Bordeaux, universally known as the capital of wine, is an attractive and enjoyable city from every point of view: let's discover the most beautiful places of interest in the city.
When architectural beauty meets the pleasures of good food and the refinement of an excellent glass of wine, you are sure to have arrived in Bordeaux.
The name of this enchanting city located in the south-west of France is inextricably linked with wine and it is to the latter that it owes, essentially, its fortune. We are not exaggerating when we say that Aquitaine could be defined as the Tuscany beyond the Alps: from the ocean coast to the inland areas, here you will find the vineyards that have made the region (and Bordeaux) famous throughout the world. Bordeaux, elegantly neoclassical in its architecture, is wonderful and certainly worth a visit. Let's go and find out what to see in the city and its surroundings.
A visit to the historic center of Bordeaux: from Place de la Bourse to Porte de la Grosse Cloche
The old town center in Bordeaux is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and when you walk through the streets of the city, you will immediately understand why. The area between the boulevards and the Garonne, the river that runs through the city, is a triumph of neoclassical architecture, beautiful enough to take your breath away.
This tour of the old town center of Bordeaux starts from one of its most famous symbols, Place de la Bourse: it is a place that gives a new meaning to the word "charm". Symmetrical and tidy, on both sides of the square stand the Chamber of Commerce and the Customs Museum, which together form the backdrop to the beautiful Miroir d'eau, a scenic expanse of water of 3450 square meters that, in the evening, reflects the wonderful buildings overlooking the square, literally driving camera lenses crazy. You can't say you've been to Bordeaux if you haven't visited this place: and it's undoubtedly a good reason to make it the first stop on this tour.
Continue on foot to reach another of the city's symbolic places: the Cathedral of St. Andrew, most commonly called the Bordeaux Cathedral. Once again, you will be astonished by the magnificence of the building. Romanesque in its foundations and layout, the cathedral has been modified over the centuries to acquire many Gothic elements. It is also one of the rare examples of religious architecture in which the tower stands separate from the body of the building. The Pey-Berland Tower is a Gothic triumph and, when you reach the top, there are two terraces from which you can get a 360° view of the beauty of Bordeaux. It is not surprising, therefore, that this bell tower is a historical monument of France since 1862, and was later declared a World Heritage Site because the cathedral is a stop along the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela.
Going back for a moment to the secular buildings, you can discover what is now considered one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world, built in typical neoclassical style. The construction of the Grand Theatre dates back to the late 1700s and is a masterpiece of composite elegance. Admire the entire colonnade and, if you're a fan of opera, take a look at the busy calendar of events, so as to visit the inside of the theatre too, dominated by gilt, white and blue colors.
And since Bordeaux is a city of architectural symbols, you cannot avoid visiting one of the most photographed buildings after Place de la Bourse: the Porte de la Grosse Cloche, one of the rare civil monuments in the city dating from the Middle Ages. Visit it at night when you can fully enjoy the fairytale atmosphere provided by artfully regulated lighting. Don't miss visiting the little church of St. Eligius, situated almost under the arch: it is really precious and it will not fail to thrill you.
What to do in Bordeaux: a stroll along the Garonne Riverside
Walking along the Garonne will give a measure of the magnificence of the city. And this will be precisely one of the many places that will make you fall in love with Bordeaux. From here, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the river and the whole city, while at the same time having a chance to walk on one of the most picturesque quays in the world. The riverfront, in fact, over the years has undergone major urban redevelopment, which has given new spaces to the people of Bordeaux: the many warehouses along the river, characterized by picturesque red brick buildings, have been upgraded and transformed into cultural and entertainment venues. The riverside is just a short distance from the city center, yet you can breathe a playful holiday air, perfect for unwinding and enjoying a moment of peace right in the city center.
And a walk along the Bordeaux riverfront can only end by crossing the Pont de Pierre (Stone Bridge) which, built in the first two decades of the 1800s at the behest of Napoleon, comprises 17 arches connecting the old town center to the most modern part of the city.
