World-renowned wine capital, city of Montaigne and architectural jewel of the 18th century, Bordeaux is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the first distinguished urban ensemble in such a vast and complex area. Each sector has managed to preserve a character and unity that form the coherence of the whole. Finally, Bordeaux has been working for several years to enhance the value of its river banks and revive its port tradition. The one that follows the curve of the Garonne is a beautiful and haughty city that has become, thanks to a daring modernism, the "pearl of Aquitaine"
The origins of Bordeaux would go back at least to the 5th century B.C. It is one of the most opulent cities in Gaul. Between 40 and 60 B.C. the first vineyards were established. In the 12th century, the city was attached to the English Crown. The city then regains its splendour and expands. It prospers in the 13th century thanks to the wine trade. In the middle of the 17th century, Bordeaux experienced its second peak until the French Revolution. Its port became the first in the kingdom and its urban centre one of the most important. The 18th century leaves as a legacy the beautiful order of its gilded facades on the quays, its squares, its large alleys. Archbishops, stewards and governors embellish the city. The city is also one of the European capitals of the Age of Enlightenment. In the 19th century, it regained its status as a major colonial port. Modernization continued with industrialization: Bordeaux welcomes in May 1841 the first railway line
A city reinvented
Since 1995, huge works have been restoring the Aquitaine capital to its former glory while bringing it into the 21st century: restoration of 18th century façades, renovation of the quays, establishment of the World Wine City in the Chartrons district, arrival of the tramway redesigning the urban space, entirely pedestrian streets, construction of the Bacalan-Bastide bridge, etc. This renaissance transformed the "sleeping beauty" into a bright and airy city. Among the many jewels of the past are the buildings on the quays, decorated with mascarons and staples. Designed by Louis XV's architect, Jacques Gabriel, around 1740, this urban facade stretches over more than a kilometre along the Garonne. It is one of the most beautiful classical showcases of the city, with in particular the majestic ensemble of the Place de la Bourse. The former port warehouses have been converted into bars and restaurants and on summer evenings they spread out their terraces with a magnificent view of the river
An abundance of museums
Another marvel, in a golden and azure setting, is the neo-classical Grand Théâtre, completed in 1780, close to the Grands Hommes district. The magnificent Palais Rohan, seat of the Bordeaux City Hall since 1835, also marks the modernization of the city in the 18th century. The charm of its narrow streets, admirable renovated squares, theatres of urban life and superb districts are full of surprises. As you stroll, push open the doors of their many museums: from prehistory to contemporary art, through natural history, the history of the Resistance or that of customs, regional archaeology and ethnography, fine arts, or decorative arts, the museums of Bordeaux are rich in high-quality collections. Among the outstanding cultural achievements of the 20th century is the CAPC, a museum of contemporary art located in the former Lainé warehouses. Quickly becoming a national and international reference, it has a collection of artists who marked the 1960s and early 1970s
From the Saint-Pierre district to the Sainte-Croix district, dominated by the high tower of the abbey church of the same name, are the squares of Old Bordeaux located in one of the largest architectural ensembles of the 18th and 19th centuries. Formerly a religious suburb, Saint-Michel, built around its basilica, is a lively district with its restaurants and bars that have become the daily rendezvous of Bordeaux's youth. We go even deeper into the past on the way to the Saint-Eloi district, and then return to the centuries that lie ahead by crossing the Place Pey-Berland where the Saint-André cathedral is located, a pure marvel in the French Gothic style. For the most beautiful view of the city centre, you just have to climb its bell tower or Pey-Berland tower, at 231 metres. A few steps away, you can then enter the 1970s architecture of the Mériadeck district. The Sainte-Eulalie district, located at the south-western corner of the medieval rampart and built around its parish church, remains very rich in historical and archaeological remains. It was the point of departure to Santiago de Compostela. Among the many convents, those of the Annunciades and Notre-Dame still exist. In the city centre, the Place des Quinconces, one of the largest in Europe with its twelve hectares, is the central hub of the tramways. Its gently sloping esplanade slopes down towards the Garonne. The public garden, designed in the 18th century, extends over several hectares
An incredible wine city
La Cité du Vin, a unique cultural leisure facility dedicated to wine as a cultural, universal and living heritage, opened its doors last June in Bordeaux. Alongside the world of museums and theme parks, La Cité du Vin, located on the quays, in the Bacalan district towards the Bassin à flot, on the banks of the Garonne, offers visitors an immersive and sensory journey, in time and space, to discover the civilisations of wine. With an innovative scenography, the permanent route constitutes the heart of the offer: 20 thematic modules and more than 120 audiovisual and multimedia productions that can be visited with a multimedia travel companion available in eight languages. A belvedere located on the 8th floor, 35 metres above ground level, offers visitors an exceptional panoramic view of Bordeaux and the Garonne, and invites them to enjoy a glass of wine from around the world. Temporary exhibitions of international renown, shows, conferences, tasting workshops and other cultural events also punctuate the life of La Cité du Vin to offer visitors an unparalleled diversity of experiences.
Small tour in the surroundings
Some neighbouring communes are also not to be missed. Mérignac offers us its Veyrines tower, its Chêne Vert castle and its Maison carrée d'Arlac, one of the most beautiful neoclassical "follies" of the Bordeaux area. Pessac is an exceptional site that bears witness to the modern architectural heritage in France, as evidenced by the Frugès city (Le Corbusier). Talence is fortunate to still have many remarkable sites and buildings: the Carthusian monastery and the Peixotto park, the Raba castle and its 18th century wood, the monumental castle of Thouars and its royal wood. Then Bègles, known for its Museum of the Frankish Creation; Floirac with its Burthe estate; Cenon, a town full of flowers with its Saint-Romain church; and finally Lormont, the port, the bridge and its square. For longer stays, the Landes regional park leads to the Arcachon basin and its unmissable dune du Pyla, the largest sand formation in Europe, not forgetting the Cap-Ferret peninsula, which is both wild and trendy. The Teich ornithological park is recognized as being of international importance for the conservation of birds: six kilometres of walk, twenty huts to observe some 250 species of wild birds. Finally, Bordeaux opens up to large, very touristy wine regions known throughout the world: Bordeaux, Médoc, Graves, Sauternes, Entre-deux-Mers, Côtes-de-Bourg, Blaye and Saint-Emilion.
When? The oceanic climate brings a certain mildness to Bordeaux all year round. The cultural life is abundant all year round with festivals and numerous creative venues. Of course, the arrival of fine weather is the most pleasant period
Get there. By plane, train or car (A62 from Toulouse, A63 from Bayonne, A89 from Lyon and A10 from Paris).
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