Weighed down with the bulk of Bordeaux's classic heavyweight sights, this historic neighbourhood merits at least a couple of days exploration – don a pair of comfy shoes to ensure a smooth ride on Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul's tourist-packed, stone-paved and cobbled streets. For a sweeping overview of the area, begin the day with a hike up the Gothic belfry of Cathédrale St-André – the city panorama from the top is stunning.

By the river, on the Garonne's Left Bank, architecture and history buffs will appreciate the vast open expanse of museum-studded place de la Bourse, linked to nearby place du Parlement by rue Fernand-Philippart: the original medieval ramparts in this part of Saint-Pierre were razed in the early 18th century to open up the fortress city and create today's extraordinary Unesco-protected ensemble of classical and neoclassical architecture.

This is Bordeaux's prime shopping district: the central department store, Galeries Lafayette, and mainstream shops lace car-free rue Ste-Catherine and surrounding streets; the upmarket Triangle d'Or, north of Saint-Pierre, is the hot spot for French-chic designer fashion. Day and night, hipsters gravitate to Saint-Paul to hang out in the trendy coffee shops and concept stores, independent boutiques selling vintage and vinyls, fashionable pubs and late-night bars peppering the narrow lanes around rue St-James and rue des Ayres.