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Walking Tours In Bordeaux: The Old And The New


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Jo-Anne Whitson



Welcome to Bordeaux, a city that seamlessly blends its rich history with a modern and dynamic atmosphere. Located in southwestern France, Bordeaux is not only known for its world-renowned wines but also for its captivating blend of old-world charm and contemporary flair. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a wine connoisseur, or an urban explorer, Bordeaux offers an array of exciting experiences to suit all interests.


In this walking tour, we will take you on a journey through Bordeaux’s streets, showcasing the city’s timeless heritage and its innovative developments. From the ancient medieval quarters to the revitalized riverfront, we will explore the juxtaposition of old and new that defines Bordeaux’s character.


Bordeaux’s historical significance can be traced back to Roman times when it was a bustling trading port. Over the centuries, it grew in importance, and its prosperity is reflected in the stunning architecture that adorns the city. On this tour, we will delve into the heart of the historic center, where narrow cobblestone streets and beautiful squares transport you back in time.


But Bordeaux isn’t confined to its past. In recent years, the city has undertaken ambitious urban regeneration projects and embraced modernity without compromising its unique identity. We will also explore the contemporary side of Bordeaux, from the sleek design of the Quays to the vibrant street art scene in the Chartrons neighborhood.


Additionally, Bordeaux’s reputation as the wine capital of the world cannot be overlooked. We will make a stop at La Cité du Vin, a magnificent architectural masterpiece dedicated to the appreciation and preservation of wine culture. Here, you can immerse yourself in the history and intricacies of winemaking while enjoying stunning panoramic views of the city.


So, put on your walking shoes and get ready to discover the treasures of Bordeaux. With its rich history, innovative urban projects, and unrivaled wine culture, this city promises an unforgettable experience for all who visit.


Bordeaux: A Historical Overview

Bordeaux has a history dating back to the Roman Empire, when it was founded as a port on the Garonne River. Over the centuries, it grew into a prosperous trading center and earned the nickname “La Belle Endormie” or “Sleeping Beauty” due to its elegant architecture and slow pace of life.


During the Middle Ages, Bordeaux became a hub of wine commerce, establishing its reputation as a premier wine-producing region. The city’s strategic location and favorable climate paved the way for its economic success, leading to the construction of grand buildings and expansive squares that still grace the city today.


Bordeaux reached its pinnacle of glory in the 18th century, known as the Age of Enlightenment. The city underwent a remarkable transformation, with influential architects redesigning its urban landscape. The elegant limestone façades, ornate balconies, and spacious squares showcased Bordeaux’s newfound prosperity and grandeur.


However, in the 19th century, Bordeaux fell into decline as other ports, such as Marseille and Le Havre, took over its trade routes. Despite this setback, the city managed to preserve its architectural heritage, which contributed to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.


Today, Bordeaux’s historic center boasts over 350 listed buildings, making it one of the most significant architectural ensembles in Europe. From the Gothic splendor of the Saint-André Cathedral to the neoclassical beauty of the Grand Théâtre, every corner of the city tells a story of its rich past.


Bordeaux also has a strong cultural heritage, with museums that showcase its history and art. The Musée d’Aquitaine offers a comprehensive overview of the region’s past, while the Musée des Beaux-Arts presents an impressive collection of European paintings and sculptures.


As you walk through Bordeaux’s streets, you’ll be captivated by the harmonious blend of architectural styles and the palpable sense of history. The city’s commitment to preserving its heritage is evident, making it a captivating destination for history buffs and those seeking a glimpse into the past.


In the next part of our walking tour, we will explore the charming old city, where the echoes of history can still be felt in every narrow alleyway and bustling square.


Exploring the Old City

As we venture into Bordeaux’s old city, it’s like stepping back in time. The labyrinthine streets are lined with beautifully preserved medieval buildings, and the atmosphere exudes a sense of history and charm.


Our first stop is the stunning Place de la Bourse, a square that epitomizes the grandeur of Bordeaux’s past. The square is anchored by the iconic Water Mirror, a shallow reflecting pool that mirrors the splendid façade of the 18th-century Palais de la Bourse. As you stroll across the Water Mirror, you’ll feel transported to another world, surrounded by the elegance and serenity of the square.


