Bordeaux traces its origins back to a Celtic settlement in the third century BC, which the Romans subsequently conquered and named Burdigala. The name will be familiar to Asterix aficionados from the volume Asterix and the Banquet, in which Bordeaux marks the 11th stage of Asterix’s tour of Gaul. Asterix and Obelix buy white Burdigala wine and oysters there, and Bordeaux is also briefly mentioned in Asterix at the Olympic Games and Asterix in Spain.
But wait a minute: white wine from Bordeaux? Aren’t Bordeaux wines traditionally red? Yes of course – but the region surrounding this city of 250,000 inhabitants actually produced more white wine than red until the 1970s – including Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and muscatel. Nevertheless, Bordeaux is indeed famous for its red wines, of which there are subtly different types: Since 1855, the different wines and the areas where they are grown have been subject to an official classification system, which remains virtually unchanged to this day.
The wines are known the world over for their excellent quality, converting them into a speculative commodity given the considerable demand from Asia: Wines are now offered for sale “en primeur” – that is, by subscription. This means that the customer pays for the wine in advance and receives it two to three years later. Subscription sales have become extremely popular, but the system is not as old as people assume: Indeed, it only become popular in the 1970s and 1980s. At any rate, demand has meant that many wine-producing chateaux are now owned by large insurance companies, major corporations, rich entrepreneurs, and foreign investors, who enlist star architects to convert the chateaux into attractions in their own right.
It goes without saying, however, that there is more to Bordeaux than wine. The city also has a thriving cultural scene: For example, the annual “World Music Day” on 21 June sees amateur and professional musicians perform in the streets. Fans of Latin American rhythms will be in their element from September 21 to 23, when the “Festival Corazon Latino” invites people to join in and dance. However, the biggest festival in Bordeaux is indeed related to wine, though it will also be of interest to fans of old frigates: The Bordeaux Wine Festival is held from July 14 to 18. In addition to exquisite wines, this year’s 20th anniversary festival will host the Tall Ships Regatta, a competition between some of the world’s most impressive sailing boats. Along with a supporting program and an impressive firework display, the event promises to provide top-notch entertainment for all.
A key part of the city’s charm is that it features not only a wealth of attractive individual buildings, but also an almost completely preserved urban layout. This led the great French writer Victor Hugo to describe it as a mixture of Versailles and Antwerp – that is, a blend of magnificent palatial buildings and the rather functional architecture of a trading city. This also makes Bordeaux a sought-after location for movie and TV productions.
In the world of sport, Bordeaux is particularly associated with cycling and therefore serves as a regular stage city on the Tour de France – for sprinters, the arrival in this city in southwestern France is second only to the Champs-Élysées in terms of prestige. When it comes to football, Girondins de Bordeaux is the pride of the city. The six-time French champion (most recently in 2009) and four-time cup winner (most recently in 2013) will be familiar to older fans of FC Bayern München: In the 1995/1996 season, Girondins qualified for the UEFA Cup via the UI Cup, going on to lose in the final by 0:2 and 1:3 to the German record champions under their erstwhile trainer, Franz Beckenbauer.
We’ve put together a list of what else there is to see and do in Bordeaux – apart from visiting the local branch of Rutronik, of course:
Hot spot: Place du Parlement
Build in 1760, this square is lined with numerous restaurants – offering something for everyone’s taste. Architecturally, it brings together the typical Bordeaux blend of splendor and pragmatism and is slightly reminiscent of Barcelona.
Hot spot: Place des Quinconces
With an area of 126,000 square meters, this square was built from 1818 to 1828 and is one of the largest open squares in Europe. The square takes its name from the repeating pattern in which the trees were planted when construction began. Known in French as a “quinconce”, this pattern is also used for the number five on a dice.
Restaurant: Le Chalet Lyrique (http://www.chalet-lyrique.fr/?lang=EN)
The restaurant at La Chalet Lyrique enchants guests with its picturesque garden, offering a unique dining atmosphere on fine evenings. The restaurant is famous for its meat, fish, and seasonal produce.
Restaurant: Le Boeuf sur la Place (http://www.leboeufsurlaplace.net/en/)
Experience fine French cuisine with culinary highlights such as entrecôte of pork or steak tartare – as well as exquisite desserts such as home-made cheesecake or lemon meringue.
Restaurant: Ô p’tit Bahut (http://o-ptit-bahut.lafourchette.rest/en_GB/)
At Ô p’tit Bahut, the food comes served in large, affordable portions. This restaurant and bistro offering French specialties – and especially cheeses – also draws customers in with its rustic yet cozy atmosphere.
Bar: LIFE Bordeaux (http://www.life-bordeaux.com/)
Everything under one roof: LIFE is a bar, restaurant, and disco all in one, offering not only finger food, modern interpretations of traditional dishes, and typical cocktails, but also contemporary music for younger guests.
Bar: L’Alchimiste (http://www.lalchimistebordeaux.com/)
L’Alchimiste describes itself as a “cocktail restaurant” and offers a fantastic selection of antipasti as well as reinterpreted and imaginative new cocktail recipes such as “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.
Hotel: Le Chalet Lyrique (http://www.chalet-lyrique.fr/?lang=EN)
Déjà vu? There’s a good reason: Le Chalet Lyrique not only serves outstanding food but also enjoys excellent public transport connections. With its 4.5-star rating, an unforgettable stay is guaranteed.