Is Bordeaux trendier than Paris?
Is Bordeaux trendier than Paris? If the amount of Parisians flocking there and buying property is anything to go by, it might well be.
There are so many things to do in Bordeaux and the introduction of a two hour city to city train trip has made Bordeaux a possible commute. Already undergoing a renaissance, Bordeaux has beautiful architecture, amazing restaurants, an imposing river, leading vineyards, museums a plenty and the Arcachon Basin and the Atlantic Coast nearby; what is not to like? Waiting staff are friendly, there are some beautiful hotels and a tram system that is state of the art and covers most of the areas you will want to explore. Bordeaux is a stunning city to visit.
One of our favourite hotels is La Course. It overlooks the Jardin Public which is charming. This public park was originally completed back in the 1750s. However, the French Revolution destroyed the grounds and it was subsequently re-landscaped. A well-stocked botanical garden has also been added.
Things to do in Bordeaux
Close by is the Quai des Chartrons on the river. Here you will find the Cite du Vin. This museum celebrates wine like no other. The facade of the building is impressive enough but venture inside and you will find yourself immersed in interactive displays and exhibits. If you walk there from La Course you pass through ancient streets and squares dotted with cafes, restaurants and really interesting shops. (Vast areas have been pedestrianized so you can stroll around entire quarters without having to worry about traffic. There are also plenty of cycle paths and a popular bike share scheme.)
Under the mayorship of former Prime Minister, Alain Juppe, the centre underwent a renaissance. Buildings were restored, their grand facades cleaned and the riverfront transformed. All the hard work has certainly paid off. Half of the city is now UNESCO-listed. It is a pleasure to walk everywhere, jumping on and off the tram to rest your feet as necessary. Don’t miss the Palais de la Bourse or the view of the riverfront from the Pont de Pierre.
With the exception of Paris, there are more protected buildings in Bordeaux than in any other French city. In the old town, you will find a huge concentration of 18th century buildings – it was one of the first French cities to undertake urban redevelopment on a large scale. Thousands of structures built in the 1700s survive today. (Although Bordeaux was a major port back in the Roman era little exists from those ancient times.)
There is plenty of Neo-Classical architecture to enjoy. The Grand-Théâtre is one of Bordeaux’s best known public buildings. Constructed on the site of a Gallo-Roman temple, this building is surrounded by galleries and Corinthian columns. Inside it is even more remarkable. The staircase is of a simply staggering proportion and the acoustically acclaimed auditorium is still decorated in its original colours. Take in the surroundings on a guided tour or splash a few more euros and listen to a concert.
Visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site
If churches are more your thing then Cathédrale Saint-André is widely acclaimed as the finest of all Bordeaux’s churches. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Consecrated in 1096, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII were married here. During the French Revolution the church was used to store animal feed, but major restoration works have transformed this remarkable building. The stone carvings at some of the entrances are beautiful. Pey-Berland bell tower (pictured at the top of the page) is a separate structure to the church and houses the tenor bell. If you are feeling fit enough to make it up over 200 steps you will be rewarded with some fantastic views from the top of the tower.
Many of Bordeaux’s houses are also adorned with some pretty nifty masonry. These works are in the form of stone masks and come in many different guises. There are representations of various gods, a selection of monsters and even a saucy pirate!
We have been to Bordeaux several times. It is an opportunity to enjoy a few days of sophisticated city life before heading to the tranquillity of Les Milandes and the Dorodogne. As well as rail connections, it is easily reached by air. Flights from all over the UK will get you there in time to enjoy lunch.
Leave Bordeaux to go to Milandes and you can visit the beautiful town of St Emilion on the way. (St Emilion is around a 40 minute drive from Bordeaux.) Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is full of beauty and well worth a visit. There are numerous wine shops but you may need deep pockets!
A little further towards Milandes is the home of Michel de Montaigne at his chateau of the same name. And if this is not enough for you, why not stop in Bergerac and while away a few hours? (We’ll get round to featuring Bergerac in another blog. In the meantime you can read about some of the fabulous wine from this region.)
Bordeaux has long been known as, ‘La Belle au Bois Dormant’ (Sleeping Beauty) but this lovely city has definitely been woken from her slumber. Visit Bordeaux and you won’t be disappointed.