Bordeaux, fifth largest city in France, is not only the wine capital of the world but also rich in history, culture and arts as well as a vibrant centre for trade and business. Aquitaine’s capital is a thriving port city on the Garonne River with beautiful 18th century mansions and monuments. Particularly well known for its surrounding wine growing region, Bordeaux produces over 70 million gallons of wine each year, most chateaux allow visitors to their cellars and offer wine tastings. With an ethnically diverse population and lively university community of some 60,000 students the city has a reputation as an intellectual and cultural melting pot. Bordeaux has always managed to draw visitors despite having suffered for some time now from a slightly shabby reputation, however an extensive programme of urban renewal has given this hardworking city a new lease of life. Mostly used as a stopover and convenient transport hub for accessing France’s world famous wine region, the city itself is nevertheless worth exploring.
Vieux Bordeaux centres on the Quartier St Pierre and is lined with old churches and grand mansions. One of the most opulent displays of Bordeaux’s former prosperity is the 18th century Grand Theatre on Place de la Comedie. Built on the site of a Roman temple visitors can admire its interior by attending one of the operas or ballets held there regularly. Meanwhile one of the prettier squares is the Place de la Bourse, which has a beautiful fountain as its centrepiece, as the name suggests the stock exchange is also housed here.
Next cross the river on the striking stone bridge Pont de Pierre, built during Napoleon’s Spanish battles it has 17 arches in tribute to his triumphs, particularly when floodlit at night the sweeping views from the bridge are impressive.
Bordeaux’s most impressive church, the sprawling gothic 13th century Cathedrale St Andre, offers panoramic views from its belfry. Most of the city’s museums are situated around the Cathedral, one of the best being the Musee des Beaux Arts (Fine Arts Museum) which houses a fine collection of European art.
If you intend to visit one of the many nearby vineyards offering tours and tastings stop by the Maison du Vin de Bordeaux beforehand (located in front of the tourist office), here you will be able to obtain precise and impartial information on each appellation, including maps and vineyard guides.
No stay in France would be complete without sampling the cuisine of one of the world’s gastronomic capitals, but especially so in Bordeaux where you can wash it all down with a glass or two of glorious wine! Bordeaux doesn’t disappoint and there is a wide selection of restaurants from which to choose.
Bordeaux has a good and easy-to understand bus system for both local and regional travel. A new network of tram lines is also available, purchase your ticket from the vending machine at your stop and stamp it on board. Bordeaux’s old town (Vieux Bordeaux) centred on the Quartier St Pierre is fairly compact and best seen on foot.
Recommended places and events to visit in Bordeaux