MAJESTIC PEY-BERLAND TOWER
As you approach Bordeaux, one of the first monuments you will see is the majestic Pey-Berland Tower, towering over the city´s skyline.
The tower is named after the archbishop, the driving force behind Archbishop Pey-Berland´s creation.
The tower was built in the 15th century and is a real jewel of the flamboyant Gothic style. The remarkable peculiarity of this tower is that, despite being the bell tower of the Cathedral, it is separate from it.
In the 12th century, there was another bell tower. Still, when it was decided to equip it with enormous bells, locals realised that it was not strong enough to support the weight of the large bells. It was then decided to build a tower separate from the Cathedral so that the vibration of the bells would not affect the religious building.
In 1440, work began on the tower. Archbishop Pey-Berland supervised the construction. Even if the vast building was finished, it was not until the first bell was installed many centuries later. The tower served for centuries as a dwelling and as a lead factory. The first bells were established in 1851, and in 1863 an image of the Virgin of North Dame d´Aquitaine was installed in the tower. From the top of the 66-metre high tower, she watches over Bordeaux.
Nowadays, four bells replicate from the top: Marie, Clémence and Margherite, and the large Ferdinand-André. This one weighed more than eight tons and was installed in 1869.
The tower, along with the Cathedral, is a World Heritage Site.
To climb the tower, you need to be in good physical shape as there are 229 steps to the top of it. You will be about 50 metres high when you reach the top, although the tower is 66 metres high. The exceptional views of Bordeaux and its monuments make it worth the climbing.
The tower is open every day except Mondays. During the summer, from 10:00 to 13:15 and from 14:00 to 18:00.
From October to May, it is available from 10:00 to 12:30 and from 14:00 to 17:30.
The entrance fee is €5,50.
Address: Berland Pey Tower. Place Pey Berland, 33000 Bordeaux, France.
CHEESE AND WINE
Visiting Bordeaux and not tasting some of its fine wines is missing out on the essence of this city.
Until the 12th century, French wine was rarely exported. Still, it was when the wine became known outside the French borders, thanks to marriage. The Romans introduced grape growing to the region around 2000 years ago. It was easier to grow grapes and make wine for the Roman soldiers than to transport the bottles from the Italian peninsula.
The marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry of Plantagenet, the future king of England, meant that these lands came under the English domain. Therefore, all Bordeaux wine production was exported to England. The wine became increasingly famous, and the vineyards were extended, and export taxes were eliminated. The sale and fame of the wine grew until the 14th century with the outbreak of the Hundred Years´ War, which returned these territories to French control.
Over the centuries, the excellent work of the people of this region has led them to produce world-famous wines. The river Garonne and its river port have always facilitated the sale and export of this wine. The geographical location, the climate, and soil rich in minerals allow the development of high-quality crops to develop eight indigenous grape species from which these wines are born.
Since 1936, all French wines must bear the AOC label, referring to where they were produced.
Did you know that there are 57 AOC or wine appellations in the Bordeaux region? At present, about 9,000 wineries, usually called châteaux, are dedicated to producing wine, organised in different categories, from table wine to the world´s most expensive and prestigious wines. All tastes and pockets can be satisfied. Every year, 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine are produced, most of which are red, but dry and sweet white wine is also produced and rosé and sparkling wine.
Today, the wine capital still shows pride in its wines and any of its bars. Sit on a terrace and order a rouge or Blanche wine with a plate of cheese. Savour them, enjoy the aroma of the wine, the taste, the atmosphere of the street, the nearby tables and toast to life and the journeys that give it colour! France has some 400 different types of cheese.
Bordeaux is considered one of the most bourgeois cities in France, and its inhabitants epitomise typical French elegance.
If you fancy a taste of Bordeaux´s shopping scene, you´ll want to make your way to one of the longest pedestrian streets in France. With 1.2 km of shops, Rue Sainte-Catherine is the main shopping artery of the city, where you will find mainly French brands, independent designer boutiques and vintage shops.
This street crosses the historic centre from north to south, starting at Place de la Comédie, where you will find the Grand Theatre, all the way to Place de la Victoire. The Place de la Comédie is a beautiful square dominated by the marvellous building of the Grand Théâtre, inaugurated in April 1780 and commissioned by Cardinal Richelieu. This building inspired Charles Garnier to design the Paris Opera House. Today, the theatre is home to the National Opera of Bordeaux and the National Ballet of Bordeaux.
