You'll be raising your glass many times in Bordeaux, which is renowned for its wines, considered amongst the best in the world. As the capital of the department Gironde in the region Aquitaine, it has a population of one million inhabitants in its metropolitan area at a 2008 estimate. After years of neglect, the former wet docks are the country's new hot spot, with a number of cafes, gardens, and musuems springing up all the time. A lively university community of over 60,000, (Bordeaux Campus is the biggest in France) establishes that Bordeaux is about more than just wine.
Bordeaux is considered a very tolerant and relaxed place - no one will bother you about your political beliefs, religion, or sexual orientation. The cultural, artistic, and music scenes are very vibrant. The city was ruled by the English for a long time, which is why Bordeaux seems to have an "English flair".
Bordeaux is often referred to as "Little Paris" and the rivalry between the "Bordelais" (people from Bordeaux) and Parisiens is a hot subject, so you may experience some heated arguments on the subject during your stay.
Bordeaux is a flat city, built on the banks of the Garonne River. It is also the largest French city by area and geographically one of the largest in Europe. The Garonne merges a dozen kilometers below the city with another river, the Dordogne River to form the Gironde Estuary, which is biggest estuary in France.
The city center is located west and south of the Garonne. To the east are a few hills - the only ones in the vicinity. These hills mark the beginning of an industrial zone and suburbs. Because it is a flat city, bicycles make excellent modes of transport, especially as the city has more than 580 km of cycle tracks. Bordeaux is among the most economically dynamic cities in France.
There are no skyscrapers in Bordeaux, just a few tall buildings due to the weakness of the subsoil, which explains its sprawl. The center of the town has retained its traditional stone mansions and smart terraces, hence the reason behind the city being called "Little Paris".
Modern buildings can be found to the west (administrative center) and south (university) of the city.
Bordeaux-Merignac Airport (IATA : BOD) (ICAO : LFBD), is west of the city. Its a regional airport which serves mostly domestic flights, though there are international flights as well connecting Bordeaux to some European "hub" airports like Paris (Orly and Roissy), London (Gatwick and Luton), Madrid, and Amsterdam.
A express bus runs every 45 minutes to the city center, with stops on the demand. The same bus runs from Gare St. Jean to the airport with three stops:
. Office de Tourisme 12, cours du 30 juillet
. Place Gambetta Arret 50-16-13 (devant le 38 & 39)
. Barriere Judaique (devant le 9 av. de Rublique)
The fare is 7€, a reduced fare for under 26 and over 60 is available for 6€.
Alternatively, you can take the bus no. 49 towards "Bordeaux 2" and stop at "Lycée Mérignac." From there you can take the tram line A towards the city centre with just one ticket (€1.40) since it won't exceed the one hour limit for the validity of the ticket.
The main train station (Gare Saint Jean) is located about 4km from the center of town. Several trains per day (around one every two hours) go north (to Paris, about 3 hours, 25 trains a day , Angoulème, Poitiers), south (to Toulouse, Marseille, Montpellier (about 4 to 5 hours), up to Nice), and east (to Périgueux and Clermont-Ferrand).
Buses and taxis leave from in front of the station. Catch the tramway to go to the inner center.
You can reach Bordeaux by car from north (taking the A10 highway or N10), south (taking the A63 highway), and east. A beltway goes around the city.
If possible, avoid driving between 8-10AM and 4-7PM, as the beltway is usually overcrowded.
If you're travelling with bikes European Bike Express run a route from north of Leeds, stopping through the UK to Dover and then on towards Bayonne via Bordeaux. Passengers normally travel from the UK to Europe.
Taxi providers offer service to and from the airport. For taxi services, you can go directly to Bordeaux Airport taxi rank or make an advance booking with one of the companies.
Bordeaux is quite a big city; however, most of the interesting attractions are in the town center. It is not recommended that visitors drive as it is always a hassle to park it (and car parks are expensive), and there are often traffic jams in the small, old streets of the city.
The most interesting way to explore the city is by walking. As most of the town center is a 'pedestrian area', this is easy to do. If you like sports, you can rent roller-skates or a bike (see below) or you can make your way in town using the various bus lines. A small ferry boat permits to go from the western shore of the river to the eastern shore, and vice-versa.
