Bordeaux is a city with plenty to keep visitors interested, says city resident Audrey Pariès
1) Place de la Bourse and the Miroir d’Eau
Whether it’s tour guides, tourists or local people, everyone says this is one of the most beautiful places in Bordeaux, one that you could never stop admiring. This square and its surrounding buildings are the perfect example of Bordeaux architecture of the late 18th century. Walk along the pavement, turn around, cross the road and you will have a better view. Look out for the extent of rectangular water, observe it carefully and let the magic begin. Yes, the Miroir d’Eau (Water Mirror) is a little bit magical. If you stay in front of Place de la Bourse, it will be reflected on the surface as well as the surrounding buildings. Change sides, and it is the turn of the Garonne and the Pont de Pierre to appear on the water. A hub for local people and tourists, the place is ideal to spend your afternoons particularly in the fine weather of spring and summer.
2) Place du Parlement
This Italian-style square situated behind the Place de la Bourse is another example of the Bordeaux architecture of the late 18th century. Filled with buildings boasting richly decorated facades, a fountain in its centre and the multitudes of small restaurants lining the square, the atmosphere in this square is unique. While away your time on a café terrasse and simply watch the world go by.
3) La rue Sainte Catherine
Shopaholics will be in their element in this street. Considered the longest pedestrian street in Europe (1.2 km in length), it is the main shopping street in Bordeaux and connects the Place de la Victoire to the Grand Theatre. You can find all sorts of great things here but it does get pretty crowded, especially in the run-up to Christmas!
4) Place des Quinconces
Second emblematic square in Bordeaux, it is also one of the largest city squares in Europe. It regularly hosts flea markets, the funfair and even the circus. The bronze horses that decorated the fountain erected here in memory of the Girondists who died during the French Revolution were stolen by the German military during World War II and were only replaced in 1983.
5) Le Grand Théâtre
Tourists and locals alike come to admire this theatre built in the late 18th century. But few of them venture inside because they are not aware that every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon (or from Monday to Saturday during the summer) tours are organised – and it is definitely worth taking a look inside! Le Grand Théâtre has one of the most beautiful 18th century concert halls in the world and the auditorium, where blue and gold are the predominant colours, is sumptuous. The theatre is also home to the Opera National de Bordeaux and the Ballet National de Bordeaux.
6) Cours de l’Intendance
This is one of the most beautiful avenues in Bordeaux lined with prestigious shops and plenty of examples of late 18th century architecture. Interestingly, this street is also home to ground-level power supply, a modern method of electric power for street trams. Until 2011, Bordeaux was the only city in the world to boast such innovation in its streets.
7) Tour Pey-Berland
There is no better place to have a chance to admire the exceptional panorama of Bordeaux than here. Climb the tower’s 232 steps to access an exceptional view over the city. The tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and situated right next to it lies the beautiful Cathedral Saint André, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is also definitely worth visiting.
8) Les Quais, le Pont de Pierre and le Pont Chaban-Delmas
This area is best explored by bike. Refurbished in 2000, the docks on the left bank are punctuated by green spaces, shops and playgrounds for children. More recently, the docks along the right bank have been restored and make for a lovely walk. Head along the docks towards the Pont Chaban-Delmas and take time to contemplate the view from here over the river. Finish up your walk by crossing the Garonne via the Pont de Pierre (the oldest bridge in Bordeaux, which was built between 1819 and 1822) to return along the left bank. A great way to cross the Garonne is to take the BatCub (river shuttle). The crossing is the same price as a bus or tram ticket but it is a much more scenic way to see the centre of the city.
9) Wine Tasting and Cannelés
No need to go up to Saint-Émilion to taste a glass of wine. Head to one of the many wine bars in Bordeaux. The CIVB (Bordeaux Wine Council or Bordeaux Wine School) offers 2-hr tasting courses from Monday to Saturday during the summer or the last Saturday of each month during the rest of the year. Do not forget to try the cannelés during your stay – these little custard-filled pastries are a Bordeaux speciality.
10) Marché des Capucins
Open every morning except on Mondays, the Marché des Capucins is the classic Bordeaux experience on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Whether it is fruit, vegetables, cheeses, meats, breads or flowers there is something for everyone’s taste. You can even try a plate of oysters if you want. This is the oldest Bordeaux market and the atmosphere is incomparable.
For more information on the city, visit www.bordeaux-tourism.co.uk
Read our guide to the Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes region