- Saint Pierre District
- Place de la Bourse and il Miroir d’Eau
- Place de la Victoire
- Pont de Pierre
- Rue Saint Catherine
- Saint-André Cathédral
- Pey Berland Tower
- Grand Théâtre
- Monument aux Girondins
- Basilique Saint Seurin
- Grosse Cloche
- Porte Cailhau
- Wine and Trade Museum
- Museum of Decorative Arts
- Musée National des Douanes
- CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art
- Natural History Museum
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Science Museum
- Musée d’Aquitaine
- Jardin Public
- BETASOM Submarine Base
- Parc Bordelais
- Botanical Garden
Saint Pierre District
Welcome to Bordeaux’s beating heart. This is a charming district dotted with pretty views and characteristic streets. In fact, the district of Saint Pierre is located in the city’s old town and still contains hints of its past. Back in the thirteenth century, this part of the city overlapped with the port area, where ships were loaded with precious goods before setting off to trade. The surrounding area was full of merchants shops and Bordeaux’s streets are still named after them (Rue du Commandant Marchand, Rue du Chai des Farines).
You’ll no doubt stumble upon the old town’s rich history as you stroll down to the Roman port, which is now fed by a series of underground rivers. Along the way, you’ll cross through town squares built in various different eras and lined with marvellous neoclassical buildings.
Place de la Bourse and il Miroir d’Eau
It took over twenty years to build and is now the most photographed square in Bordeaux, Place de la Bourse is an iconic city symbol and marks the end of the medieval town, which was enclosed inside city walls for centuries. The aim was to give the city more breathing space by building a royal square that opened out onto the river Garonne. In the eighteenth century, Louis XV’s architect, Jacques Gabriel, designed a charming town square with rounded corners and lots of personality thanks to its wrought iron decorations and masks.
The square has since become famous, despite transforming significantly throughout the ages. During the French Revolution, the railings separating the square from the river were torn down and the equestrian statue of the king was replaced with one of Napoleon. In 1869, the Fountain of the Three Graces was erected in its place, and after being renamed Place Royale and then Place de la Liberté, the square was eventually christened the Place de la Bourse. The piazza is also surrounded by several important buildings, including the Chamber of Commerce and Musée National des Douanes.
Another must-see attraction in this square is the world-famous Miroir d’Eau. Built in 2006, it consists of a huge reflective pool of water that occasionally emits jets of water and brilliantly reflects the surrounding beauty. Here, you can enjoy an intriguing, magical rest while you cool off on a hot summer’s afternoon.
Place de la Victoire
We continue our journey onto yet another important city square: Place de la Victoire which was designed by the architect André Portier in 1748, who also created the iconic Porte d’Aquitaine. Place de la Victoire is also home to a monument that has fascinated tourists since 2005: a huge red and bronze marble column. The monument is 16 metres tall and was created by sculptor Ivan Theimer to pay homage to the city’s world-famous winemaking and viticulture tradition.
The column is composed of six marble blocks and weighs over 50 tonnes. On top of the column, you’ll spot various bronze engraved symbols depicting stories and myths about wine from antiquity to the present day. The column is helical in shape, symbolising a growing vine reaching up towards the sun.
Pont de Pierre
Rue Saint Catherine
It’s impossible to talk about Bordeaux without mentioning its main shopping street: Rue Saint Catherine (also called ‘Saint Cath’). This street winds along for about a kilometre and runs past almost all of Bordeaux’s main attractions. A pedestrian street since 1977, it really is a point of pride for the local citizens of Bordeaux, and it’s also home to over 230 shops.
But it’s not just good for shopping, over the years, it has become a meeting point for young people. Always very crowded, at almost all hours of the day, this colourful street is packed with people, especially during the sales. You’ll also find no shortage of stalls and street sellers livening up the atmosphere.
