Visit of Libourne: a walk in a port city

Libourne
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Come and take a stroll in Libourne, this old 13th century bastide where life is good and stroll along its quays on the banks of the Isle and the Dordogne, in its narrow streets with blond stones. On Friday (and Tuesday and Sunday), come and feel the excitement of the market on the Place de l'Hotel de Ville. We leave for a morning walk in the company of Nathalie Lassegues-Henri, Speaker Guide who organizes visits of Libourne in small groups. The ideal opportunity to discover all the charming assets of this port city very well located for visiting the Gironde! On the way!


Photos of the article: © Guide Bordeaux Gironde

Libourne Town Hall
Libourne Town Hall, market day

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The Libourne market

It's Tuesday, market day and the Place Abel Surchamps is colored with stalls teeming with food products, but also clothing, jewelry, accessories and souvenirs. We meet in front of the beautiful Town Hall of Libourne, we drink a little coffee and go for a walk in Libourne. Today, I trust Nathalie Lassegues-Henri, Guide Speaker who is part of the Association des Guides de Nouvelle Aquitaine, on her own account. She will accompany me through the city, to show me the pretty alleys, the points of interest and to explain to me the history of this country house which dates from 1270.


Visit of Libourne Nathalie Lessegues
I visit Libourne with Nathalie Lassegues, tour guide

Ordered by the Prince Edward 1, the future King of England and son of Henry III, the founding of Libourne is entrusted to Roger de Leyburn, Seneschal of Guyenne and steward of the King (note the ambiguous name!). Libourne was formerly named Condatem (in Gallo-Roman times), Condatis (which means confluence), Fozera (which means Fern), it was not until 1270 that it acquired the name that we know today. Libourne is a pleasant town with an unparalleled strategic position at the time: installed at the confluence of Isle and Dordogne, it develops its port assets. It is also to the wines of Libournais that we owe the prosperity and fame of the city, they were then easily transported by river, on barges but also larger ships which also transported cast iron , wooden barrels… And you will feel this atmosphere as you walk along the quays.


Libourne Abel Surchamps
The Arcaded Square in front of the Town Hall, we can see here that Libourne is a bastide!
Libourne market   Libourne market
Take advantage of the market, which is very well stocked

Let's come back to the market square, it is the nerve center of the city. Its tight orthogonal plan, typical of bastides, starts from this old district of Fozera where the central arcaded square with cutlery allowed goods to be unpacked just in front of the Town Hall (which dates from the 15th century and was renovated in the 20th century). We take a walk with Nathalie, who carries with her postcards and old maps of the city, very practical to see the architectural changes, or not, because many things have remained intact! We pass under the arcades, we will also take a tour of the Town Hall which is classified as a Historic Monument and houses the Museum of Fine Arts of Libourne (which we recommend you visit to see the paintings bequeathed by René Princeteau, one of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's masters).


Visit of Libourne
Nathalie has archive images that are very useful for understanding the city's evolution
Interior of the town hall of Libourne
Inside the Town Hall, a pretty patio before arriving at the Musée des Beaux-Arts
Libourne covered market
There is also a covered market open every day except Monday and Wednesday


The Tour de France passed through Libourne in 2021! Another super celebrity passes through Libourne every year, it is Father Christmas who installs his official secretariat there in December. We are very proud...


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Libourne's treasure!

We move away from the Place Abel Surchamps for a walk in several districts of the city. We are heading towards the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church, did you know that it contains a real treasure, an object curiously unknown and yet very rare? The Holy Thorn is a holy relic, it is a 5cm wooden thorn, it comes from the crown of thorns of Christ, placed on his head before the crucifixion. There are many in circulation, only a hundred or so have been authenticated in Christendom, including that of Libourne!!! It was offered to Charlemagne who then donated it to the city in the year 811. 1200 years of history to discover in free exhibition inside the church. This sacred relic is presented year round, well protected in a sealed chest. Whether you are a believer or not, it is a rare object, carrying a great symbolism. It comes with a leaflet that will explain its importance to you. To find out more, read this text by Camille Desveaux. (in french)


Church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste   Church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste
The Sainte-Epine de Libourne   The Sainte-Epine de Libourne
The Sainte-Épine, the treasure of Libourne

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From the blond stone to the Port of Libourne

Have you noticed the blond stone used to build the houses in the city of Libourne? It is limestone with asteria, a yellow rock, studded with starfish fossils. It is the famous stone of Bordeaux or Saint-Émilion, which comes from quarries in the Entre-Deux-Mers region! We continue towards the quays, which were redeveloped in 2018, to the delight of residents, Libournais young and old and tourists. During school period, children come to do sports and leisure activities, what a beautiful playground!


Bordeaux stone   Blond stone
The pretty blond stone or Bordeaux stone, which can be found on the buildings of the city, like here one of the oldest houses, with its gable on the street, above were the houses.
Quays of Libourne
The Libourne docks
The stone bridge of Libourne
The Pont de Pierre de Libourne, it dates from 1821 and was executed in the same way as that of Bordeaux.
The quays of Bordeaux
The Libourne quays, pleasant for strolling, having a drink on the terrace or playing!

We approach and we pass the ramparts of the city. It was completely surrounded, pierced by 9 doors including 6 doors on its river frontage. They were not simple ramparts, since they consisted of a double wall system, with a stream in the middle. Beware of anyone who wanted to enter... Nathalie leads us to the Porte de la Mer, which was the main access to Libourne, secured by a guard. It must be remembered that Libourne was a real hub, a renowned seaport, not just a small river port… It is in the shadow of Bordeaux and the city regularly welcomed (and welcomes) new inhabitants, who settle there due to the saturation of the capital of the Duchy of Aquitaine and the royal province of Guyenne (Bordeaux).

The port of Libourne prospered thanks to its position, its wine merchants, but also a curious privilege, that of being a Grenier à Sel. The Quai des Salinières is the only one where the boats transporting salt have the right to dock... The wine is exported to England and Holland, Sweden.


Port of Libourne
The quays, Isle side
The mound of Fronsac
The mound of Fronsac, where Charlemagne had a fortified camp built
Old cellar
Cellars, on the other side of the Dordogne
The Sea Gate in Libourne
The Sea Gate


Our walk continues through the streets and alleys of the city, we reach the central square of the city. Do not hesitate to take advantage of guided tours like this one which are regularly organized. To contact Nathalie, click!


Remains of the ramparts

If you are walking alone, start from Place Abel Surchamps like us, and take a walk following the interpretation panels that follow this hike in Libourne (in french), offered by the Tourist Office.


Window decorations houses libourne
The bas-relief decorations above the windows of the houses of Libourne, which show the port and wine-growing vocation of the city.

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