In the southwest of the country, just under 70 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean, lies the picturesque wine capital of Bordeaux. An exciting mix of modern and historical culture awaits you here.
Bordeaux is not so much characterized by outstanding individual buildings. Rather by the grandiose, almost completely preserved layout of the city , which has preserved its historical image to this day. In this respect, it is similar to cities such as Amsterdam or Lisbon. The city’s layout prompted Victor Hugo to remark that Bordeaux was a mixture of Versailles and Antwerp, that is, of palatial architecture and a commercial city on the river. Particularly in the historic center, but also beyond it, it offers surprising impressions time and again. Be it through the late baroque arrangement of streets and squares or through the impressive harmony of its rows of houses, parks and gardens. The “facade” to the Garonne is world-famous: For several kilometers, tall, narrow town houses stretch along the banks, interrupted by individual representative buildings.
Tip 1: Cité du Vin
The Cité du Vin cultural institution offers an exciting world tour through all cultures and times and brings the subject of wine closer to an international audience. Between the 55-meter-high tower and the Torus, the Cité du Vin is spread over an area of 13,350 square meters. It extends over ten floors. The architects have done a great job here and built in an environmentally friendly way.
You get the feeling of uninterrupted flow and movement in the rooms. The round shape of the building gives volume to the rooms and its wooden vault gives the impression of a ship’s hull. The tower also dominates the skyline of Bordeaux.
Tip 2: Place de la Bourse
For centuries, the Place de la Bourse has been considered a landmark of the city of Bordeaux worldwide. He helped the city to prosper in trade and is largely responsible for the reputation of Bordeaux. In the 18th century, this symbol was worked on for twenty years. This heralded the end of what was then a medieval city surrounded by fortified walls for centuries.
From the year 1720, the intendant Boucher had worked to open the city and proposed a royal square. He was able to win over the king’s chief architect, then Louis the XV, to this idea. The result was a rectangular square with obtuse angles and facades decorated with ornate wrought ironwork. Bordeaux henceforth developed into a classical city.
In the early days, the square was separated from the river by fences. During the Revolution these fences were destroyed. In the center of the square, the equestrian statue was replaced by a statue of Emperor Napoleon. This statue was replaced by the Fountain of the Three Graces in 1869. This fountain is still popular today.
The 2 cm high water on a 3,450 square meter granite slab fascinates with alternating mist and mirror effects. Located across from the Place de la Bourse, it is considered the largest mirror made of water in the world. An enchanting place for lovers and also very popular as a playground for children. Among visitors to Bordeaux, it is considered the most photographed motif in the city.
Tip 3: Cathedral St. Andrew
Truly in the center of the old town, the Cathedral of Saint-Andre points to the sky. Its generous dimensions and the huge square around it contribute to the grandiose effect of the building. Its construction is dated to the 11th and 12th centuries.
The oldest part still preserved is the west facade. The building measures 144 meters in length and 44 meters in width. After its completion in the 12th century, numerous repairs and stylistic changes followed. The choir room and the transept are in Gothic style. It is therefore an architectural mishmash, but this does not detract from the effect. The only unusual feature is the retaining walls on the outside of the building.
Probably the builders made a mistake in the static calculation of the cathedral and had to add the wall supports later.
There are two portals on the north side. On the one hand, the north portal above which groups of figures represent the Last Supper, the Ascension and the Triumph of Christ. Right next to it is the portal Rayal from the 13th century, which deserves special attention.
In front and behind the portal are carved in stone all the apostles, the Resurrection of Christ and the Last Judgment. The works are of great artistic quality. The interior of the church is especially pleasing with its slender nave.
The gothic choir with its ambulatory is a great success. Numerous chapels can be found here. Here, too – as in the Basilica St.-Michel – the combination of mahogany and red marble on the pulpit. The church treasury is open for viewing.
Tip 4: Grand Theatre de Bordeaux
It is the most important theater in the city and the metropolitan region in southwestern France and is the venue of the Opéra National de Bordeaux for opera/operetta, spoken theater, concerts, dance theater and events. The Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, which seats about 1100 people, is located in the center of the city of Bordeaux about 300 meters west of the banks of the Garonne River.
The theater building consists of a roughly rectangular structure with its main front facing approximately southwest toward the Place de la Comedie. It was built of brown natural stone and has two towering full floors and a lower staggered floor with a slightly sloping metal roof. The entrance portal is reached by five steps of an open staircase and is framed by twelve columns in Corinthian style with capitals executed accordingly. Above it are twelve statues: Those of the nine Muses and the goddesses Juno, Venus and Minerva.
The theater was built from 1797 by the architect Victor Louis and with the drama Athalie by Jean Racine, the inauguration and the theater operation began on April 7, 1780. The building is the venue of the Opéra National de Bordeaux.
Tip 5: Place de la Quinconces
The Esplanade des Quinconces is one of the largest squares in France, covering about 126,000 m². It was once the site of Chateau Trompette, a fortress built from 1453 to control the pro-English population of Bordeaux. Bordeaux belonged to England until then. The fortress was a symbol of the king’s oppression. Napoleon had the fortress demolished in 1818, creating this huge square.
The Esplanade des Quinconces is still today a large wide area framed by trees. To the east, the square borders the Garonne River. To the west is one of Bordeaux’s landmarks, the Monument aux Girondins. It is dedicated to the native victims of the French Revolution of 1789. The monument was erected in 1902 and consists of a 43 m high column on which floats an angel breaking the chains of oppression. At the base of the column is a monumental fountain with allegorical groups of figures symbolizing, among others, the rivers Garonne and Dordogne and the triumph of the Republic and the triumph of Unity.