In the summer of 1789, Paris became the center stage of the French Revolution and events that changed the history of France and Europe. In 1789, the population of Paris was between 600,000 and 640,000. Then as now, most wealthier Parisians lived in the western part of the city, the merchants in the center, and the workers and artisans in the southern and eastern parts, particularly the Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The population included about one hundred thousand extremely poor and unemployed persons, many of whom had recently moved to Paris to escape hunger in the countryside. Known as the sans-culottes, they made up as much as a third of the population of the eastern neighborhoods and became important actors in the Revolution.
On 11 July 1789, soldiers of the Royal-Allemand regiment attacked a large but peaceful demonstration on the Place Louis XV organized to protest the dismissal by the king of his reformist finance minister Jacques Necker. The reform movement turned quickly into a revolution. On 13 July, a crowd of Parisians occupied the Hôtel de Ville, and the Marquis de Lafayette organized the French National Guard to defend the city. On 14 July, a mob seized the arsenal at the Invalides, acquired thousands of guns, and stormed the Bastille, a prison that was a symbol of royal authority, but at that time held only seven prisoners. 87 revolutionaries were killed in the fighting.
On 5 October 1789, a large crowd of Parisians marched to Versailles and, the following day, brought the royal family and government back to Paris, virtually as prisoners. The new government of France, the National Assembly, began to meet in the Salle du Manège near the Tuileries Palace on the outskirts of the Tuileries garden.
In April 1792, Austria declared war on France, and in June 1792, the Duke of Brunswick, commander of the army of the King of Prussia, threatened to destroy Paris unless the Parisians accepted the authority of their king. In response to the threat from the Prussians, on 10 August the leaders of the sans-culottes deposed the Paris city government and established their own government, the Insurrectionary Commune, in the Hôtel-de-Ville. Upon learning that a mob of sans-culottes was approaching the Tuileries Palace, the royal family took refuge at the nearby Assembly. In the attack of the Tuileries Palace, the mob killed the last defenders of the king, his Swiss Guards, then ransacked the palace. Threatened by the sans-culottes, the Assembly "suspended" the power of the king and, on 11 August, declared that France would be governed by a National Convention. On 13 August, Louis XVI and his family were imprisoned in the Temple fortress. On 21 September, at its first meeting, the Convention abolished the monarchy, and the next day declared France to be a republic.
The new government imposed a Reign of Terror upon France. From 2 to 6 September 1792, bands of sans-culottes broke into the prisons and murdered refractory priests, aristocrats and common criminals. On 21 January 1793, Louis XVI was guillotined on the Place de la Révolution. Marie Antoinette was executed on the same square on 16 October 1793. Bailly, the first Mayor of Paris, was guillotined the following November at the Champ de Mars. During the Reign of Terror, 16,594 persons were tried by the revolutionary tribune and executed by the guillotine. Tens of thousands of others associated with the Ancien Régime were arrested and imprisoned. Property of the aristocracy and the Church was confiscated and declared Biens nationaux (national property). The churches were closed.
A new government, the Directory, took the place of the Convention. It moved its headquarters to the Luxembourg Palace and limited the autonomy of Paris. When the authority of the Directory was challenged by a royalist uprising on 13 Vendémiaire, Year IV (5 October 1795), the Directory called upon a young general, Napoléon Bonaparte, for help. Bonaparte used cannon and grapeshot to clear the streets of demonstrators. On 18 Brumaire, Year VIII (9 November 1799), he organised a coup d'état that overthrew the Directory and replaced it by the Consulate with Bonaparte as First Consul. This event marked the end of the French Revolution and opened the way to the First French Empire.