Three efficient tramway lines are also available (A, B, and C), tickets cost 1.40€ and covers unlimited journeys within one hour of validation.
The bus network is organized around three main places, where it is possible to take buses to almost every destination in the city :
Gare Saint-Jean (railway station, bus lines going to town center, university, and north of town, TBC agency),
Place de la Victoire (bus lines going to town center, to the railway station, to the University, north and south-west of town,
Place Gambetta (bus lines going to la Victoire, the railway station, west, north-west, north of town, TBC agency ).
Quinconces (TBC agency).
Tickets can be purchased on the bus; however, that is expensive and you cannot change buses with the tickets bought on the bus. The best thing is to buy tickets either at the TBC agencies (Gare Saint-Jean, Gambetta, Quinconces), at almost any tobacco store, or at the tourist offices (Quinconces, Gare Saint-Jean).
A 10-trip ticket will cost 8.60€. Each trip comprises up to 4 bus changes within one hour. You have also the possibility to buy tickets that will enable you to access freely the bus network for one to six days--those tickets cost from 3.75€ up to 11.80€. Students and elderly persons can buy tickets at a reduced price.
One peculiarity of Bordeaux buses is that you can get in the bus using whatever bus door you want--use the automatic machines to perforate your ticket, thus validating your trip. Don't try to cheat — fines are high.
Avoid the buses on peak hours (8-10AM, 4-7PM) as the town center is usually totally jammed (and cars often block bus tracks), and buses are overcrowded.
Le Bus du Fleuve, as it is called, links the western part of the city and the eastern part of the city by a small cruise on the river. It is managed by the CGFTE, and you can theredore get in the boat using a standard bus ticket. The bus goes from the Southern part of Quai Richelieu to the Place Aristide Briand, very close to the Aquitaine Bridge (one of the must-see in Bordeaux).
A new tramway serves the town, crossing the Garonne via the Pont de Pierre. A distinctive feature of the tramway is that within the inner city, it has no overhead wires although this may change due to recent issues with the ground-level power supply system.
The electric bus, called la navette du centre-ville, is the only public transportation on pedestrian roads. There are no bus stops for this one: to board an electric bus, wave your hand to the driver - he will stop the bus and let you on. When you want to go out, just tell the driver.
Bordeaux is a historic city with many tourist attractions. The main districts are briefly presented here, which are listed according to their distance from the railway station.
Les Quais— Great for going for a nice walk on the shores of the Garonne, enjoying a ride on a ferry boat, viewing a stunning landscape over the bridges of Bordeaux, or dancing the night away in the city's many nightclubs. The Aquitaine Bridge is an architectural achievement unique in France.
La Victoire— Historical monuments meet student life and bars.
The Pedestrian Center — If you plan on shopping, or are looking for cultural activities, Bordeaux has a lot to offer - and it starts right here.
Gambetta Square — The rich districts of Bordeaux start north - this part of the town is nicknamed "Little Paris".
Quinconces Square — Be sure to check out the fountain monument to the Girondins, a group of moderate, bourgeois National Assembly deputies during the French Revolution..
Meriadeck — The administrative center of Bordeaux, with one of the biggest libraries in France.
Do not miss the Victory Arch (Roman architecture), at the center of La Victoire and a great example of the town's Roman roots.
Relax and take a picnic in the lush Public Gardens, north of Gambetta square.
The Girondins memorial on the Quinconces square is a fitting tribute to the Girondin députés that were guillotined by the Robespierre.
Musee D'Art Contemporain at 7, rue Ferrère. Definitely worth a visit if you are interested in Modern Art. The Richard Long slate line-up on the roof is a permanent feature. Exhibits are always changing and the museum is an inspiring place for installations. The CAPC is open Tuesday to Sunday 11AM-6PM (to 8PM Wednesday), closed Monday; admission is €5.50 (£4), but free on the first Sunday of the month.
Musee D'Aquitaine, 20, cours Pasteur. Stunning musuem that exhibits Gallo-Roman statues and relics dating back 25,000 years. Hours- 11AM - 6PM Tue-Sun. Free entry for permanent collections; temporary exhibits cost around €5 for adults.
Have a walk along the Sainte-Catherine street in the Pedestrian Center and enjoy the scenery.
