You'll be raising your glass many times in Bordeaux, which is renowned for its wines. Touring the vineyards and sampling the local wines are one of the greatest pleasures when visiting Bordeaux. It is the second largest wine-growing region in the world and produces over 800 million bottles annually. It produces some of the best and most prestigious wines in the world.
Cité du Vin, 134 Quais de Bacalan, is the largest wine museum of the world. The 8 story high modern museum is just near the Pont Chaban-Delmas. There are daily wine tours departing from Bordeaux and that head towards all the major vineyards of the region: Canon Fronsac,Saint Emilion, The Médoc, Graves and Sauternes.
As the capital of the department Gironde in the region Aquitaine, it has one million inhabitants in its metropolitan area. After years of neglect, the former wet docks are the country's new hot spot, with a number of cafés, gardens, and museums springing up all the time. A lively university community of over 60,000, (Bordeaux Campus is the largest in France) establishes that Bordeaux is about more than just wine.
Bordeaux is often referred to as "Little Paris" and the rivalry between the "Bordelais" (people from Bordeaux) and "Parisiens" is a hot subject, so you may experience some heated arguments on the subject during your stay.
Bordeaux is a flat city, built on the banks of the Garonne River. The Garonne merges a dozen kilometres below the city with another river, the Dordogne River to form the Gironde Estuary, which is the biggest estuary in France. Bicycles make excellent modes of transport, especially as the city has more than 580 km of cycle tracks. Bordeaux is among the most economically dynamic cities in France.
Due to the weakness of the subsoil, there are no skyscrapers in Bordeaux, which explains its sprawl. The centre of the town has retained its traditional stone mansions and smart terraces, hence the reason behind the city being called "Little Paris". Bordeaux is quite a big city; however, most of the interesting attractions are in the town centre. It is not recommended that visitors drive as it is always a hassle to park (and car parks are expensive), and there are often traffic jams in the narrow, old streets of the city.
The most interesting way to explore the city is by walking. As most of the town centre is a 'pedestrian area', this is easy to do. If you like sports, you can rent roller-skates or a bike or you can make your way in town using the various bus lines. Have a walk or go shopping along the Sainte-Catherine street in the Pedestrian Centre and enjoy the scenery.
Three efficient tramway lines are also available (A, B, and C). A small ferry boat permits to go from the western shore of the river to the eastern shore, and vice-versa.
Bordeaux is a historic city with many tourist attractions. The main districts are briefly presented here, which are listed according to their distance from the railway station.
Les Quais— Great for going for a nice walk on the shores of the Garonne, enjoying a ride on a ferry boat, viewing a stunning landscape over the bridges of Bordeaux, or dancing the night away in the city's many nightclubs.
The Jacques-Chaban-Delmas lift bridge ; located between the "Quais" and the "Aquitaine bridge". Opened in 2013, it features a liftable deck, which goes up to 53 metres (170 ft), to enable cruise ships and historical sailboats to dock close to the Quinconces Square.
La Victoire— Historical monuments meet student life and bars.
The Pedestrian Centre — If you plan on shopping, or are looking for cultural activities, Bordeaux has a lot to offer - and it starts right here.
Gambetta Square — The rich districts of Bordeaux start north - this part of the town is nicknamed "Little Paris".
Quinconces Square — One of the largest squares in Europe. Be sure to check out the fountain monument to the Girondins, a group of moderate, bourgeois National Assembly deputies during the French Revolution..
Meriadeck — The administrative centre of Bordeaux with modernist architecture, with one of the biggest libraries in France.
Relax and take a picnic in the lush Public Gardens, north of Gambetta square.
The Girondins memorial on the Quinconces square is a fitting tribute to the Members of Parliament from Gironde who were guillotined by Robespierre.
Musee D'Art Contemporain at 7, rue Ferrère. Definitely worth a visit if you are interested in Modern Art. The Richard Long slate line-up on the roof is a permanent feature. Exhibits are always changing and the museum is an inspiring place for installations.
Musee D'Aquitaine, 20, cours Pasteur. Stunning museum that exhibits Gallo-Roman statues and relics dating back 25,000 years. Hours- 11AM - 6PM Tue-Sun. Free entry for permanent collections.
Musee des Beaux Arts Bordeaux, 20, Cours d'Albret features a great collection of paintings and statues from middle ages to early 20th century.
Musee national des douanes (Customs National Museum), 1 place de la Bourse. 10AM - 6PM.Tue-Sun. a historical museum of the french customs administration. Unique in France, it reflects the history of France through commerce, trade and taxes and hosts an original painting by Claude Monet.
Previous courtesy of Wikitravel
From the Tourist Information Office:
A world-renowned city, Bordeaux is famed for its vineyards, gastronomy, and unique art de vivre. But there’s more! Offering an intoxicating mix of rich historical heritage and modernity, the city is home to stunning contemporary architectural works. To explore the city and its heritage, you will be spoilt for choice. Whether you wish to wander through Bordeaux’s World Heritage area and its beautiful quarters, discover the city’s sites and monuments by bike, visit its museums, enjoy a romantic weekend, or travel with your children, you won’t be bored! The only risk is that you don’t have enough time to do everything: this will only make you want to come back!
Place de la Bourse has symbolised the city of Bordeaux around the world for centuries and played a major role in the city's development, trade, and reputation. Both the Bordelais and visitors alike adore this very elegant square.
It took 20 years of hard work in the 18th century to build what has since become the city's very symbol! The square represents a break with medieval Bordeaux surrounded by walls for centuries. The city was finally free to grow!
Intendant Boucher had tried to convince the town aldermen and the parliament to create the square and open up the city walls since 1720. He decided to entrust Jacques Gabriel, Louis XV's "First Architect" with designing this rectangular square with bevelled corners, as well as constructing the famous buildings decorated with mascarons and wrought iron.
The buildings framing this place royale consist of the Hôtel des Fermes, built by Gabriel's father, followed by the Hôtel de la Bourse built by Gabriel himself, and the isolated central pavilion (1735-1755).
Place de la Bourse was originally separated from the river by railings, but these disappeared during the French Revolution. The equestrian statue of the king was briefly replaced by one of Napoleon, followed by the Fountain of the Three Graces in 1869… The latter has been much appreciated ever since and is photographed by tourists from all over the world. So, don't hesitate to post a photo on Instagram!
The Grosse Cloche is one of the oldest belfries in France, in the heart of the city. The Latin inscription on the inside of the Grosse Cloche (literally "Big Bell") reads "I ring the hours and my voice is a call to arms, (…) I sing for happy events and weep for the dead". The bell was cast in 1775 and weighs no less than 7,750 kilos! Christened "Armande-Louise", it rings 6 times a year for major celebrations such as Bastille Day, VE Day, and Remembrance Day and also the first Sunday of each month at noon.
The gateway where the bell is hung also had a defensive function and served as a prison. Young people who misbehaved were confined there, shut in by a door 10 cm thick with enormous bolts. It was joked at the time that they stayed in the "Hotel du Lion d’Or" – an allusion to the weather vane on the central dome with a representation of a lion, symbolising the kings of England. This gateway is open for visits. A guide will show you the strange dungeons still haunted by the memory of people who did not respect curfew or public order.