While modern Paris may be at the forefront of global trends where art, fashion and culture are concerned, back in the late 18th century the French capital esteemed for a very different reason. With the country going through one of the most iconic revolutions in world history, Paris and its citizens came to represent the concepts of equality, liberty and enlightenment. Not such a light feat!
If you’ve got an interest in history and want to explore the real meaning behind “Vive la Révolution!” then a trip to Paris is the perfect way to learn more about one of the defining events in Europe’s history. Discover a whole host of significant landmarks and monuments across the city and learn about Paris’ journey through 1789 to 1799.
Here’s a look at some of the best landmarks in the capital that played a role in the French Revolution.
The Palace of Versailles
Just southwest of Paris, the Palace of Versailles is one of the most lavish and visually impressive landmarks in Europe. With a history of monarchs, like King Louis XVI, living in complete luxury while the masses struggled in poverty, it’s hardly a wonder that there was a revolution and a visit to Versailles is the perfect way to discover just why the French population was so enraged by the extravagances of the monarchy and the aristocracy. The phrase “Let them eat cake” stems from this same period which might put things into more context…
Famous for its breath-taking gardens and vast facades with 2,143 windows, you can explore the suites in which the nation’s rulers slept and roam the manicured grounds. It’s a must-visit for anyone with an interest in French history, culture or architecture.
The Place de la Bastille
The period of political and civil unrest that characterised the French Revolution took place from 1779 to 1789, during which time a huge number of dissenters were imprisoned in the Bastille fortress. As such, this medieval building came to represent the monarchy and its attempts to suppress the masses, and became the site of one of the most iconic events of the Revolution – the Storming of the Bastille on July 14th 1789.
To this day, the occasion is commemorated each year on Bastille Day, so taking a trip to the Place de la Bastille is a real must if you want to learn more about Paris during the days of the French Revolution.
The Tuileries Gardens
While the Tuileries Palace no longer stands, the Tuileries Gardens remain a must-see for any tour of revolutionary Paris, as this site played such a vital role in the events that led to the defeat of the monarchy. It was actually here that the Royal Family – led by King Louis XVI – was imprisoned following the uprising, before eventually being executed in 1793.
As well as being steeped in Revolutionary history, it is also one of the most picturesque gardens in Paris and the perfect picnic spot for a sunny day. With its landscaped grounds and white gravel paths it epitomises urban Parisian beauty and along the banks of the Seine river, another of Paris’ most romantic areas.
The Basilica of St Denis
Despite being convicted of oppressing the masses and living in unashamed luxury, not to mention falling victim to the unforgiving guillotine, Marie Antoinette remains one of the most iconic and glorified figures in French history. Following her execution, her body was entombed at the Basilica of St Denis alongside that of her husband, Louis XVI, whose desiccated heart is on show, too.
This famous church is a necropolis and one of Paris’ most impressive buildings in which the Revolution resonates to this day with its funeral sculptures, mausoleums and tombs. Explore the Saint-Denis Cathedral and discover the graves of the victims of the French Revolution and the rulers who did nothing to stop it…
Save on sightseeing in Paris with free entry to top Paris tourist attractions with The Paris Pass. Explore the landmarks which helped shape history and are a monument to the decades of struggle and strife in the late 1700s.