UNESCO World Heritage Site Bordeaux sits proudly on the Garonne River, just a few miles from where it joins the mighty Dordogne. Thanks to the top-quality wines produced in the local vineyards, more than 2,000 year old Bordeaux is a city whose name is more recognisable than the names of many other French cities. Port of the Moon encompasses the historic centre of Bordeaux, an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble, created in the 18th century in the Age of Enlightenment. A bend in the river Garonne has created a natural harbour, and because of its shape, it is called Port of the Moon. Do not miss wandering around the historic centre of Bordeaux, and be sure to visit must-see historical monuments. I found the tram system of Bordeaux very convenient, so I recommend using it as transportation for your visit.
Here is my list of the best sights of Bordeaux for your first visit arranged around the tram stops starting from Bordeaux-Saint-Jean Train Station. I recommend at least two days for visiting these places. Buy a day card, take a city map at the train station Tourist information centre and go.
Bordeaux-Saint-Jean Train Station
Bordeaux-Saint-Jean Train Station (Gare de Bordeaux-Saint-Jean) is located in the city centre. Bordeaux Saint-Jean is a stunning train station and its beauty has been enhanced by recent renovations timed to coincide with the opening of France’s newest high-speed line. Opened in 1898, the Bordeaux Saint-Jean station offers easy access to the high-speed TGV trains from Paris and Lille and to Biarritz on the border with Spain. Its sheer height makes it unique in France. Hidden behind its large facade is a giant cast-iron concourse, which is considered to be the largest in the world at the time of construction (1907). By the way, you can leave your luggage there if necessary.
Public transport: Gare Saint-Jean tram stop on C and D lines.
Porte de Bourgogne tram stop area. C and D lines.
Built on the site of the former defensive gate at the end of the 15th century, it served as Arch of Triumph for Charles VIII victory in the Battle of Fornovo. Tower provides a panoramic view of the river.
Porte de Bourgogne
Triumphal arches are very French and, of course, Bordeaux has more than one. Porte de Bourgogne is located at Quai Richelieu on the Garonne River, at the foot of the Pont de Pierre (Stone Bridge). A gateway into the medieval city walls, the Porte de Bourgogne marked the start or end of the road to Paris, now Cours Victor Hugo. The arch, which was designed in the middle of the 18th century, is more recent than the city walls. A massive ceremony was held there in 1808 to welcome the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to the city. Now it is a busy road intersection and tram stop.
The Grosse Cloche or Big Bell is one of the oldest belfries in France. It rings 6 times a year for major celebrations, such as Bastille Day, Victory in Europe Day, and Remembrance Day as well as also on the first Sunday of each month at noon. Built in the 15th century, this fortified gateway was also a prison.
Place de la Bourse tram stop area. D and C lines.
Place de la Bourse
Sitting on the banks of the Garonne River, Place de la Bourse is an impressive classical French square, which was built in the 18th century by the chief architect of King Louis XV. Previously it was called Royal Square. On one side of the square sits La Bourse (the Stock Exchange) and on the other stands Musée des Douanes (Customs and Shipping Museum). The 19th century Fountain of Three Graces stands imposingly at the centre of the square.
Located between the Garonne River and beautiful 18th century Place de la Bourse square, the Mirroir d'Eau is the most photographed site in Bordeaux. Sounds fascinating, but what exactly is a water mirror? It is like a reflecting pool that displays a reflection of the surrounding architecture of Place de la Bourse first of all. Bordeaux's water mirror is just 2 centimetres, less than an inch, deep. When it was launched in 2006, the Bordeaux Water Mirror was the largest reflecting pool in the world, with an area of 3,450 square meters (37,135 square feet). Mirror functions are as follows: there are 15 minutes of a few centimetres of water followed by five minutes without water flow and a wet surface, then five minutes of fog made possible by hundreds of nozzles specifically designed for this purpose.
Eglisse St Perrie church
Eglise St Pierre church has a long history dating back to the 12th century. The reconstruction of the building was done between the middle of the 14th century to the end of the 15th century. The whole building was renovated again in 1882. It is worth visiting to admire its lovely architecture as well as the nice stained-glass windows.
Now you can decide whether to take a tram to Quinconces or just walk as this is the next stop from Place de la Bourse.
Quinconces tram stop area. C and D lines.
Place des Quinconces
Place des Quinconces is the main square of Bordeaux created in the early 19th century. The main esplanade is framed by trees and statues of Montesquieu and Montaigne on its north and south sides; by the Girondists’ Monument on its west side; and by the two Rostral Columns and the Garonne River on its east side. The name of the square comes from the trees that were planted in quincunxes. With an area covering 12 hectares, Place des Quinconces is the largest square in France and one of the largest in Europe, which allows it to host events, such as concerts and fairs. The Rostral Columns, built in 1829, symbolises trade and shipping, which used to be Bordeaux’s two lungs.
