On the afternoon of July 14, 1789, a rebelling rabble laid siege to France's most-hated fortress: the Bastille. Freeing the few remaining political prisoners, the mob began, stone-by-stone, dismantling the building that had come to symbolize the injustice of the old regime. This was the Revolution of 1789. On this 3-hour French Revolution Tour in Paris, we will discover the influences that contributed to this rebellion, forever transforming the country. Led by an expert historian, we will study its different stages, and how it served as a precursor to the revolutions that followed in the 19th century, the effects of which reverberate to this day.
French Revolution Tour Paris
Our walking tour begins at the former site of the hated prison. Initially built as a defense against the English during the Hundred Years' War, the Bastille eventually became a detention center for aristocratic prisoners. Though the actual number of detainees was quite low in 1789, overthrowing the tyranny of the Bastille became the symbol of the Republican movement. Now a traffic roundabout adorned with the July Column—a monument to the later Revolution of 1830—Place de la Bastille bears little resemblance to the former prison complex of the 18th century. Even so, it has a story to tell. Together, we will trace the former outlines of the Bastille, thus setting the tone for our walk.
"Our guide clarified the rapidly evolving timeline of the French Revolution, even bringing along visuals of the many sites that are no longer standing. Her expertise and passion for sharing her insights into this period of French history was palpable and much appreciated."
Place des Vosges
As we move on from Place de la Bastille, we will encounter the neighborhood that once surrounded the fortress. Our docent will paint a picture of daily life in the crowded quartier
, and the sharp division between the aristocrats and the lower classes. Entering the Place des Vosges, one of Paris' most treasured green spaces, we'll snag a bench under the trees to get to the heart of the conflict. It was here that Victor Hugo penned his famous work Les Miserables
, and we may discuss this powerful piece of historical fiction, as well as the complex political factors that characterized France's first revolutionary period. With our newfound knowledge in mind, we’ll then pass through the Marais neighborhood to study the mansions that represented the wealth of the hated French nobility, putting the class tensions into context (a topic we delve into more on our Marais Walking Tour
We will continue on to the Hôtel de Ville, Paris' city hall. As a symbol of the government, its central square became a key location in each subsequent revolution. It was even set alight by revolutionaries during the Commune of 1871. When rebuilt, its controversial balcony was not included (which, yes, will factor into our discussion). We will certainly analyze the role this building played in political movements of the 19th century, which provides a good opportunity to introduce the continuing unrest which ignited the post-1789 revolutions.
At this point, we will return to our focus on the 1789 revolution, boarding the métro to travel a few stops to the Palais Royal
. Here, on the site where the mob that sparked the first revolution formed on the night of July 13th, we may discuss the role played by Philippe Égalité, a royal who supported the revolution (though he was executed all the same). Following our stroll through the garden, we’ll continue on through the Jardin des Tuileries—also one of the stops on our Gardens of Paris Tour
. These royal gardens became public after the revolution of 1789, but here we will talk about the gardens as a symbol of the dissolution of royal power by introducing the former Tuileries Palace, which was burnt down in 1871.
As we come to the perimeter of the Tuileries, we will look out at the expanse of the Place de la Concorde, which served as the site of the feared guillotine during the Reign of Terror. Here, our walk will end with a discussion of the impact of these historical events on politics, society, and culture in France today. By the end of our walk, we will emerge with a clearer understanding of how the Revolution of 1789 indelibly transformed French society, and how its key events and locations contributed to later conflicts.
Is this seminar walking intensive and/or wheelchair accessible? We do cover extensive territory on this seminar, some of it by public transport. Please contact us if you have mobility concerns; we will be happy to advise if this seminar will be appropriate for you.
Do we visit the Carnavalet museum with this itinerary? We will not be visiting the museum on our tour, but do encourage you to visit on your own after the tour. The discussions we have on our tour will provide context for understanding the Carnavalet's revolution rooms. NOTE: The Carnavalet is closed until the end of 2019 for renovations.