Bordeaux – capital of winemaking in France
Bordeaux is the capital of the French wine industry. This city is located in the south-west of the country in the magnificent flowering Aquitaine (the historical name of the area). The official name of the area is not very consonant to the Russian ear – Gironde. More than 200 thousand people permanently live in Bordeaux.
Where is it located?
Bordeaux is located in south-western France, 50 km from the coast of the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic Ocean.
The geographical coordinates are 44.845461, -0.573859.
Actually, the tourist brochures call Bordeaux the wine capital of the world.
Italy and Spain are unlikely to agree. However, the fact that everyone has heard of Bordeaux as the name of the wine remains undeniable. That is why people go to Bordeaux. And only once in the city, many people realize that they got in a very remarkable place.
This is a university city, nursing a whole cohort of scientists and researchers. It’s a fun city known for its elegant celebrations. In addition, Bordeaux has recently begun restoring its historical heritage. And a lot of money is being invested. Not because it’s so much neglected, just a lot of work.
The old part of Bordeaux
The historic center of Bordeaux, the so-called Old Town, is a mix of Gallic, Roman and medieval buildings.
The St. Peter’s Quarter dominates in the middle of it all.
The old part of Bordeaux
The narrow streets with closely spaced churches and palaces radiate away from it. It all looks rather diminutive, but impresses with architectural sophistication.
For example, the church of Saint-Michel is a magnificent example of Gothic style. The temple seems to jut into the sky.
Basilica (aka church) of Saint Michel
The Cathedral of Saint Andre is incredibly beautiful. It stands out starkly against the background of the old buildings.
The Cathedral of Saint-André
Not surprisingly, it is surrounded by the best museums in Bordeaux, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts.
City guides assure that it houses an excellent collection of paintings by artists such as Reynolds, Titian, Rubens, Matisse and Marquet.
Bordeaux’s most impressive structure is probably the Grand Theatre. No one can argue with that. It was built on the ruins of a Roman temple with parts of an earlier structure incorporated into a later building. This immediately catches the eye. The facade of the Grand Theater is a portico with columns, each topped with a sculptural figure depicting a muse or grace.
The Grand Theatre is quite an impressive sight in Bordeaux
The city’s main squares
City celebrations are held in one of the many squares. The most famous of them is Kinkons. This huge area covers 12 hectares. No other European city has anything like it.
Kinkons is the largest square in Bordeaux.
But the Place de la Bourse is elegant. Its size is modest, but it has many times sung by poets fountain of Three Graces, and the square is open to the Garonne.
Place des Bours is one of the most photographed in the city Fountain of the Three Graces
The Garonne is the river on which Bordeaux is located. It is crossed by a historic bridge bearing the name of St. Peter. It was built during Napoleonic times, at the height of the emperor’s career, during his Spanish campaigns. Understandably, this was reflected in the appearance of the structure. It offers a magnificent view of the city.
The old city is best viewed on foot. It is not very tedious, as it is quite compact. You can also take a boat ride. From the river also offers a great view.
The Garonne is the most picturesque of French rivers. But it’s not what defines the atmosphere of the city. It’s the breath of the ocean. Bordeaux is a stone’s throw from the Atlantic, a half hour by car, if you take your time.
The city’s proximity to the ocean saw the French and the English snatching it from each other for three centuries. It was founded by the Romans, so both nations claimed it as their own. The influence of both cultures is quite noticeable. The English, for example, still own a number of chateaux in the area.
Bordeaux and winemaking
As for wine making, the main attraction for tourists, the area is engaged in it since the birth of Christ and, understandably, traditions here are filigree.
Vineyards are impressive first of all. Every scrap of land suitable for cultivation is filled with them. They go even into the town. The beauty is incredible. Among the vineyards scattered villages, castles, pine groves. Lines of vines climb the hills and descend into the lowlands. Even the village churches are surrounded by them. And over it all the blue sky of France.
Vineyards on the outskirts of Bordeaux cover an impressive area
The vineyards in Bordeaux, as the French call it, cover 120 thousand hectares of fertile land. On them are thousands of chateaux.
There are no fewer than 50 trading houses in the area. All have their own wine cellars or work with dozens of private or cooperative ones.
The vast wine cellars of Bordeaux hold thousands of barrels of fine wine.
The region produces red, white, dry and rosé wines. Today 57 brands are known. The most famous names among them are: Bourgeois, Bleuillet, Antre de Mer, Saint-Emilion, Medoc, Grav and Sauternet. However, Petroux, Yquem, Mouton Rothschild, Cheval Blanc, Eau Brion are now in big fashion.
Bordeaux: the wine capital of France.
