The Bastille Opera building
The spectacular Bastille Opera theater box occupies the site of the former Gare de la Bastille, which closed in 1969. The exterior is made of blue granite from Lannelin in Brittany and glass blocks that brilliantly reflect light; you can’t miss it day or night no matter from where you approach. The main auditorium contains over 2700 seats, each with unblocked stage sightline views. With five revolving stages, the Bastille Opera is an ideal place to see the best and most elaborate operas and ballets in Paris.
The ultra-modern building was dedicated in July 1989 by President Françoise Mitterand to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the start of the French Revolution.
Guided tours of L’Opéra Bastille are available to individuals who wish to see the public foyers, main auditorium and impressive backstage areas. Tours last approximately 75 minutes—see Practical Information below for details. Outside, you can rest your traveler’s feet and grab a piece of the main stairway where crowds of young people hang out, especially on summer evenings. It is a great area for people watching, but if crowded, keep your guard up for pickpockets.
Unsold “Rush Line” tickets may be available for performances on the day of your tour. A limited number of SRO (Standing Room Only) seats are sold. Both discount ticket options sell out quickly, so arrive early in the day or buy in advance if you want very much to attend a specific show.
Bastille area landmarks and activities
The area was once the mainstay of Bal-Musettes, Paris music boxes. Today the Bastille area is teeming with people at the many sidewalk cafes and ethnic restaurants. Expect to see an impressive array of motorcycles all parked together nearby. Opposite the building is a traffic roundabout; there in the center is Colonne de Juillet . The column is dedicated to the French Revolution of 1830, also known as the July Revolution or Trois Glorieuses, in French.
Tuesdays through Sundays you can shop at the market called Marché d’Aligre, which is gives visitors a glimpse of an authentic market. Don’t miss the adjacent covered market, Marché Beauveau, which might be a highlight of your trip.
On Thursdays and Sundays you can shop at the largest open-air food market in Paris, the Richard Lenoir Market located just north on blvd Richard Lenoir. Like most Paris markets, the mix includes fresh and artisanal foods, clothing, crafts, imported goods and a nice mix of flea market vendors. Saturdays: the Richard Lenoir Market switches to an arts and crafts market.
Sunday afternoons: inline skaters of all abilities and ages (including families with children) meet here to join groups of inline skaters who cruise Paris streets as a group escorted by Paris Police vehicles (skate and helmet rental shops nearby).
Close by you will find the kiosque for the Canal St Martin boat ride. Buy a ticket as you enter for a leisurely three-hour morning or afternoon barge ride through locks and dams on the canal. Bring a picnic basket or grab snacks at a take-away shop in the area. You might also bring an umbrella to protect yours elf from splashing water. Avoid rear seating so you can see the gears working at the locks. You even go underground for part of the journey— it is an experience.
In the adjacent Paris 4th arrondissement, Place Des Vosges is a former palace with a lovely garden with lots of green space and benches. The diverse neighborhood has many casual ethnic and upscale restaurants, boutiques and bars.
The Promenade Plantée is a long green walking strip atop the former Bastille train station rail tracks and elevated viaducts. Below it you’ll find le Viaduc des Arts, an arcade with studios and shops that sell hand-crafted items by artists. The promenade is a pleasant place to walk on a sunny day, especially when the city is in bloom—it’s popular with Parisians who take Sunday strolls there. To find le Viaduc des Arts, walk behind the Opera on the rue de Lyon in the Paris 11th. Look for shops tucked into the viaduct arches with the green trees and grass above.
Seasons typically start September annually
Place de la Bastille, Paris 12th
Box office: 130, rue de Lyon, Paris 12th
Admission: varies by seating Hours: varies by performance, but open most days of the year
Métro: 1, 5, 8, stop: Bastille
RER: Gare de Lyon
Bus 20, 29, 65, 69, 76, 86, 87, 91
Carpark: Opéra Bastille, 34 rue de Lyon (6-hour fixed-rate ticket to attend a performance)
Guided tours: Individuals may tour public foyers, auditorium & backstage. Tickets are sold 10 minutes prior to the tour at the Opéra Bastille Box Office. Call 01 4001 1970 for next available tour. Tickets cost 11€ for adults; discount tickets available: 9€ under 25 year-olds, unemployed & students; 6€ children under age 10. No credit card; cash only.
Accessibility: modern building with limited reserved places for wheelchairs and persons with visual impairments with an escort. Headsets with a real-time description of the performance may be available. To inquire, two weeks before a performance call Guest Relations at Tel. 01 4001 1850 Mon-Fri 10:00AM-5:00PM.
Photo credits/Creative Commons License: Opera Bastille exterior day ©marko8904; Opera Bastille stage from balcony ©TEDizen; Opera Bastille night ©Jean-Louis Zimmermann; and Bastille column ©nickstone333
Dali Wiederhoft is a writer and the executive editor of BonjourParis. Click on her name to read her other stories published by BonjourParis.
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