Located in southwestern France, 60 kilometers east of the Atlantic Ocean, this wine famous city has a lot to offer; it has witnessed many civilizations and is now a UNESCO heritage site. It was used as the basis of modern Paris’ architecture and recently, buildings in most neighborhoods were cleaned giving it the reputation of being “too white”. Below are some tips to help you discover different sides of this lovely city.
Walk or Bike Along the Quai:
Bordeaux is divided in two banks by the Garonne River, an extension of the Atlantic Ocean. The historical city was largely developed on the left bank, while the right bank was mostly industrial and is now being developed as an extension to the city. A rarely acknowledged fact, is that Bordeaux, and this quai specifically, was a central stop for 508 slave trade trips between 1672 and 1837 that resulted in over 150,000 Africans being deported to the Americas.
The quai is a great location for walking, biking and having a picnic. Besides the various buildings, cafes and outlets spread over the long of the quai, you will come across the bourse, a large water mirror and a plaque, the only landmark acknowledging Bordeaux’ role in the slave trade.
One of the very few Roman archeological sites that are still standing in Bordeaux, this monument dates back to the early days of roman invasion of France. The few walls still standing of the large amphitheatre that once was, are beautifully incorporated into the nearby residential architecture to give the area a different impression. Admission is free.
Walk Through Old Bordeaux:
There is no better way to experience the charm of this city than walking especially, in its older neighbourhoods. With buildings and monuments dating as far back as the 15th century, you will find many hidden secrets. Luckily for you, the city makes it very easy for you to do so with street markets, restaurant squares and a theatre that once was a church.
One of the still standing gates that once surrounded the city, built is 1495 with sculptures as a tribute to King Charles VIII who conquered Napoli with the aid Bordeaux’ Archbishop at the time. In addition to being a historical landmark, the gate has a few interesting details such as the slot where the sliding portcullis were and the bases from which the weapons used to be fired.
Marché des Capucins:
Founded in 1797, it is a great place when looking for fresh and local products, especially seafood something the city is famous for. There you will find all kind of fresh meats, vegetables and baked goods, as well as clothes, hats and sunglasses. It is a great place for a Bordeaux specific lunch.
Porte and Eglise St. Eloi and Grosse Cloche:
It includes St. Eloi church, the Grosse Cloche (great bell). The church is one of the first Gothic monuments to be built in the city in the twelfth century; it became a squat space for the good part of 30 years, before becoming a working church again in 2007.
The Grosse Cloche, its two towers, its gold‐plated leopard shaped weather vane and the solar dial clock remain to this date. Built in the 15th century, near the old city hall that is now completely destroyed, the bell was used to mark important times of the year such as the beginning of the grape picking season.
The tram system extends alongside the river on the left bank of the city. Since Bordeaux is a walking friendly city, you may not need to take the tram, however, its three lines spread across various monuments of the city and a tram ride would show you some monuments of the city that you may not visit otherwise.
This small city, about an hour away from Bordeaux is a great destination for a one day escapade. Famous for being a wine town with early vines planted in the 2nd century by the Romans, St. Emilion is also a UNESCO heritage site. Situated on the Pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, it has many churches and attractions built as early as 11th century that appeal to those who are not wine enthusiast. The SNCF (French railway system) frequently goes between Bordeaux and St. Emilion for a low fee.