Last Updated on 18th February 2019 by Sophie Nadeau
As a city which is one of the most visited tourist destinations in France, it can be hard to find locations in Bordeaux which are a little more unique and off the beaten tourist track. However, if you look hard enough, then there are fortunately still plenty of hidden gems to uncover. Here are 10 secret spots in Bordeaux you simply need to know about!
Though no one knows how the origins for the name for this secret location first came to be, one thing is clear: if you love history, particularly of the classical kind, this is one spot you totally need to see in Bordeaux. The ruins of the Roman Amphitheatre/ Coliseum of what was then known as Burdigala once seated up to 15000 spectators.
Abandoned in the 3rd century, by the time the French Revolution rolled around, little merit was attributed to the structure, which was considered to take up valuable housing space. As a result, most of the ancient monument was demolished and today just a small piece of the once colossal structure can be admired. Situated a little way away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the square beside is the perfect spot to enjoy a book or hang out with friends.
Located not far from the world-famous Rue St Catherine shopping street (which also happens to be the longest shopping street in Europe), the Porte Dijeaux was constructed in the 1700s on the site of a former entrance to the walled city of Bordeaux during Roman times.
If you’re an early riser and wish to capture a stunning photo of the monument, it’s well worth getting up at sunrise and capturing the structure with the golden light shining through. Nearby, the Rue Sainte-Catherine is the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe.
Car in car park Victor Hugo
In the very heart of the city, not far from where the Grosse Cloche can be found, there’s a rather peculiar site. For on the façade of an otherwise nondescript car park, half a car can be spotted poking out of the wall, several floors up and appears as if it’s about to fall onto the street below.
The Victor Hugo car park can be found along Cours Victor Hugo and was built in the 1960s. Renovated during the 1990s, it was at that point that a green British Car, by the make of Jaguar, was installed to the side of the building by artist Dosso.
Musée du Vin et du Négoce de Bordeaux (Wine Museum)
Though everyone speaks of the Cité du Vin as the must-visit destination in Bordeaux so as to learn about Bordeaux wine and the culture surrounding it, I’d personally recommend the Musée du Vin. Located in the Chatrons district of the city, the traditional museum is housed within the former cellars of Louis XV’s wine vendor.
There are two long cool corridors to wander along, as well as an informative video presentation about life aboard a ship carrying wine. My favourite part of the visit, however, had to be the final event. At this point, a member of the museum staff gives a talk about basic wine tasting techniques, as well as the history of wine in Bordeaux. You even get to sample a little of the vin for yourself! For more information on wine culture in Bordeaux, check out my complete guide to wine in Bordeaux.
L’impasse de la Fontaine-Bouquière
As a preface to this hidden gem of Bordeaux, I have to point out that I might not even have noticed this gap in the wall if it weren’t for my friend Emily (@theglitteringunknown) pointing out to me the bright blue plaque that suggested that there was something of note nearby.
Somewhere along Cours Victor Hugo, in a place near where the street meets the Garonne River, a dead-end alleyway holds a tantalising secret. For it is here, in this pretty nondescript street that a slice of the Middle Ages can be seen in the form of fragments of the second town wall.
Constructed in the 13th-century so as to protect the area from would-be attackers. Today, while the passage is closed to visitors, it can still be spied through a metal grill from the street. The Alleyway is so-called because it sits parallel to Rue Bouqière, where all of the city butchers once lived.
Basilique Saint Michel
Although nearly everyone visiting Bordeaux will see the Bordeaux Cathedral (after all, it can be spied from pretty much), fewer people have heard of the Basilique Saint Michel (translated as Saint Michael’s Basilica). Situated in the Saint Michel district of the city, the ecclesiastical building and its adjacent tower were built between the 14th and 16th-centuries.
Constructed in a particularly elaborate style, within the basilica there are several beautiful stained glass windows and an impossibly high nave. Nearby, the Rue des Faures can be found. As one of the oldest streets in the city, it’s well worth a wander along. Literally known as ‘road of the forges’ thanks to its history as where all the ironmongers lived, this road is located in the Saint Michel district and is filled with shopping opportunities.
Château du Hâ
Juxtaposed against one of the most modern buildings in Bordeaux (most of the city is very ‘Haussmannian-like’ in its architectural style), the Château du Hâ was constructed in the 15th-century and is now recognised as an important historic monument in France. Commissioned by King Charles VII, the tower has seen all sorts of uses over the years and was situated fairly close to our hotel during our weekend in Bordeaux.
Basilica of Saint Severinus (and archaeological crypt)
The place where Charlamagne legendarily once laid the Oliphant of Rolo on the altar can be found in the form of the Basilique Saint-Seurin, making this one of the best hidden gems of Bordeaux. The Romanesque minor basilica was constructed in the 11th-century and has been a UNESCO world heritage site since the late 1990s thanks to its position on the pilgrimage route on the Way of Saint James.
Unfortunately, the basilica was badly damaged by fire in June 2018 and has been closed for renovations ever since. However, below the cathedral, there’s a second attraction to be seen and this is still open to the public as usual. The 4th to 6th-century Christian catacombs can be visited for a fee.
Situated on the other side of the river to the historic heart of Bordeaux, Darwin is located alongside the River Garonne and is housed within a former army barracks. A space of close to 20,000 metres squared, the space has since become a go-to destination for all things eco-friendly.
From a ruined house filled with well-crafted graffiti to the largest organic store in France (Le Magasin Général), there’s no shortage of things to see and do in this ever-changing space. Throughout the year, festivals, talks, and events are held at Darwin so be sure to see if there’s anything on when you visit Bordeaux!
Statue of Liberty
While at this point pretty much everyone knows that there’s a Statue of Liberty in Paris (albeit smaller than that of New York), few know that there’s also a Statue of Liberty in Bordeaux. Located in the Chatrons district (which was once home to the wine merchants of the city), on Place Picard, the smaller version of the larger Statue of Liberty is a restored resin model which has been in place since the beginning of the 21st-century.
The original Statue of Liberty in NYC was designed by Frédéric-Auguste Barthodi, the same man who was later commissioned to create the slightly smaller statue in Bordeaux. During the Nazi occupation of the city, the statue was melted down for the metal. While, in more recent times, a recreation was installed in the Bordeaux in 2000.
Things to know before visiting Bordeaux
If you’re planning a trip to Bordeaux for the first time, then there are a few things you should know before you go. Firstly, though the city is easy to explore on foot, some of the top attractions are a little way out of the city centre, meaning you’ll likely want to make use of the public transport.
The Bordeaux Metropole City Pass is your best bet for saving money if you’re looking to explore several museums and take public transport. Check prices and availability here. Of course, if you want to get to know the city on a local level, then there’s nothing like taking a walking tour of the city with an experienced and knowledgeable guide. Check here for the best Bordeaux walking tour.
Although Bordeaux is not France’s most popular tourist destination, finding a place to stay can still be tricky, especially during weekends, holidays, and when special events are on. As such, I recommend booking your stay well in advance. Check the best Bordeaux accommodation rates here.