« Bordeaux is without a doubt the most beautiful town in France », wrote Stendhal (19th century French writer, 1783 –1842), in “Voyages dans le midi de La France” (Travels in the south of France). Bordeaux wins you over and over time has become a true tourist destination, with tourism numbers doubling in the past five years.
The Port de la Lune (Port of The Moon) has been listed Unesco World Heritage in 2007. Branded “Ville d’art et d’histoire” (Town of Arts and History), Bordeaux has 347 listed buildings all architectural jewels dating from the 18th century.
The Gare Saint-Jean (formerly Gare du Midi), was built in 1855. The station and its metal canopy covering the tracks, were listed as a historic monument on December 28, 1984.
Bordeaux has valued its river and since 2006 its riverbanks are one the most beautiful walks in the city. The revivals of the tramway, with its first lines inaugurated in 2005, have contributed to the glow of yesteryear. The buildings and their façades have also regained their former glory. It is pleasant to wander in town, do your shopping in Cours de l’Intendance or in the 1.2km long Rue Sainte Catherine, to wander on foot or with “Velib” (Public bicycle sharing system), in the Chartrons, Saint-Eloi, Saint-Michel quarters; have a break in a cafe or go to a show in the Grand Théâtre.
As well as the many museums, Le miroir d’eau (water mirror) of Place de la bourse, the narrow alleys of the preserved quarter the Pey Berland tower, the Cailhau Gate, the big bell, the Place Royale, the Tourny Alleys… each a wonderful discovery.
Bordeaux is a charming attractive, dynamic enchanting city and the world capital of wine, The Cité du Vin, to the north of the historic centre, which took 7 years to complete opened its doors in June 2016.
The first Sunday of each month, Bordeaux city centre is closed to traffic. It is the perfect time to discover or rediscover this city loved by the Aquitains.
Auriane’s best tip: Visit the must see sites in the historical centre of Bordeaux, on foot or by tramway, following the same itinerary tested by our blogger.Read Auriane’s Article on her trip to Bordeaux.
These large alleys lined withlime trees and bordered by 18th century facades were landscaped in 1745 by Louis Urbain Aubert, marquis of Tourny. These alleys are the venue for many events and also offer pleasant walks.
Located in the heart of the city centre, this 12 hectares square, is one of the largest city squares in Europe, the place was originally formed in 1820 on the site of Chateau Trompette and was intended as a prevention against a rebellion attack against the city. The name comes from the geometric pattern that the trees are planted in - a 'quincunx', five points arranged in a cross, four forming a square and a fifth in the centre.
There are two rostral columns topped with statues dedicated to Bordeaux's maritime and commercial activities and an imposing monument in memory of the Girondists who fell victim of the Reign of Terror during the French revolution. It has a large pedestal framed with two basins, decorated with bronze horses and troops, and surmounted by a large column with a statue on top to represent the spirit of liberty.
The white-marble statues of the philosophers Montaigne (Mayor of Bordeaux) and Montesquieu (Magistrate at the Bordeaux Parliament) were erected on the square where many events take place during the year.
Many townhouses were built during the 18th century. Today luxury shops seem to dominate. The Cours de l’Intendance connects the Place de la Comédie to the Place Gambetta. Number 19 of Passage Sarget dates back from 1878 and the painter Goya died at number 57.
Place de la Bourse may be the most beautiful square in Bordeaux. The square was built at the middle of the 18th century, by the architect Gabriel and dedicated to Louis XV whose statue was dismantled during the French Revolution, and was then replaced during the 19th century by The Three Graces.
The square houses the Customs Offices and the Maritime Stock Exchange. Bordeaux traded with Africa, swapping glass beads against slaves, which were delivered to the Antillas in exchange for coffee, cotton, cacao, which was then re-exported towards the northern countries.
Le miroir d’eau (the water mirror), this spectacular pool, designed by landscape artist Michel Corajoud and fountain engineer Jean-Max LLorca and created in 2006, alternates a mirror effect and artificial misting in an extraordinary way. The rhythmic changes in 2 cm of water on a gigantic slab of granite make this location truly magical. Children adore playing here and it is a meeting place for lovers as well as people who enjoy putting their feet into the cool water in summer!
This very busy square was built to pay tribute to the Bordeaux Parliament and displays a fountain from the Second Empire. Take the Rue du Parlement Saint-Pierre and you reach the Place Saint Pierre and its quarter, open on the Garonne River and full of history. The place, backfilled during the 12th century, originally housed the Gallo-Roman port.
Taking its name after the 11th century fortress, it was transformed into an triumphal arch in 1496, to commemorate the victory of Charles VIII in Fornoue in Italy: the Cailhau Gate. Today only one defensive tower remains from the fortress.
