Bastille might be the birth place of modern France as we know it today as it's here, right on the Place de la Bastille where the July Column stands, that the 'Storming of the Bastille' took place marking the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. This marked a new era in French history, one where the monarchy was forever abolished.
Today, Bastille remains a popular neighbourhood due to its numerous restaurants, bars and nightlife along the streets Charonne, Lappe, Keller and la Roquette, and also due to its strategic positioning between the Marais, République, Gare de Lyon and the Seine.
Go: Opéra Bastille
The neighbourhood's epicentre is the Opéra Bastille, one of two of Paris' national opera houses together with the grandiose Opéra Garnier in Opéra. Inaugurated in 1989, the opera house is renowned for its fantastic acoustics and its operas and ballets, productions that are among the world's best.
With that in mind, productions are often fully booked far in advance so some planning is necessary for visitors who are keen on going to a show here. This month for instance visitors can go to representations of the world-famous ballet, Nutcracker (Casse-Noisette), and the opera La Bohème. The full schedule and booking information can be found on the Opéra de Paris website.
Eat: Le Beaumarchais
In recent years, the Boulevard Beaumarchais that links Bastille to République has seen an upmarket change with new boutiques and restaurants including the contemporary bistrot opened by Cédric Theux and Alexandre Kunz and headed by chef Yann Devarieux in the kitchen. Previously a branch of a chain restaurant, its shell has been entirely stripped and given a chic industrial but cosy look. Think exposed plaster walls, hardwood floors, upcycled sewing machine tables for bistrot tables, bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling, well chosen antique objects set on fitted black wood shelving and banquettes upholstered in bright mustard yellow or electric blue fabric for a dash of colour.
The restaurant has different levels, where the alcoves of the lower level are carpeted in a tumble of green plant motifs and toile de jouy wallpaper that give this space a post-colonial style. There is also a large terrace lining the restaurant, very much prised in the area.
The fare is modern French bistrot cuisine that is all homemade using seasonal produce. Expect French staples of foie gras with pear chutney, escargots, côte de boeuf, magret de canard and a house burger but also gluten-free spaghetti and more original dishes like succulent white grenadier fish served a top perfectly cooked white cabbage.
Perfect for a quick, but delicious and excellent value, lunch as there is a set menu of several choices that changes daily. As well as the full menu, in the evenings the restaurant also offers a cocktail list including the signature rum and Chambord 'Beaumarchais'. Le Beaumarchais, 21 boulevard Beaumarchais Paris 4th. Open everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner, non-stop service from midday at the weekends. www.lebeaumarchais.com
One of Paris' biggest concept stores that is actually closer to being a department store is Merci. Opened in 2009 by Bernard and Marie-France Cohen, founders of the children's wear brand Bonpoint, Merci is a store with a difference, as part of the proceeds actually go to a charity that works towards improving the standard of children's lives in Madagascar.
Located in a quaint cobbled courtyard off the boulevard at number 111, Merci is housed inside a 16,000sq ft converted warehouse and has several floors organised into well curated departments of home ware, furniture, clothing, and beauty products among others.
Products here comprise all sorts, from a beautiful range of Aesop products to designer furniture including re-editions of pieces by the great Finnish designer Alvar Aalto, home ware by Paola Navone, and fashion from the likes of Liberty and Maison Martin Margiela. The atmospheric 'Used Books Café' has, as its name indicates, a wealth of second hand books lining the walls, while the 'Cinema Café' at road level offers lively lunches on its terrace and 'La Cantine de Merci' in the basement opens out onto a small garden. Merci, 111 boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris 4th. www.merci-merci.com
Read more: Restaurants with a view in Paris