Bordeaux is one of those cities that take your breath away. I mean that quite literally by the way. You will probably say I am biased. I will admit that – no shame. But it is also something I have noticed happen time after time with people seeing Bordeaux for the first time.
Here you can find something to see behind every corner. The rich history behind each stone makes stunning architecture even more beautiful. Get ready to discover the city with my comprehensive Guide To The Main tourist attractions in Bordeaux you must see.
Given the romantic nickname – The Sleeping Beauty, Bordeaux is known as one of the most beautiful and recognizable cities in France.
We plan to tell you all about its little secrets, hidden treasures, and less touristy spots, BUT I want to begin with the classics because – let’s face it, they are a ‘must’ for a reason.
There are many ways to uncover Bordeaux (bus, tram, bike), but I would vote for walking. I would recommend you start your escapades in the heart of the city.
1. Place des Quinconces & Monument aux Girondins
This square is one of the largest known in Europe. So it is not a surprise it is the first stop on my must-see tourist attractions in Bordeaux. The name of the place comes from the sequence –quincunxes. The trees that surround the square are planted in this sequence. There is something particularly captivating between the geometrical flow of the trees and the shape of the square. They complement each other, creating an incredible space for walks and other fun activities.
The square was built in the 19th century, in place of the imposing chateaux Trompette. The castle was demolished during the reign of Louis the 14th in the 17th century. The project was carried out on the plans of the architect Jean-Baptiste Dufart.
Situated in the heart of Bordeaux, and only 5 minutes away from the Garonne river, this quad is always full of people. Among the many reasons for its popularity- is the public transportation office (where you can buy tickets, and cards and get information about the public transportation system). It is also a place where two of the three (for now, they are building a fourth) Train lines cross. Furthermore, it is often a place where open-air festivals take place. During the winter there you can find a circus, carnival or a flea market.
On the other side of the square, you will see two beautiful, rostral columns, each 21 meters high. They face the Garonne River, representing respectively trade and navigation. Historically, those are two essential parts of Bordeaux’s history. The columns were erected by Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau in 1829. On the other side of the square – The Monument aux Girondins is a masterpiece in architecture you shouldn’t miss. The reason behind its creation is a little dark, but the beauty of this fountain makes it one of the jewels of Bordeaux’s history.
The monument was erected to pay homage to the Girondins. They were a political group that operated during the French Revolution. Unfortunately, they fell victim to a period in history known as the Reign of Terror. During that time many of the Girondins lost their life to their political rivals. Created between 1894 and 1902, this stunning monument is astonishingly detailed and riddled with symbolism.
It would take you a lot of time to get acquainted with each part and learn the idea behind it (because yes, they all mean something). At the top of it is a bronze statue with a winged woman – a symbol of liberty. During the Second World War, the horses were removed from the statue, probably for the material to be reused, but fortunately, they were later re-erected.
2. Le Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux – A impressive tourist attraction
Next, on the list of our tourist attractions in Bordeaux Le Grand Théâtre. Just a short walk from Place des Quinconces, you would find yourself in front of an impressive building in a neoclassical style. It was a creation credited to Victor Loius and supposed to symbolise art and light. The theatre looks like something that could have effortlessly come from the pages of a magical fairy tale.
Rich, decadent, beautifully detailed – all words that come to mind while looking at the 12 columns and the statues on top of the building. The sculptures represent nine muses and three goddesses – Juno, Venus, and Minerva. Don’t miss the chance to enter the opera and enjoy the stunning interior with a guide, which I highly recommend. You will learn the theatre’s history and if you are lucky- take a sneaky look at the room with all the costumes. It costs 6 euros.
3. Place du Parlement
The square is situated in the famous Saint-Pierre district, hidden between the building, will find it after a 5-minute walk from the Grand Theater. Formally known as Marché Royal, this square was created in 1760. If you fancy playing a little game, you can challenge yourself to find the old name of the square still visible on some of the walls of the nearby buildings.
You should also take a minute to admire the rich decorations, as some of the details on the facades surrounding the square are breathtaking. A little tip: it’s also an excellent spot to have a bite, as most of the restaurants at the square are open even on Sundays.
4. Place de la Bourse, already a tourist attraction in the XVIIIth century
Next on the main tourist attractions in Bordeaux list. I am sure you know those moments in the movies, the ones where the heroine/hero travels a long way to see something spectacular. Something like a view that will forever stay with her/him. I want to inform you that walking onto Place de la Bourse from Place de Parlament will be exactly that moment.
So, get those cameras ready, mon petite four – because there is a VIEW here. I love this spot because to me it is the epitome of Bordeaux’s facade and image, it will be the one you will see on the postcards.
Place de la Bourse (originally named Place Royale) was the work of the royal architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel and his father. Claude Boucher wanted to make Bordeaux a more welcoming view for the boats from Garonne’s right side. For the intendant to modernize the city, the medieval walls were destroyed and the square was constructed.
Originally, there was a statue of King Louis XV, that was later taken down during the revolution, melted, and used to make cannons. It was replaced first with a tree of freedom and in 1869 the current statue – a masterpiece designed by Louis Visconti, sculpted by Charles Gumery. It is called “The Fountain of the Three Graces” and it represents the three daughters of the god Zeus and Euronyme: – Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thaleia.
5. Le miroir d’eau de Bordeaux – a new tourist attraction
Miroir d’eau – another favotite of mine, just opposite Place de la Bourse. It is a perfect place to stop and take in your surroundings. Usually, it is full of people, laughing and enjoying their life. You can take a seat on the stairs, look around, explore, and observe. You can see Garonne, Pont de Pierre bridge, and the full glory of Place de la Bourse.
It is no surprise that the locals call it “Port de la Lune” (port of the moon) as you can see the night sky imprinted on the reflective surface at night. Created by Michel Corajoud, Pierre Gangnet and the water technician Jean-Max Llorca, this marvel is 130 meters long and 42 meters wide. It is interesting how it changes from only a 2- 2-centimetre pool of water to a 2-meter-high wall of mist.
During winter, it is not operating, but during the summer it is so refreshing. We all do, so don’t be shy!
Here we go, guys. The first part of my Comprehensive Guide to the Main tourist attractions in Bordeaux! Hope it is helpful!