From Place de la Bourse, make your way to the vibrant Rue Sainte-Catherine, one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe. Here, you’ll find a myriad of shops, cafes, and boutiques that offer a glimpse into the modern-day cultural scene of Bordeaux.


Continuing our exploration, we reach the architectural masterpiece of Saint-André Cathedral. This towering Gothic cathedral, with its intricate gargoyles and stunning stained glass windows, is a testament to the artistic and religious history of Bordeaux. Take a moment to step inside and admire the intricate craftsmanship and serene ambiance.


As you meander through the old city, you’ll come across charming squares such as Place du Parlement and Place Saint-Pierre. These lively gathering spots are surrounded by bustling cafes and restaurants, perfect for a leisurely break to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy some people-watching.


Another must-visit destination in the old city is the Porte Cailhau, a medieval gate that once served as the entrance to the city. Climb the steps to the top for panoramic views of the Garonne River and the surrounding rooftops. It’s a perfect spot to capture some memorable photos of your Bordeaux adventure.


As you delve deeper into the old city, you’ll discover hidden gems such as the tranquil courtyards of the Hôtel de Ville and the picturesque Rue des Faures, known for its charming half-timbered houses.


Exploring Bordeaux’s old city is like peeling back the layers of history, where each alleyway and building has a story to tell. Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast or simply seeking a romantic ambiance, the old city of Bordeaux will captivate you with its timeless beauty.


Now, it’s time to cross the River Garonne and explore the modern developments that have transformed Bordeaux’s riverfront. Join us as we discover the sleek Quays district and its innovative architectural marvels.


Place de la Bourse: Where the Past Meets the Present

One of the most breathtaking sights in Bordeaux is the Place de la Bourse, a square that beautifully juxtaposes Bordeaux’s historic past with its vibrant present. Located on the banks of the Garonne River, this architectural masterpiece is a harmonious blend of classical elegance and modern design.


At the heart of the square stands the Palais de la Bourse, an exquisite 18th-century building that served as the headquarters for Bordeaux’s Chamber of Commerce. Its neoclassical façade, adorned with intricate sculptures and ornate details, is a true testament to the city’s opulence during the Age of Enlightenment. The Palais de la Bourse is a symbol of Bordeaux’s rich history and trade heritage.


At the front of the Palais de la Bourse, a magnificent water feature known as the Water Mirror adds a contemporary touch to the square. This shallow reflecting pool creates a stunning mirror effect, allowing visitors to admire the beauty of the square and the surrounding architecture. It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists to relax, cool off, and capture stunning photographs.


The Place de la Bourse is not only a visual delight but also a hub of activity. The square hosts various events and markets throughout the year, creating a lively atmosphere that brings locals and visitors together. From art exhibitions to live performances, there’s always something happening in this vibrant space.


As you explore the Place de la Bourse, be sure to take a leisurely stroll along the Quai de la Douane, the riverfront promenade that stretches parallel to the square. From here, you can admire panoramic views of the Garonne River and the impressive Pont de Pierre, a bridge that connects the two banks of the river.


When evening falls, the Place de la Bourse becomes even more enchanting as the lights illuminate the square and reflect off the Water Mirror. The sight is simply magical, creating a romantic ambiance that is perfect for an evening stroll or a leisurely dinner at one of the nearby waterfront restaurants.


The Place de la Bourse encapsulates the essence of Bordeaux, where the past seamlessly merges with the present. It’s a symbol of the city’s ability to preserve its rich history while embracing contemporary innovations. Whether you visit during the day or at night, the Place de la Bourse is a must-see destination that will leave you in awe of Bordeaux’s timeless beauty.


Now, let’s continue our journey along Bordeaux’s riverfront as we explore the modern developments of the Quays district.


The Quays: Modernizing Bordeaux’s Riverfront

The riverfront of Bordeaux, known as the Quays, has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, revitalizing the city’s connection to its historic waterways. This modern development has breathed new life into Bordeaux’s riverfront, creating a bustling and vibrant district that seamlessly combines contemporary architecture with the city’s rich history.