The first church we are going to talk about is Bordeaux Cathedral, which is the city’s largest place of worship. A French historical monument since 1862, Saint-André Cathédral has undergone some significant changes and transformations over the years, starting in 1096, when it was consecrated by Pope Urban II. Its original Romanesque style was later changed to accommodate Gothic influences, while the nave was rebuilt several times during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
The transept and choir were added two hundred years later. On the north side, you’ll spot the very famous Porte Royale, built in 1250. The cathedral is also not lacking in treasures, and is home to one of the ‘most beautiful organs in all Christendom’ and a number of wonderful frescoes, including The Last Supper.
Pey Berland Tower
Next to the cathedral is Pey Berland Tower, which dates back to the 1400s and acts as the church’s bell tower. Built in a neo-Gothic style, the tower was constructed at the behest of Archbishop Pey Berland. It is 66 metres tall and separated into four floors. You can also climb its 231-step spiral staircase to enjoy the wonderful view from the very top. The tower boasts a very interesting history. In fact, during the French Revolution, it was sold and turned into a shot factory.
It was only returned to its original purpose in the nineteenth century and became a historical monument in 1848. Just like Bordeaux’s old town, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over the years, the building has undergone several renovations, the last of which was in 2003.
This is one of the most beautiful theatres in the world, and its construction is owed to Parisian architect Victor Louis, who designed the theatre down to the very last detail during Louis XVI’s reign. The building was officially opened on 17 April 1780, after about seven years of construction. It is a neoclassical theatre, with an interesting façade featuring a porch and twelve huge Corinthian columns. On the entablature stand nine muses and three goddesses, Venus, Minerva and Juno. The building is equipped with a horseshoe theatre and galleries for spectators.
And it’s not just famous for its symphonies. It is also home to the Opera and Ballet National de Bordeaux. If you’re interested in taking a look inside, you can also join a daily guided tour. The theatre was once briefly home to the National Assembly for the French Parliament and its interiors were renovated in the ‘90s, reinstating the original blue and gold colour palette.
Monument aux Girondins
Basilique Saint Seurin
Another of Bordeaux’s iconic monuments is Porte Cailhau in the Saint Pierre district. This gateway once provided access to the city. It is 25 metres tall, was built in 1494 and is located just a stone’s throw from the river Garonne. Over the centuries, it has changed purpose a number of times. Today, it’s merely a fantastic Renaissance Gothic city monument.
The gate has had several different functions over the years. It started out as a gateway to Parliament, before being used to defend the city, as is evidenced by its arrowslits. As for its name, there are two potential explanations: ‘cailhau’ is the name of the type of stone used to build the gate, but it is also the name of one of Bordeaux’s most powerful and prominent families.
Wine and Trade Museum
Museum of Decorative Arts
The Museum of Decorative Arts will no doubt catch your eye when you walk past it. A building dating back to 1779, it once belonged to a nobleman from Bordeaux and is a true embodiment of the French Revolution era. Inside, you’ll find furniture, jewellery, musical instruments, tools, measuring instruments and tableware, which all belong to a fantastic exhibition about French and Bordelais decorative arts up to the eighteenth century.
The museum tells the story of a city rich in trade and influence, thanks to its important port. Permanent collections are housed across three floors, while you’ll find the temporary exhibitions in a separate building. The museum is also home to four small exhibits dedicated to the Bourbon Restoration.
Musée National des Douanes
CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art
Natural History Museum
Museum of Fine Arts
Another of Bordeaux’s unmissable museums is the Museum of Fine Arts. Housed in a historic building dating back to 1881, this museum is a great place to learn more about the big names in European painting. Here, all artists are exhibited on one floor and among the 330 works housed in the museum are paintings and sculptures by Picasso, Titian, Delacroix, Renoir, Matisse, Rubens and Velasquez. You’ll also find masterpieces by Perugino, Van Dyck and Paolo Veronese.
If you’re in the mood for something a little more light-hearted, we recommend a trip to the museum’s more playful area, where you can discover interesting facts about which artists belong to which art movements, etc. The museum’s art collections are located in two areas of the Palais Rohan. Artwork from 1500 to 1800 is located in the south wing, while collections from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are housed in the north wing.