'The capital of wine is an architectural gem'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

City Slicker - Bordeaux: It's harvest time. What better moment for a trip to Bordeaux? Harriet O'Brien offers some ideas for new and returning visitors

Why visit?

Bordeaux, capital of Aquitaine – capital, indeed, of the world's most celebrated wine-producing area – is an architectural gem. Wrought-iron balconies grace the façade of its elegant limestone buildings, while above them the skyline is punctuated by spires and the conical tops of medieval gatehouses.

Yet, until relatively recently, Bordeaux's attractions were concealed by grime. It is only since the millennium that the city has been revived and reinvigorated, the transformation so successful that old Bordeaux became a World Heritage Site in 2007.

For all its fine 18th-century looks, Bordeaux is very much a 21st-century destination, complete with hi-tech trams, some of France's most applauded restaurants, and a lively student population.

Right now the city is buzzing with autumn activities. The new season at the dynamic opera house (bordeaux-opera.com) is under way, its line-up including a vibrant show of contemporary dance.

Meanwhile, there's an energetic knock-on effect from the wine harvest at the vineyards just out of town – the white-grape picking is now over and intensive harvesting of reds is taking place. The local tourist board offers a host of vineyard tours, including half-day wine blending workshops at several of the great chateaux.

Don't miss...

Place de la Bourse. Bordeaux's most dramatic sight is a grand square flanked by two great crescent-shaped buildings. It was built between 1730 and 1755 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, architect to Louis XV. On the north side is the old Stock Exchange, on the south the Musée des Douanes, presenting a lively look at the history of Bordeaux's port (musee-douanes.fr).

Miroir d'Eau. Opposite the square, beside the Garonne river, this is a stunning water feature by landscape architect Michel Corajoud, one of the most striking new additions to the city. A pool of water on black granite, it has been cleverly devised to alternate as a series of mist fountains and a mirror reflecting the great 18th-century buildings behind it. And for the Bordelais, it's a water playground – a great place to make a splash.

Grosse Cloche bell tower and gate. A short walk south along the quayside, this structure dates from the 13th century and looks as if it has escaped from the pages of fairy-tale picture-book.

Cathédrale St André. Offering more Gothic glory, the north façade is especially fine, its portal fabulously decorated with sculpture. Climb the winding stairs of the adjacent, 15th- century belfry, the Tour Pey-Berland, for eye-popping views over the city (monuments-nationaux.fr).

Musée des Beaux Arts. Bordeaux's wonderful museum is in an elegant neoclassical mansion, with works by Brueghel, Chardin, Delacroix and more (bordeaux.fr).

Musée du Vin et du Négoce. Set in an 18th-century merchant's house in the newly cool Chartrons area, this is where to explore the Bordeaux wine story. Entry is by guided tour, which ends with a short wine-tasting (mvnb.fr).

What's new

Quartier St Michel

Just south of the old town, this is the latest neighbourhood to be given a radical revamp. Traditionally, Quartier St Michel has been a boho haunt of students and immigrants, and with its buildings newly spruced up this year, it's becoming ever more hip. Place St Michel, stretching around the great church of that name, is where you'll find the funkiest hangouts – Passage St Michel, for example, is a one-time banana warehouse turned antiques store and belle époque brasserie.

La Maison Eco-Citoyenne

La Maison Eco-Citoyenne is a bold new exhibition and meeting space that opened with a four-day fete at the start of this month. Overlooking the Garonne on Quai Richelieu, this state-of-the-art eco-friendly building was designed by Bordeaux architect Olivier Lehmans and was developed on the site of an old dockworkers' recruitment centre.

Details: bordeaux.fr

L'Avant Scène

In the Chartrons district, L'Avant Scène, at 36 rue Borie, is the latest of Bordeaux's boutique hotels. Set in a former wine merchant's house, it offers 12 contemporary-chic rooms. Doubles cost from €99 (£86).

Details: lavantscene.fr

Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery

In the heart of town, there's a radical new wine outlet. Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery, at 14 cours de l'Intendance, is a sleek, serious tasting centre where, as yet uniquely, you can sample grands crus by the glass.

Details: maxbordeaux.com

Pont Ba-Ba

In January, work started on a hi-tech bridge about 2km north of the centre that will span the Garonne. The Baclan-Bastide bridge, nicknamed Pont Ba-Ba, will be a deceptively simple looking steel structure with a central section that lifts to allow tall ships through. It's due to be completed in 2012.

Insider's Secret

Michel Portos, Michelin-starred chef of Le Saint James

"Go to Marché du Colbert on Quay Chartrons on a Sunday morning. You find a really good assortment of local produce. And it's great to walk along the riverside there, with views across the old port."

Compact Facts

How to get there

From the UK, Bordeaux's Mérignac Airport is served year-round from Gatwick by easyJet (0871 244 2366; easyjet.com) and British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com).

Further information

The Bordeaux Tourist Office (bordeaux-tourisme.com)

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
love + sex
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all