For me, traveling is just about getting to go to some destination and elbowing my way through crowds just to see or do some once-in-a-lifetime activity. When I travel, I like to soak up the history, the culture, and of course the world around me.
As a self-proclaimed historian, all of France is my little oyster of history and stories needing to be told. The French Revolution has always fascinated me, not only did it last for ten years but it was the template for other governments across Europe.
Without the revolution in France, it makes you wonder if the Romanov would have been murdered, or the Hapsburgs would have been tossed on their ear, etc.
In this blog post, I’m giving you my dream Paris Itinerary-Travel the Steps of the French Revolution.
Paris Itinerary-Travel the Steps of the French Revolution
I’m giving you the full itinerary- in two blog posts-that you can cover in about three days, depending on if you want to see everything.
But, feel free to leave or add anything that you feel is a must-see.
However, I have added some gems that will make the experience a bit more surreal.
I’m sure as with most travelers your visit will start in Paris. That’s where the airport is, and most people want to spend all their time there.
No worries, this one is optional but in my opinion, something you should see at least once. Especially the gardens.
When Louis XIV decided this would be where he would live, and have his courtiers fall all over him and beg for attention, there were. a lot of laughs and tantrums.
Versailles, like much of France, was a swamp. Full of mosquitoes and wetlands.
But Louis had a vision, and that vision is what we can all enjoy today.
*tip* While you may be tempted to visit in the summer, I suggest the Fall. There is nothing more magical and inspirational than the garden in the Fall. Plus the lines are a bit shorter and you can take your time inside the chateau.
Place de la Bastille (4th, 11th & 12th arrondissements, Paris)
The first thing, I think anyone thinks of when talking about the French Revolution is the storming of the Bastille. Desperate, delirious with hunger, and blind with rage, the people stole what they could from Invalides and stormed the Bastille.
While the Bastille is no longer there, having been destroyed a year after it was stormed, you can still visit the place where it had stood, and you can see the layout of the prison.
As you arrive, you’ll discover the July Column with a Golden Genus of Liberty atop. This work of love is the symbol of the French Revolution that not only changed France but also the world.
Interesting tidbits: once the prison was destroyed this became the guillotine spot, however with the request of the people the guillotine was moved to the Place de La Nation.
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Square Henri Galle
This spot is where one of the original Bastille Towers. When the metro lines running from Vincennes were constructed, a part of the “Tour Liberte” was discovered.
The Tour Liberte is just one of eight of the original fort towers.
During the construction of the new metro lines, the bottom section of the tower was removed and reconstructed stone by stone.
You can find the “pile of stones” within the square along with a placque providing you with background infromation.
Hôtel de Ville
Just three days after the Bastille was stormed, the Hôtel de Ville-City Hall-was taken over and used as the Revolutionary government’s headquarters.
At this time, Louis XVI also appeared on the balcony where he witnessed the tri-colored flag (blue/white/red) and was pleasantly surprised he was also greeted by a cheering crowd.
Notre Dame de Paris
I wanna say, I have always wanted to see this cathedral. When I learned it took over 100 years to build and that it was one of the jewels in Paris, I knew I had to see it.
When I finally made it to Paris and got to Notre Dame, I was surprised just how small it was. I know that is silly but honestly, it is not as big as you think!
This picture was taken a few months after the fire, at the time I wrote this post the repairs had been completed and the cathedral is once again open.
Having been repressed by the monarchy and the Catholic Church, most of the church and religious imagery was destroyed or damaged.
However, later this is the place where Napoleon I crowned himself Emporer of France. This is incredibly important. One, the government wanted to anoint him king but considering the country was still sensitive to the absolute monarchy they chose emperor. Second, he was self-crowned not crowned by a Cardinal or Bishop from the Church.
Third, it is this act that made England and other monarchies nervous, if this dude from Croita could make himself king, perhaps others would want to try as well.
In addition to the cultural significance of the cathedral, this is also the site where several former presidents’ funerals were held.
Even if you’re not into the French Revolution and you only want to explore, the cathedral is a must see.
This is only the beginning of exploring through Paris and following the steps of the French Revolution. Make sure you sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss part 2 of this post!
*extra tip: be sure to take advantage of links within this post. (No affiliate links here, regardless of the time of year you’re coming to France, you’ll want to avoid the ticket lines and make your exploring smoother by getting your e-tickets before coming. Plus, most places are closed on Monday so you’ll avoid that little set back.