Anchored by the gold-and-bronze Génie de la Liberté (Spirit of Liberty) statue, which is perched atop a mint-green column, the Bastille area of Paris is noted for its turbulent history, boutique shopping and fantastic dining.
There’s plenty to fill a day in this lively, trendy area. Here’s what you need to see, things you should do and where to eat in Bastille.
Make your first stop breakfast at this laid-back café with a hipster edge. Café des Anges is reminiscent of a 1960s diner with its kitschy, blue-and-red facade. Find yourself a seat on the theatre-style, street-side terrace on rue de la Roquette or inside amid the poster-lined walls and red banquet seating. Menu options range from a typically French breakfast (a croissant, orange juice and coffee) to a brunch menu that includes a little bit of everything (salads, eggs, pastries, desserts and more).
Rue de la Roquette, home to clothing shops, vintage stores and boutiques selling local specialities, is an ideal place to spend some cash. At Miss Jeanne, grab good-quality, everyday womenswear, or scope out bolder pieces like printed blouses and graphic tees at Comptoir du Désert. Men and women alike can peruse the shelves at Adöm, a well-organised, second-hand store bursting with vintage gems, particularly when it comes to denim. For gifts and souvenirs that capture the flavours of France, be sure to pop by the fine-food store Paris-Provence for spices, oils, confections and more.
Want to take home a new skill rather than a new jacket? Book a buckwheat-noodle-making class at one of the Bastille area’s artisan workshops, Atelier Soba. Over three and a half hours, discover the history of Japanese soba noodles and the health benefits of buckwheat. Enjoy a demonstration by a ‘Soba Master’, followed by the opportunity to prepare and cut your own noodle dough, a tasting and the chance to make a package to consume later.
The scent of fresh-baked bread permeates Ten Belles Bread, a coffee shop with an on-site bakery. It’s revolutionising the French bakery with modern takes on the crispy, chewy French bread everyone knows and loves. For a quick bite, enjoy one of the daily sandwiches – which include fillings such as salted beef on focaccia or smoked salmon on rye – amid the modern café or seated in one of the multi-coloured chairs on the courtyard terrace.
Walk off your lunch by wandering down the picturesque, Instagram-worthy Cour Damoye. If another caffeine fix calls, visit L’Atelier de Torréfaction (The Roasting Workshop), a charming coffee shop that roasts its beans on site and handcrafts each cup, one by one, on a stovetop in a Moka pot.
For those who’d like to stretch their legs a bit more, from here, it’s not too far to stroll to the Place des Vosges. While technically in the Marais, it’s worth checking out this picture-perfect square, which was once home to Victor Hugo. And while you’re here, you can visit (free of charge) the late-19th-century writer’s apartment, which is now a museum.
This modern-looking glass building is quite a contrast to its gilded counterpart, the Palais Garnier, but don’t be fooled; inside, the shows are just as spectacular and well worth checking out during your time in the Bastille district. Opéra Bastille boasts an exceptional roster of ballet and opera performances, ranging from classical pieces to contemporary shows. Check out the company’s website to see what’s on during your visit, and sign up for its email list for notifications on last-minute seat sales.
Depending on the time of your show, enjoy a pre- or post-show meal at Coup d’Oeil, which is a 15-minute walk from Opéra Bastille on rue Sedaine. This tiny wine bar is easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled. What it lacks in size it makes up for in atmosphere – the interior is dimly lit and casual but elegant, with exposed-brick walls, hues of gold and blue and music at just the right sound level of music. Choose from a selection of tapas-style plates with French and Spanish influences, and pair your food with one of the expertly selected wines – just tell your server what you’re after, and somewhat magically, they’ll return with the perfect choice for your palate.
Relive the days of Prohibition at Moonshiner, a swanky, speakeasy-style bar with sublime cocktails and an atmosphere to match. To find Moonshiner, look for Da Vito’s pizzeria. Push past its crimson-red doors outside and another set of doors straight ahead to find bow-tie-clad servers in a dimly lit, 1920s-era room. Space fills quickly, and seating is limited, but wandering the room with your ‘coupe’ in hand is half the fun. Santé!