Bordeaux, most famous for its wines, is more than just one the home of France’s producers of excellent vintages. True to its moniker La Belle Au Bois Dormant, or Sleeping Beauty, the region offers a quiet charm, gorgeous architecture, deep sense of history and great natural beauty.
The port city of Bordeaux sits on the banks of the Garonne River in the south-western part of France, just 310 miles off of Paris. Home to about a quarter of a million Bordelais, it is also known as the capital of both the Aquitaine region and the Gironde prefecture. Together with Arcachon and Libourne, it is the sixth biggest metropolitan area in all of France.
In the past, Bordeaux has certainly lived up to its name, as if seeming content with being known mostly for the wines that carry its name. In recent years, however, city officials have seen fit to play up not only its wine industry, but Bordeaux’s other attractions as well. Since 1996, the city started implementing a highly-efficient tram system, developing the quality of the quays on the Garonne river, restoring and rebuilding its great examples of neoclassical architecture, introducing new zoning systems to protect the city’s historical heritage, and playing up its historical significance.
Bordeaux’s historic part is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, and rightly so, as many of its classical and neoclassical architectural gems have remained unchanged style-wise for the past two hundred years. Today, the city boasts of almost 400 classified buildings, including those pinpointed as historic monuments and religious World Heritage buildings.
Today, its historical, cultural and architectural attractions draw much admiration from visitors. Among its most popular treasures are religious centers such as seventeenth-century beauty Cathedral Saint-Andre and the Eglise Notre Dame la Grande, and the Cathedral Saint-Pierre, cultural centers which include the grand theater Opera National de Bordeaux and the Musee des Beaux-Arts, historic al and political sites like the Port of the Moon, and landmarks such as the Place Parlement, Place de la Bourse and the Rue Saint-Catherine.
Playing up the city’s historical and architectural treasures has certainly helped a lot in driving the interest, and tourist arrivals, in Bordeaux. But undoubtedly, the city’s foremost claim to fame is its thriving, equally historic wine production industry.
The first signs of wine-making activities in Bordeaux were dated to be around the 16th and 17th century. However, it was not until the 18th century when the city’s wine industry really started to take off, on its way to becoming the internationally-recognized source of premium brand red and white Bordeaux that it is today.
The wine industry, undoubtedly, has also made its mark on the design of buildings and public spaces in the city, with symbols of grapes and the wine god Bacchus strewn all over the city. Many of its most popular tourist destinations are wineries such as the Maison du Vin, and the Chateau Haut-Marbuzet – Henri Duboscq.
Today, the city holds the Bordeaux Wine Festival, which attracts thousands of visitors from around the world—all of them eager to partake of the wine and the food that are always present during the four-day event. Even as world markets and economies continue to swing up and down, the various types of first-class wines and their more affordable counterparts borne from the city’s wine industry, has assured Bordeaux’s place in international renown for at least the next century.