Bordeaux may be made up of “arrondissements” like Paris, but people tend to talk about the city in terms of quarters (quartiers). Each quarter has a name and encompasses a relatively precise area, often flanked by two main roads or streets. Let's start with the oldest one, which is often considered the most beautiful of Bordeaux's quarters.
The Saint Pierre quarter Right in the heart of Bordeaux, the Saint Pierre quarter is the historic center of the town. It is made up of beautiful little streets, some of which are still paved. Saint Pierre is Bordeaux's culinary capital, with a large amount of restaurants to suit every taste and pocket—something for gourmets and gourmands. The Place du Parlement is home to some wonderful architecture and a decorative fountain. Also in the area is the St-Pierre Church , built in the 15th and 16th Centuries on the site of the former Gallo-roman port.
The Chartrons quarter The Chartrons quarter , set on the banks of the Garonne, used to be very busy and wealthy thanks to the wine trade. Here, merchants and businessmen rubbed shoulders with sailors and laborers. Its name comes from the Chartreux convent, built in the 17th Century, and it used to be the center both of the town and of Anglo-Saxon and protestant life. With the decline of river-trade, the quarter emptied, becoming a calm residential area with antique shops. A section of the quarter is today known as the "village des antiquaries" or antique-shop village. In this area visitors can take in the Chartrons Museum, and nearer the banks of the Garonne, the Croiseur Colbert . Not far from here is the magnificent Center of Contemporary Art (CAPC) .
The Saint Eloi quarter This focal point of the Saint Eloi quarter is, of course, the Grosse Cloche , just next to the Saint Eloi church. Bordeaux's main shopping street (1 mile long!) the rue sainte Catherine is nearby. The Grosse Cloche links the Saint Michel, Victoire and Saint Pierre quarters—it is a sort of crossroads for the oldest, pre-medieval quarters and the areas that were modernized from the 17th Century onwards.
The Saint Michel quarter Separated from the St. Pierre quarter by the cours Victor Hugo, the Saint Michel quarter is by far the liveliest and most colorful area in town. Spaniards, Portuguese, North Africans and French live happily side-by-side, and visitors can enjoy food and drink from a variety of cultures, often at very reasonable prices. Built around the Saint Michel basilica, a Gothic church erected at the end of the 15th Century, and the Flèche St-Michel , at 114 meters the highest monument in Bordeaux, this popular quarter has a young vibe. Every Monday morning there is a clothes market on the square and Saturday mornings see two other large markets: the Marche des Capucins on rue Elie Gintrac and the one around the flèche Saint Michel. Sunday morning is reserved for bric-a-brac and antiques and is guaranteed to be buzzing.
The Sainte Croix quarter Formerly a suburb, the Sainte Croix quarter only became part of the city proper in the 14th Century. The Romanesque church of Sainte Croix , built between the end of the 11th and 12th Centuries, stands on the place Renaudel. This institution remained Benedictine until the Revolution and is now a parish church. Today the heart of the quarter borders the older, pre-13th Century areas and the zones that were modernized during the 19th and 20th Centuries.
The Station quarter On arrival in Bordeaux's train station, visitors can immediately admire the building itself—the Gare St-Jean —an enormous hall built in the arc of a circle. This quarter provides 24-hour service where food, drink and cigarettes are always available. It is a popular area, with numerous sex-shops, bars, restaurants and hotels (from basic to luxurious). Travelers, weary from their train journey can try the Hôtel Ibis .
The Victoire quarter Center of student night-life, the Place de la Victoire is one of Bordeaux's larger squares. Just like a compass, this focal point looks to the North, South, East and West and as such is a good place to orient yourself. The rue Ste-Catherine starts with the passage under the Aquitaine Bridge .
The Grands Hommes quarter This chic, elegant quarter is home to the old Dominican Notre Dame church, built in 1684. Not far from here are the former place Dauphine (1747), the Place Gambetta , the Allees de Tourny, a walkway which was done up in 1745 by Tourny, and the cours de l'Intendance, a triumphal way used by many a King and chief of State. The Grand Theâtre stands on the place de la Comedie.
Bordeaux is a city in the southwest of France and, as such, a place where people spend a lot of time outside the whole year round. The historic city center of Bordeaux is packed with cafes, bars and restaurants where you can discover numerous different atmospheres and savor food from all over the world—not forgetting, of course, the marvelous French cuisine.
The Victoire quarter Bordeaux never rests, for the town is constantly full of all kinds of people: students who meet at the Plana or at the Bodegon on La Victoire square. For a drink or a night out with friends, stop by Down Under , an Antipodean bar.
The Saint Jean quarter It's nice to have drink or a snack in the small restaurants situated on the banks of the Garonne river (le Port de la Lune and Viandocks ).
The Meriadeck quarter In this area you may meet football supporters who have taken up residence in the Nulle Part Ailleurs or the Cafe Populaire, two very fashionable cafes. Eventually, everyone meets up in the liveliest places that one can find in town: Bodega Bodega for tapas and the Adidas Cafe. Indulge yourself with a seafood restaurant: a. Thibeaud , le Bistrot de l'Embarcadère , le Cabane Cafe or with some traditional cuisine: la Cheminee Royale or Lou Magret . In this area of Bordeaux, the selection of food on offer is impressive. You will find numerous Chinese, Indian and Tex-Mex restaurants and a large variety of crêperies. This city boasts great cultural diversity and mixes, and consequently you will be able to taste and discover new cuisines. For great Indian, try le Taj Mahal , and for a delicious taste of China, visit l'Etoile d'Or.
As you can see, eating out in Bordeaux has only one drawback: the diversity is such that you will be faced with a Cornelian dilemma: how will you be able to choose between so many delights? Let yourself be guided by your desires and our advice, and it will be your turn to enjoy the warm welcomes offered by the restaurant owners.
If after dinner you have decided to go to the cinema or the theater, don''t go to bed before having a last drink or a good hot chocolate in one of the numerous cafes that can be found in Bordeaux. You will be welcome until late at night since, in Bordeaux, you will never find anyone who goes to bed early. At Chez Ducon or at Cafe Gourmand there will always be a table where you can enjoy a hot drink. If you are a coffee or tea fanatic go to Cafe Reno (be careful, it closes at 7p), and if you like to see and be seen, take a seat on the terrace of le Regent .
As far as bars are concerned, there are plenty of them. Think about the ones named above and favor the Meriadeck district and the banks of the Garonne river if you want a lively atmosphere. Most restaurants, bars and cafes are open midday and evening and even, many of them, on Sundays. At lunchtime, you will have no problem getting food because everything is organized for tourists, travelers and people passing through Bordeaux. Head for the Allees de Tourny and le Grand Theâtre if you want to sample fine Bordelaise (Bordeaux) cuisine. L' Entrecôte is a good place to try.
As you have probably gathered, the people of Bordeaux spend a lot of time outside. It's hard not to meet other people, make friends and even fall in love in Bordeaux's cafes, bars and restaurants. The citizens like being together and partying, and this city is perfectly suited for that.