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Bordeaux Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Bordeaux

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.
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Bordeaux Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Bordeaux Introduction Walk
Guide Location: France » Bordeaux (See other walking tours in Bordeaux)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 Km or 2.7 Miles
Author: alexander
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Basilique Saint-Michel
  • Pont de Pierre
  • Porte Cailhau
  • Grosse Cloche (Big Bell)
  • Cathédrale Saint-André
  • Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux
  • Allee de Tourny
  • Monument aux Girondins
  • The Miroir d'eau
  • Place de la Bourse
1
Basilique Saint-Michel

1) Basilique Saint-Michel (must see)

The Basilica of Saint-Michel is a Catholic church located on Place Canteloup, a historic square close to the Pont de Pierre bridge. It was built at the turn of the 15th century in the Gothic Flamboyant style. A highly unusual design, it features a cruciform church building and a separate bell tower. The tower, which tapers to form an elegant, ornately decorated spire, is 114 meters tall and was built after the church building, sometime in the 15th century. It makes the Basilica of Saint-Michel the city’s tallest building, and the second tallest church in all of France.

The dizzying height of the tower makes it visible across much of Bordeaux, a flat city with relatively few tall buildings. It is worthwhile heading towards this landmark wherever you are in the city, as the church itself houses a number of interesting artifacts. The church pulpit depicts St Michael slaying a dragon, whilst the central stained glass window was designed by Couturat. Beneath the church lies a cemetery and catacombs from the city’s Roman era, which lay undiscovered until 1881.

Why You Should Visit:
A gothic extravaganza on the outside, standing clear in the square. Easy to walk around and view from all angles.
Inside is typical except for the marvelous 20th-century windows, some of the best modern stained-glass in Europe.
One of the chapels is given over to information both on the glass in the basilica and on the 'modern masters'.

Tip:
Sit outside by night in one of the many coffee/wine bars in the square and enjoy the view!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-12:30pm / 2-5:30pm; Sun: 2-5:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Pont de Pierre

2) 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!

Tip:
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
3
Porte Cailhau

3) 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
4
Grosse Cloche (Big Bell)

4) Grosse Cloche (Big Bell) (must see)

La Grosse Cloche, or the Big Bell, is the name given to a 7800kg iron bell housed in a medieval belfry. It stands on the St. Eloi passage, with an archway in the bell tower allowing pedestrian access through the monument. This was once the Porte St. Eloi, a gate into the city centre in the Middle Ages. It was passed through regularly by pilgrims heading to the tomb of St. Jacques, interred at a church in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

The belfry once belonged to the town hall and is an important civic monument, featured in the city’s coat of arms. The distinctive round towers either side of the bell itself were built as long ago as the 12th century. There were initially supposed to be four towers, looking out in all directions from the city walls, but the final two towers were never constructed.

The ‘Grosse Cloche’ itself was installed in the 15th century and was used throughout the Middle Ages to warn ‘les Bordelais’ (as citizens of Bordeaux are known) of impending emergencies, including fires and storms. The belfry has an ornate clock face in its centre and is adjoined by the 17th century neo-Gothic St. Eloi church, one of the city’s most historic places of worship.

Why You Should Visit:
Very central and mostly surrounded by the cutest streets in the historic center with some of the best terraces to take a drink just a few streets ahead.
Above anything else, a great photo opportunity, with a different view from both sides.

Tip:
It's actually quite difficult to photograph because if the sun is strong you will miss the detail; hence, early morning is a good time.
Getting inside on a tour is pretty tricky also, but the guides are very informative and the views are excellent.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 1-7pm
5
Cathédrale Saint-André

5) Cathédrale Saint-André (must see)

The Saint-André Cathedral, often known simply as Bordeaux Cathedral, is located at Place Bey Berland in the heart of Bordeaux city center. The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint-André was consecrated in 1096 by Pope Urban II; however, only a wall within the nave remains of the original Romanesque structure. The majority of the building has survived from the 14th & 15th centuries. The cathedral’s famous Royal Gate dates to the early 13th century. The entire building, including the separate bell tower, the Tour Pey Berland, is listed as a French national monument.

The cathedral has played its part in the history of Bordeaux. In 1137, Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the region’s most famous historical figures, married Prince Louis VII. Within a few months, they became King & Queen of France, but their marriage was annulled in 1152. Eleanor went on to marry Henry Plantagenet, a future king of England. The cathedral boasts two Gothic towers above the main entrance, in addition to the vertiginous bell tower directly adjacent to the main building. Still an active place of worship, it holds mass each Sunday and is still the seat of the Archbishop of Bordeaux-Bazas – a position once held by Pey Berland, after whom the bell tower and surrounding square are named.

Why You Should Visit:
French cathedrals have grandeur & splendour in abundance, and this one is top of the pile, with well-preserved interior decoration and design.
The bell tower, which stands separate from the cathedral, is also worth pointing out as the views from the top are worth the effort of the climb up.

Tip:
There is no entry fee, but they do take donations.
If you walk in, make sure you look to the right, to the back and admire the giant organ pipes.
To appreciate the cathedral from a different perspective, climb the Pey Berland tower nearby.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-1pm / 3-7:30pm; Sun: 9:30am-1pm / 3-7:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux

6) 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.

Tip:
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
7
Allee de Tourny

7) Allee de Tourny

Allee de Tourny it's one of three streets (along with Cours Clémenceau and Cours de l’Intendance) that form Bordeaux's famous "Golden Triangle", delimiting the Grands Hommes district. The streets emanating from the circular Galerie des Grands Hommes like the spokes of a wheel are named after famous literary figures.

However, this district is best-known for its trendy boutiques as well as shops selling international brands and luxury items. This is where the tout Bordeaux runs into one another, the place to be seen… It is also where shops selling fancy foods, great growth wines, and Champagne are located.
8
Monument aux Girondins

8) 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.

Tip:
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
9
The Miroir d'eau

9) The Miroir d'eau

The Miroir d'eau (Water Mirror) or Miroir des Quais (Quay Mirror) in Bordeaux is the world's largest reflecting pool, covering 3,450 square metres . Located on the quay of the Garonne in front of the Place de la Bourse, it was built in 2006.
It is made of granite slabs covered by 2 cm of water. In summer, a system allows it to create fog every 15 minutes
Sight description based on wikipedia
10
Place de la Bourse

10) 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.

Tip:
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

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.
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
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
Architectural Jewels Walking Tour

Architectural Jewels Walking Tour

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.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 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
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