Renowned worldwide for its famous vineyards, the capital of the Aquitaine region also has a prestigious architectural heritage. An 18th-century gem, the City of Art and History of Bordeaux, a World Heritage Site since 2007, takes visitors back to the Enlightenment. A remarkable urban and architectural ensemble to enjoy on a sightseeing walk along the quays of the Garonne, its elegant streets and imposing town squares. Must-see places inherited from this period include the lively Place de la Comédie with its neoclassical Grand Theatre adorned with majestic Corinthian columns, Place de la Bourse with its fountain of the Three Graces, and the Allées de Tourny.
Strolling through the historic centre is also a great way to discover medieval Bordeaux: Saint-André Cathedral with its carved portals, Gothic choir and Renaissance organ loft, the imposing Cailhau door dedicated to Charles VIII, the Holy Cross (Sainte-Croix) Church with a façade carved in the Saintonge Romanesque style, and the door of the Great Bell (Grosse Cloche), the belfry of the old City Hall, are all reminders of this time. A bell tower separated from St Andrew's Cathedral, the 15th-century Pey Berland tower, offers breathtaking views of the roofs and spires of the city. Although this view must be earned by climbing the 231 steps of the narrow spiral staircase! Not far from this Gothic gem lies the famous pedestrian street of Rue Sainte-Catherine, a long commercial street popular with shoppers, which connects Place de la Victoire to Place de la Comédie.
Garden lovers will prefer the banks of the Garonne, where the lovely Enlightenment Garden (Jardin des Lumières) stretches out on both sides of the beautiful water mirror. Featuring a beautiful view of the river and the Bastide district located on the right bank, this vast space with walkways and flower beds is dotted with street lights that illuminate it magically at dusk. Walkers can then continue their walk towards the huge Esplanade des Quinconces. On one side of it stand the two rostral columns, and on the other is the illustrious Girondins monument built in the late 19th century in memory of Girondin members of Parliament who fell victim to the Terror. A listed Historic Monument, the latter consists of two basins adorned with bronze water horses and a column 43 metres high, on top of which stands a Statue of Liberty breaking her chains. A few blocks away is the public park, an English garden of 10 hectares popular with joggers and strollers, which includes a botanical garden, a library and a museum of natural history.
The City of Light is also a destination of choice for visitors who thirst for culture: the Aquitaine Museum, dedicated to the history of Bordeaux and Aquitaine from prehistory to the present; the Museum of Fine Arts, with collections of paintings and sculptures from the 15th to the 20th century; the Museum of Decorative Arts, with ceramics, furniture, paintings and engravings; the National Museum of Customs, dedicated to the history of the customs service in France; the Museum of Natural History, with zoological, mineralogical and paleontological collections; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, whose works are displayed in the old Lainé warehouse.
Finally, food-lovers won't want to leave Bordeaux without trying the famous canelés, delicious little cakes flavoured with rum and vanilla, best enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee…
At the end of June, the quays of the Garonne are abuzz for one of the city's two main events, "Bordeaux celebrates the river" ("Bordeaux fête le fleuve") in uneven years and "Bordeaux celebrates wine" ("Bordeaux fête le vin") in even years. The programme includes: concerts, shows, a firework display, and many activities!