One of the standout architectural marvels along the Quays is the Jacques Chaban-Delmas Bridge. This stunning vertical-lift bridge is an engineering feat, connecting the two banks of the Garonne River. With its sleek and modern design, the bridge is not only a vital transportation link but also a striking landmark that adds to Bordeaux’s skyline.


As you walk along the Quays, you’ll notice the sleek and modern buildings that dominate the area. It’s here that you’ll find the modern cultural hub of the city, including the CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art with its impressive collection of contemporary artworks. The museum itself is housed in a former warehouse, showcasing the city’s ability to blend the old with the new.


The Quais des Marques is another highlight along the riverfront, offering a unique shopping experience in a stunning setting. Housed in refurbished shipping containers, this open-air shopping area features an array of boutique stores, trendy cafes, and gourmet food outlets, making it a popular destination for both locals and visitors.


Bordeaux also embraces its cycling culture along the Quays with the Quai des Sports, a dedicated cycling and jogging path that stretches for miles along the riverfront. Rent a bike and take in the scenic views as you pedal your way through this picturesque route.


As you continue your walk, you’ll come across the iconic Mirror d’Eau. This modern water feature adds a touch of glamour to the Quays, providing a striking reflection of the surrounding buildings. It’s a popular spot for children to play and for photography enthusiasts looking to capture the perfect shot.


The redevelopment of the Quays has transformed Bordeaux’s riverfront into a vibrant and dynamic district, offering a diverse range of activities and attractions for everyone to enjoy. Whether you want to indulge in some retail therapy, explore contemporary art, or simply take a leisurely stroll, the Quays is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the modern side of Bordeaux.


As our walking tour continues, we’ll venture into the Saint-Michel district, where tradition and transformation intertwine.


Saint-Michel District: Tradition and Transformation

Nestled in the heart of Bordeaux, the Saint-Michel district is a vibrant neighborhood where tradition and transformation collide. This eclectic area is a fascinating blend of historical landmarks, multicultural influences, and a thriving local community that continues to shape its identity.


At the heart of the district stands the Saint-Michel Basilica, an architectural masterpiece that dates back to the 14th century. Its soaring bell tower and intricate Gothic details make it an impressive sight both from a distance and up close. Inside, you’ll find stunning stained glass windows and a tranquil atmosphere that invites introspection and reverence.


The Place Saint-Michel, located in front of the basilica, comes alive with its bustling market. Here, locals and visitors alike gather to peruse the stalls, exploring a vast array of fresh produce, regional delicacies, and artisanal goods. The atmosphere is vibrant, filled with the scents of delicious food and the sounds of lively conversations.


As you navigate through the narrow streets of the Saint-Michel district, you’ll discover an array of international influences. The neighborhood is known for its diverse mix of cultures, evidenced by its multicultural eateries, colorful street art, and vibrant community events. It’s a melting pot of traditions and a testament to Bordeaux’s openness and acceptance of different cultures.


The Marché des Capucins, a bustling covered market, is a true reflection of the district’s diverse culinary scene. Here, you can sample an array of local delicacies such as oysters, cheese, charcuterie, and regional wines. Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere and savor the flavors of Bordeaux’s culinary heritage.


Tradition also thrives in the Saint-Michel district’s thriving arts and crafts scene. The area is home to numerous artisan workshops, galleries, and boutiques. From pottery and jewelry to traditional crafts, there is a wealth of creativity waiting to be discovered. Take the time to explore these hidden gems and support local artisans who are preserving traditional craftsmanship.


While tradition is deeply rooted in the Saint-Michel district, it is also a place of transformation. In recent years, the neighborhood has undergone urban regeneration, rejuvenating its historic buildings and attracting a diverse range of residents and businesses. This revitalization has brought a new energy to the district while preserving its unique character.


As you explore the Saint-Michel district, be sure to admire the vibrant street art that adorns the walls and facades. These artistic creations contribute to the district’s transformation, adding a contemporary touch to the traditional architecture.


