Bordeaux is a world capital of wine, with its castles and vineyards of the Bordeaux region. Wine was introduced to the Bordeaux region by the Romans, probably in the mid-first century, to provide wine for local consumption. Wine production has been continuous in the region ever since. Standing on the hillsides of the Gironde river, it is home to the world’s main wine fair, Vinexpo. Bordeaux is also one of the centers of gastronomy, and business tourism for the organization of international congresses. It is a central and strategic hub for aeronautics, military and space sector, and home to international companies such as Dassault Aviation, Ariane Group, Safran and Thalès. The link to aviation dates back to 1910, the first year an airplane flew over the city. A crossroad of knowledge through university research, the city is home to one of the only two megajoule lasers in the world. Within the Bordeaux Metropolis, there is a university population of more than 130,000 students. Bordeaux is an international tourist destination for its architectural and cultural heritage, with more than 350 historic monuments.
The city came under Roman control around 60 BC, and it became an important commercial centre for tin and lead. During this period, the amphitheatre and the monument Les Piliers de Tutelle were built. In 1462, Bordeaux created a local parliament. The city adhered to Fronde, being effectively annexed to the Kingdom of France from 1653, when the army of Louis XIV entered the city. The 18th century saw another golden age of Bordeaux. The Port of the Moon supplied the majority of Europe with coffee, cocoa, sugar, cotton and indigo, becoming France’s busiest port and the second busiest port in the world after London. Many downtown buildings, including those on the quays, are from this period. Bordeaux was also a major trading centre for slaves. In total, the Bordeaux shipowners deported 150,000 Africans in some 500 expeditions. In 1804, Haiti became independent. The loss of this “Pearl” of the West Indies generated the collapse of Bordeaux’s port economy, which was dependent on the colonial trade and trade in slaves.
During World War II, Bordeaux fell under German occupation. In May and June 1940, Bordeaux was the site of the life-saving actions of the Portuguese consul-general, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who illegally granted thousands of Portuguese visas, which were needed to pass the Spanish border, for refugees fleeing the German occupation. From 1941 to 1943, the Italian Royal Navy established BETASOM, a submarine base at Bordeaux. Italian submarines participated in the Battle of the Atlantic from that base. It was also a major base for German U-boats as headquarters of the 12th U-boat Flotilla. The massive, reinforced concrete U-boat pens have proved impractical to demolish and are now partly used as a cultural center for exhibitions. In 2007, 40% of the city surface area, located around the Port of the Moon, was listed as World heritage sites. UNESCO inscribed Bordeaux as “an inhabited historic city, an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble, created in the age of the Enlightenment, whose values continued up to the first half of the 20th century, with more protected buildings than any other French city except Paris”.
Bordeaux wine growing area has about 116,160 hectares (287,000 acres) of vineyards, 57 appellations, 10,000 wine-producing estates (châteaux) and 13,000 grape growers. With an annual production of approximately 960 million bottles, the Bordeaux area produces large quantities of everyday wine as well as some of the most expensive wines in the world. Bordeaux has many shopping options. In the heart of Bordeaux you will find Rue Sainte-Catherine. This pedestrian-only shopping street has 1.2 kilometers (0.75 mi) of shops, restaurants and cafés; it is one of the longest shopping streets in Europe.
The city is a must-see, and if you’re a fan of Bordeaux wine, we recommend to take a day trip to visit both Bordeaux and one of it’s vineyards.