Once a fortress and a prison in Paris, the Bastille has always been a rich symbol of royal strength. This awesome tourist attraction was originally intended to augment the city's defenses but by the 17th century it was being used only as a prison. Voltaire and the Marquis de Sade were amongst its most famous inmates and visitors love to hear about them when they walk past the cells. The tour guides at the Bastille often show old propaganda that was passed around in years gone by of the Bastilles' dungeons. These were often packed with wretched state prisoners.
Until only recently, there has been little to see in the Bastille than just a huge traffic circle and the July Column which commemorated the overthrow of Charles X. As part of a nationwide celebration, however, the Opéra de la Bastille was recently erected in 1989 and is now inspiring a lot of redevelopment near the surrounding streets. What was formerly a humdrum neighborhood has now been acquiring beautiful art galleries, shops, theaters and funky jazz clubs.
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