The Saint-Michel district is a hidden gem that encapsulates the spirit of Bordeaux’s diverse and ever-evolving nature. Its blend of tradition, multiculturalism, and urban regeneration creates a unique atmosphere that is both captivating and inspiring. As our journey continues, we’ll visit La Cité du Vin, where Bordeaux’s renowned wine culture comes to life.


La Cité du Vin: Bordeaux’s Wine Culture on Display

No visit to Bordeaux would be complete without immersing yourself in the city’s world-famous wine culture, and there’s no better place to do so than at La Cité du Vin. This magnificent architectural marvel is a temple dedicated to the appreciation, history, and heritage of wine.


Located along the banks of the Garonne River, La Cité du Vin is a true celebration of Bordeaux’s rich winemaking tradition. Its striking design, reminiscent of a swirling wine glass or a grapevine, instantly captures the imagination. The bold and contemporary architecture perfectly reflects the city’s commitment to embracing innovation while maintaining a deep respect for its cultural heritage.


Upon entering La Cité du Vin, you’ll embark on a journey through the world of wine. Interactive exhibits, immersive multimedia presentations, and sensory experiences await, providing a captivating exploration of wine’s origins, its production processes, and its cultural significance. Discover the secrets of winemaking, explore the diversity of grape varieties, and learn about the art of wine tasting.


The highlight of any visit to La Cité du Vin is undoubtedly the tasting sessions. The Belvedere, located on the eighth floor, offers panoramic views of Bordeaux’s skyline, serving as a stunning backdrop as you sample a selection of wines from around the world. The knowledgeable staff will guide you through the tasting experience, offering insights into the unique characteristics of each wine.


La Cité du Vin is also home to a vast collection of wines from all corners of the globe. The permanent exhibition, “The World of Wine,” showcases the diversity and richness of wine cultures worldwide. From the ancient vineyards of Georgia to the prestigious wineries of Bordeaux, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the global impact of this beloved beverage.


For those who wish to delve even further into their wine journey, La Cité du Vin offers workshops, conferences, and events hosted by experts in the field. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or simply curious to learn more, these educational activities provide an enriching and immersive experience.


Before leaving, be sure to visit the gift shop, where you can find an extensive selection of wines, wine-related accessories, and books on oenology. It’s the perfect place to pick up a bottle of Bordeaux wine as a memento of your visit.


La Cité du Vin is not just a museum; it’s a pilgrimage for wine lovers and a testament to Bordeaux’s status as the wine capital of the world. Explore, taste, and discover the fascinating world of wine within the walls of this extraordinary cultural institution.


As our walking tour continues, we’ll delve into the urban regeneration project known as the Darwin Ecosystem, where sustainability and innovation thrive in Bordeaux.


Darwin Ecosystem: Urban Regeneration in Bordeaux

In the heart of Bordeaux, the Darwin Ecosystem stands as a shining example of urban regeneration and sustainable development. What was once a neglected military barracks has been transformed into a vibrant, eco-friendly community that embraces innovation, creativity, and sustainability.


Darwin Ecosystem is a hub of activity, bringing together entrepreneurs, artists, craftsmen, and eco-conscious individuals who share a common vision of creating a sustainable future. The ethos of the ecosystem revolves around a commitment to environmental responsibility, social solidarity, and economic viability.


One of the defining features of the Darwin Ecosystem is its focus on repurposing and recycling. The complex is built using upcycled materials and incorporates renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and rainwater collection systems. The buildings are designed to maximize energy efficiency and minimize environmental impact.


As you wander through the Darwin Ecosystem, you’ll encounter a variety of businesses, workshops, and creative spaces. The complex is home to numerous innovative startups, social enterprises, and organic food vendors. You can explore art galleries, attend workshops on sustainable living, and even enjoy a meal at one of the eco-friendly restaurants or cafes.


Community engagement is a core principle of the Darwin Ecosystem. Events, exhibitions, and cultural happenings take place regularly, fostering a sense of belonging and collective responsibility. The community garden, which encourages urban farming and green initiatives, serves as a space for people to connect, learn, and grow together.


