Bordeaux, a world renowned wine region and for good reason. Within the total area are many wine appellations filled with over 8,000 chateau and vineyards all produce some of the most sought after, best aging, highest quality and most expensive wines in the world.
Wine and Bordeaux’s relationship date back 2000 years, since it’s time as a commercial center for the Roman Empire. Today Bordeaux provides one-fourth of the production of the best wines in France.
The greater Bordeaux region is located in southwestern France where crescent shaped land surrounds and is surrounded by the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and the Gironde river, respectively.
Within the region of Bordeaux, on the left bank of the Garonne river you will find the port city and capital of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, similarly named, “Bordeaux”.
A popular location as the starting point for a wine experience, the city of Bordeaux also offers history, architecture, culture, dining, shopping and so much more. When taking a break from your “wine travels” or completely venturing out to see all that the city of Bordeaux has to offer, the best place to start is within the seven districts of the city of Bordeaux that each has its own flair, its own history and offers its own unique Bordelais experience.
The birthplace of the city of Bordeaux started here as the Roman city of Burdigala transforming over 2000 years into the primary city centre and heart of the downtown area. The location of the port entrance and where the economy that developed Bordeaux into a major city was built upon. It is here that you will find some of the oldest architecture and history of the city. Visiting the local landmarks of the Porte Cailhau, the Pont de Pierre, Saint-Pierre church, the iconic and recognizable Place de la Bourse along the Garonne river and its modern counterpart the must see Miroir d’eau reflecting pool which is the most photographed location in Bordeaux. The Old Town is also the location of the Rue Saint-Catherine, the longest pedestrian shopping street in France.
The upscale region of the city, known as the “Golden Triangle” of parishes offering beautifully elegant stone buildings and boulevards featuring well maintained city squares like the Place des Quinconces, the Place Tourny shopping district and some of Bordeaux’s top restaurants, luxurious boutiques and the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, Place de la Comédie. Grand Hommes is the area to see and be seen as you explore the city and outer regions of Bordeaux.
Saint Seurin – Fondaudège
The residential district northwest of the Grand Hommes, named for the oldest cemetery in Bordeaux, Saint Seurin, is within walking distance to the old town. A quiet upscale area featuring a mixture of modern architecture with old stone buildings and beautiful gardens. This where you will find the Jardin Botanique to venture out for a local experience. However if mixing with the locals is not of interest, the area is still visit worthy for the Palais Gallien, a former Roman arena and one of the only remaining forms of architecture from the Gallo-Roman era in Bordeaux and the Natural History museum located at the edge of the Jardin.
Town Hall District
South of the Saint Seurin district and west of the Old Town, you will find the district with both visitors and locals enjoying the centrally located and symbolic Place Gambetta square. Other visitors may be searching out the once medieval residence, Palais Rohan that today is Bordeaux’s Town Hall (Hôtel De Ville) home of the Museum of Fine Arts. Not far from there is the most beautiful and primary Cathedral within Bordeaux, Saint Andrew and the adjacent and popular Pey – Beland bell tower. Within this district is also where you can discover the antique district and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design located in one of the most beautifully decorated 18th century mansions of Bordeaux.
The Saints District
In the southernmost district of the city is the Saint – Jean train station the neighborhood of Saint-Michel and the Saint-Croix church. As the central location where train passengers are passing through all day long, this area is filled with local immersion. Le Marché des Capucins is a local market open early morning until early afternoon and is worth exploring for fresh regional and popular items to sample and bring home. Come back to the area in the evening for a truly Bordelaisen experience heading to one of the many restaurants, bars and clubs where you will find an energetic and animated crowd of both travelers and locals. Also located within this district is the Quai de Paludate popular with the locals for music and nightlife.
The city of Bordeaux is not completely limited to the left side of the Garonne river. On the right bank is the recently gentrified neighborhood of La Bastide. The former industrial area has been built up with restaurants and movie theatres in a newly developed urban area and features fantastic views of the historic Old Town from across the Garonne. Within the district you can find a newly developed botanical garden. The Jardin botanique de la Bastide features six different garden areas including a water garden and an arboretum.
Bassins a Flot
Crossing back across the Garonne via the Chaban Delmas bridge is the district of Bassins a flot. The most northern area of the city is the location of the city’s river commercial docks, once home to the largest port in Europe. Despite it’s maritime history this is where you can now find the most modernistic and futuristic architecture in the world, better known as the wine tower, the La Cité du Vin museum. Walking the paths along the river quay you will pass barges and other relics of the area’s river past and eventually you will reach the Bordeaux Submarine base. One of five sub bases built by the Italians during World War II, the bunker has been repurposed into a multicultural building with the Bassins de Lumiere art museum, and offers various concerts throughout the year.
Last but not least is the most eclectic of Bordeaux districts. North of the Old Town district is the original home of the 14th century Chartreux Abbey. The historic neighborhood has been restored from its dilapidated existence into a chic bohemian experience offering a centrally located public garden and featuring the Place du Marché Chartrons marketplace filled with local merchants offering river and locally sourced food like oysters, foie gras and macarons. Explore the nearby Saint-Louis Cathedral and also within this district you will find riverside dining and the Quai des Marques shopping area filled with cafe’s and boutiques for the hipster in all of us. With all the activity that happens here, it is not surprising that this is the location where the quays for river boats dock making it a popular location for tourism and travelers looking for a Bordeaux experience.
Looking beyond Bordeaux’s wine presence, you can see that the city of Bordeaux is abundant in culture and experiences and offers an internationally cosmopolitan vibe. The many areas throughout the city are vibrant and yet each offers its own unique reasons for visiting. The city draws a romance of it’s own. Read more specifically to find Romance in Bordeaux.
If the vins of France are on your menu, read more about Traveling the Vins of Bordeaux and its relationship to wine travel or Sample the Flavors of Bordeaux comparing the wines of the Right to the Left Bank and with the Entre deux Mer regions of Bordeaux.
No matter how you choose to explore the region, one of our very favorite experiences that brings all of these experiences to you in one amazing week is by river cruise. Learn more about river cruising from our website.