Top 10 Things To Do In Bordeaux

Bordeaux is full of history, culture, and fun. Here are ten attractions you won't want to miss.

Situated in the south of France, Bordeaux is a haven for vacationers from all over the world. If you're planning a trip, there are many things you can do in this city filled with culture, history, and fun.

Try the Wine

Bordeaux is synonymous with wine. Each year, the region produces 800 million bottles of the finest wine in the world. One of the best ways to sample this is by visiting the charming chateaus that dot the countryside. If you are not sure where to go, La Maison du Vin de Bordeaux next to the Tourist Information Office downtown has vineyard guides and maps. They also offer weekly events, from wine tasting classes to group excursions to local vineyards, throughout the year.

If you prefer to stay in Vieux Bordeaux or downtown Bordeaux, there are a variety of bistros and wineries where you find a quality wine. Even small restaurants and cafés have a selection of local wines on the menu and it's easy to buy a good bottle for as little as five to ten Euros.

See the Museums

If you like learning something on your visit, Bordeaux has several very renowned museums. You can satisfy your curiosity about wine by visiting the Vinorama, a talking wax museum that chronicles the history of Bordeaux wine, or the Bordeaux Wines Museum, which exhibits the history of the city's wine merchants.

For art lovers, the Museum of Fine Arts has a vast collection that features art from the 17th to the 20th century. Among the many works by French and European artists, you can see Delacroix's famous painting La Grece Sur Les Ruines De Missolonghi. The Museum of Modern Art exhibits contemporary works and often presents concerts or performances. The Museum of Decorative Arts features classic furniture, decorative paintings, and sculptures.

If you want to learn about history, the Natural History Museum exhibits animals and fossils from the region. The Museum of Aquitaine chronicles the history of the region, from pre-history to modern times. There's also the Center Jean Moulin, a museum dedicated to World War II's Resistance and Free France movements.

Hit the Streets

If you want a glimpse of art or history in Bordeaux, however, all you need to do is walk through the city's streets. Many buildings in Vieux Bordeaux have retained their charm and character over time. If you're looking for historical views of the city, you can walk through the Quartier Saint-Eloi. There, you can see the Grosse Cloche, the great bell which once rang from the old Town Hall's belfry. If you continue along the Victor Hugo Avenue, you can see the Porte de Bourgogne, a huge stone arch that was once one of the entrances to the city.

Another interesting place to walk around is the Palace Royale. Built in 1755, this building is a fine example of French classical architecture. During its construction, the building's beauty influenced the style of its surrounding neighbors. The result is several kilometers of the most beautiful architecture in the city.

See the Cathedrals

The French say if you want to find the center of town, look for a steeple. In Bordeaux, the steeple that graces the skyline belongs to the Saint Andre Cathedral. Once the site of Eleanor of Aquitaine's wedding to England's Henry II, the cathedral had additions added to it over time. With its different architectural styles, Saint Andre is an eclectic, but beautiful structure. Recently renovated, this 11th century sandstone building is the biggest cathedral in Bordeaux. Inside, you can view paintings and illuminations by European artists.

Bordeaux also has two other cathedrals which are worth seeing. The Saint Michel Cathedral has an extraordinary steeple called La Fleche or the arrow, which stands 114 meters high. At the Saint-Seurin Basilica, you can step into early Christian history and see the tomb of Saint Forte. All three cathedrals were named UNESCO World Heritage sites as they are part of the French pilgrimage trails to Santiago de Compostela.

Take a Stroll

Another structure that graces the Bordeaux skyline is the Esplanade des Quinconces. Surrounded by a 30 acre promenade that overlooks the river, this 19th century structure dedicated to the Girondins and the Republic is one of the tallest monuments in Bordeaux. At the top of the structure is a statue representing liberty breaking free of oppression. Two gorgeous fountains depicting Poseidon in his carriage decorate the base. During the warmer months, the promenade around the Esplanade des Quinconces often hosts carnivals, circuses, and other events during the warmer months.

A short walk from the Esplanade des Quinconces is the Jardin Public or Public Gardens. This park has also played a significant role in Bordeaux history. Several French artists contributed to the park design. During the French revolution, the Jardin was used for official ceremonies until Napoleon redesigned the park as a classic English garden. Today, it's the perfect place to rest and relax.

Watch a Match

If you like sports, break out your navy and white so you can catch a match. Bordeaux's official football or soccer team is the Girondins and you can root for them at the Jacques Chaban-Delmas stadium. Even if you don't follow soccer, the matches are extremely exciting. The Girondins were league champions in 1999 and the enthusiasm of the fans alone is worth the price of admission .

Listen to Music

Bordeaux's Grand Theatre has been hosting operas, ballets, and other musical performances for nearly 250 years. Nearly every night, you can catch a production, concert, or recital. Even if you don't catch a show while visiting Bordeaux, you need to see the Grand Theatre since it is one of the most innovative and beautiful buildings in 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. Inside, the theatre has vaulted ceilings painted gold and blue.

Go on a Cruise

Bordeaux was once one of the finest ports in France because of the deep Garonne River. Today, many tourists still come to the city as part of a cruise. Even if you are already staying in the city, you can see Bordeaux by boat. There are several tours which let you explore the countryside upstream or downstream. You can learn more about tours at the Embarcadère des Quinconces, the landing on the river.

If you don't like boats, you can still view the city from the river by walking across the Pont de Pierre. Commissioned by Napoleon, this intricately detailed bridge is 1,594 feet long. At night, the bridge is breathtaking as it illuminates the Garonne with its lights.

Have Dinner

While Bordeaux is famous for its wine, it is also celebrated for its food. Most French meals are several courses with a main dish made up of duck, beef, or lamb. Since Bordeaux is close to the Atlantic Ocean, most local fare incorporates fish and shellfish in its entrées.

In Vieux Bordeaux, it's not hard to find a good restaurant serving these dishes. Many are conveniently located within walking distance of the sites mentioned here. The Place du Parlement has a variety of restaurants and cafés as does the Place Camille-Julian and Rue Montesquieu. Even if you're looking for more international fare, Bordeaux has a variety of restaurants serving cuisine from Germany, Japan, Morocco, and the rest of the world. All you need to do to find these restaurants is walk down the street.

Go Shopping

When you want to bring home a souvenir, Bordeaux is full of shops and boutiques where you can find the perfect remembrance of the city. There are many markets throughout the city. One of Bordeaux's oldest 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 boutiques. Another place to shop is the rue Sainte Catherine. This is one of the longest streets in Bordeaux and is home to a variety of unique stores and shops. If your looking for luxury, the shops in the Golden Triangle are sure to have what you need. This is a triangle of streets linked by the cours de l'Intendance, the cours Georges Clemenceau, and the allées de Tourny

When you visit Bordeaux, you're sure to have wonderful time. No matter where you go in the city, there is always something worthwhile to do, see, or enjoy.

© High Speed Ventures 2011