Things to do in Bordeaux

Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables loved Bordeaux and said, ‘If you take Versailles, add Antwerp you have Bordeaux.' The chief architect for the rebuilding of Paris used the 18th century part of Bordeaux as a model and the entire city was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its architecture. Already three of its churches had received the accolade for their part on the pilgrims’ road to Santiago de Compostela. If all that didn’t make it worthwhile visiting the city then there’s the world famous wine made in the region.
Posted on: June 01, 2012 by David Lewis
1. Try the Wine
You must try the wine, the very word Bordeaux is more recognized as the drink rather than the city and the region produces over 800 million bottles of very good wine each year, some say the finest in the world. You can begin your journey through the wine history of the region by visiting some of the beautiful chateaux that abound in the countryside. Maps of the routes including recommended visits are available locally. The Tourist Information Office, whilst supplying these, also hosts wine tasting events and visits to the vineyards so they’re worth a visit first.

2. Vinorama
I make no excuses for continuing along an alcoholic theme in Vinorama. A cross between a vineyard and Madame Tussaud’s, a talking waxworks takes you through the history of wine in the region. And if that’s a little too twee for you, the more grown up version, the Bordeaux Wines Museum, has lots to tell.

3. Walk through the streets
We’ve noted that the whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and if you put on stout, comfy shoes and head out on foot, you’ll see why. Many buildings in Old Bordeaux have kept their charm and character over time, despite some modifications. The main attraction for historical building and an atmosphere that will take you back to the 18th century is the Quartier Saint-Eloi. There, you can see the Grosse Cloche, the great bell which once rang from the old Town Hall's belfry. Continuing along the Victor Hugo Avenue, you’ll see the Porte de Bourgogne, a huge stone arch that was once one of the entrances to the city.

4. The Palais Royale
Very much set in an area that took ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ to heart the Palais Royale is a picture perfect example of French classical architecture. Its beauty became apparent during its construction leading neighbours to ‘borrow’ the architecture in their own homes meaning that a little like the ripples in a pond, the Palais is the centre of a district with gradually lessening architectural beauty, still spreading over several square kilometres.

5. The Cathedrals
Not satisfied with having one, nor even two cathedrals, Bordeaux had to have three and the most majestic is the 11th century, St Andre Cathedral which once hosted the wedding of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II of England. Built right in the heart of the city, it’s the largest cathedral and contains beautiful works of art from all over Europe. The other cathedral of note is the Saint Michel Cathedral which has an extraordinary steeple called La Fleche or the arrow, standing 114 metres high.

6. Esplanade des Quinconces
One of the tallest monuments in Bordeaux, the Esplanade des Quinconces is surrounded by a 30 acre promenade that overlooks the river. Built in the 19th century and dedicated to the Girondins and the French Republic, mounted on the top of the structure is a statue representing liberty breaking free from oppression. Two fabulous fountains depicting Poseidon in his carriage decorate the base. In summer, the promenade around the Esplanade often hosts carnivals, circuses, and festivals.

7. The Grand Theatre
People have watched operas, ballets, and other musical performances at Bordeaux's Grand Theatre for nearly 250 years. Almost every night, you can see a production, concert, or recital. Even if you don't manage a show while visiting Bordeaux, you should visit the Grand Theatre as it is one of the most innovative and beautiful buildings in the whole of France. Twelve Corinthian columns decorated with the statues representing the nine Muses and the Roman goddesses Juno, Venus and Minerva line the front of the building, whilst inside the theatre, vaulted ceilings are painted gold and blue.

8. Go on a cruise or walk the river banks
Because of the deep Garonne River at whose mouth Bordeaux was built the city became one of the finest ports in France. Today, many tourists still come to the city as part of a cruise but even if you are simply staying in the city, you should still see Bordeaux by boat. Several tours let you explore the countryside upstream or downstream from the water. If you’re not fond of boats, you can still see the city from the river by walking across the Pont de Pierre which was commissioned by Napoleon The bridge is big and beautiful, intricately detailed it’s 1,594 feet long. At night, the bridge is breathtaking as it illuminates the Garonne with its lights.

9. Eat out
In Old Bordeaux it's not hard to find a good restaurant that serves up the local produce which includes game, fish and seafood. Most of the good restaurants are found near the centre and if your hotel is located here then it makes for an appetite building pleasant walk through the streets as the sun sets over the beautiful city. For variety, the Place du Parlement has plenty of restaurants and caf├ęs as does the Place Camille-Julian and Rue Montesquieu.

10. Retail Therapy
For shopping in the city we’d recommend the many markets which sell a variety of good quality merchandise. Whether it’s souvenirs or some high fashion, you’ll find it in the city’s eclectic mix of shops. One of Bordeaux's oldest markets is the Grands Hommes. Serving customers since the 19th century, this building houses a traditional market on the first floor where visitors can buy fish, fruit, vegetables, and flowers. The second floor is filled with small boutiques so you get the best of both worlds in an ancient version of the department store.

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