Bordeaux is probably better known as a wine than as a city. It’s true that in the sixth-largest city in France, wine culture permeates almost every part of life. Bordeaux has embraced its reputation as a well-known wine-producing region, resulting in attractions like the Cité du Vin.
Bordeaux has much more to offer, though. The historic limestone buildings that dot the city center make a stroll downtown breathtaking. The city also swells with natural beauty due to its parks and dedicated green spaces along the Garonne river. Bordeaux has plenty of sights and activities to fill a day or a whole weekend. Check out the 5 best things to see and do on your visit.
Place de la Bourse
Even if you’ve never been, you’ll surely recognize Place de la Bourse. Originally constructed in 1728 as a royal square for King Louis XV, the buildings wrap around the square on three sides leaving the eastern end open to the Garonne. The buildings that encompass the Place de la Bourse, and the fountain in the middle, are an example of stunning French architecture that still impresses today. The square is especially magnificent at nighttime – the lit-up buildings strike a stark contrast with the night sky behind. brandless
Between Place de la Bourse and the Garonne is the world’s largest reflecting pool. Standing at the right angle with adequate sunlight produces a perfect reflection of the square in the pool.
Pont de Pierre
A brisk walk away from Place de la Bourse is Pont de Pierre. The bridge was commissioned by Napoleon I and has 17 arches for the 17 letters in his name – Napoleon Bonaparte. The historic Pont de Pierre connects the left bank of the Garonne to the quartier de la Bastide on the right. On the right bank, you’ll find a walking path and some of Bordeaux’s green spaces. This area of the city also diverges from the grandeur of the city center, being more modern.
Cité du Vin
Unsurprisingly, the local industry in Bordeaux revolves around wine. The Cité du Vin officially opened in 2016 as a museum, conference center, and cultural space for all things wine-related. Academic seminars are hosted on sight, and visitors can see the exhibitions and the museum. And if you can guess what the shape of the building is supposed to be, you might be a bona fide wine aficionado! Technically it portrays a type of decanter, but the curved lines and rounded edges are meant to represent the full-bodied flow of wine more generally.
Gates of Bordeaux
Bordeaux has several medieval gates still standing throughout its city center. Three noteworthy ones are Porte de Bourgogne, Porte Cailhau, and the Grosse Cloche. The gates are a testament to Bordeaux’s status as a “City of Art and History” and one of the biggest 18th-century architectural urban centers in Europe. Porte de Bourgogne is at the end of a major street, looking out over the Garonne. To the north is Porte Cailhau, which sits even closer to the river and is not far from the église Saint-Pierre. Walking a little away from the Garonne you’ll come across the Grosse Cloche. This one isn’t technically a gate – “cloche” is French for “bell” – but it’s every bit as impressive as the gates.
Wine-Tasting River Cruise
You didn’t think you could leave Bordeaux without sipping some of the wine, did you? The city and surrounding areas are inundated with tour options; however, you might need a car to visit some of the wineries. Combine two of the best things the region has to offer – the Garonne and the wine – by taking a wine-tasting river cruise. It sounds too leisurely to be true, but it’s actually packed with information. You’ll learn proper wine-tasting techniques, the history and economy of wine production, and some facts about the city of Bordeaux. Depending on how much wine you try you might not retain all that info! Even so, the river cruise is a superb experience you won’t want to miss.
Bordeaux: City of Art and History
Due to its vibrant mix of modern urbanism and traditional architecture, Bordeaux was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2006. It was one of the first cities in France to develop large-scale urban planning. The efforts to preserve its heritage make Bordeaux remarkable to behold. The city has myriad sights and activities to offer visitors, but if all you do is walk around and gaze at the architecture, it will have been worth it.