At the beginning of the street, a few metres from the Grand Theatre, you will find the Galeries Lafayette, where you can find the best brands of clothes and accessories. But the most exciting thing is that a short distance away, at number 12 on this avenue, you will find the Galeries Bourdaleis, an example of the shopping arcades that were so fashionable in the 19th century and which turned out to be the beginning of today´s shopping malls. These galleries, inaugurated in 1834, maintain the beauty of the period with impressive marble columns at the entrance and an interior decorated with beautiful representations of abundance and commerce.
The rue Saint Catherine ends at the Place de la Victoire. We find the Porte d´Aquitaine in the square´s centre, a Triumphal Arch erected in the 18th century and decorated with a pediment bearing the royal coat of arms and the city´s coat of arms. We also find the Column of the vine and wine decorated with bas-reliefs of the history of wine. Finally, the square is decorated with two enormous wrought iron turtles. Both the obelisk and the turtles are the work of the Czech sculptor Ivan Theimer and were installed during the restoration of the square in 2005.
This is a beautiful promenade that mixes shopping and culture. Here you will also find plenty of cafes and restaurants for a snack.
Grand Theatre, Place de la Comédie, 33000 Bordeaux, France.Rue Sainte-Catherine, 33000 Bordeaux, France.
Place de la Victoire, 33000 Bordeaux, France.
AN UFO OVER RIVER GARONNE
What could be more curious than having your picture taken next to a UFO! In Bordeaux, this is possible.
In 2017, a UFO landed on the waters of the River Garonne. It was a 17-metre-diameter spaceship, and it "landed" in the Bassin à Flot district. "Le Vaisseau spatial" was created by the British artist Suzanne Treister.
This district is appreciated by the younger generations and still has a maritime essence. It was also one of the five submarine bases set up by the Nazis on the Atlantic coast during the Second World War. This operation was called BETASOM. The Italian Navy was based in Bordeaux, and German U-boats were also stationed there. They participated in the Battle of the Atlantic between 1940 and 1943. The port of Bordeaux was one of the largest ports in the Atlantic despite being landlocked, which is precisely why the Germans thought it would be an excellent place to build a U-boat base as they would not be exposed to direct attacks from Britain.
The U-boat base consisted of seven cells, each enclosed by armoured counter-windows to protect it from bombs. Each cell had cranes for U-boat repairs, and the building was also equipped with flats, offices and even an infirmary. In 1943 the Americans got wind of this U-boat base and launched a bombing raid on the area.
Today, this former German bunker has become a multicultural centre.
In this Place with so much history, there is a lovely sculpture of "the spaceship", which represents the transformation of a ship sunk during the Second World War into a spaceship, showing that the power to make this world a better place is in our hands.
Don´t hesitate to come and discover this exciting neighbourhood, just a few steps away from the "Cite du vine" centre, where you will find a quiet atmosphere, exciting architecture. You will be able to get one of the most curious photos of your trip.
Le Vaisseau spatial. Port Autonome de Bordeaux, Bacalan, 33000 Bordeaux .
THE OLDEST GATE IN THE MEDIEVAL CITY
Choosing one of Bordeaux´s 362 historical monuments is no easy task. However, on reflection, one monument is not to be missed as it represents the medieval Bordeaux, lost over the centuries in favour of the new city that welcomes us today. That monument is the medieval Porte Saint-Eloy.
A wall with numerous gates surrounded medieval Bordeaux to enter the city. When the wall was demolished, many of these gates disappeared. Fortunately, a few medieval treasures still survive and are worth discovering.
Of all the gates in Bordeaux today, only one dates from medieval times, and that is the Porte Saint-Eloy, the others are later, some of them very old, such as the beautiful Porte de Cailhau, which dates from the end of the 15th century and was part of the city wall. This gate became an obligatory passage for royalty when they came to the city.
The Dijeaux Gate, the Bourgogne Gate, the Aquitaine Gate and the Mint gate date from the 18th century and are part of the expansion and renovation of the city carried out by the intendant Louis Albert Tourny his architect André Portier.
But it is undoubtedly the Saint Eloy Gate, the oldest in the city, a perfect representation of the old Bordeaux. It was built in the 13th century next to the church of Saint Eloi. It formed part of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
This defensive structure consists of two 40-metre towers linked by a central building on top of which hangs a 7800 kg bell called the Grösse Cloche. In medieval times, this structure became part of the old town hall. It was part of the daily life of the inhabitants of Bordeaux until it became a symbol that today appears on the city´s coat of arms.
The clock seen here was put in Place after the fire at the Town Hall in 1657. Next to the tower is the Church of Saint Eloy, where the town councillors were sworn in. This beautiful Gothic church forms a beautiful medieval corner together with the gate of the same name. Construction of the church began in the 14th century and was completed at the end of the 15th century.
