To think Bordeaux is to think wine (after all, it’s been produced in the region since the 8th Century). But while it’s tempting to imagine yourself sitting on a cobbled street outside a café, with a baguette and cheese in front of you and a bottle of red in hand, wine is only the beginning of the delights in store…
Bordeaux’s attractions are many. The Croiseur Colbert, an enormous battleship docked at the Quai des Chartons, is worth a look, and the magnificent Palais de la Bourse overlooking the winding River Garonne is enchanting. Bordeaux also boasts the Palais Rohanand the Grand Theatre, Europe’s oldest wooden-framed theatre, and a modern nightlife that is excitingly at odds with the medieval setting.
On the other hand, soaking up the atmosphere with a good glass of plonk can be just as much fun!
Bordeaux’s Top 10
10. Grands Hommes One of the oldest markets in the city, this caters to even the most discerning shopper.
5. The Palace Royale So fabulous, the owners of the neighbouring buildings decided to copy it. We bet the original occupants were miffed, but the result is a few kilometres of architectural X factor.
9. Natural History Museum Here you’ll find an assortment of stuffed animals in strange stances, and many old fossils. No, we don’t mean the staff.
4. Grosse Cloche This great bell once rang from the old Town Hall in the Quartier Saint-Eloi.
8. Grand Theatre Operas, ballets and concerts have been performed here for nearly 250 years. Hopefully they’ve got it right by now.
3. Museum of Fine Arts Has a vast collection of art from the 17th to 20th centuries.
7. The Jardin Public Gardens During the French Revolution, it was used for official ceremonies. Then Napoleon redesigned it as a classic English garden.
2. Vinorama Take a tour through this talking wax museum, which chronicles the history of Bordeaux wine.
6. The Saint Andre Cathedral This eclectic 11th century sandstone building is the biggest cathedral in Bordeaux, and full of dust.
1. Chateau Margaux A trip to Bordeaux would be incomplete without a visit to the most recognisable of chateaux. Bookings are essential.
- Place Parlement – A rustic town square with shops and outdoor cafes.
- Port of the Moon - A World Heritage Site and favourite of tourists.
- La Grosse Cloche – This medieval reminder of the walls of Old Bordeaux has two 40-meter towers.
- Basilica of Saint Seurin – The oldest church in Bordeaux, built on the site of a Roman necropolis dating from the 1300s.
- Church of the Holy Cross – Romanesque architecture, built in the 1100s, part of the Benedictine order.
Bordeaux Art & Culture
- Bordeaux Wine School – Offers a three-day course teaching all you need to know about wine tasting and wine production.
- Grand Theatre-Opera of Bordeaux – Exquisite architecture and home of the national opera. World-class opera in a beautiful setting.
- Arc en Reve – This is the centre for architectural exhibitions and research.
- Bordeaux 360 – A guided tour through Bordeaux’s wine region.
- Chateau Maucaillou - This is a historical site with guest bedrooms for overnight stays.
- Cours Georges Clemenceau – Part of Bordeaux’s Golden Triangle of luxury stores and exclusive fashion shops.
- Paris Design Houses – Easy-to-find brands such as Hugo Boss, Hermes and Rolex. All the best designers have stores in Bordeaux.
- Rue Sainte-Catherine – One of the longest walking streets in France, with 1.2 kilometres of shops, restaurants and cafes.
- Place de la Comedie – Most of the better high-end fashion shops and exclusive boutiques are here.
- Place des Grands Hommes – This is a great place for fresh food shopping, with a Carrefour for groceries.
Gay & Lesbian Bordeaux
- Le Porqe-Ocean to La Jenny – This is an almost exclusively gay beach.
- Gay Sauna Thiers – Jacuzzi, steam room and cabins. Has a friendly atmosphere.
- Rue Casteja – The place to go for gay bars and clubs.
- Rue Notre Dame – This is the best place to meet and mix for gays and lesbians.
- Rebecca Love Club – Sex shop and porn video store.
- Botanical Gardens of Bordeaux – Enjoy leisurely strolls and fresh air.
- Bordeaux a Velo – Unique biking trails for a tour of the Bordeaux countryside.
- Esplanades des Quinconces – A great place for water sports and boating.
