Squares of Old Bordeaux

Place de la Bourse
(tram line C, underground parking lot)

Originally called Place Royale, it is the symbol of the prosperity of the city. The Place de la Bourse faces the waterfront overlooking the Garonne. A model of classic architectural art of the 18th century, it owes its beauty to the Intendent Boucher and royal architect Jacques Ange Gabriel, who tore the medieval walls down between 1730 and 1775 to open the city to the river.

To the north stood the Palais de la Bourse (now the Chamber of Commerce and Industry) and the Hôtel des Fermes (now Directorate of Customs) to the south, which houses the National Museum of Customs. Opened in 1984, this museum presents the history of the Customs Administration (see "Museums"). The architecture of the Place Royale influenced that of the houses on the quays. The renovated stone façades reveal a sumptuous décor of pediments and masks representing of course, Bacchus (god of wine) but also female faces, angels, and fantastic animals.

An equestrian statue of Louis XV reigned over the square until the Revolution (during which it was destroyed). Today you can see the Three Graces Fountain designed by Luis Visconti in 1869 that represents the daughters of Zeus (Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia).

Recently the quays have been transformed into a promenade. The homogeneous alignment and beauty of the façades stretches for over a mile, and are reflected in the Miroir d’Eau, a permanent pool featuring beautiful lights in the evening.


The esplanade and the place des Quinconces

It is the largest square in Europe, covering 12 hectares. The Esplanade was built on the ruins of the Trompette Castle, slowly sloping toward the Garonne. This vast fortress, built in the 15th century, was part of a military and defensive architectural ensemble built by Charles VII during France’s recovery of Bordeaux to assert the supremacy of the Kingdom on its subjects.

Work on the Esplanade lasted 10 years, and it was completed in 1828. Trees planted in quincunxes make up the walkways and link the banks of the Garonne to the Monument aux Girondins by a wide path. In honor of the victorious maritime campaigns, two 21-meter Neoclassical rostral columns face the river and mark the entrance to the square. The decoration at the base recalls the supremacy of ancient Rome on the seas. Visitors will also note white marble statues of Montaigne (Mayor of Bordeaux) and Montesquieu (Member of Parliament) that date back to 1858.

A carnival is held here in March and October.


The Monument aux Girondins (esplanade des Quinconces)

The Monument aux Girondins, in memory of the political activists that share its name, was erected merely a century after the demise of this political movement to celebrate the victims of the Terror (during the Revolution) and the Republic. After 15 years of work in 1902, the column rose 54 meters above Bordeaux, topped by a statue of Liberty breaking her chains. It is the work of sculptors Dumilâtre and Rich. At its base the statues represent the city of Bordeaux, the Garonne River and the Dordogne River. The bronze fountains symbolize the Triumph of the Concorde and the Republic, whose chariots are pulled by sea horses. On the side of the Grand Théâtre, the figures represent Vice, Ignorance and Falsehood.

Behind the monument visitors will notice the architectural unity of buildings arranged in a semicircle. The rest of the buildings around the square were built in a classical style for the sake of artistic coherence.


Who were the Girondins ?
"La Gironde" was the name given to the political movement begun by a group of activists during the French Revolution, a group in favor of the establishment of a Republic in France. The movement chose this name because of the involvement of several members of government from the Bordeaux region. The Girondins party held a majority in the Legislative Assembly and the National Convention ; the opposition was made up of Montagnards. Both parties clashed violently and the movement ended in blood, with many of its activists executed in 1793.


Place Pey Berland
(Tram lines A and B, station : Hôtel de Ville)

From this square visitors can access the Saint André Cathedral and its bell tower (Pey-Berland Tower), as well as the Palais Rohan.


Place du Parlement
(Tram line C, station : Place de la Bourse)

At its creation in 1760 the square was called Place du Marché Royal, with the intention of linking the port to the city. The current name of the square honors the powerful parliament of Bordeaux established from 1462 to 1790. It is a masterpiece of architectural harmony. The buildings that line the square date back to the early 17th century. As in many places, the building façades in Louis XV style are richly decorated with masks, wrought iron balconies and arches. The fountain in the square was added in 1865.


Place Saint Pierre
(Tram line C, station : Place de la Bourse)
See also "Saint Pierre District."

This charming square was the entrance to the harbor in ancient times. In 1832, a statue of Hercules dating from the 3rd century (that certainly adorned the entrance) was found under the square. This archaeological find is one of the most beautiful pieces in the Musee d'Aquitaine. The square is organized around a 14th century church. Restored and modified in the 19th century, it nevertheless retains the south and west doors and the Gothic choir dating from the 15th century.


Place de la Victoire
(tram line B. Station : Victoire)

A popular area for having a drink, watching a show or concert or hunting for rare finds during one of the many thematic markets.

 

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