A visit here is the perfect excuse to explore the historic centre of this beautiful city and lose yourself in some of the bohemian bars surrounding it.
Porte de Saint Eloy, 1 Rue Saint James, 33000 Bordeaux, France.
BORDEAUX BY BICYCLE
Do you dare to rent a bike and explore the city on your own? We recommend that you cross the first bridge you come across over the river with your bike to ride along "the other bank of the Garonne", from where you will have spectacular views of the city. Discover its ecological trails, a different, sustainable and fun way to get to know Bordeaux from another point of view.
If there is one spot on "the other" bank worth paying attention to, it is undoubtedly the Darwin Centre. The site is the former Niel Barracks, a military complex built in 1850 and closed in 2005 because it was no longer of any use. The city looked for a new use for these old buildings. So Darwin Centre was born, an eco-sustainable space occupied by a wide variety of activities such as business spaces, an alternative study centre, an ecological market called Magasin General, where you can eat and shop for the week. Inside it, you will find restaurants, cafés and a skate park.
The exterior of this former Niel quarter has not been forgotten either. On your walk, you will enjoy the Tétrodon, a module created by 60 Bordeaux designers. An exciting and architecturally different space that you will surely love.
The Darwin Centre is located in the district of La Bastide. The pop-art sculpture "Le Lion de Veilhan" in the Place Stalingrad is also part of the renovation of this district, where we encourage you to arrive with your bike.
Suppose you have time and want to walk a little more, on the "other" side of the river. In that case, you will find other buildings worthy of a photograph, such as the 19th century Church of Sainte Marie de La Bastide, the Maison Cantonale, a beautiful house from the 1930s, the fire station, influenced by Le Corbusier, the Berger park or the botanical garden are some of the highlights of the Bastide district, on the other side of the Garonne.
You can rent your bike at different points in the city. One of the most famous shops is Cool Bike (77 Quai des Chartrons).
Darwin Centre, 33100 Bordeaux, France.
Cool Nike, 77 Quai des Chartrons, Le Bastide 33300 Bordeaux, France
SAINT ANDREW, THE PILGRIM CATHEDRAL
The Gothic Cathedral of Saint Andrew is one of the first buildings in Bordeaux to catch the visitor´s attention, as its two towers rise above the city, inviting you to reach its doors without much difficulty. This sacred Place was the scene of important events, and it is well worth seeing.
Bordeaux is one of the stations on the Pilgrim´s Route to Santiago de Compostela through France. This circumstance has allowed an essential influx of pilgrims over the centuries. This fact contributed to the economic and religious expansion of the region, as can be seen in Saint Andrew Cathedral. Admired by pilgrims and travellers alike, it is one of the 69 monuments considered World Heritage Sites on the pilgrimage routes to Compostela.
On the square floor, you will find the symbol of Santiago´s scallop to indicate that you are in the right place, in the Place where all the pilgrims who come to the city have passed through, pass through nowadays and will continue to pass through in the future.
The building was built on the remains of an ancient Romanesque temple destroyed during the Viking raids, but of which there are remains in the interior walls. The consecration ceremony of the Cathedral in 1096 was officiated by Pope Urban II, who used the occasion to preach in favour of the First Crusade in France... with outstanding results.
This Cathedral was also the site of marriages that changed the fate of Bordeaux and France, such as the two weddings of Eleanor of Aquitaine. In 1137, when she was 16 years old, she married Louis VII of France. Still, she ended up annulling that marriage a few years later to marry Henry II of England on 18 May 1152. She is the only woman to reign in both territories and gave rise to the English domination of Bordeaux and Aquitaine for almost 300 years.
But the royal weddings did not end with Eleanor. In November 1615, King Louis XIII married the Spanish Infanta Anne of Austria. The couple entered through the royal gate, and according to legend, no one else would ever cross this gate again.
The royal splendour was lost during the French Revolution when the Cathedral was converted into a fodder warehouse. It was in the 19th century when, after a restoration, the splendour of the past was recovered, being included in 1998 in the Heritage Sites of the Pilgrims´ Route to Santiago de Compostela.
St Andrew´s Cathedral. Place Pey Berland, 33000 Bordeaux.
BACALAN, MODERNISM AMONG BUNKERS.
We know that the best way to get to know a city is to stroll through its streets and neighbourhoods.
During your stay in Bordeaux, we suggest a pleasant stroll that will take you to the Bacalan district. The city´s former shipyard has undergone an interesting urban recovery that combines urban art, fashionable nightclubs, restaurants with residential areas, office areas, functional buildings, and other avant-garde buildings.