Consider crossing the bridges or taking the ferry boat over the river (see Les Quais).
Climb the 243 steps of the tower of Saint-Michel, and enjoy the panoramic view of Bordeaux (entrance 3 Euro).
Spend some time at the miroir d'eau (water mirror) at the border of the river. Every now and then, it is filled with 2 cm of water, alternated with a cloud of mist.
Have a drink and a dance at one of the many bars or clubs in Les Quais or La Victoire.
Watch the ducks play in the big public park north of the center and escape from the city at the Jardin Botanique, Bordeaux's Botanical Garden. Around since 1855, the botanical garden is the perfect place to take a walk around its many paths, or just sit and relax. Guided tours are on offer, as well as occasional workshops and activities for children. Bordeaux gardens open: end March to end October - 8AM to 8PM; end October to end March - 8AM to 6PM. Bordeaux gardens admission is free.
Football (soccer) is a very popular sport in Bordeaux, as the F.C. Girondins, the football club, is one of the best in France (avoid talking football in the city, it's another sensitive subject). Tickets for almost every game are easy to come by and can be purchased before the match at the ticket office 'Place Johnstone' at the South West corner of the stadium or on the evening of the game at the turnstiles. Games against main rivals Marseille will sell out well in advance as will the fixtures against PSG, Lyon and usually St Etienne so don't travel without a ticket for one of these games. Expect to pay anything between 9 euros for the Virages Nord and Sud (behind the goals) to a maximum of 80 euros for the exclusive Presidential Suite.
The Virage Sud is an amazing experience for any football fan but be warned that everyone stands up on the seats, your view may be restricted by an impressive array of flags and they have a habit of lighting flares frequently during the match.
Despite the locals being extremely loud and passionate in their support, there are very few safety problems helped partially by the small numbers of travelling fans. In the past few seasons, there have been some clashes against supporters of Marseille and PSG but the vast majority of games end peacefully with both sets of fans mixing on the tram back to the city.
Explore the city on wheels as Bordeaux is a very nice city for practising roller-skating (or roller-blading) and other "skating sports".
Other sports that enjoy some support in Bordeaux include ice hockey, handball and rugby. The two Bordeaux rugby clubs Stade Bordelais and Begles merged in 2006 to form Union CABBG. The club plays in the second tier of Frances national leagues and usually plays its home games and Stade Andre Moga in the suburb of Begles. Tickets for the seated stands are 10 euros.
Bordeaux Cricket Club are the vice champions of France and play regularly at Château Giscours in Médoc. Attendance is free and greatly encouraged.
Touring the wineyards and sampling the local wines are one of the greatest pleasures when visiting Bordeaux. It is the second largest wine-growing region in the world and produces over 700 million bottles annually. It produces some of the best and most prestigious wines in the world, with some of the of the best and most famous being:
Château Mouton Rothschild (Pauillac)
Château Cheval Blanc
The annual summer wine festivals are held in tandem with the "bordeaux-fete-le-fleuve" celebrating the river, land, and international community. In 2008 the wine expo will last from the 21st - 24th of June.
Gastronomy has a very important place in the city, which is full of restaurants of all kinds. French restaurants provide dishes from almost every part of the country, and there are a lot of Asian, African or Arabian restaurants.
FERNAND, 05 56 81 23 40, 05 56 81 23 40, every day for lunch and dinner, 7, quai de la Douane, An authentic bistro next to the
Couleurs Cafe, 05 56 48 28 58, 28, rue Pere-Louis-de-Jabrun, It's the perfect little French bistro where you can take a well earned pause from the days activities and graze on some tasty light fare. The salads with the homemade bread rolls are a great choice, or you can indulge in some of the decadent cakes on offer.
Chez Greg, 05 56 31 30 30, 30-31, quail de la Monnaine, Serving tasty dishes such as a tartine of red mullet, the ambiance of this restaurant puts customers at ease with its Philippe Starck chairs and walls lined with wine bottles. Speaking of wine, the wine bar upstairs is great for pre and post dinner tastings.
Restaurant des Tombeliers, 05 56 85 51 18, Closed Sunday, 9, rue de Saigon, It's the best local secret, serving the best omelettes and mashed potatoes. The decor is a little dated, but the friendly service and great food makes up for it.
