Every July 14th, fireworks fill the night skies over France, celebrating the first major event of the French Revolution. Bastille Day has become France’s time for celebrating independence. While it can seem like one giant party around France, Bastille Day is also a good time to brush up on the reason behind the day. If you are traveling to Paris, don’t miss these four French Revolutionary sites.
Place de la Bastille: What many don’t know is that Bastille Day marks the day in which the Bastille prison in Paris was stormed. The event took place on July 14, 1789. The symbol of revolutionary change and defiance to the monarchy was completely destroyed. However, visitors can still head to Place de la Bastille, where the former 14th century fortress stood. Nothing remains of the fortress besides a small semblance of the foundations. Today it centers with the July Column, commemorating July 3, 1830 when another French king was given the boot. Cars whizz around the square presently, but you can grab a drink or bite to eat at a number of bars and cafes in the area while pondering the monumental event.
La Conciergerie: A more chilling French Revolution site in Paris is easily La Conciergerie. The royal palace was converted into a prison and saw roughly 2,800 prisoners during the French Revolution. Enemies of the Revolution were incarcerated here and often spent their last days of life in the prison’s walls. The most famous prisoner was no doubt Queen Marie Antoinette. You can still visit a reproduction of her cell. La Conciergerie sits right next to the Palace de Justice and overlooks the Seine River.
Jardin des Tuileries: The Jardin des Tuileries might seem quite far from being a French Revolution site. It hardly looks like a place where battles were fought. Its manicured lawns, fountains, ponds and sculpture lend a very peaceful spot in Paris to roam. However, the grounds do have a past. They were once part of the Royal Palais des Tuileries, where Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and their children were held under house arrest. A violent mob attacked the palace and by 1871 nothing remained. You can roam the 28-hectare gardens and imagine the green space during its more turbulent times.
Musee Carnavalet: Also referred to as the Paris history museum, Musee Carnavalet traces the story of this famous city from its prehistoric beginnings to present day. If you want a greater understanding of the history of the French Revolution, this is a good place to begin. The museum contains a permanent collection of the history of the French Revolution, chronicled through paintings, documents and relics. To peruse the museum’s French Revolution collection, visitors won’t have to pay a euro. Admission is free for permanent collections and themed exhibitions.
Photo: Nattee Chalermtiragool