Originally named Burdigala, some three hundred years before Christ, a Celtic tribe first settled this French city, which is now a thriving metropolis with nearly 250,000 residents. Set along the Garonne River Bordeaux was voted as Europe’s best tourist destination in 2015. When the citizens of France, who didn’t live in that area, were asked where they would most like to move more than half of the population answered “Bordeaux.”
This is because the city is not only above the national average when it comes the median household income and the property cost less than half of what it would in Paris. Bordeaux is where you head when you want to experience the countryside of France with a bustling eco, student and tourist friendly city set in the middle of it. Without further ado we would like to introduce you to some of our favorite things to do in Bordeaux, France.
1. Drink some wine
We felt compelled to use the number one slot for the most popular activities in Bordeaux, in France and, most likely, in all of Europe and the world. This would be the consumption of adult grape juice for which this region is known. On a more serious note though, Bordeaux, France is considered the Wine Capital of the World so you can’t get better than this for wine tours and sampling.
There are nearly fifty wine regions in Bordeaux, some of which overlap. One of them is the UNESCO world heritage Saint Emilion, a small town easily accessed by train from the city. Wine has been produced in this area of the world since the Roman Empire ruled their known world and the sheer volume of wine produced there is astounding at 250,000 hL annually. What does hL represent? That would be “hectoliter” or one hundred liters, which equals to a little over twenty-six gallons. This means that more than six million gallons of wine bottled here every year.
If you are a wine professional then we suggest going during Vinexpo, which is basically the largest wine trade show in the entire world. Starting in 1981, Vinexpo hosts wine folk from 150 countries around the world to nearly 50,000 attendees. This is festival of wine is intended for those in the business and boasts an atmosphere of openness for ideas and innovations to help and shape the industry.
Of course, not everyone is in the wine business, and a great many of us would much rather drink it than think too much about how it is made. If you are one of this vast population of wine enthusiasts, then Bordeaux should definitely be added to your list of travels.
2. Visit the Port of the Moon and the Jacques Chaban-Delmas Bridge
This lift bridge, which brings a very modern look to this ancient region in France, boasts the title as tallest in all of Europe. It is the fifth to be built over the river Garrone and was opened to the public in 2013.
It isn’t a long walk across, being less than half a mile long, and this bridge has quays alongside, which are platforms built into the bridge that move into the water to accommodate vessels wanting to load or unload cargo.
If this is a destination you would like to check out, we also suggest going there in the evening to take in the lights. It is lit up to add a contrast to the night sky and a modern feel to the Port of the Moon. This name refers to the shape of the row of buildings that are set along the river dating back to the eighteenth century, or the age of Enlightenment.
Back in the day Bordeaux was the biggest port city in France, and it is here at the Port of the Moon where wine and other goods were imported and exported. For the architecture buff this is a dream location for inspection of classical and neoclassical stylings.
These ancient structures, which illustrate the historical community that once thrived on this river bank, when added with the illuminated Chabas-Delmas bridge, brings the old and new together for a beautiful sight.
3. Visit the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux
Opening back in 1780, this theatre is one of the most prestigious that France has to offer. Renowned ballet master Marius Petipa produced some of his first works at this theater. It is the place where La Fille Mal Gardée, the comic ballet by Pierre-Antoine Baudouin, first premiered.
The Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux has a wooden frame that is one of the oldest in Europe. Most of the ones built that way had burned down due to the gas lighting used at the time. The building is considered a neoclassical masterpiece with a spectacular façade housing twelve Corinthian column, each holding up a statue.
The first column, starting at the left, is topped by Euterpe, the muse of music and to her left is Uraine, the muse of astronomy. Next we see Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and next to her is Calliope, the epic poetry muse.
After Calliope we find Terpsichore, the muse of dance, and next is Melpomene, the tragedy muse. To her left is Thalia, the muse of comedy, and then Polyamine, the rhetoric muse. This ends the muses and there stands Juno, the Roman goddess of abundance and finally Minerva, the goddess of war.
These goddesses and muses guard the entrance of the Grand Théâtre to ensure that all entrants and goings on in that building exemplify the importance of artistic endeavors and discoveries. Once you pass them the fleur-de-lis, or French lily, adorns a coat of arms in portico. Inside there are mores sculptures to view, paintings on the ceiling, and giant staircases.
Of course, if you are going to spend some time viewing the Grand Théâtre then it is only natural you would want to see a show. This won’t be difficult to do since the Opéra National de Bordeaux and the Ballet National de Bordeaux call this building home. So it likely that, when you visit, there will be an opera, ballet or musical showing on the stage.
The Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux is considered the heart of the artistic culture in this region of France and has been held to this standard for centuries.
4. Visit the Place de la Bourse
Built over twenty years in the eighteenth century this place is considered one of the most known and important landmarks in the city of Bordeaux. It is a solid reminder of the time when Bordeaux escaped the medieval walls that surrounded it and broke free to become the mecca Bordeaux is today.
Jacques Gabriel, who was the first architect for Louis XV, was hired to create a town square, with stone faces, wrought iron and sloped corners. Railings held a barrier between the square and the river but this has thus changed with the installment of the Miroir d’eau.
Also known at the Water Mirror, this reflecting pool placed in the front of the Place de la Bourse, was built only ten years ago. It is the largest of its kind in the entire world and is nearly 3,500 square meters. Two centimeters of water cover granite slabs and does exactly what a reflecting pool is supposed to do, give the visitor another viewpoint of what they have just seen.
There is museum on one side of the Place de la Bourse while the other houses the “Bourse” or Stock Exchange, which the entity for which this square got its name. Yet the first idea for the square was to build a statue of King Louis XV, but the revolutionaries of the late 1700s demolished the sculpture. Napoleon’s image was put in its place for a while but now the Fountain of Three Graces is there and a highlight during visits.
It is suggested that this square is also visited in the night time hours for the full effect of the lighting, the statue and the Water Mirror reflecting pool.
5. Take in some local cuisine
Paris is not the only city in France that boasts fives star restaurants and the nice thing about Bordeaux is the wine you will be pairing with these meals is made right there. As a coastal city the access to fresh and delicious seafood is great here. Yet, the most renowned dish is beef cooked in a gravy of butter, shallots, herbs and Bordeaux wine.
Mussels, shrimp, crab, oysters, scallops and a wide array of shellfish are available to local restauranteurs to create dishes like escargots avec le beurre d’ail, or snails cooked in butter and garlic. This is one of our favorite French dishes and there is no better place to have it then Bordeaux. Another specialty is cream of mussel soup which is loaded with saffron and served with bread.
Still, other unique dishes are available like fish served with leeks and Dijon mustard, a plate of figs with ham and goat cheese or rack of goat with bordelaise sauce.
Whatever your pallet desires, we bet that Bordeaux has a dish to satisfy.