Bordeaux city guide

 

Photos

  • UEFA EURO 2016 mascot - Bordeaux
    UEFA EURO 2016 mascot - Bordeaux
    18 November 2014
    ©UEFA.com
  • Girondins monument and fountain, Bordeaux
    Girondins monument and fountain, Bordeaux
    26 February 2013
    ©Thinkstock
  • Pont de Pierre over Gironde River, Bordeaux
    Pont de Pierre over Gironde River, Bordeaux
    15 February 2013
    ©Thinkstock
  • Basilica Saint Seurin, Bordeaux
    Basilica Saint Seurin, Bordeaux
    15 February 2013
    ©Thinkstock
  • Porte Cailhau, Bordeaux
    Porte Cailhau, Bordeaux
    15 February 2013
    ©Thinkstock
  • City centre, Bordeaux
    City centre, Bordeaux
    15 February 2013
    ©Thinkstock
  • Château and vineyard in Margaux, Bordeaux
    Château and vineyard in Margaux, Bordeaux
    15 February 2013
    ©Thinkstock
  • Bordeaux skyline
    Bordeaux skyline
    15 February 2013
    ©Thinkstock

Bordeaux city guide

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Region: Aquitaine
Population:
242,945

Bordeaux, the capital of the Aquitaine region, is world-renowned for its wine. The Romans planted the first vineyards over 2,000 years ago and the area around Bordeaux is now a major wine-producing region as a result of its maritime climate and calcium-rich soils. Producing some 800m bottles a year and with sales topping €3bn, Bordeaux is a serious contender for the title of the world capital of wine.

Bordeaux is equally famous for its classical and neoclassical architecture that has remained practically unchanged for 200 years. While Bordeaux has more listed buildings than any other French city outside Paris, it is still a lively town which retains major trading links as a result of its strategic position on the banks of the Garonne. A 2013 survey concluded that outside Paris, French people considered Bordeaux the best place to live.

©Thinkstock

The Bordeaux skyline

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HISTORY

Bordeaux's history is closely linked to the production of wine from which the city derived its wealth and fame. Important during the Roman era, Bordeaux's first golden age started with the second marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to King Henry II of England. The Duchy of Aquitaine would flourish under English rule for three centuries. By the 18th century, Bordeaux's port had become France's main outlet to the Atlantic.

As the city developed, the construction of townhouses and monuments formed the Bordeaux we know today, as recognised by UNESCO. The city experienced its second golden age in the 19th century as the European industrial and economic revolution was in full swing. Bordeaux is fondly called the 'Sleeping Beauty' but has reinvented itself in a modern style over the last decade without detriment to its heritage, architecture or history.

Bordeaux and its environs are also well known for aeronautical and space industry establishments, as well as civil engineering and defence concerns, in the area known as Aerospace Valley. The city is famous too for biotechnology, shipbuilding, video game development and start-ups in the green and digital economies.

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FAMOUS RESIDENTS

©Thinkstock

A statue of Montesquieu

• Michel de Montaigne, humanist philosopher (1533–92): mayor of Bordeaux, his work Essais opened the way for the later Age of Enlightenment
• Montesquieu, philosopher, writer (1689–1755): a philosopher of the Enlightenment, he was a forerunner of modern sociology
• Eugène Delacroix, painter (1798–1863): a leading Romantic artist, he bequeathed several works to Bordeaux's Musée des Beaux-Arts
• François Mauriac, author (1885–1970): Nobel Prize in Literature in 1952, member of the French Academy
• Jacques Chaban Delmas, politician (1915–2000): resistance fighter, international sportsman (rugby, tennis), mayor and member of parliament for 48 years

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THINGS TO SEE & DO

• Rive Droite: Just as in Paris, Bordeaux has its left and right banks. The recently renovated right bank or Rive Droite lends a magnificent view of the city and its famous buildings. As night falls, the illuminated façades of the townhouses, the Grosse Cloche belfry and the spire of the Tour Pey-Berland provide a wonderful spectacle.

• Old town: This stretches out below Place de la Bourse and seamlessly blends the charm of the bleached stone buildings and cobbled streets with a wide variety of restaurants and terrace cafes. The result is a fantastic gastronomic offering, from local dishes to food from all around the world.

©AFP

Place de la Bourse

• Les Quais: The pride of Bordeaux. Completely renovated and pedestrianised, these promenades along the banks of the Garonne beautifully frame the heart of the city, with Place de la Bourse taking pride of place, its famous reflection in the waters (Miroir d'Eau) a favourite sight among visitors and locals alike.

• Stade Chaban-Delmas: Located centrally in the city, Stade Chaban-Delmas, formerly known as Parc Lescure, is recognised as part of Bordeaux's 20th-century heritage. This was the first stadium in the world to have fully-covered stands without structural pillars obscuring spectators' view.

• Cycle paths: Many of the people of Bordeaux get around by bike. In 2012 Bordeaux was awarded the title Cycle Touring City and Region. Some 160km of easy cycling is possible along the seven cycle paths that cross the city. From UNESCO-listed buildings to wonderful views of the illuminated city by night, exploring Bordeaux by bike is simplicity itself. The Vélo Ville de Bordeaux initiative supplies 5,000 bikes for loan throughout the city. These include innovative Pibal machines, a cross between a conventional bicycle and a scooter.

• The Triangle: The district known as the Triangle, between Place Gambetta, Grand-Théâtre and Place Tourny, is home to the most fashionable boutiques in Bordeaux, with Place des Grands Hommes at its heart. Nearby is Rue Sainte-Catherine, the longest pedestrianised street in Europe, some 1.25km in length.