Bordeaux is a city in France in Aquitaine, the capital of the world famous wine region, which hosts the international wine exhibition Vinexpo. The historic center of Bordeaux, which is an ensemble of the 18th century, is protected by UNESCO. Bordeaux is located on the Atlantic coast of France, where the Garonne River divides into two parts, forming the right and left banks. The area of modern Bordeaux was inhabited in the I century BC. It was inhabited by Celtic tribes who founded the settlement of Bourdigalle. In 56 BC the Celtic settlement was annexed to Rome. At this time Bordeaux became an important commercial center and the capital of Aquitaine Gaul. Starbon, describing Bordeaux in Augustus’ time, already mentions vineyards growing in the area. The city was pillaged by the Vandals in 276 and 409, then by the Visigoths and Franks. The 5th century was a dark and decadent period for Bordeaux. At the end of the 6th century the city began to revive, becoming the capital of the Duchy of Vasconia. In the second half of the 8th century Bordeaux was under Carolingian rule.
But Bordeaux’s finest hour came in the twelfth century, when Eleanor of Aquitaine married the Earl of Henry Plantagenet, who soon became King Henry II of England. Eleanor had previously been married to King Louis VII of France for 15 years, but their marriage fell apart. Eleanor’s dowry now came into the possession of the English Crown. The wines produced in Bordeaux aroused the interest of the English, great drinkers, from the XIII century Bordeaux becomes the main supplier of wines to the English Royal Court and England as a whole. Bordeaux began to thrive thanks to the wine trade, helped by this and a favorable geographical position – the access to the sea, which was a key point in the popularity of Bordeaux wines. In the 14th century Bordeaux was the capital of an independent state ruled by Edward the Black Prince. But in 1453 at the end, lost its independence and became part of France. Later Bordeaux joined the Fronde, and only in 1653 returned to the French kingdom, when the troops of Louis XIV entered the city. The 18th century was a golden age for Bordeaux. Under the leadership of the Marquis de Tourny, the mayor, and thanks to the talent of the architect Victor Louis and Ange Jacques Gabriel, new buildings and promenades were built, and Bordeaux became the most beautiful city in France. “Take Versailles, add Antwerp and you get Bordeaux”, as Victor Hugo said of Bordeaux at the time.
During World War II, the French government moved to Bordeaux from Paris. Now Bordeaux is called the city of art and history, with the largest historical center with buildings of the XVIII century.
The Garonne River divides the city into two banks, the right and left. The historic part is located on the left bank – the Port of the Moon, so it is unofficially called because of the crescent shape, which was formed by a bend of the Garonne River. The symbolic crescent is also placed on the city’s coat of arms.
Wine and Bordeaux are a special theme. The wines of Bordeaux are probably the most famous in the world, and to see the endless Bordeaux vineyards is a dream of many wine lovers and connoisseurs.
Bordeaux vineyards. France.
The vineyards cover 116 thousand hectares, several thousand châteaux (estates) and negociant houses produce 960 million bottles a year. It is an undeniable fact that the wines of Bordeaux are the Great Wines of the World . Read more about wine here.
A special “wine” holiday atmosphere permeates the whole city, in numerous wine shops and restaurants in Bordeaux you can have a glass of excellent red wine and join the strolling flow of the evening and night city. It may be the fresh Atlantic breeze or the wine aroma, but the people of Bordeaux are friendly and sociable and will gladly welcome you into their company.
Restaurant Le Saint Broc. 28 rue Leupold. In front of the church of Dt. Pierre. Bordeaux. France.
Let’s start our walk in Bordeaux from Saint-Andre Cathedral.
The cathedral was consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1096. It has been rebuilt many times, and the present building dates from the XIV-XV centuries. In the XIII century Eleanor of Aquitaine was married in the cathedral to her first husband king of France Louis VII from whom she later divorced. The tower of Rey Berland, in flamboyant Gothic style, was built between 1440 and 1466 as the bell tower of the cathedral. The tower was damaged by a thunderstorm in 1667 and was restored, and in 1863 a statue of Our Lady of Aquitaine with Child was placed at the top.
Then the straight avenue cours d’Alsace et Torraine leads to the promenade. On the right-hand side stands the Burgundy Gate, built on the site of a medieval gate, according to the Tournie plan.
The construction of the gate was timed to coincide with the triumphal arrival of Emperor Napoleon. But there is a story that Napoleon disliked the people of Bordeaux and preferred Burgundy wine. That’s why the gate was named after Burgundy.
The Stone Bridge (Pont de pierre) crosses the Garonne River. It connects the left and right banks of the river, the old quarters with modern ones. The stone bridge was built in the beginning of the 19th century, its length is 487 m, 17 arches symbolize single letters in the name and surname of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
Stone Bridge. Bordeaux.
Without crossing the river, we will walk along the quay. Here on the Place de la Bourse is a unique fountain called the “Water Mirror”. Its area 3450 square meters, the water does not flow upwards, and appears in clouds of steam from the ground, evaporates and envelopes the area in a haze. Then the mist slowly recedes and the fountain begins to gurgle, filling the surface with water. Everyone can walk around the shallow water lake or take pictures among the mist.
Water Mirror Fountain.
