Bordeaux’s main shopping street stretches 1.2 km (0.7 miles) through the city center and is one of the longest pedestrianized shopping streets in Europe, only beaten by Strøget in Copenhagen and ul. Knyaz Alexander I in Bulgaria’s second city Plovdiv. It is bookended by the Place de la Comédie in the north, which is home to the city’s Neo-Classical Grand Theater, and the Place de la Victoire in the south, dominated by a pink marble obelisk and an 18th-century triumphal arch that marks the position of the city’s original gates.
Narrow and lined with majestic four-story townhouses, Rue Sainte-Catherine is a mecca for international, big-name and mid-range brands such as Zara, H&M and the Czech shoe chain Bata. There’s an Apple Store and a vast outpost of FNAC for DVDs, mobiles and kids’ toys, but the biggest draw along the street is the branch of Paris’s glamorous Galleries Lafayette, which sells everything from high-end designer fashion to gourmet olive oils. Another highlight is the elegant glass-roofed Galerie Bordelaise shopping arcade near the intersection with rue de la Porte Dijeaux; opened in 1837, this is a treasure trove of chic cafés and small, independent boutiques.
Visiting during the annual sales – usually lasting through January and February – may well turn up some real bargains in the 250 stores along Rue Sainte-Catherine and the network of little streets that dive off it. By night the street hums to the sound of happy diners enjoying late suppers in the many restaurants scattered along its length.