“Take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux” Victor Hugo
Bordeaux’s history spans from its pertaining to the Roman Empire, its function as one of France’s most important trade harbors, its center stage as a fortress during Medieval wars, its occupation by the Nazis up to its rebirth in the XVIIIth century. Needless to say, there are a lot of things to see. Today, the inhabitants of Bordeaux, called the Bordelais and the Bordelaises, enjoy its wine-related culture, its sumptuous architecture and the vibrancy that comes with being the sixth most populated city in France. To experience the Bordelais lifestyle at its best, here are the five top things that cannot be missed while embarking on a sightseeing journey of Bordeaux.
Wondering the streets of the Vieux Bordeaux and its Architectural Patchwork
To get a sense of Bordeaux’s historical and cultural wealth, one should start by touring the Vieux Bordeaux, the “old Bordeaux” with its paved streets and lanes. Wandering around the city’s heart, visitors will be able to walk from one gate to another of what used to be Bordeaux’s fortress in the Middle-Ages. Bordeaux’s architectural diversity is the result of its belligerent past, ironically enough, for the pleasure and enjoyment of today’s visitors!
La Grosse Cloche, literally translated as “the big clock” is a mind-blowing example of the past wealth of Bordeaux and its strategic role as a fortress in protecting the Aquitaine region. Reminders of its religious history, Saint Michel’s Cathedral and Saint-André’s Cathedral will sweep away visitors by their preserved grandeur despite Bordeaux’s tumultuous history of being robbed, ransacked or occupied.
Indeed, Bordeaux was also at the heart of the French Revolution and many buildings were either destroyed or damaged by the revolutionaries’ vigor, which led to its partial reconstruction in the XVIIIth century, such as The Place de la bourse. It is no surprise that this historic part of the city center has been recognized by UNESCO as “an outstanding urban and architecture ensemble” of 18-century architecture.
To make sure that one will not miss on things to do in Bordeaux, guided tours on foot, either public or in private, can be booked via Les Sources de Caudalie’s dedicated concierge service.
Riding alongside the Garonne river: Bordeaux sightseeing in a One-day Trip
When visiting Bordeaux for one day, cycle tours are highly recommended. Bordeaux is particularly bike-friendly with plenty of cycle paths and trails to discover the city and get unique views of its most famous monuments. Following the trickling of the Garonne river, cyclists will be able to admire stunning XVIIIth century buildings alongside the riverfront and reach the Cité du Vin. Guided bike tours commonly last three hours, while self-guided rides are conveniently sign-posted, such as the most famous one: the bridge-to-bridge trail.
Water mirrors and Haussmanian inspiration: the Place de La Bourse
The Place de la Bourse might remind visitors of the Louvre and Parisian architecture, and that is not a coincidence. It was designed by the Royal architect Jacques Gabriel, and its XVIIIth century grandeur is now magnified by the world’s largest reflecting pool: the Water Mirror. At night, the U-shaped buildings are reflected by the pool’s thin water and offer a breath-taking spectacle. During the day, the atmosphere changes completely to give way to children - and adults - jumping in the foot-deep water, especially on a sunny day.
Bordeaux’s ultimate culinary attraction: THE “canelé”
If there is a list of the ultimate things to do in Bordeaux, buying and devouring a canelé is one of them. And like most attractions in Bordeaux, it is wine-related. Indeed, a canelé is a small French pastry made with egg yolks, for egg whites were used in wineries to filter the wine. Canelés, the good ones, are soft and fluffy on the inside while caramel crusted on the outside thanks to a specific copper-mold that is preheated, before pouring the rum and vanilla flavored batter. It is scrumptious, and although they are made in patisseries across France, the best ones remain in their birth place: Bordeaux
The Cité du Vin and the Musée du Vin et du Négoce: must-do things for wine lovers.
One of the most famous things to do in Bordeaux is The Cité du Vin - the world's biggest wine museum in the world’s wine capital. Inside an impressive contemporary piece of architecture inspired by a wine decanters’ shape, visitors will have access to an interactive and educational experience to learn everything about French and international wines: from their grapes, their fermentation to the final result, every process of winemaking is exhaustively described. The Cité du Vin also offers kid-friendly guided tours for them to understand - not try - the reason why their parents are so obsessed with this burgundy elixir.
For a more authentic, Bordeaux wines based museum, the Musée du Vin et du Négoce is the ultimate destination. In a wine trader’s typical house, visitors will explore the region’s appellations, classifications and why Bordeaux’s winemaking is so unique. The visit ends with a wine-tasting session where questions are more than welcomed and answers clear and accessible.