The Place de la Bourse (or Place Royale) faces onto the river Garonne. It was laid out in the 1700s by Louis XV's architect, Gabriel, to act as a dramatic frame for an equestrian statue of the monarch.
The Place de la Bourse is framed on one side by the Stock Exchange (the 'Bourse' that gives the square its name) and on the other side by a museum. In the center of the square is its chief beauty and attraction, the fountain of the Three Graces, built by Visconti in 1869. When it's lit at night it is highly photogenic.
Everywhere you turn in Bordeaux, exceptional wines are the principal attraction, and one of the most famous areas for wine is the northern region of Medoc. Renowned for its fine red wines and home to some of the most prestigious wineries in France, the region encompasses classified growing areas like Pauillac, Margaux, St Julien and St Estephe. Wines here are typically produced from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and, being a grape best aged, the area’s acclaimed vintage wines can carry unbelievably steep price tags.
Visitors to Bordeaux will find exploring the Medoc vineyards an easy day trip, although make sure you call ahead if you’re not booked on a tour as most vineyards here are not open to the public. It’s not just the world-class wine tasting that’s a draw, either.
The most remarkable religious building in Bordeaux, according to locals, Cathédrale St-André is famous for having a separate and independent bell tower. The cathedral was first built in the 13th century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, while having once played a significant role in the religious and cultural development of Bordeaux; it is indeed where the prosperous Eleanor of Aquitaine got married to the future King of France, Louis VII. Her considerable wealth benefited the entire city and even the cathedral itself, which was subsequently enlarged and lavishly decorated. One of its most remarkable features is undoubtedly the wrought ironwork by local craftsman Blaise Charlut, which is located in the middle of the transept. The cathedral’s 14th-century tympanum depicts the Last Judgment in the most dramatic way in prominent Gothic architecture.
The Dune of Pyla (Dune du Pilat) is the tallest sand dune in Europe. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean, the Arcachon Bay and the luxuriant Landes forest, it stands 360 feet (110 meters) above sea level, and is over 1.68 miles (2.7 km) long and 546 yards (500 meters) wide. With more than 1 million visitors every year, the Dune of Pyla is consistently known as one of the most popular attractions in the region.
With such a unique and jaw-dropping setting, it’s no surprise that the dune is so popular, especially among those who take part in airborne recreational activities such as paragliding and extreme kiting. There are also several free on-site activities as well, including the sunset discovery tour in the summer months.
Visitors who prefer leisurely ascends should opt for the sturdy 160-step staircase, which is in place from April to November, while those in need of a good workout should definitely try and get to the top by trudging directly through the sand.
Bordeaux's Grand Theatre was built in the late 1700s during the reign of Louis XVI by architect Victor Louis. It is one of the most beautiful 18th-century concert halls in the world, with a facade adorned with 12 Corinthian columns, each topped with a statue. Nine statues represent the art muses, and the other three represent the Roman goddesses Juno, Venus and Minerva. Over the past few years, the theater has gone through restoration to repair damages from oil lamps and revive the 18th-century decor.
On three separate occasions the theater was the seat of the French parliament. In effect this made Bordeaux the capital of France in 1870, 1914, and 1941. Today the Grand Theatre is home to the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, the Opera Ballet of Bordeaux, and the Chorus of the Opéra National de Bordeaux.
The name Bordeaux most commonly passes our lips when we are talking about French wine, but the city of Bordeaux has more to offer than just its famous grapevines. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as Port of the Moon, filled with stunning historic architecture largely unchanged for over two centuries.
There are over 350 buildings and monuments listed as Historic in the city and in the past decades a major project has been undertaken to clean the facades and put in a tram-service with no overhead wires to mar the beauty of the city.
Greeting arriving ships to the port is a one kilometer stretch of gracious historic palaces which line the quay built in the 17th and 18th century - even back then Bordeaux was keen to make a good first impression on visitors and it continues to do so today.
The language spoken is French but Bordeaux has many visitors so English is spoken in many shops and restaurants, although the French may be reluctant to use it.