Darwin Ecosystem also hosts the Darwin Skate Park, a haven for skateboarders and BMX riders. The skate park showcases the integration of sports, culture, and ecological awareness. It’s a vibrant space that promotes physical activity while championing sustainable practices.


The Darwin Ecosystem has become a driving force in promoting sustainable lifestyles and eco-entrepreneurship in Bordeaux. It serves as a source of inspiration for other cities seeking to rejuvenate neglected areas and forge a more sustainable path.


Visiting the Darwin Ecosystem is not only an opportunity to witness urban regeneration in action but also to support local entrepreneurs and businesses that are making a positive impact. Whether you’re interested in sustainable design, organic farming, or innovative startups, the Darwin Ecosystem offers a unique and enlightening experience.


As our walking tour continues, we’ll venture into the Chartrons neighborhood, where former warehouses have transformed into vibrant art galleries and trendy boutiques.


Chartrons Neighborhood: From Warehouses to Art Galleries

The Chartrons neighborhood of Bordeaux has undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving from a historic trading hub to a trendy and vibrant district that embraces art, culture, and innovation. Once filled with bustling warehouses along the Garonne River, this charming area now showcases a thriving arts scene, with former industrial spaces transformed into art galleries, boutiques, and creative hubs.


Chartrons has managed to preserve its industrial heritage while adapting to the modern artistic landscape. Walking through its streets, you’ll notice the impressive architecture of the former warehouses, their red bricks and ironwork exemplifying the district’s history as a bustling port and trading hub.


In recent years, these warehouses have found new purpose as artistic spaces. Today, they house a myriad of art galleries, showcasing a diverse range of contemporary works. From paintings and sculptures to photography and mixed media, the galleries in Chartrons offer an insight into the vibrant and ever-evolving art scene of Bordeaux.


One of the notable galleries in the neighborhood is the Base Sous-Marine, a former submarine base turned contemporary art center. Its cavernous spaces provide a unique backdrop for exhibitions and installations, and the venue hosts a diverse program of contemporary art events that attract visitors from near and far.


Wandering through Chartrons, you’ll also find numerous independent boutiques and artisanal shops, offering a blend of vintage finds, unique fashion, and one-of-a-kind crafts. From handmade jewelry to locally crafted home decor, these stores provide an opportunity to discover hidden treasures and support local makers.


Chartrons is not only an art and shopping destination but also a culinary haven. The district is home to an array of trendy cafes, wine bars, and gourmet restaurants, offering a delightful mix of traditional French fare and international cuisine. Here, you can indulge in a leisurely brunch, sample local delicacies, or unwind with a glass of Bordeaux wine.


Exploring the streets of Chartrons, you’ll also stumble upon charming squares and green spaces. Place du Marché des Chartrons is a lively square that hosts a regular farmers’ market, where you can taste fresh local produce and engage with the neighborhood’s vibrant community. The Jardin Public, a beautiful park just a short walk away, offers a peaceful oasis for relaxation amidst the urban buzz.


The Chartrons neighborhood is a testament to Bordeaux’s ability to preserve its heritage while fostering creativity and innovation. Its transformation from warehouses to art galleries, boutiques, and culinary hotspots has breathed new life into the district, captivating both locals and visitors with its vibrant atmosphere and artistic energy.


Now, it’s time to venture to Bordeaux’s newest icon, the Bordeaux Métropole Arena, and discover its significance in the city’s cultural landscape.


Bordeaux’s New Icon: The Bordeaux Métropole Arena

Standing tall on the outskirts of Bordeaux, the Bordeaux Métropole Arena has quickly become a symbol of the city’s vibrant cultural scene. This state-of-the-art multi-purpose venue has hosted some of the world’s biggest music concerts, sports events, and theatrical performances since its inauguration in 2018.


The Bordeaux Métropole Arena is a spectacular architectural masterpiece, designed to provide an exceptional experience for both performers and audiences. Its modern and sleek design, with its curved exterior and metallic cladding, showcases Bordeaux’s commitment to blending contemporary structures with its historic surroundings.


