A walk packed with things to do: play at being revolutionaries in Place de la Bastille, sing at the Opera, go boating at Port de l'Arsenal, stroll along the Viaduc des Arts, mourn the dead at Picpus cemetery and go travelling at the Gare de Lyon. In short, there’s no time to get bored
In the 14th century, an eight-tower fortress was built here to defend the royal city. However, the city quickly expanded and the Bastille lost its military role. It became a prison, the cells of which symbolised the arbitrary nature of royal power. Six hundred rioters, mostly from the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, stormed it on 14 July 1789, and at the cost of one hundred deaths, they set free … six prisoners. The fortress was demolished soon afterwards, and the legend built. In the centre of the square, the Colonne de Juillet, crowned by a winged figure of Liberty, commemorates the revolutionary days of 1830 that also set alight this rebellious neighbourhood.
This ultra modern opera house, the work of architect Carlos Ott, was inaugurated in 1989. The architecture is characterized by the transparency of its facades and by the use of the same materials for the interior as for the exterior. With a huge 2,703-seat auditorium with homogenous acoustics, unique staging equipment, workshops integrated with decors, costumes and accessories, work and rehearsal rooms, the Bastille opera house is a great contemporary theatre. Guided visits are organized.
Created in 1988 by Philippe Mathieux and Jacques Vergely on the former railway line, which from 1859 linked the Place de la Bastille to Varenne-Saint-Maur, the Promenade plantée mixes areas of wild vegetation that had sprung up alongside the railway line with more modern landscaped areas.
The Gare de Lyon is the required departure point for Parisians and travellers looking to head to the sunny South of France. While awaiting their departure, the public can admire the belfry, the gallery of frescoes depicting monuments of the cities served by train and the famous restaurant, Le Train Bleu, which was classified as a historic monument in 1972.
A former mercantile port, the Port de l’Arsenal connects the river Seine to the Saint-Martin Canal. Originally designed as a fortification against enemy attacks, it is now home to numerous pleasure boats, seagulls and seafood restaurants, much to the delight of Parisians and visitors alike looking for a spot of peace away from the traffic and noise of the capital.
Just two steps away from place de la Bastille in the 12th arrondissement, the prestigious Viaduc des Arts showcases internationally-recognized French craft expertise with 52 arts and crafts workers and is a unique place for mixtures of the latest trends, where prestigious designers come together to create elegant, refined and luxury objects. Unique jewellery, everlasting flowers in subtle colours, theatre sets, puppets and antique dolls, restoration of paintings, tapestry, contemporary furniture, art objects, painting on porcelain, lights, bronzes … all on a pleasant musical note of flutes and cellos. Not forgetting temporary exhibitions on the subject of art professions but also on Mozart, Africa, the potters, etc.
The rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine is one of the city’s oldest arteries. It links the Place de la Bastille to the Place de la Nation. Its name comes from the former Abbaye Saint-Antoine which was located close by up until the 18th century. Since the Middle Ages, this lively thoroughfare has been a thriving business centre: artisans and particularly furniture-makers established their workshops here. Today, numerous furniture shops are well-established and in a prime location on this busy street.
The walk begins in mid-air, on avenue Daumesnil. A staircase leads up to the viaduct of a former railway line, whose arches now house the studios of more than 50 craftsmen and artists — wood, leather, copper, bark, thread, gouache, marble, moss, straw, paper, pigments, earth, glass … are transformed before your eyes. Brick mansions eventually give way to the former residence of the Merovingian kings, now the Jardin de Reuilly, with its half-moonshaped lawn. A footbridge, a tunnel, and that just about sums up this stretch of greenery that was once Paris’s circular railway line, 4.5 km of pure delight that extend as far as the edge of the Bois de Vincennes!