For years, Bordeaux was known as "La Belle Endormie," or Sleeping Beauty. Warehouses in the old port caused the dirt to be cut off from the waterfront. As a result, the beautiful ocher-colored limestone dwellings were completely covered and hidden from public. All of this changed in 1995 when the mayor Alain Juppé set out on an urban renewal program; he pedestrianized the main streets, cleaned the historic buildings and modernized the fossil docklands into an inviting frontier named Chartrons. With half of the city now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is more than obvious that the results were victorious. Head to “Saint Pierre” district and walk around its eccentric streets and small squares packed with restaurants and bars that are perfect for you to enjoy a gourmet break. Bordeaux’s city center has more than 350 historic buildings and landmarks that include cathedrals, churches, bridges and plazas.
Basic info and car hire in Bordeaux
Location: Southwest of France
Population: 1,140,668 (2015)
Official language: French
Currency: Euro (€)
Weather: Oceanic climate. Mild winters and warm, long summers. The average seasonal winter temperature is 7.1 °C (44.8 °F). The average summer seasonal temperature is 20.7 °C (69.3 °F)
Driving in Bordeaux
Suitable for tourists: Very good connections. Motorways offer quick travel on large distances.
Problematic areas: Traffic in Bordeaux can get heavy in the summer time.
Age limits: 18 (In order to rent a car some companies require that a driver must have a driver license for at least a year and be older than 21)
International Driving Permit: Yes
Additional papers: ID (passport) and the proof of insurance (It is advisable to buy insurance at the rent a car company, in case that your policy does not cover your insurance while driving in France.)
Additional requirements: A warning triangle is compulsory and a reflective jacket must be kept within reach of the driver inside vehicle. There is no current legislation demanding a fine for not carry a self-test breathalyzer (alcohol test) in the car, but it is required by the law.
Children in the car: Children under the age of 10 years must travel on the back seat. If they weigh less than 15 kg, a child seat is needed and if they weigh from 15-36 kg, they have to use a booster seat with an adult seatbelt.
Drink & drive: maximum BAC = 0.05 % (0,02 % for new drivers with less than 3 years of experience in driving)
Driving side of the road: Right
Lights: Dipped headlights are recommended day and night and must be used not only at night, but also in poor daytime visibility.
General speed limits: 130kph on motorways (110kph in wet weather and on urban motorways), 90kph on other roads outside built-up areas, 50kph in build-up areas
Parking suggestions: Bordeaux’s historic center is best explored by foot. There is a number of underground garages (such as the one under Place de la Bourse) and on-street parking options. You can check the Parkopedia webpage or download a free app called ParkMe.
Best time to visit: Bordeaux is above all known for its world-class wines. The ideal time to visit Bordeaux is May and June or September and October when the city isn’t so crowded with tourists. By October, however, majority of wineries close down for grape harvesting. June, on the other hand, is the season of festivals, fairs, flea markets and events. If you are in Bordeaux, you simply must attend the Bordeaux International Fair, Flea Market, Bordeaux Pride, Bordeaux Fete Le Fleuve, Bordeaux Wine Festival and Bordeaux Bacchanal. But if you want to enjoy the Opera season, plan your visit in September-October.
What to see in Bordeaux
What to do in Bordeaux with a car hire at Bordeaux Airport? Read our travel guide, our tips and recommendations.
Main sights: The historic center is always a great start. Even better so if it has a dramatic entrance to it. See Porte de Bourgogne; the arch representing part of the former fortification of the city and the city’s entrance. Before entering turn around and look at the two bridges; the nearby Pont du Pierre and Pont Saint-Jean a bit further down. For a spectacular view of the Pont du Pierre especially, wait until evening hours - the illuminated docks will mesmerize you completely. Visit the city’s Basilique Saint-Michel De Bordeaux (English: Basilica of St. Michael, Bordeaux). It is a 114 m (374 ft) high Gothic church with stunning panorama to offer. Pick a sunny day and stroll along Les Quais Bordeaux (English: The Bordeaux Quays), this charming Bordeaux waterfront will force you to marvel at the main sights close by.
Place de la Bourse is truly an exceptional square with a mirror-like effect. Its centerpiece is the fountain of Three Graces referring to the three daughter of Zeus: Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalie. Parking options: Bourse J. Jaures (4 min) and Camille Jullian (6 min)
Check out the symbol of Bordeaux, Grosse Cloche de Bordeaux (English: The Great Bell) – A 15th century bell tower used to alert people in case of fire. Parking options: Victor Hugo (2 min) and 5 Cours d'Alsace-et-Lorraine (7 min)
Rue Sainte-Catherine (English: Sainte Catherine Street) is a long pedestrian street that stretches through the historic center. Admire the amazing sights and stop at the many shops, cafés and restaurants. It is about 10 min away from The Great Bell by foot and we suggest that you leave your vehicle in its close proximity. You can also access the street from the Grande Théâtre of Bordeaux end. It is an 18th century theatre worth seeing and is less than 10 min away from the busy and trendy Sainte Catherine Street. Parking options: 28 Allées d'Orléans and Tourny are 5 min away from the theatre.
Place de la Victoire (English: Victory Square) – This is the city’s main square where you can relax and observe the surroundings. Parking options: Victoire (1 min) and Cote Robert à Bordeaux (3 min)
Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux (English: Bordeaux Cathedral) – This Roman Catholic cathedral has a rich collection of paintings, sculptures and illuminations. Parking options: Pey Berland (1min) and République (8 min)
Bordeaux region – You may have heard about Saint Emilion, Saint Estephe, Margaux and Pomerol and now you have the chance to visit them! Explore the region by car and discover the small villages and vineyards. Go on a hunt for castles and enjoy a wine tasting tour. They are less than an hour’s drive from Bordeaux, except for Saint Estephe which is about 1 ½ hours away. Another 1 hour car trip is a journey to Arcachon. Sink your feet in the sand on this Atlantic coast while deciding on your delicious oyster meal. Gaze at the sunset from the top of the Dune du Pyla. The romantic views and vivid colors are waiting just for you.
Our favourite spots
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