The picturesque Bordeaux on the Garonne River impresses not only with its magnificent classicist buildings from the 18th century and excellent wine. UNESCO also lists Bordeaux on its World Heritage List.
Bordeaux was an important trading port over 2000 years ago. But not only goods were transhipped, philosophers and writers also met here for cultural exchange. They gradually made Bordeaux a melting pot of humanism, universality and culture, especially from the 12th century onwards. Today, Bordeaux still thrives in its role as a hub of culture and commerce.
Bordeaux's historic centre still reflects the financial and cultural wealth of that time. To pick out individual sights from Bordeaux's old town would be almost sacrilegious compared to the other buildings. Wherever you look, you will see historic buildings, each of greater value than the last. The old town of Bordeaux has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007 because of "its exceptional urban and architectural ensemble".
The second reason for its inclusion on the UNESCO list was, of course, the famous wine of its region. Needless to say, Bordeaux is the capital of this world-renowned wine-growing region. A glass of wine, together with the historical flair of Bordeaux is probably one of the best ways to enjoy France!
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Historic buildings in the old town of Bordeaux
Anyone strolling through the historic city centre of Bordeaux feels transported back in time. Baroque squares and streets, classicist and neoclassical townhouse facades characterise the cityscape. The locals (the "Bordelais") affectionately call the old town of Bordeaux the "Port of the Moon".
The façades of the residential buildings date back to the middle of the 18th century, when the medieval townscape was transformed into the classicist style and decorated with ornate wrought ironwork and stonework.
Over 4,000 of the sandstone houses are listed, more than anywhere else in France except Paris. The architectural development since the 18th century with its different phases can be traced almost exactly here.
Porte Cailhau and Saint Pierre district
The gateway to Bordeaux's old town! The striking Porte Cailhau was built in 1494 and today appears in Renaissance Gothic style. The 25-metre-high city gate was once the entrance to the parliament and was later used for defence purposes.
Behind it lies the Saint Pierre district and thus the heart of Bordeaux's old town. This is where the city's wealth once originated, when countless ships from all over the world arrived and departed with their valuable cargo. Countless merchants and craftsmen settled between the neoclassical house fronts of today. These are still commemorated by street names such as the Street of Merchants or the Street of Clockmakers.
Place de la Bourse and Miroir d'eau
Worthy of a special mention is the Place de la Bourse, which is the most beautiful and best-known square in Bordeaux's old town. Among the magnificent palaces on its edges are the Chamber of Commerce and the National Customs Museum.
The creation of the Place de la Bourse took over 20 years and is considered a sign of the transformation from a medieval city to a new cosmopolitan metropolis. The statue in the centre is also symbolic. Before the French Revolution, the statue of the king was enthroned here, then an equestrian statue of Napoleon, and this was replaced by today's Fountain of the Three Graces.
Here, the world's largest reflection pool has covered an area of 3,450 square metres since 2006. The so-called Miroir d'eau ("mirror of water") can even create fog in summer. Together with the magnificent buildings, it makes the Place de la Bourse the most photographed square in Bordeaux.
Pont de Pierre
The Pont de Pierre is the oldest bridge over the Garonne and is inextricably linked to the charming image of Bordeaux's old town. Its 17 arches still recall the 17 letters of its patron: Napoleon Bonaparte. At the time, he wanted to transport his gigantic army to Spain and the ferrymen told him that was impossible. This is how the extremely stable "stone bridge" came into being.
After the fall of Napoleon, construction was briefly suspended and finally completed in 1821. With its nostalgic street lamps, the 500-metre-long bridge offers a picturesque view of the old town - especially at night!
Saint Michel Basilica
The Basilica of Saint Michel is located right next to the Pont de Pierre and, with its freestanding bell tower, is visible from almost all of Bordeaux. The 114-high Tour Pey-Berland is the highest bell tower in the south of France and offers a gigantic view over Bordeaux.
The Basilica of Saint Michel was largely built in the 14th and 15th centuries and is part of the Way of St James. In the rather gloomy nave, it is especially worth taking a close look at the 17 ornate side altars.
Saint André Cathedral
The bell towers of Saint André's Cathedral, on the other hand, are "only" 50 metres high, but still mighty to behold. It is the largest cathedral in Bordeaux and one of the largest in France. The mighty church was consecrated for the first time in 1096.
The entrance to the cathedral is through two mighty portals that lead into a single nave. Two royal weddings have already taken place under the 29-metre-high church roof.
The neoclassical Grand Théâtre in Bordeaux is one of the most important theatres in the southwest of France. It dates back to the 18th century and houses one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world. The architect Victor Louis wanted to create his masterpiece at the time, and he succeeded with the majestic façade and the opulently decorated interior.
Today, events take placealmost daily in the Grand Théâtre of Bordeaux. Operas, operettas and concerts are performed here, as well as spoken theatre, ballet and other dance events.
There is never a dull moment on Rue Saint-Catherine. This 1-kilometre-long street is Bordeaux's most popular shopping street. Cars have been banned here since 1977, so you can stroll and browse in the more than 200 shops undisturbed by traffic. Rue Saint-Catherine is attracting more and more young people, and especially at the time of the sales, all hell breaks loose!
Place de la Victoire
Rue Saint-Catherine leads directly to Place de la Victoire, another of Bordeaux's transport hubs with its famous trams without overhead wires. The "Victory Square" was built in 1748 and impresses with its monumental Aquitaine Gate. The Porte d'Aquitaine was designed by the same architect who designed the square: André Portier.
The second monument on Place de la Victoire is not quite as old. It was only in 2005 that the sculptor Ivan Theimer erected a 16-metre-high column of red marble and bronze. With it, he set up a monument to viticulture, which makes Bordeaux and its surroundings known and famous all over the world. The twisted shape of the 50-ton monument symbolises the growth of the vine towards the sun.
Cité du Vin Wine Museum
Speaking of wine monuments: On the banks of the Garonne a little further north of the old town lies the wine museum of Bordeaux, which can hardly be overlooked. According to National Geographic, it is one of the best museums in the world and has already been called the "lighthouse of viticulture". The 55-metre-high building, mirrored with reflective aluminium panels, is meant to remind us of the splendour of wine in a glass.
The "Wine City", which opened in 2016, presents interactive exhibitions about wine, invites visitors to taste in the garden and in the panorama restaurant and offers a wonderful view of Bordeaux from the viewing platform. The focus here is not only on French wines, but also on fine wines from Italy, Spain, the USA, South Africa and New Zealand.
PICTURES: The top 10 sights of Bordeaux