The top 10 things to do and see in Bordeaux
The capital of the newly-designated Nouvelle Aquitaine, Bordeaux is universally recognised for its great wines, but the city is far from resting on its laurels. Offering a mix of tradition and modernity, Bordeaux possesses a wonderful heritage and a rich history. With magnificent UNESCO World Heritage-listed monuments and lovely walks through its atypical old quarters, the city of Bordeaux offers an array of features that make it one of the most beautiful cities in France. Below are the top 10 things to do and see in Bordeaux, to help you enjoy your stay.
1. The Place de la Bourse and its Water Mirror
The Place de la Bourse is undoubtedly one of the most frequently visited sites in Bordeaux. Also called the Place Royale, this square was created in the 18th century by the architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel. It is flanked by two symmetrical buildings, the Palais de la Bourse and the National Customs Museum, with the Three Graces fountain located at its centre. Be sure not to miss, on the opposite side next to the Garonne River, the famous Water Mirror, which is the largest in the world. This reflecting pool of water, which is only 2cm deep, provides opportunities for great snapshots and a fun experience.
As the Place de la Bourse is very centrally-located, book your hotel in the vicinity to make the most of your stay. Hôtel Acanthe offers great value for money.
2. The Cathédrale Saint-André and the Tour Pey-Berland
Located very close to the City Hall, Bordeaux’s Saint-André cathedral is the most imposing religious edifice in the city. Built in Gothic style, Saint-André features magnificent stained-glass windows and pipe organs, while both the exterior and the interior display attractive elements.
The cathedral is situated on the Place Pey Berland, on which you also find the Tour Pey-Berland, which is an independent bell-tower. In order to reach the top of the tower, you have to climb 229 steps. Your reward is a wonderful panoramic view of Bordeaux!
3. The Place des Quinconces and its monument dedicated to the Girondins
The Place des Quinconces, which takes its name from the staggered lines of trees planted along the sides of the square, covers 12 hectares (almost 30 acres) and is the largest square in Europe. While at the eastern end, it displays two rostral columns, at the western end you can find the Monument aux Girondins. This 54-metre-tall work contains a central column supporting a statue representing liberty breaking out of its chains, while at the foot of the column there are two fountains featuring sculptures and horses. The Place des Quinconces is used throughout the year for concerts, shows, fairs and funfairs, antique markets as well as numerous other events.
4. The Cité du Vin
Inaugurated on 31st May 2016, La Cité du Vin has quickly become an emblematic feature of the city of Bordeaux. Covering an area of 3,000 m², it offers a journey through the world of wine. Whether you’re just an occasional consumer or a wine connoisseur, the Cité du Vin has something of interest for everyone and features thematic trails, wine education workshops, tastings as well as temporary exhibitions.
5. Bordeaux National Opera House - Grand-Théâtre
On the Place de la Comédie and right in the middle of Bordeaux’s famous Golden Triangle, the sumptuous Grand Théâtre stands on the site of an old Roman temple. Designed by the architect Victor Louis, it was inaugurated on 7th April 1780. On its neo-classic façade and the 12 columns that decorate it, twelve statues representing 9 muses and 3 goddesses can be observed. Take time to go inside and discover the wonderful décors.
6. The Jardin Public
Located in the attractive Chartrons quarter, the 11-hectare Jardin Public is the green lung of Bordeaux’s city centre. Bordelais go there to take a stroll or a jog, young and not so young cohabit harmoniously alongside the swans and ducks. Listed as a “Jardin Remarquable de France”, these gardens also contain a library, a natural history museum and multiple recreational areas, including a puppet theatre.
7. Le Pont de Pierre
Le Pont de Pierre (the stone bridge) is a magnificent arched bridge that links the left bank (Porte de Bourgogne) with the right bank of Bordeaux (Place Stalingrad). It was built between 1810 and 1822 at the request of Napoléon 1st. 487 metres long and made up of 17 stone arches, the bridge has recently been made inaccessible for cars and thus enables pedestrians and cyclists to cross it at their leisure and admire the view of the river and Bordeaux quayside.
8. La grosse cloche
The belfry of Bordeaux’s old city hall, the Grosse Cloche (literally Big Bell) was built in the 15th century on the ruins of the gate of Saint-Eloi, which itself dated from the 13th century. Made up of two towers connected by a central structure, it has been listed as a Historical Monument since 1886. Very popular as a tourist attraction, it leads onto the rue Saint-James, which is also well worth having a look at.
9. The rue Sainte-Catherine
According to many people, and particularly the Bordelais, the rue Sainte-Catherine is the longest shopping street in Europe. 1,200 metres long, it is in any case Bordeaux’s main pedestrian shopping street. Linking two important city centre squares, La Place de la Comédie and La Place de la Victoire, you can find countless shops from one end to the other.
10. Going for a walk along the quayside
If we were to select just one walk to recommend in Bordeaux it would unquestionably be the 4-kilometre path along Bordeaux’s left bank quayside. From the Pont de Pierre to the Pont Chaban-Delmas, you can admire all the beauty of Bordeaux’s heritage. Suitable for both pedestrians and cyclists, the walk is great for those wishing to enjoy a stroll, or to work out, or just to visit as tourists. Cultural events, sporting activities and festivities, such as the famous “Bordeaux fête le vin” (Bordeaux celebrates wine) and “Bordeaux fête le fleuve” (Bordeaux celebrates its river) all take place along this stretch of the city.