The intricate facade of the Basilica of St. Michael (Basilique St. Michel) in central Bordeaux is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. It took more than 200 years to build, from the end of the 14th century to the end of the 16th century. The freestanding belfry, with its ornate decorations, also draws many visitors.
Dedicated to the Archangel Michael, Bordeaux’s basilica and belfry—known as the arrow (la fleche) and measuring 374 feet (114 meters)—are found in the ancient quarter of St.-Michel. Both the church and its freestanding spire are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. From the late 18th century right up until 1990, the bell tower crypt was used as an exhibition space to display a collection of gruesome mummies that were found in a nearby cemetery.
Although the macabre display is no longer there, many local people remember those days, and tourists can learn more about them through audio guides. The neighborhood of St.-Michel is also home to a thriving market, and its riverside location means boat tours of the local area pass by frequently.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Entry to the bell tower is by paid ticket. Children under 18 are free.
- Entry to the main basilica building is free of charge.
- Look out for the image of St. Michael slaying a dragon carved in the basilica’s font.
- Visitors can climb the tower for panoramic views of the city.
How to Get There
The basilica and bell tower are located in Place Meynard in Bordeaux’s St.-Michel neighborhood. The St.-Michel light rail station stops close by, and the basilica is walking distance from many points in Bordeaux. Paid parking lots can be found nearby.
When to Get There
The basilica is open daily year-round, while the belfry is open every day from April 1 to October 31 from 10am–1pm, and 2pm–6pm.
Visit the Place de la Bourse
With imposing contours of ornate buildings overlooking Garonne river and a modern fountain installation that delights visitors, the Place de la Bourse is a must-visit for anyone traveling to Bordeaux. The square and its buildings took more than 20 years to construct in the early 18th century, and the impressive Water Mirror (Miroir d’Eau) reflecting pool, which gives the impression that the buildings in the square are floating on water, was added in 2006.