Located in the south-west of France, Bordeaux is the capital city of the French department of the Gironde, known worldwide thanks to its wines. The names of Saint-Émilion and Médoc have been a synonym of quality for wine lovers and some of the best — and most expensive — bottles of wine in the whole world are produced in the area surrounding Bordeaux. The city has taken advantage of this and has become a hot spot for gourmets, aspiring and acclaimed chefs and sommeliers. The cuisine of Bordeaux is to French cuisine what French cuisine is to the world: a major influence to cooks and food lovers all around.
A historic city that's maintained its charm through the centuries
Bordeaux has been producing wine for over 1,500 years. When the Romans invaded France, they made sure they didn’t destroy the vineyards that carpet the fields of the area that later became the Gironde. The wine from the region was a favorite amongst the powerful members of the Roman Empire and the city started earning a name all around Europe as a producer of superb wines. The area’s mellow climate and its rich soil ensured the quality of the wine for the centuries to come and wine production grew to the extent that today, Bordeaux is considered to be the world’s biggest wine producer, yielding over a billion bottles of wine a year. The wine trade brought in a lot of money for the Bordelais and the city flourished in the 16th century, following the marriage between Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II of England. During these years, a lot of buildings were erected, some of which are still in place, such as the Saint-André Cathedral. Bordeaux became afterwards a very important trading center and lived a second Golden Age in the 18th century, when it was widely accepted as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and became the political capital of France during World War 2. Nowadays, Bordeaux is still a very important economic center and the city’s public and private buildings are a reflection of this.
Filled with architectural gems, Bordeaux is a magnificent city
Although being a city of roughly over 200,000 inhabitants — it is only France’s 9th city in terms of population — Bordeaux has many architectural highlights. These include the Saint-Michel Cathedral, which overlooks a huge street market that takes place there weekly, the Place de la Victoire, with its famous statue of two tortoises crowned with grape leaves, the Quai, stretching along the river Garonne and which serves as the city’s playground on its many public sportive facilities, the Place de la Comédie, where the commercial Rue Sainte-Catherine meets the Opera and the Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux, and the Miroir d’Eau, a thin layer of water which delights the children running around it at daytime and reflects the majestic Place de la Bourse when the sun sets. The Place des Quinconces, located north of the Place de l'Opéra, is one of Europe’s largest city squares and it holds a variety of events all year long, ranging from a huge circus to Christmas markets and wine fairs. Getting from any of these places to any other won’t take you more than 40 minutes by foot. You can also use the public tram and bus lines, which connect the whole city.
Wine and Bordeaux are synonyms!
Bordeaux is widely seen as one of the world’s gastronomic capitals: the renown of its wine has been equaled, if not surpassed, by the fame of its food. The city is filled with countless restaurants and bistros, most of them offering traditional and modern French cuisine. A personal choice would be Le Rince-Doigts, a fish restaurant that changes its menu daily based on the fish bought at the nearby Marché des Capucins, the city’s main market, and the Brasserie Les Halles, also located near the market. Other less reasonably-priced options in the city include Le Croc-Loup, Garopapilles and l’Entrecôte, all of them having an omnipresent queue at the entrance. The Marché des Capucins is a great place to have a brunch on a Sunday midday. The people in Bordeaux, as in some other French cities, have adopted the Flemish moules-frites: a dish of French fries and steamed mussels, which are delivered daily from the seaside in Arcachon, along with tons of oysters and all kinds of fish. A lot of the market’s fish counters make hot, dense fish soups, which, trust me, taste like heaven. A very touristic but instructive activity is to visit any of the Châteaux in the surroundings of Bordeaux and do a wine tasting; any of them is a good option and they all offer differently-priced rates.
Bordeaux, where top-class gastronomy meets stunning architecture
Overall, Bordeaux is a great city to spend some days in, as it perfectly balances architecture, gastronomy and open-air, free activities. It is particularly delightful to visit in the months of May and June, when there isn’t much rain and it doesn’t get extremely cold after sunset. The stately atmosphere, which is noticeable from the very first moment you lay your feet onto it, probably at the Gare Saint-Jean, the city’s main train station, gives Bordeaux a certain stucked-in-time appearance. I hope Bordeaux will very soon be something else than just a word written on the label of your wine bottles!
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