Entirely refurbished in 2004, it houses the Pey Berland tower, named after archbishop Pey Berland (1380-1458) built during the 15th century; and the cathedral Saint André.
The Pey Berland tower, beautifully sculpted, is in fact the bell tower of the cathedral, which was built separately. At the top of the 50 meters tower there is a beautiful view of Bordeaux and its monuments.
The cathedral was built on the ruins of an 11th century Roman building. It was in this Roman building that the wedding of Aliénor of Aquitaine and Louis VII, future King of France was celebrated in 1137.
The Gothic nave date back from the 14th and 15th centuries. The cathedral was listed by Unesco as a World Heritage site in 1998. Facing it, is the Palais Rohan, built in 1771 and currently the town hall.
Auriane’s best tip: Visit the Pey-Berland tower. Tours are organised every day, times vary depending on the time of year. The price of the entrance is €6 for adults and free for under 18 years old.Read Auriane’s article.
Refurbished in 2015, this picturesque and cosmopolitan square is situated in the heart of the popular quarter of Bordeaux. The square houses the gothic style Saint-Michel basilica and its separate 47 meters bell tower overlooking the town and the river. The architectural details of the basilica are on the Unesco World Heritage list. Place Saint-Michel is also part of the planned stopovers on the Saint Jacques de Compostelle way. The square also houses daily markets.
Built at the end of the 18th century on the Place de la Comédie, designed by architect Victor Louis at the request of the Duke of Richelieu.
12 Corinthian columns overlooked by muses and goddess statues compose its façade. Listed historic monument, the Grand Théâtre was refurbished in 1990.
Inside, 16 Doric columns supporting a flat vaulted ceiling with grid and rosette decorate the large hall. 5 arcades allow the access to the large staircase, less than a century later, Charles Garnier took inspiration for l’Opéra de Paris staircase. From September to July, the Grand Theatre welcomes concerts and operas.
Built between 1810 and 1822 by the order of Napoléon Bonaparte it was the first bridge over the Garonne River, connecting the right bank, the Bastide quarter, to the town.
It is the only vestige left of the second town walls. Built during the 12th century; the big bell went through many transformations. Its bells initially had a defensive purpose, but they also announced the beginning of the wine harvest. It is the symbol of the city and displayed on the city’ s coat of arms.
Excavations have uncovered a large Gallo-Roman Christian necropolis. It is one of the oldest churches of Bordeaux, its porch and crypt date back from the 11th century. The site is a listed UNESCO World Heritage and located on the St Jacques de Compostelle way.
These are the vestiges of the antique Burdigala amphitheatre. Today, only spans and arcades remain of this 2nd century monument.
It was designed and landscaped by the architect Gabriel under order of the Intendant Tourny during the 18th century. An English style Park with groves, water bodies, children’s playground…In 1858, a botanical garden of 3,000 plant species was installed in the middle.
It has a castelet (miniature theatre) for the enjoyment of the little ones. It received the prestigious “Jardin Remarquable” (Remarkable garden) status. Since 2007, in the Bastide quarter, a botanical garden completes the historical building.
Named after the former Mayor, this bridge is a curiosity, and is impressive when its centre raises to let the cruise boats dock in the port. Completed in 2013 it links the Bacalan quarters (Bordeaux maritime) and Bastide. Pedestrians and cyclists use it to admire Bordeaux from either riverbank.
Bordeaux has a very active cultural scene with no less than 11 museums dedicated to the fine arts, contemporary art, decorative arts, design, customs…
It is not really a museum, it is an emblematic centre of excellence and an entry gate to the bordelaise vineyard which opened its doors in June 2016, on the site of the old forges of Bordeaux maritime port, in the Bacalan quarter, in the enclosed docks basins.
Also on the right riverbank you can find the submarine base, built during the Second World War and now hosting temporary exhibitions and cultural events.
Situated in Cours Pasteur, the historical and ethnographic museum, tells the history of Bordeaux and its region, from the prehistoric times to nowadays. Some rooms in the museum are dedicated to the Atlantic trade and slave trade.
Located in the Chartons quarter, the Contemporary Art Museum hosts temporary exhibitions and events around the history of Art, music and the contemporary creation all year long. Once a major place of wine trade, its old warehouses have been converted making the area very trendy.
Also in one of theses renovated warehouses, on the Garonne riverbanks, Cap Sciencesa multidisciplinary site dedicated to the sciences has been established.
Finally, in the heart of Bordeaux, the 17th century Labottière townhouse, owned by Bernard Magrez, a key figure in the wine industry, houses a 5 star hotel, a two Michelin star gastronomic restaurant « La grande maison » which opened at the end of 2014 and was recently taken over by Pierre Gagnaire, and a cultural centre for contemporary art exhibitions and conferences..