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TRANSPORT

Getting there
As the economic capital of south-west France, Bordeaux has always been a strategic city for travellers. The city stands at the crossroads of major north/south routes and on the western European arc of development.

©Thinkstock

The city centre

The Bordeaux-Mérignac airport has scheduled connections to 32 cities (and over 60 charter destinations), linking to all the main regions in France and major European cities, as well as 24 long-haul destinations. Approximately 20 flights a day leave for Paris.

Just ten minutes from the city's historic centre by tram, the Bordeaux Saint Jean railway station is the largest in the Aquitaine region. This busy hub turns around some 260 trains a day, with 25 to and from Paris, five to Charles de Gaulle airport, six to Lille and three high-speed TGV trains to and from Strasbourg.

Bordeaux's port is also growing and is the second largest on the Atlantic coast. Cruise ships and pleasure boats can dock in the heart of the city at the renowned Port de la Lune, whether for brief visits or longer stays.

Distances to other UEFA EURO 2016 venues
Toulouse – 245km
Saint-Etienne – 540km
Lyon – 555km
Paris – 590km
Saint-Denis – 600km
Marseille – 650km
Lens – 790km
Lille – 805km
Nice – 810km

Distances between city centres, by motorway where possible
Source: mappy - viamichelin

Distance of Stade de Bordeaux to...
City centre: 8km
Airport: 17km

©Thinkstock

The river Garonne

Getting around
Tram, bus, boat, bike – discover Bordeaux through the city's TBC transport network. From 05.00 until 01.15, the three tram lines that traverse the city centre form the spine of the transport network out to the suburbs. Some 65 bus routes also serve the city centre and further afield. A universal transport ticket also allows access to BatCub boats that shuttle up and down the river Garonne. And don't forget the readily available VCub hire bikes that speed visitors and locals alike around town.

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FOOTBALL

Established in 1881 as a multi-sports club, FC Girondins de Bordeaux turned their full attention to football in 1920 and turned professional in 1937. The Spanish Civil War and the construction of Parc Lescure for the 1938 FIFA World Cup resulted in the club taking a major step forward. The Basque 'sorcerer' Benito Diaz became the team manager and brought in Spanish refugees such as Santiago Urtizberea. Bordeaux won their first French Cup in 1941 and were finalists in 1943, yet had to wait until 1950, with players such as De Harder, Gallice and Swiatek, to lift their first French league title.

Over the next 20 years, the Girondins experienced highs and lows but could not win the league again. They reached the French Cup final five times – losing on each occasion. However, in the 1980s Bordeaux became a powerhouse of French and European football. Their president Claude Bez exuded great energy and, in a masterstroke, brought in Aimé Jacquet as manager.

Bordeaux would be the club of the decade, winning the championship (1984, 1985, 1987) and French Cup (1986, 1987) as well as getting to two European semi-finals. But after eight seasons in charge, Jacquet's departure in 1989 heralded a decline. Financial troubles led to relegation in 1991. Just a year later, in 1992, Zinédine Zidane arrived from AS Cannes. Together with Bixente Lizarazu and Christophe Dugarry, he helped propel Bordeaux to the 1996 UEFA Cup final, knocking out AC Milan in the quarter-final.

Jean-Louis Triaud's accession to the presidency prefaced the league title triumph of 1999 followed by three League Cups (2002, 2007, 2009). With Laurent Blanc in the dugout, the team achieved a historic League Cup/Ligue 1 double in 2009. Then in 2013, after a wait of 26 years, Bordeaux again lifted the French Cup. Willy Sagnol's appointment as coach in summer 2014 signalled a new era, along with the prospect of a move to a new stadium (due for completion in May 2015).

©Getty Images

Zinédine Zidane

Famous players
• Alain Giresse (1952–): Part of the France squad that won the 1984 EURO, Giresse is still the Girondins' highest-ever scorer with 158 goals
• Patrick Battiston (1957–): From Lorraine, Battiston won three championships with the club (1984, 1985, 1987) as well as the French Cup (1986)
• Zinédine Zidane (1972–): Progressed to the highest level with Bordeaux (1992–96), gaining his first international cap. A UEFA Cup finalist in 1996
• Christophe Dugarry (1972–): An academy product, he went on to become a member of the Les Bleus side that won the World Cup in 1998 and EURO in 2000
• Rio Mavuba (1984–): With the club from the age of eight, Mavuba won the League Cup (2007) and played for the national team

Did you know?
Bordeaux have provided France's national side with more players for World Cup squads than any other club – 21.

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OTHER SPORTS

Bordeaux is also a rugby town. UBB (Union Bègles Bordeaux), managed by former France captain Raphaël Ibanez, are a force to be reckoned with in the Top 14 league. Hockey, too, has a strong tradition in Bordeaux for both men and women, with their clubs having already celebrated centenaries.

Boris Diaw, an NBA champion with San Antonio Spurs and captain of France's basketball team, is president of the JSA Bordeaux basketball club. Athletics (Colette Besson), handball, BMX (Joris Daudet) and ice hockey are also popular. Bordeaux hosts its first city centre marathon in 2015.

USEFUL LINKS

www.bordeaux.fr – Bordeaux mayor's office
www.bordeaux-tourism.co.uk/ – tourist information
www.infotbc.com/en – Bordeaux public transport
www.bordeaux-tourism.co.uk/Plan-your-trip/Transport – travel information
www.girondins.com/en/home-page – FC Girondins de Bordeaux
www.lacub.fr – Bordeaux municipal authorities
www.bordeaux.aeroport.fr/en – Bordeaux airport

 
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