La Tupina, 05 56 91 56 37, 6, rue Pas-de-la-Monnaine, Regional cuisine at its best. Fresh local produce servd generously and heartily. Meals are served in a Basque ambiance, with country tablecloths and wood chairs. Try the corn fed Landes fowl, and you'll understand why this earned La Tupina the Second Best Bistro in the world by the International Herald Tribune.
Cafe du Port, 05 56 77 81 18, 1, quail Deschamps, It's dining with the ultimate view, the Left Bank on one side and the Pont de Pierre on the other. But it's not just the views that draw customers here in droves, the food's pretty good too. Especially consideing that the chef is the famed Phillipe Techoire. Under his command, you'll feast on beef rib roast, glass eye, and in the winter, roast pig's feet with mustard. Enjoy!
Bordeaux is lively during the day and continues throughout the night. If you're looking for a bar to hang out with friends or to enjoy watching a football match, head for La Victoire, as most of the pubs and bars of the town are here. Virtually, all the shops in the surroundings of this area are bars, and you'll likely be able to find one that suits your needs.
If you prefer dancing or clubbing, most of the night-clubs are on the Quais, close to the train station. From rock to disco, dance to techno, you also have a lot of choice.
Dick Turpin's, 05 56 48 07 52, 05 56 48 07 52, 72, Rue du Loup, One of the oldest English pubs in Bordeaux, popular with young and old alike. Good music, no TV.
El Chuchumbe, 05 56 31 25 88, 6, rue Causserouge, Best place to go for a salsa dance, head there around midnight when bodies really start shaking on the dance floor. They serve great mojitos as well to complement the mood.
Le Frog and Rosbif, 23, Rue Ausone, English pub near La Garonne with an all-English staff. A popular hangout for those who want to catch football or rugby matches.
Le Break, 23, Rue de Candale, A popular hipster-like bar just outside la place de la victoire which plays great music and attracts a younger crowd. Arrive early if you want to get a table during the weekend.
Xing-Xing, 20, Rue Piliers de Tutelle, An animé/manga themed bar disco with a very fun atmosphere.
Shadow Lounge International, 05 56 49 36 93, 5, rue Cabanac, The place to go for the young and trendy, Shadow possess a certain sexiness to its decor that is very appealing, even the restrooms are marble. The DJ spins the latest tunes while the hip clientele sip on very expensive drinks.
While the entrance is free to the majority of the clubs, don't get there drunk or you will not be let in.
Most tourist hotels are close to the railway station (that is, close to the Quais). There are some luxury hotels close to Gambetta square and Quinconces square, which are really nice but rather expensive.
Bordeaux has a recently-built youth hostel, close to the railway station, which can be worth a visit for a few nights - remember to book in advance.
The Ibis Bordeaux St Jean 19, quai Paludate. Tel: (+33)5/56942525 . Very accessible from Gare St Jean railway station, the rooms are small but self contained. Basic but in a great location. Prices ranging from €53 to €90.
Tulip Inn Bordeaux 4, rue Martignac and 11, rue Mautrec, tel 05 56 48 00 88. Charming 18th century hotel, with fine furnishings throughout the hotel, with mahogany furnishings and beech furniture. Close to the Grand Theatre and the Triangle d'Or.
Hotel de Normandie, 7-9, cours du 30- Juillet, tel 05 56 52 16 80. While the rooms are rather bland, the location and views of the Place des Quinconces from the rooms are stunning.
The Sofitel Bordeaux hotel is close to the banks of the Bordeaux lake, near the Convention center. There is a private swimming pool. 1 Avenue Jean-Gabriel Domergue in Bordeaux le Lac. Tel: (+33)5/56696666, .
Burdigala, 115, rue Georges-Bonnac, tel 05 56 90 16 16. Displaying a European elegance, the Burdigala attracts a cosmopolitan clientele that appreciates its multi-lingual staff and spacious rooms complete with marble bathrooms. Hotel also hosts long term stays.
Mercure Libertel Claret, 18, parvis des Chartons, tel 05 56 01 79 79. More than just a luxury hotel, the Mercure also features a wine bar that showcases 200 different wines from all over the world. The spacious rooms have all been renovacted and display a subtle elegance.
