bustling working-class neighborhood where it resides. The main hall has a capacity of 2,745. There is also a 500-seat amphitheater and a 230-seat studio theatre on site.

The exterior of the modern Opera Bastille.
The exterior of the modern Opera Bastille

The Neighborhood
The area was filled with lower-rent housing for a long time, but is now one of the most trendy areas of Paris. Businesses in the area range from old tool shops and ironmongers to cocktail haunts and sushi bars.

The Art
You’ll find art galleries clustered around rues Keller, Tamandiers and the adjoining stretch of rue de Charonne. And, on rue de Lappe, a very Parisian tradition: the “bals musettes”, or dance halls of the1930s “gai Paris”, frequented by Edith Piaf, Jean Gabin and Rita Hayworth.

Night life
The most famous bals musette,”The Balajo”, rue de Lappe was founded by Jo de France, who introduced glitz and spectacle into what were once seedy gangster dives, and brought Parisians from the other side of the city to savour the “rue de Lappe” life. The area can still be a rough place to be at night, so take care.

Visit the Opera Bastille website for more information.

Location: Place de la Bastille, 75012


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