Bordeaux and the history of wine: an indissoluble association
As previously said, Bordeaux is inextricably linked to the production of wine, a beverage that has made the city famous throughout the world. All that remains for you to do is to get further knowledge of this association by visiting the Cité du Vin, a veritable museum on the history of wine. Suitable for both beginners and connoisseurs, this full immersion in the world of wine will not fail to satisfy your curiosity and tempt your taste buds. Because at the end of the interactive and entertaining museum tour, a welcome tasting awaits you on the panoramic terrace of the building. In short, if you are in Bordeaux, this is undoubtedly an essential stop on a tour of the city.
A visit to the museums of Bordeaux
Not just wine: Bordeaux is also a city devoted to culture. There are many museums and they are able to meet the most diverse needs. Art lovers, therefore, can only head to the Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts, located in the city center and housed in the beautiful Palais Rohan, will take you on a pictorial journey from the fifteenth century up to the modern era.
If, on the other hand, you are more interested in contemporary art, the place to go is undoubtedly the CAPC, or the Museum of Contemporary Art of Bordeaux, where even the building housing it fascinates visitors. Located inside the former colonial goods depot, this large space lends itself to displaying large works and structures.
If your main interest is not in art but in ethnography, we strongly recommend that you visit the Aquitaine Museum which, in stages, traces the history of the region, from prehistory to the present day. There are truly many finds (more than 70000) contained in the museum and it is undoubtedly worth a visit.
Shopping in Bordeaux: strolling along Rue Sainte Catherine
Would you like to spend a few hours shopping? Head straight for Rue Sainte Catherine, which is over a kilometer long and one of the longest shopping streets in Europe. There are very many shop windows and you can buy anything, perhaps alternating your visits to the shops with a pause in one of the many cafés scattered along the street. If you visit Bordeaux on a weekend, you'll find this shrine to shopping particularly crowded.
Near Bordeaux: the dunes of Pilat
Bordeaux is very close to the ocean. And, like everything else typical of Bordeaux, a trip to the beach should be done in style: in this case, nature takes care of putting on a great show. Because less than an hour from the city center, you will have the opportunity to visit the highest dunes in Europe. More than 100 meters high, the magnificent dunes of Pilat are surrounded on one side by the Atlantic and on the other by a forest: it is the perfect place to get your fill of sea air and revitalize yourself far from the chaos of the city. All you have to do is take the train to Arcachon and, once there, catch the shuttle bus that will take you directly to the dunes.
What to eat in Bordeaux: a food and wine tour through the city
Bordeaux is the wine capital, and there can no longer be any doubt about that. However, not everyone knows that the capital of the New Aquitaine is also a gourmet capital of superfine tastes and flavors: here French cuisine meets the flavors of the Atlantic and the typical ingredients of the river, giving rise to new dishes that will not fail to amaze even the most discerning palates. In short, in Bordeaux, as far as the pleasures of good food are concerned, you will not be disappointed. Try, for example, Esturgeon à la Libournaise, that is sturgeon marinated in white wine and flavored with garlic and rosemary before being grilled.
Another specialty cooked in wine is Bordeaux-style lamprey, small local river fish literally drowned in red wine. Bordeaux is also home to one of the most famous sauces in France: Bordeaux sauce is made with bone marrow and red wine and you will find it, especially in meat dishes.
If you are in Bordeaux, however, our advice is to trust your instincts and choose the dish on the menu that most tempts your taste buds: it will be difficult to be disappointed. And don't forget to accompany your feast with lots of wine: you cannot do otherwise in Bordeaux.
Citizens of the EU, the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein) and Switzerland do not need to apply for a visa in order to visit Bordeaux. All that’s required is an ID card valid for cross-border travel or a passport.
For more information, please visit the official French customs website: http://www.douane.gouv.fr/articles/a10794-arrivee-en-france-conseils-aux-voyageurs
When is the best time to visit Bordeaux? Keep in mind that the city is strongly influenced by the nearby Atlantic Ocean, which makes its climate rather mild but also rainy. And although it is not particularly cold in winter, we recommend visiting Bordeaux in the months from May to September: the rain (although present) is less frequent and will give you the opportunity to visit the city more easily (taking an umbrella with you).