Often considered to be the very birthplace of Bordeaux wine (with some vines being over 2,000 years old), Graves also happens to be the largest wine-growing area in all of France–120,000 hectares of vineyards to be exact. A top destination for wine aficionados!
It doesn’t come as a surprise that one of the most popular things to do in Graves would, understandably, be the wine route. Visitors from around the world flock to the area to taste new wines, discover the esteemed Grands Crus and talk all things epicurean with lively, passionate wine-growers. The wine route is not only an excellent opportunity to find out more about the longstanding craft of wine-making, but also to get a better grasp of the tremendous amount of work and expertise that is required to produce a good vintage, and of course to visit lavish French estates. Some of the most popular wineries to visit are prestigious Château Suduiraut, Château Carbonnieux, and Château Smith Haut Lafitte.
The Quinconces Square (known locally as the Esplanade de Quinconces) certainly impresses with its size - at 12 hectares (30 acres) it's one of Europe's largest squares. And it's impressively situated on the banks of the Garonne, laid out in a semi-circle with trees planted in geometric patterns based on the number five (it's these patterns that give the Esplanade its name).
Laid out in the early 1800s, the square is adorned by some massive public statuary. There are rostral columns, statues of Montaigne and Montesquieu, and an immense monument to the Girondists, who were executed during the Revolution. The monument is a riot of bronze horses and warriors. During WWII it was dismantled by the Germans and the bronze melted, but it has since been restored.
Pomerol is an undersized, wine-oriented village located about 45 minutes east of Bordeaux. But its relatively small size–just 2,000 acres–definitely isn’t an obstacle to quality; indeed, Pomerol has become one of the region’s most respected Appellations d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) over the second half of the 20th century, despite being slightly different from the strictly categorized, upmarket Bordeaux wines.
With a yearly production that edges about 3,000 bottles per winery, Pomerol wines find prestige in rarity. Most of them are produced on small farmlands and insist on remaining a high quality, low volume type of wine, a feature that is unquestionably reflected in their steep prices. With most wines in Pomerol being of the Merlot kind, the region is therefore a brilliant destination for wine neophytes with a large budget, as Merlot is one of the most palatable red wines present in France.
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Located in the very center of Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux, this striking column was elevated in the late 1800s to commemorate the Girondists, a fervent republican political faction consisting of militants originally part of France’s Legislative Assembly, and one of the first group to openly denounce Louis XVI’s reign and the monarchy in general. Their 1793 mass execution, which was caused by their resistance against the rapidly increasing momentum of the revolution, is often considered to be the starting point of the Reign of Terror.
At 54 meters high, the Monument aux Girondins overlooks one of the city’s busiest squares and is adorned with an intricate bronze statue representing Lady Liberty breaking free of her shackles and gracing Bordeaux with her palm of victory. At the base of the column stands a colossal fountain and two basins, with dramatic bronze sculptures of charging horses, each signifying a different aspect of modern French society.
The Basilique Saint-Michel is a Gothic gem built between the 14th and 16th centuries. Its charms include an altarpiece depicting the triumph of Michael, its patron saint, over the dragon and some fine stained glass (although a lot of its stained glass was destroyed in WWII). It's also a stop on the Santiago de Compostello pilgrimage.
But the church itself is overshadowed by its freestanding belfry, which at 114 meters (374 feet) somewhat grabs the attention. From June to September, it's possible to go inside the tower and climb to the top. It's worth it for the views over the river.
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.
Bordeaux in southwest France was once a vibrant port city. The port itself was known as the Port of the Moon because it sat on a semi-circular part of the Garonne River. Historically the left bank of the port has been the center of commerce and culture. Throughout the past 2,000 years, the port has played an important role in shaping the city's history and its place as a world city of wine.