Bordeaux has two other Michelin stars restaurants: Gordon Ramsay took over the Pressoir d’Argent (1 Michelin star), and Denis Franc’s Pavillon des Boulevards (1 Michelin star) .
Bordeaux Metropolis is comprised of 28 communes spread along the two riverbanks of the Garonne River. It has a population of 749,595 inhabitants around its central town, Bordeaux (243,626 habitants). Half urban, half nature, to be discovered through its 140 km of marked walks. It is even possible to spend a night in an urban refuge.
Pessac, is simultaneously the Wine castles (Haut-Brion, The Carmes Castle, Haut-Brion, Haut-Brana Castle, Pape-Clément Castle) which make the reputation of the region and are gradually opening to visitors; the university campus an 11th century town centre, a quarter the Cité Frugès from the twenties designed by the famous architect Le Corbusier;and a zoo.
Mérignac, was a Gallo-Roman town. Today, it is the most populated commune of the Bordeaux agglomeration with 68,000 inhabitants and an international airport. Many international head offices are based here. With 8 eco-certified parks, 3 vineyards and a green area of 844 hectares, Mérignac is a green town. The parks of the town hall (accounting 9 hectares) and the Bourran Park, listed historic monuments are there to be discovered.
Le Bouscat is situated north west of Bordeaux. For a long time it was a little village, Le Bouscat only built a church in 1820. The racecourse of Bordeaux was built in Bouscat. The Chêneraie Park, listed historic monument and the Hermitage Park are places to be discovered, as well as the Villa Jeanne, a house built in 1898 by the architect Bertrand-Alfred Duprat and listed as a Historic Monument in 2001.
Saint-Médard-en-Jalles, has welcomed Roman camps. During the 17th century, a gunpowder factory, still in activity today, was built. There are many rivers around Saint-Médard-en-Jalles and gunpowder mills were built all around.
With its 8,500 hectares, it is the largest district of the Bordeaux metropolitan area.
To visit: the 11th century church was built on a Merovingian necropolis, its confessional is a listed Historic Monument.
Cenon, offers 25 hectares of greenery and a beautiful panorama on the Garonne River with the Palmer Park. A must visit site for all the nature enthusiasts but also for music fans with the concert hall “Le Rocher de Palmer”.
Lormont, is located on the right riverbank of the Garonne River, the town has preserved many traces of its very old heritage. First, Lormont was a defensive site then it became a fishing harbour during the 12th century. During the 18th century, Lormont is the most important suburbs of Bordeaux, its picturesque landscapes and dance halls are very popular. At the beginning of the 20th century, the town became a residential location and a holiday resort for the Bordeaux inhabitants. The old town, with it superbly restored washtubs, its churches, is listed Zone de Protection du Patrimoine Architectural Urbain et Paysager (Conservation and protection of architectural, urban and landscape heritage), guided visits are organised by the tourist office. The Ermitage Park, a biodiversity area, with its 28 hectares is the green lung of the city. The Musée des Amis du Vieux Lormont (Museum of the friends of Vieux Lormont) has a rich collection of artefacts on its history.
Bouliac, is a commune at the entrance of Entre-deux-mers. Since it is in a nature reserve, it is the perfect example of a town in the countryside. Bouliac has been inhabited since the Gallo-Roman period. Its Saint-Siméon Le Stylite Church is a jewel of Roman Art. There are 30 kilometres of hiking trails to discover the commune.
Bègles, located on the left riverbank of the Garonne River, was formerly a fishing harbour, famous for its codfish drying unit. Bègles had an easy access to unload the codfish caught in Terre-Neuve or in Iceland. It was the first industrial suburb of Bordeaux and the most populated up to before the Second World War…It is also a wine-growing commune, producing the vineyard of Graves.
Bègles is proud of its art-deco swimming pool built in 1932, a listed Historic Monument and its Rugby Club CA Bordeaux-Bègles was France champion in 1991.
The town has a network of 30 km of cycling paths and was awarded 3 flowers the “Villes et Villages Fleuris” competition (Towns and Villages in Bloom Competition).
From mid-June until the end of August, Bègles offers the event “Bègles Plage”, around its lake: 1,000 m2 of supervised bathing, with only 1,80m depth, sport and cultural events in towns. Its Musée de la Création Franche, Art Brut Apparentés, created in 1989, has a collection of 14,000 contemporary art pieces, heterogeneous, born from the artist’s spontaneous desire, famous or unknown, to simply express themselves.
Blanquefort, at the gates of the Médoc, has many green spaces, including 51 hectares of park and was awarded 4 flowers to the “Villes et Villages Fleuris” competition (Towns and Villages in Bloom Competition). With 220 companies, it is the largest economic activities area of the metropolitan area.