The port city of Bordeaux is located in south-west France on the banks of the Garonne River. The city has been the center of an important wine-growing region for two thousand years. The cultivation and export of wine established the wealth of the region. In Bordeaux' historic old town, many representative secular and profane buildings tell of the prosperity generated in the past. The historic district is said to be the largest and most beautiful complex of its kind in all of France. In 2007, UNESCO placed Bordeaux on the World Heritage List.
Vineyard in the Médoc
On the way in Bordeaux' historical center
Bordeaux in numbers
Bordeaux is the ninth largest city in the country. In the core city, 50 inhabitants live on an area of almost 261.000 square kilometers (as of January 2019). The Bordeaux agglomeration has almost a million people. It ranks fifth among France's metropolitan regions. The distance to the Gironde estuary near Port Médoc is almost 90 kilometers as the crow flies. The Garonne and Dordogne rivers form the Gironde.
Bordeaux' history in a nutshell
Bordeaux developed from a settlement founded by the Celts in the 3rd century BC. The Romans followed the Celts. They called the place "Burdigala" and appreciated both the region as a wine-growing area and the waterway for transporting the wine. As ancient records show, Bordeaux already achieved considerable prosperity in Roman times. This phase ended with the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the migration of peoples.
In 1154 Bordeaux came under English rule. In the following three centuries the city prospered again. Despite interim acts of war, the comfortable situation continued in the centuries that followed. Bordeaux made money from wine, cod and the slave trade. Under the rule of the Marquis of Tourny, large squares, wide streets and numerous representative public buildings were created, which still characterize the cityscape today.
Statue of the Marquis of Tourny
Bordeaux - administrative and cultural center
The city is currently the administrative center of the Gironde department and also the capital of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. Bordeaux has four universities and a double-digit number of colleges and universities of applied sciences. Bordeaux is also the seat of an Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church.
Bordeaux City Hall
As already mentioned, the city and the surrounding region depend on the wine and the port. More recently, key industries have emerged in the aerospace, electronics, chemical, pharmaceutical and building materials sectors. Bordeaux is a media location, trade fair and conference center.
Bordeaux – destination of cruise ships
River and ocean cruise ships call at the city regularly. Smaller ocean-going ships travel up the Gironde and the Garonne, provided that the route planning allows enough time for the river passage. Mooring is at the Quai des Chartrons. If there is not enough time for a river trip, or if the ships are too large, they are anchored off Port Médoc opposite the town of Royan on the Bay of Biscay.
Bordeaux - pier of the river cruise ships
If the layovers are short, passengers are well advised to take organized trips to Bordeaux. Guided excursions combine the city's top sights with a visit to the Médoc and a wine tasting at a top-rated winery. More on this below Bordeaux Sights.