When the automobile became more prominent, the historical buildings in this area began to degrade and turn black. The roads were not meant for cars, and traffic jams clogged up the port area. The port's importance declined, and it was eventually moved downstream to the northern suburbs. In the 1990s great efforts were made to clean up the area, including the buildings, and the waterfront is now lined with pedestrian walkways, bicycle paths, shops, and museums. In 2007 the Port of the Moon waterfront was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The converging point of many of the city’s high streets, pedestrianized Place de la Comédie is an inevitable stop on any Bordeaux itinerary. This lively and elegant square dates back to Gallo-Roman times, back when it was still home to the busy forum of Burdigala, and visitors could be momentarily fooled into thinking they've actually traveled back in time thanks to the Grand Théâtre’s exceptional architecture. Designed in the neo-classical style, it features a 12-column Corinthian portico surmounted by statues that represent the nine muses and three goddesses. Nevertheless, it wasn't until the 18th century that Place de la Comédie gained its prestige.
Architect Victor Louis–who also conceived Paris’ Palais Royal and Théâtre Français–wanted Bordeaux to have a temple of the arts that would reflect the city’s newly found grandeur.
Planning a wine tasting trip to Bordeaux? Sounds like fun! But after, say, a full week of visiting vineyards and sipping wines, it's going to start to blur together and you may even start to get bored. Ah, the problems one has when vacationing in France!Luckily, this delicious problem has an equally delicious solution – head out to the Bay of Arcachon, just an hour's drive or train ride away from Bordeaux, and one of those places you can't believe you've never heard of before. While it can be done in a day trip, it's best if you spend a couple days out there because there is an astonishing number of things to see and do in the Bay of Arcachon. First, there is the Great Dune of Pyla. Yes, the largest sand dune in Europe, and desert-like in its size and height, is on the southwestern Atlantic coast of France! You can walk across it, or rent a dune buggy and take a joyride, or simply use it for a day at the beach with one hell of a view.
Otherwise known as Palais Rohan, Bordeaux City Hall was built in 1771 in the elegant Louis XIV neoclassical style. It was where celebrated painter Eugène Delacroix discovered his calling in the 1780s, fascinated by the Pompei-style trompe l’oeil fresco in the dining room. What was simply an archiepiscopal residence at the time would later on be used as a revolutionary tribunal under the Reign of Terror in the 1790s, before it welcomed Napoleon I in 1808 and became an imperial residence in the process.
It wasn't until 1836 that Palais Rohan officially became Bordeaux City Hall. Today, the building is surrounded by lovely English gardens and houses the Bordeaux Fine Arts Museum, one of the largest art galleries in France outside of Paris. It specializes in French and Dutch paintings (including Renoir, Delacroix and Picasso), a number of which were thankfully recovered after being looted during the French revolution.
Although Château Plaisance now sells over 150,000 bottles around the world, it started out as a small family production back in the 1870s. Louis Penavayre, however, took the business of his ancestors to the next level in 1971, expanding the land and becoming an ambassador of the endemic Negrette vines in the process. These flavorful vines, which have been growing in Fronton for well over 2,000 years, are characterized by their low acidity levels and dark grapes that give way to the wine's powerful yet supple taste. In 1991, the land was expanded to a whopping 40 acres (16 hectares) before it eventually reached 74 acres (30 hectares) by 2010.
Château Plaisance has recently undergone major transformations and is now an entirely organic production, thus reflecting a desire to let the grapes’ rich flavors take the spotlight.
The Citadel of Blaye is a 17th-century fortress in the town of Blaye north of Bordeaux, France. Due to Blaye's strategic location on the Gironde estuary, King Louis XIV ordered the Marquis de Vauban to build the fortress in order to protect Bordeaux from attack. The citadel is a walled city that covers an area of about 94 acres and was built around a parade ground, a monastery dedicated to the Minims order, and several army barracks. The ruins of many buildings are inside the fortress, including the 12th-century Rudel Castle, the 12th-century Liverneuf Gate, and the 15th-century Éguillette Tower.
At the time when the Citadel of Blaye was built, the range of the cannons was not long enough to cover two miles from one side of the river to the other. Vauban built two more forts, Fort Paté and Fort Médoc, so that the three together could set up cross-fires to prevent enemies from reaching Bordeaux.
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