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For a long time, Bordeaux was at the bottom of the list of cities worthwhile visiting in France. Although the city's surroundings were known for its good wine, Bordeaux itself was mainly known as a grey port city with little to do. Under the inspiring leadership of mayor Alain Juppé, the city has shed its greyness. Historic districts, warehouses and merchant houses were thoroughly fixed up and refurbished, and the freeway along the quays was taken down to be replaced by parks and walkways. To emphasize the city's resurrection, Bordeaux' historic center was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Ignoring Bordeaux? You don't know what you're missing!
Shopaholics have a great time in Bordeaux. Like Paris, Bordeaux has attractive shopping streets, such as the mile-long Rue Ste-Catherine, between the Place de la Victoire and the Place de la Comédie. West of this street you will also find many stores, as well as the splendid Saint-André Cathedral. The oldest part of this church dates from the twelfth century and used to be part of the city wall. Between the Rue Ste-Catherine and the Garonne, lies a (pedestrian) neighborhood that has many cozy bars and restaurants in addition to stores.
The refurbished quays along the Garonne are probably Bordeaux' main attraction. Begin your stroll along the quays at Place de la Bourse, which borders on the Quai de la Douane. On this square you'll find the customs office, which nowadays is a museum on the history and activities of this oldest French public service. The square itself is covered with water (two centimeters high), which represents the Quay Mirror (Mirroir des Quais). At night this work of art, the beautiful Fountain of Three Graces and the Customs Office are beautifully lit.
When walking further south, you'll reach the Quai Sainte-Croix, near the Pont Neuf. It is a large park, where Bordeaux' inhabitants – young and old – go to exercise or to play jeu de boules. The Quai des Chartrons was the first quay along the river that was restored. There are nice outdoor cafés and on Sundays there is a farmer's market with organic produce from the city's surroundings. You can also buy flowers and books.
The Colbert marine cruiser, nowadays a museum, is berthed at the quay. Here you can see photographs of the ship's various expeditions and it has several ship models on display. You can visit the entire ship: The sailors' bunks, the captain's cabin, the bridge, the mess, the engine room, the barbershop and the infirmary.
Bordeaux has interesting museums, for example one of France's main museums for modern art: Musée d'art contemporain (CAPC). It is housed in a huge colonial warehouse, right on the quay and it has an extensive collection of over 700 works of art from all important modern art movements.
Older art can be found in the Musée des Beaux-Arts. This museum was founded by Napoleon en has an extensive collection of Dutch, Italian, Flemish and German masters.
You can learn more about the city's history – and especially its heydays – in the Musée d'Aquitaine. Bordeaux became rich because of the trade in goods – and slaves – from the French colonies.
Following a visit to Bordeaux' Musée du Vin, you undoubtedly feel the need to visit the wine region surrounding the city. Although French wines are seriously threatened by the 'new wines' from for example Australia, Chile and South Africa these days, the Haut-Médoc still produces beautiful wines. Along the way you can of course taste the different wines, but the winegrower obviously expects you to purchase a bottle or a box.
At about forty kilometers from Bordeaux lies the village of Saint-Émilion. Most people visit this village to taste the wine, but did you know that Saint-Émilion was originally a place of pilgrimage? In the eighth century, the monk Émilion lived here in a cave, which later became the world's largest monolithic church.
The Landes Region used to be mainly swamp. In the eighteenth century it was drained, after which not only vineyards emerged, but also pine groves. Beautiful routes are mapped out through this forest – Europe's largest pine forest – that you can follow by foot, by bike or on a horse.
Accommodation is widely available in Bordeaux. The more expensive hotels are located in the city center, but there are sufficient cheaper options in the suburbs and on the outskirts of the city. Outside Bordeaux, you can also find several campsites.
During the thorough renovation of Bordeaux, they also considered car drivers. In and around the center there are over twenty parking garages where you can park your rental car at a very reasonable rate. You can also park out on the streets, but generally only up to one and a half or two hours. On the outskirts of the city there are no less than fifteen P+R areas, where you can park your rental car at a cheap rate to continue your journey by public transportation.
Bordeaux Merignac Airport is located near the village of Mérignac, 12 kilometers west of the city. You can easily rach the airport by rental car from the beltway around Bordeaux (exit 11a or 11b, on the west side of the city).