Bacalan was born in the 19th century due to the need for warehouses and workshops for railway and ship materials. At the beginning of the 20th century, the district reached its peak with the development of industry, then in the service of the French army during the First World War. Dyle Bacalan aircraft of the 10, 30 and 70 models were built here. Today these industrial buildings can be visited and even have a restaurant inside.
This area was used to construct a Nazi submarine base during World War II. It was a colossal job that took many people´s lives, many Spanish refugees, forced to work on the construction.
During this war, the neighbourhood was filled with bunkers, long of ghostly shadows. It is not possible to erase the traces of Hitler´s atrocities. Still, it is possible to reuse the neighbourhood and transform it into places of art and beauty.
In the Bacalan renovation project, the quarter has returned to its pre-war origins, the wine almost everywhere else in the city. Here the Cité du Vin was created in 2016. It is a cultural entertainment space dedicated to wine, the prominent heritage of this city. Its building is well worth the walk to this Place, a construction with curves on the outside and inside, created by two critical architectural agencies, the XTU 19 agency and the English Casson Mann Boundaries.
The wine theme was taken a step further with the "Les Chais de Port de la lune" project, a winery producing wine in a bunker. The bunkers have found a different use from their original utility with these exemplary projects.
In this district, we will also discover the great Jacques Chaban-Delmas drawbridge. We can enjoy a beautiful view. The neighbourhood is also decorated with numerous graffiti of influential artists of the genre, which colour this former industrial district.
As a reward after a stroll, you can enjoy a great gastronomic offer or a good wine in the wide variety of restaurants and trendy bars in the neighbourhood.
You can take a pleasant stroll along the riverbank from the city centre. Along the way, you will find old hangars, now converted into restaurants and entertainment venues, as well as residential areas. You can also take the tram line B, to the stop "La Cité du Vin".
Cité du vin, 134 Quai de Bacalan, 33300 Bordeaux, France.
GARONNE´S WATER MIRROR
Bordeaux means "at the water´s edge". The Garonne is 568.9 km long. 47 km runs through Spanish territory from its source in the Pyrenees until it crosses France. The Garonne meets the Dordogne River about 65 km from its mouth, and both form the Gironde estuary.
Did you know that the current of the Garonne changes according to the tides? At low tide, you can see the remains of a ship that sank during the Second World War.
Bordeaux´s life cannot be understood without the presence of Garonne. Its current has been a witness to the city´s history. That´s why we can think of no better way to connect with the city and its people than by enjoying a moment of relaxation on the banks of the river, in the peaceful garden area dedicated to leisure. This Place allows us to take a break in the heart of the monumental centre and enjoy our free time sitting on the benches by the river, lying on the lawn or cooling our feet on hot summer afternoons in the Miroir d´Eau (Mirror of Water). The fountain is considered the largest reflecting pool globally, with a surface area of 3450 square metres. Children and adults have fun walking between the jets of water gushing from the ground. The fountain is located opposite the beautiful Place de la Bourse. It is a natural spectacle at night to see the stock exchange building reflected in the Miroir d´eau.
The Place de la Bourse was created as the first opening in the medieval ramparts, intended to serve as a frame for the equestrian statue of Louis XV. The figure no longer exists as it was destroyed during the French revolution. The square, which was inaugurated in 1749, signified the city´s prosperity. In the centre, where the sculpture of Louis XV once stood, now stands the Fountain of the Three Graces by Louis Visconti, and surrounding the square: the Palais de la Bourse, now the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Hôtel des Fermes, now the National Customs Museum.
Suppose you would like to stroll along the riverbank before sitting down to relax in this beautiful square. In that case, we recommend that you start this tour from the Place des Quinconces, the most significant court in France and one of the largest in Europe, with a surface area of 126,000 square metres.
Suppose you would like to take a stroll along the riverbank before sitting down to rest in this beautiful square. In that case, we recommend that you start this tour from the Place des Quinconces, the most significant court in France and one of the largest in Europe, with a surface area of 126,000 square metres.
The gateway to the yard is formed by two columns representing trade and navigation, two activities very present in Bordeaux. Its size and the many Column easily distinguish the square in honour of the Girondins, the local activist deputies who died during the French Revolution.
Crossing the avenue, you will reach the banks of the river and walking to the right, you will come to the gardens and the Miroir d´eau.
Miroir d´eau, Place de la Bourse, 33000 Bordeaux, France.
Place de Quinconces, 33000 Bordeaux, France.
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