Fountain “Water Mirror”.
Fountain “Water Mirror”.
The Exchange Square was laid out in the 18th century, the Exchange Palace is reflected in the water. Once it housed the Royal Palace, during the Revolution – the Palace of Liberty, and in 1848 – already the Exchange Palace, part of which is now a museum.
After crossing the road, we dive into the narrow streets. Here is the church of St. Peter.
Church of St. Peter.
It’s a tangle of narrow streets with restaurants, cafes, bars and stores. Evenings are crowded, with numerous wine shops opening their doors to visitors, and people with glasses of wine or pints of beer can be seen walking the streets.
The central street of Bordeaux, Rue Sainte-Catherine, is located here.
Pedestrian street stretches for 1.2 km – it is one of the longest shopping streets in Europe. There are stores (including Galeries Lafayette), restaurants and cafes. The street runs exactly along the contour of the old Roman road.
The street connects the two squares of the city – place de la Comedie and place de la Victoire . Let’s go north to the Place de la Comédie . Here is the Grand Theatre, built in neoclassical style in 1780 by architect Victor Louis. The upper part of the theater is decorated with 9 muses and 3 goddesses (Juno, Venus and Minerva).
Grand Theatre. Bordeaux. France.
From here you can see the column in the Esplanade Cancons Square . But before entering the square, we turn down a small street just opposite the central facade of the Grand Théâtre. It leads to the tiny Place du Chapelet, where we will find the Notre Dame church, which was built at the end of the XVII century in Baroque style.
Church of Our Lady.
Church of Our Lady.
The church has stunning acoustics and hosts organ music concerts. In 1675, when King Louis XIV decided to build the castle of Trompette, the Dominican monastery was broken. Then the brothers decided to rebuild a new monastery not far from the former site. The new monastery became larger with two beautiful courtyards and the church of St. Dominic, which was later dedicated to Our Lady in 1802. From 1797 to 1885 the monastery housed the military unit, then the museum of antiquity, and in 1994, after the restoration, the judicial authorities.
Let’s go back to the Grand Theater and walk to the Esplanade des Quinconces.
Esplanade des Quinconces. Bordeaux. France.
The Esplanade des Quinconces is one of the largest squares in France. Today the square has a memorial to the Girondists, the creation of Ritchie and Dumilatore. Until 1800, the castle of Trompette, erected to frighten the English after a 100-year war, stood here.
Esplanade des Quinconces. Bordeaux. France.
Not far from the square is a beautiful garden, a favorite vacation spot of the locals.
But from the square we will walk along the cours de Tournon to the Place de la Tournie . In the center of the lively square stands a monument to the Marquis de Tournes, who did so much for the modern image of Bordeaux .
The Marquis de Tourny. Bordeaux. France.
Now, walking through the beautiful and well-groomed streets of the city, it is hard to imagine that just recently Bordeaux was not so beautiful, black and shabby facades of houses, dirty streets, all this scared away tourists. Then the authorities decided to urgently remedy the situation. Bordeaux’s houses are made of beautiful light stone, but unfortunately this stone well absorbs smog, dust and pollution, which are inevitable in a big city and with time it becomes black. The decision has been made to clean all the facades of Bordeaux, not only with water but also with lasers. As a result the city boasts bright houses and the appearance given to it by the Marquis de Tourny.
We continue our way along rue Fondaudege , turning left on rue du Docteur Albert Barraud . Here we are reminded of Bordeaux’s Roman past by a Roman ruin called the Palais Gallienne. It was in fact an amphitheater built in the 1st century BC with a seating capacity of 15 thousand spectators. Already in the 3rd century the amphitheater began to decay.
Roman amphitheatre. Bordeaux. France.
We continue our way along rue du Docteur Albert Barraud, turn left on rue Capdeville and on the square place des Martyrs de la Resistance we will see the most ancient church of Bordeaux – the Saint-Seurin Basilica, built in VI century.
St. Serenes Basilica. Bordeaux. France.
From here we will walk to the place Gambetta and take a streetcar to the stop Victoire. There are three streetcar lines (A, B, C) in Bordeaux, they were installed relatively recently, only in 2003, and were immediately loved by locals for their convenience.
Place de la Victoire, where the streetcar will take us, is one of the main and busiest squares of Bordeaux. The square is home to the University of Bordeaux, so the cafes and bars are always filled with students and young people.
The Aquitaine Gate at the place de la Victoire.
The tortuous narrow streets from the square toward the river, through the Arab quarters, lead to the magnificent Basilica of Saint Michael, built in the 14th and 15th centuries in the flamboyant Gothic style. The stained glass windows of the Cathedral were damaged during the 1940 Bombing. Separate from the Cathedral there is a 114 meters high bell tower, which can be climbed. Under the bell tower a Gallo-Roman cemetery and catacombs have been found.
Basilica of St. Michael.
Next to the basilica there is a streetcar stop which takes you to St-Jean Station.