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Architectural Jewels Walking Tour (Self Guided), Bordeaux

Bordeaux is classified as a "City of Art and History". The city has been included in UNESCO World Heritage List as "a great urban and architectural ensemble". Bordeaux is one of Europe's largest and most original 18th century architectural center. Don't miss the opportunity to tour the most famous architecture in Bordeaux.
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Architectural Jewels Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Architectural Jewels Walking Tour
Guide Location: France » Bordeaux (See other walking tours in Bordeaux)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: alexander
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Palais Rohan (City Hall)
  • Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux
  • Les Alees de Touny
  • Monument aux Girondins
  • Place de la Bourse
  • Place du Parlement
  • Porte Cailhau
  • Pont de Pierre
Palais Rohan (City Hall)

1) Palais Rohan (City Hall) (must see)

The Palais Rohan is Bordeaux’s City Hall building. It is located on Place Pey Berland, next to the city’s Saint-André Cathedral. Completed in 1784, the Palais Rohan is one of South West France’s finest municipal buildings. Parts of it date to medieval times when the building served as a palace for the city’s archbishop – hence its location adjacent to the cathedral. The renovations that created the building you can see today began in 1771, under the direction of Archbishop Ferdinand Maximilien Meriadec de Rohan. After completion some thirteen years later, the palace was renamed in his honor.

The Palais Rohan stands at the heart of the Hôtel de Ville quarter, an area named after the palace’s modern role as the town hall. The palace interior contains many remarkable decorative features that were typical of the elaborate Bordelais style of the era. Sculpted woodwork, trompe d’oeil paintings by Lacour, and a grand central staircase can all be found within this beautifully preserved building. The interior can be viewed on a French-language guided tour each Wednesday, organized by the Bordeaux Tourist Office.

Why You Should Visit:
A marvel of classic architecture combining refinement, elegance and sobriety.
The entire surrounding area is lovely; everyone comes here, sooner or later.

Don't be afraid to pass by the guards and go in as far as the interior barrier to get a good view of this building.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux

2) Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux (must see)

The Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux is located on a grand square, adjacent to Rue Esprit des Lois, in the city’s cultured Grands Hommes quarter. Inaugurated in 1780, it was designed by renowned French architect, Victor Louis, who won the commission after earning the Grand Prix de Rome, a scholarship scheme for gifted young artists and architects. The young architect went on to design the famous Théâtre-Français in Paris.

Victor Louis’ vision for the Grand Théâtre in Bordeaux was certainly ambitious – conceived as a ‘temple of the Arts’, it has a wide portico entrance, complimenting the building’s Neoclassical design. The entrance features 12 colossal Corinthian-style columns, each topped with a statue, representing the nine Muses and three Goddesses – Juno, Venus and Minerva.

The theater's interior is arguably equal to its spectacular exterior. Recently renovated, its vast auditorium has been repainted in its original colors of blue, white and gold – the traditional colors of French royalty. Superbly preserved, it is one of the last remaining wooden framed theaters in Europe. Once a temporary seat for the French Parliament, it is now home to two of the city’s most esteemed theatrical groups – the National Opera and National Ballet of Bordeaux.

Why You Should Visit:
The architecture from outside is great but inside the gold gilding and ornate decoration everywhere you look is amazing.
The pre- and post-restoration rooms on view are light and airy, and the guided tour is hugely informative.

Check ahead to see if there are any concerts you can attend and book ahead of time.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Les Alees de Touny

3) Les Alees de Touny

Les Alees de Touny is a 265 meters long alley, bordered on one side by buildings with Louis XV style facades. And beautiful nineteenth century houses are alined on the other side of the alley.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Monument aux Girondins

4) Monument aux Girondins (must see)

The Monument aux Girondins is one of Bordeaux’s most distinctive landmarks. A statue atop a 43-metre high column, it is completed at the base by an ornate fountain, cast in bronze. It can be found on the Esplanade de Quinconces, a wide promenade next to the River Garonne. The monument is a tribute to the Girondins, a political group that has roots in the Gironde department, of which Bordeaux is the capital. An affiliation of radical intellectuals, they were intrinsic to the wave of anti-royal feeling which swept France in the 18th century. Eventually, the movement swept beyond their control, with the outbreak of the revolution.

