Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since the 1980s, the archaeological site of Saint-Seurin also happens to be the site of Bordeaux’s oldest church, with remains dating back to the birth of Christendom in the sixth century. Because of its religious significance, it is a major stop on the French-section of the Santiago de Compostella route. The basilica has the austere, imposing atmosphere emblematic of Romanesque architecture that is lightened by its notoriously heterogeneous style, with prominent, dramatic Gothic elements that were added over the centuries. The altarpiece in particular is quite remarkable, thanks to its incredibly photogenic 14 alabaster bas-reliefs.
The biggest attraction of Saint-Seurin–other than its impressive history–is its 11th-century crypt, which contains the tomb of Saint-Fort, a marble Merovingian sarcophagus, and a vast Christian necropolis with tombs dating from as early as the fourth century. Rumor has it that the gallant followers of Charlemagne King of the Franks’ (and father of the almighty Carolingian empire, which stretched from Spain to Hungary) were buried in this very place and that Charlemagne placed Roland’s olifant on the altar as he passed by on his way back from Spain.
Basilique Saint-Seurin de Bordeaux is located on place des Martyrs de la Résistance, a few meters outside of the historic center, just northwest of Place Gambetta. It is accessible on foot, by tram via Route B (stop Gambetta) or by car. The nearest parking lot is Parking Gambetta on rue des Commandots de France. Daytime rates (from 8AM to 7PM) are €2.40 per hour and the nighttime (between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.) flat rate is €3.50. Visiting the Basilica is possible from June 1 to September 30 between 1 and 6 p.m. for €3.50.