A UNESCO World Heritage Site with more listed monuments than you can shake a selfie stick at and a world-class wine museum to boot, the south-eastern city is the complete package
Home to more than 300 ‘monuments historiques‘ – second only to Paris – Bordeaux is blessed with more landmarks and listed piles than you can possibly shake a selfie stick at. Which can make planning a whistle-stop tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site rather problematic. So where to begin? First, beat a path to the Place de La Comédie and its colonnaded Grand Théâtre, then make a beeline for the Grosse Cloche belfry, one of the oldest in France, and drop by the former bishop’s palace, the Palais de Rohan – now the Town Hall.
Whatever you do, don’t skip the Miroir d’Eau. The world’s largest reflecting pool – and a jumbo optical illusion casting back the glimmering silhouette of the Palais de la Bourse – it provides endless entertainment, and Kodak moments, for holidaymakers and locals alike. Plumes of cooling mist are even spritzed over the water during the summer months. The only downside? You’ll have to elbow your way through the inevitable throngs of tourists – it’s the most photographed (and, sadly, photobombed) site in the city.
A shimmering coil of glass and aluminium, the Cité du Vin is a relatively new addition to the cityscape. Launched in 2016, the hulking wine museum has become one of Bordeaux’s hottest tickets thanks to its hat trick of innovative architecture – the design mimics the swirl of wine in a glass – hi-tech immersion and copious tastings. A comprehensive and decidedly heady journey through wine history, across cultures, civilisations and the ages, the Cité is a discovery centre beyond compare for novices and connoisseurs alike – and the perfect introduction to the region’s world-famous vineyards. The jaw-dropping riverside views are just the cherry on top.
Looming over the city, the Cathédrale Saint-André was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status long before the rest of Bordeaux thanks to its breathtaking Romanesque frills and royal connection. It is within its hallowed walls that Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII, the future king of France in 1137. Be sure to climb the Tour Pey-Berland, the dizzying free- standing 15th-century belfry flanking the cathedral. A word of warning: with 229 steps to the top, it’s not for the faint of heart. Though the unparalleled vista is worth the palpitations.
A former submarine base established by German and Italian forces to house U-boats during World War II, the concrete bunker has been given a new lease of life as a cultural centre and, aptly, outpost for the underground scene, hosting a packed bill of performances, exhibitions, and even the occasional club night.
Once a sorry jumble of derelict warehouses, the revamped quayside is home to a flurry of swanky bars and hip eateries – and the go-to spot to sample the region’s fine vintages.
For more information visit www.bordeaux-tourism.co.uk
From France Today magazine