Known affectionately as La Belle Au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty) you don’t need to give Bordeaux a kiss to know that she is already awake. This once overlooked city has recently undergone a complete restoration, from its streets to its historic buildings, which has given it a modern cosmopolitan feel yet hasn’t compromised her ancient charms.
Located in the famous Aquitaine region of France, Bordeaux started life as a small Roman colony. Yet it was under the English king Henry II that the city began to prosper after his marriage to the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1154. The English became increasingly fond of the region’s local red wine (known back then as claret) and began importing it. Today, that fondness has turned to a passionate love all around the world and is a definite highlight to any trip in Bordeaux.
One of the city’s famous tourist attractions is the Basilique Saint-Seurin. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this magnificent structure takes your breath away and captures the imagination at the same time. Tall and commanding, the building has a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles but its history stretches back to the 6th century. On the western side of the building, the chapels date back from the 12th century with depictions of the Last Judgment on the southern portal. Tours are arranged daily, including delves into the crypt where stunning marble Merovingian sarcophagi await you.
Yet the Basilique Saint-Seurin is not the only World Heritage Sites in Bordeaux; another is Cathédrale St-André. The oldest section dates back to 1096 but the majority of what is seen today is from the 13th and 14th centuries. Yet it is the Tour Pey-Berland, the gothic-period belfry which captivates tourists. Rising 50m into the sky, it was between 1440 and 1466, but a spire was added in the 19th century along with a statue Notre Dame of Aquitaine (Our Lady of Aquitaine). If you can manage climbing to the top of the tower you can reward yourself with some outstanding views of the city.
Located in the heart of the city, history buffs will enjoy visiting the Musée d'Aquitaine. It houses some interesting artefacts dating back to the Roman and Neolithic periods. For those more interested in natural history, the Musee d’Historie Naturelle is a good choice. The museum itself is located within a historic building itself, a building that commands you to admire it for itself. Inside, there are wonderful galleries dedicated to all areas of the natural world and the history of the study of science.
Red wine is what makes Bordeaux stand out so a trip here cannot be complete without first seeing the École du Vin, located within the Maison du Vin de Bordeaux (Bordeaux House of Wine). This is the place where you can learn more about the process of making wine and do some sampling as well. You can enrol in one of the many courses to really develop your nose and test your skills, making it a truly wonderful thing to do.
With these new skills you tourists can try them out at one of the many restaurants in the city. Instead of wine complimenting a tasty dish you will find it the other way around in Bordeaux! Yet no matter your budget or choice of restaurant, each meal is carefully cooked and presented, making it a true slice of heaven.
Old 18th century mansions have become some incredibly beautiful hotels, making stays here an absolute dream for guests. Not only this, rates are some of best in France even in the five star buildings. For those who want a more personalized stay, Bordeaux’s guesthouses and B&B’s make a comfortable and genuinely friendly option.
Visitors may come for the wine but they end up staying sand even returning for everything Bordeaux has to offer. She is a beautiful city and although other cities may glisten, Bordeaux shines with a light that is all her own.