Bastille is a neighbourhood that’s heavily featured in France’s political history but has transformed into a popular, thriving and vibrant area. Whether you’re a history buff, an animal lover or a foodie, there’s something in the eclectic arrondissement to suit all tastes. Explore this lively area with our guide of the best things to do in Bastille.
Spend a day with the animals at Parc Zoologique de Paris
Recently reopened after several years of renovations, Parc Zoologique de Paris places much importance on conservation and offers camouflaged vantage points from which to view the animals. With its 4,000-square-metre greenhouse, all ages are able to enjoy the zoo’s tropical rainforest and view 2,000 animals, including giraffes, jaguars, lemurs, and anacondas.
See the smoky history of Paris at Le Musee du Fumeur
This private museum is dedicated to smoking and its connection with the history of Paris. With memorabilia such as snuff boxes and shisha pipes on display, as well as vintage advertisements and caricatures, the museum is an interesting look at one of the most common practices in the world.
It might lack the grandiose exterior of l’Opera Garnier, but the Opera Bastille is still a great place to catch a play or watch the ballet. This 3,400-seater space also hosts music concerts and ballets whilst giving the public the chance to watch a show at a cheap price. Try your luck with the last-minute ticket deals; about an hour and a half before opera performances, a handful of tickets are released for as little as €5 (£4).
Serving up affordable drinks, great DJ sets, and a warm, buzzy atmosphere, Le Motel is popular amongst hipsters. Playing mostly indie pop-electro-rock, this small dimly lit bar is also home to an event agency that offers an original take on beverages that are priced fairly low during happy hour. Cheese and charcuterie boards are also half price during happy hour, and Sundays alternate between karaoke and a very popular music quiz night.
Bastille has plenty of eccentric boutiques and concept stores to browse. Merci, a concept store created by Bonpoint founders Bernard and Marie-France Cohen, donates all profits to a foundation supporting women and children in Madagascar. Within the 1,500-square-metre space, you can find furniture, accessories and clothing from designers like Isabel Marant and Stella McCartney.
A day in Bastille wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the historic Place de la Bastille, where the Bastille Prison once stood until it was destroyed in 1789, in the Storming of the Bastille. The Genie de la Libertie on top of the Colonne Juliet in the centre of the square also marks the 1830 Revolution. While there’s not much to view once at the square, it’s still worth visiting to see the site of so many important moments in France’s history.
A cinephile’s dream lies inside the Frank Gehry-designed Cinematheque Francaise, with a permanent collection of some of the most iconic props and costumes ever seen on screen (including costumes worn by Elizabeth Taylor and Vivien Leigh, and props like the head of Mrs. Bates from Psycho). The cinema also hosts retrospectives and showings of cult classics.
One of the oldest food markets in Paris, the Marche d’Aligre is open every day of the week except Mondays and offers a fresh, vibrant selection of products. The lively and colourful market is a must-stop for foodies looking to find new cooking inspiration. After finding the products of your choice, pick up a bouquet from Pezzali Flowers or visit the eccentric Monsieur Flauhaut at Aux 4 Saison d’Aligre.
There’s no lack of charming cobblestoned streets in Paris but Rue Crimieux might stand out among the lot. The iconic street can be seen in many Instagram shots due to the brightly coloured facades of the buildings and the trompe l’oeil paintings sprinkled across the street. While it’s a beautiful photo location, keep in mind it is a residential area, so be discreet!
This article is an updated version of a story created by Madeleine Bazil.