The monarchy was overthrown, and divisions grew between Paris and provincial France. The Girondins’ rival political group, the Montagnards, assumed power and called for the execution of the group’s ringleaders. They famously sang “rather death than slavery”, when facing the guillotine, and became martyrs for the cause of free and peaceful France. The statue at the top of the column represents Freedom breaking out of his shackles. The Girondins, a source of great local pride, share this public space with statues of Charles Louis de Montesquieu and Michel de Montaigne, two other popular local figures.

Why You Should Visit:
Huge, impressive, massive water fountain. At the base of the monument's central column, there is a massive, elaborate and heroic landscape of statuary – horses, cherubs, sea creatures and human figures – each one sculpted in a vigorous and strikingly realistic motion. The whole thing is just bursting with energy and the water playing and spraying in and around it adds to this feeling of a captured moment in a tumult of motion. It is a similar effect to the bombastic marble fountain at Trevi in Rome but possibly even better executed.

Looks awesome when it turns dark and lights turn on.
Be sure and climb up behind the fountains to get a better view of the statues.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Place de la Bourse

5) Place de la Bourse (must see)

Place de la Bourse and the magnificent building standing here are situated near the Garonne River. The design of the edifice, of its arched facade and the gorgeous fountain in front represents a perfect combination of several architectural ideas making this place one of the city's main attractions. Today, Place de la Bourse houses the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Why You Should Visit:
The pavement here opens out into an expansive horseshoe shape flanked on three sides by perhaps the most elegant of the city's limestone buildings and centered by an impressive sculpted fountain. Views from the square are of the unusual Miroir d'Eau and, beyond that, the river. A lovely spot, not to be missed.

Go early morning when there's no wind, or late at night to get the best reflections, when there are no 'intruders' enjoying the mist and shallow water to spoil the artistic effect.
Also, wear shoes that are okay to go in water – it isn't deep, but your feet will get wet if not in boots or good walking shoes and you'll walk all day with squelchy feet.
Alternatively, strip off shoes and socks and enjoy the cooling water.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Place du Parlement

6) Place du Parlement (must see)

The Place du Parlement is linked by Rue Philippart to the Place de la Bourse, one of the city’s most famous sights, which is known for reflecting in the Garonne at night – a feature known locally as the ‘water mirror’. While less known, Place du Parlement is perhaps a more central location for the Bordelais themselves – it is known for its many bars, restaurants and cafes, with terraced seating surrounding the edge of the square. The name itself means ‘place of discussion’, although the word ‘parlement’ has links with royal institutions, and is, in fact, the foundation for the English word ‘parliament’.

The square appears to be a complete architectural project, with consistent design features on all four sides. These include a balustrade that runs around the square and arcaded ground floors to house additional shops and eateries. Once known as the ‘Royal Market Place’, the Place du Parlement has a large neo-Renaissance fountain at its center. Close to many of Bordeaux’s more famous avenues, including Place Pey Berland and the Esplanade des Quinconces, it is a lively spot to stop for a bite to eat, particularly in the summer months, when outdoor dining is available late into the evening.

Why You Should Visit:
A pleasant spot with a pretty fountain, that you will probably pass through a number of times when walking around Bordeaux.
Close to all of the central attractions and main thoroughfares and perhaps a little more peaceful for a coffee or a lunch break.

Try to get here during the day when it's bustling and then again...after dark. The buildings are lit up so it becomes magical.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Porte Cailhau

7) Porte Cailhau (must see)

The Cailhau Gate was built in 1494 and was one of the main entries to the city of Bordeaux at the time. It has a very interesting and rich history that you would definitely love to learn about. As you go to the top of Porte Cailhau you will be amazed at the gorgeous view over the city and the Garonne River. There are tours available for up to 19 people.