Monument to Girondins
First of all, what are Girondins? Girondins are people of Girondine province including the city of Bordeaux and its surrounding areas. The monument is a tribute to those Girondines who lost their lives during the French revolution and were executed there. The Column project was merged with a fountain project that is why the Column was built between two fountains that represent the triumphs of Concord and Republic. On the top of the 43-metre high stone column, an 11-metre high bronze allegory of Liberty breaks its chains.
Cognac Only Boutique
If you, like me, are more Cognac than wine drinker visit Cognac Only Boutiques for your inspiration before going to the city of Cognac located just about 130 kilometres from Bordeaux. Cognac Only Boutiques offers over 500 different kinds of cognac including international brands and small producers. Enjoy personalised tracking of your orders and selection assistance.Address: 18 Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau, 33000 Bordeaux
La Cite du Vin tram stop area. Tram line B.
Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas
Unveiled in 2013, the bridge is named after Jacques Chaban-Delmas, prime minister under French president Georges Pompidou and mayor of Bordeaux for a remarkable eight terms or 48 years (1947–95). Modern and elegant, 575 metres long and 77 metres high, it is the highest lift bridge in Europe. The Jacques Chaban-Delmas Bridge is a fine example of modern technological know-how. Its graceful shape fits in perfectly with its surroundings.
When night falls, the bridge is illuminated to the delight of Bordelaises and photographers. The blue colour of the pylons corresponds to high tide, whereas the green indicates low tide. The bridge is not to be missed during your trip to Bordeaux.
La Cite Du Vin
Wine cultures and civilisation museum was opened in Bordeaux in 2016. Architects Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières designed a space shaped by symbols of identity: rugged vine stock, wine swirling in a glass, water swirls on the Garonne River. Every detail of the architecture evokes wine’s soul and liquid nature. La Cite Du Vin permanent exposition leads you through a journey of wine across the world, ages, cultures, and civilisations. Tour ends at the top of the building with panoramic views and wine tasting from around the world. Admire the view of the city and the Jacques Chaban-Delmas Bridge from above. In addition, the “Cite” also have a panoramic restaurant, a wine bar, tasting workshops, and a boutique. The information desk offers details about visiting the vineyards of Bordeaux. If you want to visit vineries near Bordeaux I strongly recommend you to join group tours as vineries are not much interested to cater individual tourists.
Les Halles de Bacalan par Biltoki
Before or most likely after visiting La Cite Du Vin, allocate a time to see this upscale modern food venue. Since 2015, the Basque company BILTOKI (the place that gathers) created a new concept of food halls giving them a modern feel. The covered market has more than 20 vendors of local products and a bar.
Hotel de Ville tram stop area. Tram lines A and B.
Roman Catholic Primatial Cathedral of St Andrew of Bordeaux was originally constructed in the 11th century, though little of the cathedral remains today. Its Royal Gate dates back to the 13th century, while the main cathedral was built in the Gothic style in the 14th and 15th centuries. It has hosted two royal marriages of Louis VII and Louis XII. It was converted to a warehouse in the Revolution and was destroyed by fire in the 19th century and renovated later. Fifty metres high bell tower of the 15th century was built separately from the Cathedral and offers nice views of the city.
Statue of Jacques Chaban-Delmas
Jacques Chaban-Delmas was a mayor of the city of Bordeaux from 1947 to 1995. Erected at Place Pey-Berland, near the Place Jean Moulin, his monument by the sculptor Jean Cardot was unveiled in 2012. Jacques Chaban-Delmas appears in full, walking towards the town hall in Palais Rohan that he occupied for 48 years.
The Palais Rohan is a witness of the splendour and power of the archbishops of Bordeaux in the 18th century when Palace was commissioned by Archbishop Meriadec de Rohan. Now it is a Town Hall of the city. Inside the building, there is one of the most beautiful staircases in France.
Where to stay? I recommend Seekoo Hotel
This modern 4-star hotel is located 800 metres from Cité du Vin, just 40 metres from the Quai des Marques shopping area, facing the Jacques Chaban Delmas Bridge. The shape of the plot of land led to the floor plan unusual for a hotel. All the rooms face outwards over the streets and are served by a corridor with natural lighting from the centre of the plot. On the ground floor, guests are welcomed in a vast open space with wide bays opening to the exterior. On the first floor, the bar and dining room is located. A hammam, sauna, and meeting and conference room offer their services to guests. The spacious bedrooms, ranging from 28 to 55 square metres, have a sober, graphic unity. The light, silk-screen printing on the sound-proofed windows adds to a remarkably quiet atmosphere. All rooms have flat-screen cable TV and free Wi-Fi, and some rooms offer a panoramic view of the city. As a coffee drinker, I adored the coffee machine in the room.Public transport: Les Hangars. Tram line B.
Check a map of tram stops mentioned in this article for your convenience.
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Want to explore the area nearby? Visit Perigord Noir!
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Author: Anita Sāne
About the author
Anita is a part-time traveller, passionate photographer and a retired career woman from Latvia, travelling mostly solo for more than 15 years. She is a skilled travel planner who plans and executes her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Bloglovin.