The arena has a seating capacity of over 11,000, making it one of the largest concert venues in France. Its world-class sound and lighting systems ensure a memorable experience for concertgoers, while its flexible seating arrangements can accommodate different types of events, from sports tournaments to corporate conferences.


Since its opening, the Bordeaux Métropole Arena has hosted an impressive lineup of international artists, from legendary musicians to rising stars. Concertgoers have enjoyed performances by the likes of Elton John, Coldplay, Bruno Mars, and many more. The arena’s acoustics, combined with its intimate atmosphere, create an immersive experience that leaves a lasting impact.


But the Bordeaux Métropole Arena goes beyond music. It has also played host to sporting events, including basketball and handball matches, and attracts national and international sports teams for training camps and tournaments. The versatility of the venue makes it a hub for sports enthusiasts and athletes from various disciplines.


Moreover, the Bordeaux Métropole Arena has become an essential part of Bordeaux’s cultural landscape, as it allows the city to attract high-profile events and exhibitions. Dance performances, theatrical productions, and comedy shows are also regularly hosted within its walls, ensuring that there is always something for everyone’s taste and interest.


Adjacent to the arena, you’ll find a range of amenities such as restaurants, bars, and exhibition spaces. These provide additional entertainment options for visitors and contribute to the vibrant atmosphere before and after events.


The Bordeaux Métropole Arena has not only elevated the city’s cultural offerings but also generated economic growth and job opportunities. Its presence has boosted tourism, attracting visitors from far and wide who come to experience the dynamic events and explore the surrounding area.


As Bordeaux’s newest icon, the Bordeaux Métropole Arena embodies the city’s commitment to providing world-class entertainment and cultural experiences. Its innovative design, versatility, and incredible lineup of events have firmly established it as a must-visit destination for those seeking unforgettable moments in Bordeaux.


As our walking tour comes to an end, we hope you have enjoyed this journey through Bordeaux’s history, art, and modern developments. The city’s charm and cultural richness make it an exceptional destination that leaves an indelible impression on all who visit.



Congratulations on completing our walking tour of Bordeaux, a city that seamlessly weaves its historical charm with modern innovation. From its rich history and architectural splendor to its vibrant arts scene and commitment to sustainability, Bordeaux offers a truly captivating experience for every visitor.


Throughout the tour, we explored the old city with its narrow cobblestone streets and magnificent squares, immersing ourselves in the timeless beauty that Bordeaux exudes. We marveled at the iconic Place de la Bourse, where the past gracefully intersects with the present, and strolled along the revitalized Quays, witnessing the city’s dedication to modernization and embracing its riverfront.


The Saint-Michel district and the Chartrons neighborhood showcased the diverse facets of Bordeaux’s character. From the traditional beauty of the Saint-Michel Basilica to the transformation of former warehouses into art galleries and trendy boutiques, these areas highlighted Bordeaux’s balancing act of preserving heritage while embracing change.


We also delved into the wine culture at La Cité du Vin, where Bordeaux’s esteemed winemaking tradition takes center stage. Exploring the exhibits and indulging in wine tastings immersed us in the rich flavors and cultural significance of Bordeaux’s most famous export.


Lastly, we marveled at the urban regeneration and sustainability efforts of the Darwin Ecosystem, where former military barracks have transformed into a thriving community dedicated to social responsibility and eco-awareness. And we celebrated Bordeaux’s new icon, the Bordeaux Métropole Arena, which hosts world-class events and enriches the city’s cultural landscape.


Bordeaux’s charm lies in its ability to seamlessly blend its past with the present, offering a cultural tapestry and a vibrant energy that captivate visitors from around the world. Its commitment to preserving its history while embracing innovation, sustainability, and the arts is truly commendable.


As you leave Bordeaux, may the memories of its historic architecture, artistic displays, delectable wines, and warm hospitality stay with you. Whether you are an architecture enthusiast, a wine lover, a history buff, or simply an adventurous traveler, Bordeaux leaves an indelible mark on all who have the pleasure of experiencing its magic.


Thank you for joining us on this journey through Bordeaux, and we hope that you have been inspired to further explore and discover all the wonders this remarkable city has to offer. Au revoir!