Why You Should Visit:
Doesn't take much time to see but makes for a great stop, having useful information panels on each level.
First two levels are free, but you can pay a small fee to climb to the top and get better views.
At night lights flood the tower's haunting beauty giving it another look entirely, so make sure you capture it then, too.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-1pm / 2-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Pont de Pierre

8) Pont de Pierre (must see)

Pont de Pierre is a road and tram bridge across the River Garonne, in the center of Bordeaux. It connects Cours Victor Hugo, on the left bank, with Avenue Thiers on the right side of the river. Pont de Pierre translates to ‘stone bridge’ in English. It was planned and designed under orders from former Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte. It was not constructed until 1819, four years after Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, as the Bourbon monarchy returned to power in France.

One of the city’s most recognizable structures, it featured on a French postage stamp in 2004. Designed by Claude Andréotto, the stamp shows the Pont de Pierre with one of the city’s distinctive trams crossing over it. The bridge is half a kilometer long and has 17 arches – allegedly one for each letter in Napoleon’s full name. Each column on either side of the bridge is capped with a white medallion, in honor of the Emperor, who died in exile during the bridge’s construction.

The construction of the Pont de Pierre, the first bridge in the city to span across the Garonne, proved a challenge for the era’s engineers. The width and strong current of the river meant a diving bell had to be used to repeatedly stabilize the bridge. Opened in 1822, it was the only bridge connecting the two sides of the city until 1965.

Why You Should Visit:
Iconic view of Bordeaux, from the bridge or the water.
A constant temptation to photographers!

While most of Bordeaux's big attractions are on the left bank of the Garonne, if you only get over to the right bank once, do make it a point to stroll across this wonderful bridge as far as Stalingrad square on the opposite side, where you can see the very striking Blue Lion sculpture, maybe have a coffee in one of the cozy cafés on the square, then stroll back again.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Bordeaux, France

Create Your Own Walk in Bordeaux

Create Your Own Walk in Bordeaux

Creating your own self-guided walk in Bordeaux is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Bordeaux Introduction Walk

Bordeaux Introduction Walk

Bordeaux, the port city on the Garonne River in the Southwest of France, is world-known primarily for its high-quality wines. Also, for the splendor of its Gothic cathedrals and 18th century mansions, Bordeaux is often referred to as the “City of Art and History”. The following orientation walk takes you to some of the most popular sights of Bordeaux.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 Km or 2.7 Miles
Historical Churches Walking Tour

Historical Churches Walking Tour

You can find a good concentration of various religious buildings in Bordeaux: churches, cathedrals and temples. Do not hesitate to take a tour through the famous Christian places of worship in town. The guide below may help you have this enriching experience.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 Km or 3.4 Miles
Cabarets and Comedy Clubs Tour

Cabarets and Comedy Clubs Tour

There are many places in Bordeaux where you can spend a good time in a comfortable and friendly atmosphere. Originated in France and best performed here, the cabarets and comedy clubs are important night spots in the city today. In order to learn more about these entertaining venues you just have to follow the tour suggested below.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Museums Walking Tour

Museums Walking Tour

As you take a short walk around Bordeaux you'll notice that several places here express real English influence, and that is because Bordeaux was managed by Englishmen for quite a long time. For a better understanding of the history and culture of this town you may visit some of its most popular and informative museums which are listed in the following guide.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.7 Km or 2.9 Miles
Bordeaux Cultural Venues

Bordeaux Cultural Venues

As a cultural center, Bordeaux plays an important role not only in France alone. The city abounds in history, culture and traditions. Everyone who comes to Bordeaux has lots of new things to see and discover. If you’re an art lover and want to see the most important cultural places in the city, you may use the tour below, which will help you find them easier.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.6 Km or 4.1 Miles