What to do in Bordeaux when staying at InterContinental – Le Grand Hotel

Over the last two days Head for Points has run a two-day series about the impressive InterContinental Bordeaux.  Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

With regular British Airways flights from London Gatwick to Bordeaux, there is no excuse for not considering a visit.  As Rob had sent me all the way down there, it seemed a waste not to write an additional fourth article for Head for Points today highlighting a few of the major sites worth seeing.

Bordeaux is a great example for what’s possible when someone sees potential and is willing to invest time and money in transforming a whole city. In 1996 Alain Juppe, the mayor of Bordeaux, launched a programme of renovation to ‘wake up’ the city – hence the nickname La Belle Endormie, Sleeping Beauty.

The black building facades have been cleaned, the waterfront had a make-over and the city got an environmentally friendly tram system with ground power (avoiding overhead wires) that only uses energy when a tram is going over it.

As a result of the city transformation Bordeaux was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 with 347 listed buildings in total.


I only spent 28 hours in Bordeaux but nevertheless got a great impression of the city. One reason was the two hour city tour on my first day with a lovely lady from the Bordeaux tourist office who showed me all the important sights.  I also had time to explore the city on my own the next day and did not take a map with me.

Here are my favourite bits of Bordeaux.

As I was staying at the InterContinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hotel, I found myself right on the corner of the golden triangle – the historical heart of Bordeaux. Outside the hotel is the Place de la Comedie with the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux.

grand theatre and place de la comedie

Walking up to the river Garonne you find yourself on one of Europe’s largest squares the Place des Quinconces. Every few months the square becomes home to a fun fair.


The waterfront is very popular with runners and the Mirroir D’eau is one of the new landmarks in Bordeaux creating a stunning mirrored image of the Place de la Bourse. Unfortunately I was in Bordeaux before the water season and couldn’t snap a great picture.


Palais de la Bourse is the historical city center which is mainly used for conferences and corporate functions these days.

palais et place de la bourse

As Bordeaux is a wine city, drinking is encouraged. If you want to learn more about wines of the region Le Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux website is the best place to start. At the Bar a Vin you can drink fine wines by the glass (with prices between €2 and €8) which gives you the chance of trying as many different wines out of the 30 wines on the menu as you can handle. The staff know everything about Bordeaux’s wine and the menu changes every few weeks.

 Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin bordeaux

 Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin bordeaux

For a good cocktail head to La Comtesse. Cocktails start from around €6. The bar is also known for its ever changing decorations above the front door.

la comtesse bordeaux

The centre commercial Les Grands Hommes is Bordeaux’s exclusive shopping centre with various designer shops, cafes, food stores.  Baillardran is the best store to buy Bordeaux’s famous and delicious Canelés. It is also home to the most expensive supermarket in the city which mirrors the fact the shopping centre is in Bordeaux’s most exclusive area.

les grands hommes bordeaux

Mollat is the largest independent bookstore in France and definitely worth a visit. Don’t worry, next to books in French you can also find a large selection of English titles.

mollat bordeaux

Anyone for chocolate? Le Comptoir de Mathilde has got everything from specially designed chocolate bars to melted chocolate drinks or bread spreads.

le comptoir de mathilde bordeaux

The French love their comics. I remember BD being one of the first topics we learned about in French class. As I was walking through Bordeaux I walked past the Krazy Kat, a lovely comic cafe which is a must for comic lovers.

Krazy Kat comic cafe bordeaux

With 1.2 kilometres of shops the Rue Sainte-Catherine is one of Europe’s largest pedestrians only shopping street starting at the Place de la Comedie and ending at the Place de la Victoire.

rue catherine

The Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux is not only worth visiting for the impressive building structure and art works inside the cathedral.  It is also a popular concert location and hosts an international organ festival every summer.

saint andrews cathedral bordeaux

saint andrews cathedral bordeaux

Though most of the city’s facades have been cleaned, you can still find house fronts that have the cleaning still on their to-do lists. That is why you sometimes find half cleaned houses.

house facade bordeaux black and white

I wish I could have had more time is Bordeaux, but I can always go back – and surely will.

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  1. “With regular British Airways flights from London Gatwick to Bordeaux, there is no excuse for not considering a visit.”
    If you live near Gatwick! For us northerners, Gatwick is now a lost cause.

  2. Matthew says:

    Ryanair fly to Bordeaux from Edinburgh, Dublin, Bristol, Cardiff and Stansted too.

    • Yep, nothing I like more than going through the speedy boarding queue to then stand waiting downstairs for half an hour while they wait for the arriving aircraft to disembark and we can finally walk across the tarmac! Of course beats my previous Ryanair experience from 2002 where for being 1 min late at the check-in desk (having got the first train of the day to Prestwick) they wouldn’t allow us to check-in, despite the flight being delayed for an hour – holiday gone!

      More seriously though, agree some decent LCC direct options from the regions, just disappointing that BA have decided to make going with them now so unappealing (double RFS cost, CE sale London-only, etc).

  3. Mummy55 says:

    You really did fit a lot into your short visit. Thanks for the extra info about what to do in the area, it gives a much better picture than just the hotel. Will put it on my list of ” short trips”!