The historic heart of Bordeaux extends along the Garonne River. This monumental architectural landscape dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries is particularly remarkable for its breadth and its coherence. The historic center reflects in its history the continuous organization of urban space, despite the various successive architectural influences, especially in Gothic and Renaissance styles. And so over time, the city center of Bordeaux has become unique and exceptional example of urban development.
The Port of the Moon in Bordeaux is the first urban zone to be classified as a World Heritage site on such a vast and complex area. It takes its name from the moon-shaped curve formed by the Garonne River. The left bank of the port has always been the engine of commerce and prosperity in Bordeaux. The Port of the Moon is an outstanding example of exchange and influences over the past 2000 years from its role as the world capital of wine. It is also the origin of the construction of the Place Royale (now the Place de la Bourse), the creation of the Grand Théâtre and the Allées de Tourny in the 18th century. Port activity was been moved downstream to the northern suburbs, and the old hangars succumbed to the recent redevelopment of the area and to pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths, aerating the city center.
Saint Pierre District (from the Place de la Bourse to the Place du Parlement)
This is the location of the ancient port of Burdigala. Pierre, the patron saint of sailors, was honored by the entire city.
In the 12th century, the docks were moved further south. The district would resume life in the 18th century thanks to Intendents Boucher and Tourny (local administrative officials), who were awarded the honor and the burden of its redesign. They opened the area to the outside by removing the walls, landscaped the Place de la Bourse and created the Place du Marché Royal (Place du Parlement). The façades of the houses are richly decorated with masks, molding, stone balconies and wrought iron. See also "Place Saint Pierre."
Saint Michel District
To discover on foot. The Saint Michel district has long lived along the river. Its small artisans (carpenters, coopers, blacksmiths and gunsmiths) earned their living from the passage of barges (flat-bottomed boats) loaded with raw material cargo from the confluence of the Garonne River (from Quercy, Rouergue, Gascogne). The Saint Michel Basilica, in its Gothic style, is at the heart of this lively working-class district (see "Religious Heritage"). Market held on Monday and Saturday mornings by the church.
Sainte Croix District
Dominated by the high tower of the Romanesque abbey, Church of Sainte Croix (12th century), the area was included in the walled enclosure at the beginning of the 14th century. This working class district was home to ropers, cobblers and potters. From the 17th century onward the development of trade with the West Indies favored the installation of sugar refineries in the area.
Sainte Eulalie District
To the west of the Sainte Croix district, this area was built around the parish church of Sainte Eulalia, which was the starting point of Pilgrimage Route of Santiago de Compostel. Religious architecture has marked the history of this area, rich with architectural remains. It included many convents with cloisters and gardens, reflecting the splendor of the era. Today the convents Annonciade and Notre Dame still exist. The area was mostly populated by craftsmen (masons, tanners, oil merchants and carpenters). Strolling through the picturesque streets of the district allows visitors benefit from its historic significance and beauty.
Without this district, Bordeaux might not have realized its destiny as a commercial and cultural crossroads. Essential part of the wine trade, the Chartrons district has an outstanding legacy in the history of the world's wine capital. The origin of its name comes from the convent of the Chartreux, which was founded there in 1383.
The area’s activity peaked from the 18th to the 19th centuries. Many traders from many different countries found success and wealth with the wine trade. Today visitors can enjoy the beautiful stone buildings in Louis XVI style, richly decorated with wrought iron balconies, bequeathed by the rich merchants of the city. The landscaping of this urban ensemble was created at the time as a place to walk. On the waterfront, at the foot of these architectural landmarks, congregated the sailors and laborers who loaded the barrels on the barges that would later meet up with large commercial vessels anchored farther into the Gironde estuary.
"Bassins à flots" District (The wet Docks)
Different districts presented so far retained a great architectural and urban coherence through the centuries. This area, however, seems to clash with the others. The district was included within the classified perimeter in the interest of its heritage: its industrial activity marked the history of the city thanks to its strong ties to the river and port.