Image by Karl Blackwell Getty Images
A 14th-century fortress built to protect the city gates, the Bastille became a prison under Cardinal Richelieu, which was mobbed on 14 July 1789, igniting the French Revolution. At the centre of the square is the 52m-high Colonne de Juillet a green-bronze column topped by a gilded, winged Liberty. Revolutionaries from the uprising of 1830 are buried beneath; the crypt will open to the public as part of a major redevelopment that will link the square to Bassin de l'Arsenal.
As part of the works, which are due for completion in 2019, the location of the old fortress prison of the Bastille will be marked on the ground (currently you can see a triple row of paving stones that traces the building’s outline on the ground between bd Henri IV and rue St-Antoine). The foundations are also marked below ground in the Bastille metro station, on the platform of line 5. When complete, the square's overhaul will reduce traffic by 40%, making it pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly.