Introduction

South of the historic centre, a twinset of landmark churches – Gothic Basilique St-Michel and Romanesque Église Ste-Croix – tether the vibrant neighbourhoods of Saint-Michel and Sainte-Criox, most known for their antique shopping. A colourful pot-pourri of street markets provide a melting pot for the diverse ethnic population here, while Bordeaux's sizeable student population gravitates to cafe pavement terraces on place de la Victoire and around the city's premier food market, Marché des Capucins.

Southeast by the river, next to Gare St-Jean train station, a dazzling new business district is rising from the ashes around derelict abattoirs on quai de Paludate: enter Euratlantique, the exciting face of contemporary Bordeaux.

Explore

The main sights in this ethnically diverse part of Bordeaux are essentially clustered around four landmark squares. Get your bearings and a coffee for the road on student-busy place de la Victoire, then stroll five minutes east to market-square place des Capucins: the covered market here is only open in the morning so arrive early to ensure the pick of produce. From here, you can choose to stroll north to the eye-catching Basilique St-Michel on busy place Reynard (invariably buzzing with an open-air flea market) or east to the largely unsung Romanesque gem of Église Ste-Croix. The latter is Bordeaux's oldest church and is flanked, to boot, by a supremely serene and peaceful square laced with a couple of cafes and the fascinating L’Atelier de Lutherie of master luthier Simon Bour.

Shopping in this neighbourhood is largely about antique and brocante (secondhand) in Saint-Michel: a couple of covered antique malls and weekly markets on and around adjoining squares, place Reynard and place Canteloup proffer ample browsing.

Night owls will want to explore the riverside quays south of Sainte-Croix, around Bordeaux's central train station, Gare St-Jean. Large mainstream nightclubs like La Plage have enlivened quai de la Paludate for the last couple of decades and the current development of the shiny millennial Euratlantique business district promises plenty more cutting-edge zest and sparkle.

Highlights

  • Marché des Capucins Breakfasting on freshly shucked oysters and a glass of white wine with locals at the city's covered food market.
  • Basilique St-Michel Admiring modern stained glass and scaling the bell tower of Bordeaux's finest Flamboyant Gothic church.
  • Place de la Victoire Lapping up local vibes and watching the Bordelais world go by on a cafe pavement terrace.
  • La Tupina Learning about and feasting on traditional Bordelais cuisine at one of the city's most iconic restaurants.
  • Quai de Paludate nightlife Chinking cocktail glasses in secret speakeasy Le Point Rouge and dancing until the wee hours at one of the many nightclubs on this riverside qua.

Top Tips

No part of Bordeaux is as rich in open-air street markets: makeshift stalls, selling antiques, vintage curiosities and an eclectic choice of bric-a-brac, dot the basilica-shaded twinset of place Reynard and place Canteloup on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday mornings. Arrive early to score the best bargains, bring your own shopping bag and watch your pockets – the markets do attract pickpockets and the occasional unsavoury type.