Situated in south-west France and nicknamed the ‘wine capital of the world’, Bordeaux is the perfect destination for a short weekend or mid-week break and is accessible from all over Europe as it has its own international airport.
Bordeaux is a great city for relaxing and strolling as there are 362 historic monuments to discover and everything is within easy reach. The city has a good tram and bus network – with unlimited travel if you buy the Découverte card, so what are the top places to visit in Bordeaux?
Grand Place du Bourse
This grand place (square) is edged by the most spectacular architecture which looks particularly impressive at night when it is all floodlit. Grand Place du Bourse, overlooks the huge River Garonne and in the centre of the Grand Place, stands the famous fountain of Three Graces.
Miroir d’ Eau
Situated on the edge of Grand Place du Bourse, the Miroir d’Eau (‘water mirror’) is the largest reflecting pool of water in the world! The water covers an area of 3,450 square metres and lies over black granite. The architecture reflects perfectly in the water.
Be warned though, every few minutes, the water turns into mist and on a hot day, everyone walks through the mist to cool off! At night, Miroir d’Eau looks amazing as it reflects all the surrounding buildings which are floodlit.
The Garonne is one of France’s largest rivers and is tidal as far as Bordeaux. It is certainly not unusual to see several cruise ships moored there. It is fun to stroll along the wide boulevard by the river and across the Pont de Pierre – the ‘bridge of stone’.
Built in the 19th century, with 17 identical archways, this bridge was the first bridge to be built across the river. It is particularly popular at night as the two footpaths are lit by pretty lanterns.
Place des Quinconcres
This beautiful square is the largest square in Europe and its focus is Monument Aux Girondins which is an impressive fountain. The fountain has a large central column with a Statue of Liberty and four different sculptured scenes depicting rearing horses.
Place de la Victoire
You will come across Place de la Victoire as you explore the heart of the city, as this square links all the city’s main streets. The place has an 18th century triumphal arch and central marble obelisk. These contrast with the modern column, which was designed by Ivan Themies, the Czech sculptor, made from Languedoc marble and 16 metres in height. Close to its base stand two tortoises that have been carved in stone.
Old city walls
In medieval times, the city was encircled by defensive walls and parts can still be seen today. You can also see the remains of the 13th century gate which is topped by the distinctive La Grosse Cloche with its two grey conical roofs and huge 18th century bell hanging just below.
Sadly, the bell does not ring every day, but it does on such occasions as Bastille Day (14 July).
Cathedral of Saint André
The Gothic Cathedral of Saint André is situated on the square of Pey Berland. It was the magnificent setting in 1137 for the wedding of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII, the future king.
It is interesting to visit the cathedral during the day, but during the summer months it hosts regular classical music, choir, and organ concerts.
Camino de Santiago de Compostela
The famous pilgrim route Camino de Santiago de Compostela – known as
‘the Way of St James’- passes through the city for more than eight kilometers. There are three lovely old churches along the route, and they are all floodlit at night and look stunning.
The first is the 11th century Saint-Seurin Basilica is an 11th century basilica, the second church is, Saint André Cathedral (see above) and the third,L’Eglise Saint-Michel which is in the Gothic style.
Le Cité du Vin
Le Cité du Vin opened a few years ago and is an innovatively styled, interactive museum that tells the story of the region’s famous wine.
The museum has seven floors and is topped by a 55-meter tower that represents a swirling glass of wine. Visitors can sample some Bordeaux wines whilst they are there too- Santé- Cheers!
Rue Sainte Catherine
Believe it or not, Bordeaux has the longest shopping street in Europe! Rue Sainte Catherine is 1.2 kilometres long and contains 250 interesting shops.
If you are after top French fashion, head to the St Pierre district, or if you enjoy browsing antique stalls and clothes shops, Quai des Marques in Bassins à Flot is fun. This is the renovated dock area.
It is well worth getting up early and heading for Marché des Capucins which is the city’s largest daily market. As well as stalls swelling fruit, vegetables and spices, there are numerous cafés serving fresh croissants and French coffee- what a great start to the day!
If you decide to visit the market later, you will have the chance to sample another local speciality – oysters from Arcachon with a glass of white wine.
This list of ten places to visit, has only scratched the surface as there are just so many places to discover! It is best to visit Bordeaux between May – November as this is the grape season, and the city is the focus of the most famous wine growing region.
There is the chance to take a tour that explores some of the wineries amongst the vineyards. Bordeaux is also well known for its gastronomy and there are countless great restaurants and wine bars to enjoy – and the local sweet delicacy, Canalés de Bordeaux.