Bordeaux is situated in Aquitane, the South-western region of France. This is a prominent area for the wine industry – the region began producing wine in the 8th Century! Bordeaux is a beautiful city to visit, with tons of wine-tasting opportunities for my fellow vinos. This city has the second-highest number of preserved historical buildings of any city in France, behind Paris! One really cool aspect of the architecture is that there are little faces scuplted into the facade of buildings throughout the city called mascarons.
Below are some highlights of the city of Bordeaux. Keep your eyes peeled for my post next week about visiting nearby vineyards and St. Émilion.
The Garonne River crosses through Bordeaux and is a main feature of the city. The beautiful Pont de Pierre connects the two sides of the city over the river. Walking along La Garonne on either side offers beautiful views. I crossed the bridge by foot to explore the Botanic Garden on the right bank. Most of the city, however, sits on the left bank. The left bank is an especially great place for a stroll with gorgeous riverbeds and plenty of benches for people-watching.
Place de la Bourse
Following the river north along the west side, you will run straight into the iconic Place de la Bourse. This square built in the 1700s is constantly bustling with pedestrians, bikers, and roller bladers. The fountain in the square was initially a statue of the king, then briefly a statue of Napoleon. In 1869 the fountain was built and features The Three Graces (three daughters of Zeus).
Just in front of the square is the Miroir des Quais, a beautiful reflecting pool. Miroir des Quais is actually the largest reflecting pool in the world! It is very shallow (not even an inch deep!) so you will see people run through.
Jardin Public is a huge garden in the middle of the city, taking up about 27 acres. It’s a great area for picnic-ing and relaxing. The 18th century style buildings are beautiful to see, surrounded by all kinds of flowers and a gorgeous lake. There is a small botanical garden in the back as well as a Natural History Museum.
Esplanade des Quinconces
This large city square lined with trees was established in 1820. It now has two tram lines navigating around the square. Esplanade des Quinconces hosts fairs and events year-round. While I visisted, there were tons of antique vendors lining the square.
Two columns face the Garonne river, representing commerce and navigation. Le monument aux Girondins sits at the opposite end of Esplanade des Quinconces. This stunning monument was built between 1894 and 1902 in honor of the Girondists, a political faction who fell victim to the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. The statue of liberty sits at the top, breaking her chains, over bronze fountains. There are also statues of French philosophers Montaigne and Montesquieu.
One of the oldest belfries in France, Gross Cloche is emblematic of Bordeaux. The “Big Bell” was cast in 1775 and rings just 6 times a year for big events like Bastille Day. There is a latin inscription on the inside of the belfry stating:
“I ring the hours and my voice is a call to arms, (…) I sing for happy events and weep for the dead.”
The gateway was once used as a prison, and you can tour the dungeons!
Place de la Victoire
Place de la Victoire is a large square at the end of Rue Sainte-Catherine, one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe. The square features two large landmarks from drastically different timeframes – a monument built in 2005 next to an arch from the 1700s. The Languedoc marble column in the middle of the square is the first monument in Bordeaux to honor viticulture (winegrowing). The former city gate of the 1700s, Porte d’Aquitane is a large triumphal arc. This square is full of great restaurants with lots of Happy Hour deals!
Place Gambetta is at the western part of the city centre. This “square” has been rehabilitated as a garden square, and is lined with beautiful 18th century buildings. With it’s adorable pond and aromatic flowers, this is the perfect place for a picnic. I spent nearly 5 hours in this park relaxing with some local wine and baguettes when visiting Bordeaux!
This endearing cathedral has a lot of history! The church was built between the 12th and the 14th century, used to store food during the French Revolution. All of the furniture currently in the cathedral came from other buildings due to a fire in the 19th century. A priest donated his collection of holy antiques from the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, which is on display in Saint-André.
Flèche et Basilique Saint-Michel
La Flèche (or the Spire) is a freestanding bell tower from the 15th century. At 114 meters high, this is the highest bell tower in the south of France. You can climb the spire and take a tour of the crypt to learn about the creepy exhibition containing almost 70 mummies displayed from the 18th century until the 80s or 90s. The Gothic basilica of Saint Michel is a UNESCO world heritage site and was built between the 14th and 16th century. On Saturday mornings the Marché Royal takes place, an amazing open-air market beside the church!