Bastille Day is one of the most iconic national days in the world. Who hasn’t heard about the French Revolution, the storming of the Bastille prison, and the Man in the Iron Mask (or is the latter just a myth?). Few people, Parisians included, realize that many traces of this legendary revolution can still be spotted on, around and under Bastille Square. But Bastille is not just about the past. Follow our behind-the-scenes guide as we reveal what this amazing district has to offer.
1. Walk Paris’s hidden high line
New York’s high line has nothing on Bastille’s Coulée Verte. Spanning until Bois de Vincennes, this 5km-long, elevated walkway is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Make your way down Rue de Lyon, passing the Bastille Opera, until you reach a red-brick viaduct. Up to 10 meters above street level, passing through parks and caves, crossing bridges and skirting roofs, the Coulée Verte will make you view Paris from a whole new angle.
2. Be in three arrondissements at once
Bastille Square straddles three of Paris’s hippest districts: the 4th, 11th and 12th. If you stand by the July Column in the heart of the square, you’ll just about be in all three places at once. For a lively weekend, step into the 4th district and explore the Marais quarter. To soak up a village feel, make your way to the 11th district with its farmers’ markets and cobblestone alleys. Finally, head to the 12th district for open green spaces at the Vincennes woods and waterfront fun by Bercy.
3. Go on an underground boat ride
What better way to cool off on a hot summer’s day than by enjoying a boat ride? And not just any boat ride! Embark on a subterranean journey in the belly of Bastille. Starting off in the Arsenal marina, where the old moat was located, this boat ride takes you on a 2km underground crossing all the way to the charming Canal Saint Martin. Sshh, added bonus: this canal, with its typical iron bridges, is one of Amélie’s hangout spots.
4. A blast from the past
In true Robert Langdon fashion (to all the Da Vinci Code fans out there!), trace the former location of the Bastille fortress, which was located on Bastille Square until its destruction shortly after the French Revolution. Spot the dark red stones in the pavement outlining the fort’s dungeons. Use Google Maps for a hint or find out about the old fort’s exact location on a commemorative plaque by the corner of Rue Saint Antoine and Rue Jacques Coeur.
5. Step back in time
If you’re intrigued and hungry for more, head down to the Bastille metro for a peek of the remnants of the fort. Stand on the platform of metro line 5, headed to Bobigny and admire what’s left of the fort’s moat wall. Head over to line 1 for a fresco detailing scenes of the revolution as well as a sign indicating the location of the Tour de la Liberté, one of the forts eight towers. Why go to the Louvre when you’ve got the Parisian metro?!