- Rue du Mirail – The place for student nightlife with bars and pubs.
- Bordeaux Public Gardens – Quiet and rustic, the lawns are great for sunbathing.
- See how the French play football at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.
- Cycle at the Velodrome du Lac, where international cycling championships are held.
- Catch the Bordeaux rugby team in action, one of the best in Europe.
- Popular cricket matches are played here. France holds the West League championship.
- Tennis and swimming at the national stadium.
Bordeaux Spring Fair takes place from late April to early May in the Place des Quinconces. Join the scores of bargain-hunters.
In May, the Foire de Bordeaux is held at the Parc des Expositions. Up to 300,000 people attend.
In mid-June the Festival du Conte is held in the St Michel district. It celebrates the world of the fairytales, which is your excuse to dress up as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and all the rest of them.
Bastille Day falls on 14 July. Celebrations include open-air dancing and a memorable fireworks display over the River Garonne.
When To Go
Bordeaux is a ‘year-round’ city, with a climate classified as oceanic, yet with warmer summers and milder winters than most regions of a similar classification.
The city’s average winter temperature is a chilly 7°C (45°F), so dress accordingly.
Summer is much more pleasant, but still mild, with an average of 20°C (68°F).
Bordeaux’ public transport system is known as Tram et Bus de la CUB (TBC), and has a range of reliable options, including trams, trains and ferries.
There are more than 400 taxis in the city, so they are not hard to find.
Hire cars are a good way to visit outlying areas, although many tour bus companies also visit the major destinations.
Synonymous with fine wine, the port city of Bordeaux in southwest France has a vast metropolitan area of 1.2 million inhabitants. With a phenomenal history of wine production that dates back to the 8th century and a UNESCO World Heritage old town, Bordeaux is a major tourist destination.
Remarkably, skeletal remains from as far back as 200,000 years have been found in the Bordeaux area. A number of years after the Neanderthals, the area was a haunt for Celtic tribes, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths and Franks. Clearly, Bordeaux has allure. Celebrated novelist and activist Victor Hugo once made the famous remark: “Take Versailles, add Antwerp and you have Bordeaux.”
With a lofty designation as a “City of Art and History”, Bordeaux delivers on the attractions front. Start with the World Heritage section of the city, rich in 18th century architecture. Place de la Bourse is a spectacular pavilion complex built between 1730 and 1755 by the famous Gabriel family, now home to a Customs
Museum that chronicles the history of the city port.
The Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux is the majestic home of the Opéra National de Bordeaux, as well as the Ballet National de Bordeaux, built in 1780.
Rue Ste-Catherine is the main thoroughfare of Bordeaux, replete with history and monuments, not to mention some of the best shops in the city.
Although consecration of Cathedral of St André took place in 1096, most of what remains hails from the 15th century. Nonetheless, the structure is a foremost national monument in France.
Two other important cathedrals in Bordeaux are the Saint-Seurin Basilica and église Sainte-Croix.
The city has a full slate of museums to visit. The best of the lot are the Musée des Beaux Arts, or Museum of Fine Arts, Casa de Goya and Vinorama, a wonderful education in Bordeaux wine.
Wine of course, is why many come to Bordeaux. The area, with 57 appellations, is second in the world in terms of size, with Languedoc numéro un. Wine icons in Bordeaux include Château Margaux, Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Latour.
Vineyard tours up and down the shores of the Garonne River, to Bordeaux regions such as Medoc, Sauternes and Pomerol, comprise the most indelible activity around the city.
The Bordeaux Spring Fair in April and May is a lively city marketplace with antique, art and food vendors.
Every June the city celebrates the River Festival and Garden Festival, with various events around the waterfront and public parks for both.
Journées du Patrimoine is heritage festival in September that celebrates the rich history of Bordeaux, with free admission to most major attractions and museums.The preeminent event in Bordeaux is the Wine Festival of course, held in the main city square every summer.
Bordeaux has a climate that is fairly moderate and oceanic by nature, with a beneficial Gulf Stream effect that produces warm conditions.
- Winter (November to February) 6-13degC
- Spring (March to April) 9-16degC
- Summer (May to August) 15-26degC
- Fall (September to October) 14-23degC
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