Petit Hotel Labottiere, 14, rue Francis-Martin, tel 05 56 48 44 10. Listed as a historical monument, this 18th century hotel exudes opulence and style. Luxurious furnishings abound but with a modern level a comfort. Well worth the indulgence.
Bordeaux has made its wealth out of trade, and the local economic system relies heavily on shops and trading halls. The Pedestrian Center is basically full of stores of all kinds, from clothes to art, craftworks, food and wine etc. If you're looking for luxury items, head to Gambetta square and its surroundings.
Don't hesitate to buy some local music - Bordeaux music groups are on the rise! Check out Kap Bambino, an electronic music duo formed by singer Caroline Martial and beat-smith boyfriend Orion Bouvier.
Clothing is less expensive than neighboring Paris, so wear comfortable shoes and head to Rue Sainte Catherine, the longest pedestrian precinct in Europe and the best place for shopping.
Of course, you can hardly leave Bordeaux, without taking home some of its beloved wine. Make sure you're aware of the customs rules at the airport.
Bordeaux is not a city with a high crime rate. If you respect some simple rules, you shouldn't have any problems.
Beware of pickpockets, mostly in crowded buses and in the pedestrian streets. Do not leave any luggage out of view as it might disappear. If you're taking the bus with a backpack, it's better putting it between your feet than keeping it on your back.
Do not go to clubs or bars alone at night. If you are meeting with friends, meet outside the bar/club. It's easier to get inside when you're a pack.
As another general rule, do not accept drinks offered by people you don't know, as some people may drug you and abuse you afterwards. There were several cases reported in Bordeaux. Take drinks directly at the bar or from the waiter.
If you're interested in wine, don't hesitate to visit wine resellers north of Gambetta or Les Quinconces.
The Bordeaux University , located a few kilometers south of town, offers a wide variety of courses, from science to humanities, from beginner classes to high-level research. The laboratories are among the best in France. It is possible to take French courses there in the summer, with Erasmus students. The DEFLE (Department for the study of French as a foreign language) is attached to Université Michel de Montaigne - Bordeaux III. It offers both semester and vacation courses in French for foreign students.
Bordeaux is covered by the three major telecommunication operators in France : France Telecom (Orange), Bouygues, and SFR. If you have a GSM cellphone with an international subscription, you should be able to give calls from anywhere in the city. It is also possible to find phone cabins, but some have been removed recently due to their decreased usage.
As for internet access, there are a few cybercafes in the pedestrian center, which are not expensive (from 2 to 4 euros per hour).
There are a lot of interesting things to see close to Bordeaux.
North: The Medoc region, where some of the famous Bordeaux wines are produced (Margaux, La Tour, Laffit-Roschild etc). A lot of wine producers organize visits of their installations, with tastings of their products.
West: To the west, you will end up at the Atlantic Ocean, with over 150 mile of golden sand beaches accompanied by a sea of unspoilt pine forests; there are a lot of very nice-looking little towns close to the sea, including Arcachon, sea-side town, noted for its oyster production. You can take a train from Gare de Saint Jean in Bordeaux to Arcachon for around 7 euros, the train takes between 40 and 50 minutes. The Hourtins' Lake, the biggest fresh water water lake in France, is located there. In summer, its a paradise to go swimming or cycling in the pine-tree woods of that area. Near Arcachon is the biggest sand dune in Europe. Very interesting especially when you travel with small children.
East: Here you will find Saint Emilion, well known vineyard surrounding the village of the same name. It is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In addition, Entre-deux-Mers area is the area located between the Garonne river and the Dordogne river. It has a large variety of typical wineries and old castles, such as Chateau de Curton, Chateau de Camarsac and others.
South: Lying south is the Graves region, the oldest vineyard of Bordeaux stretches along the Garonne river. This area is the most interesting for historical tourism, with many beautiful towns and historical monuments open to the public. Towns: Bazas, Saint Macaire, Uzeste,Cadillac. Castles: Chateau de Roquetaillade , Villandraut ,Malle, Fargues, Cazeneuve.
To reach those places, you can use either the regional railways (TER) or inter-city bus lines (which often go where trains do not). By car, all these areas are less than an hour from Bordeaux.
The whole region is covered with well organized bike or walking trails which let you discover the countryside.
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