Bordeaux

The city of Bordeaux is the administrative capital of the Acquitaine region. It sprawls over two banks of the river Garonne. The residents of the city are commonly referred to as Bordelais. Though the city is large and its population is almost 1,000,000, there are only two bridges over the river: the old bridge Pont en Pierre (literally meaning 'Bridge of Stone') and a modern one. This is most probably due to the fact that historically, the left bank part of the metropolis has always been much more developed.

Bordeaux boasts a long and interesting history as a traditional residence of the upper classes and location for their luxurious villas. The first settlement on the site was founded by the Romans more than 2,300 years ago and named Burdigala. Later, a large part of the area became a feudal possession of the English monarchy. The town experienced its first economic boom during the 18th Century, thanks to the flourishing trade with countries in the Carribean.

The location of Bordeaux was of great importance to the development of trade relations with exotic countries. The city is situated at a latitude allowing ships to sail with the steady and powerful trade winds that take them across the Atlantic in the fastest and easiest way possible. During the military conflicts of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Bordeaux gained importance as a temporary seat of the French government in a situation of crisis.

Two things about Bordeaux have remained constant throughout its turbulent history. One of them is the city's position as a major educational centre. Bordeaux is home to a 70,000-student population and a 235-hectare campus, which is one of the largest in Europe. The four universities of the city bear Roman numerals, Bordeaux I, II, III and IV, and offer degree programmes in natural sciences, medicine, liberal arts and political science.

The other thing about Bordeaux that hasn't changed despite centuries of political and social transformation is wine. The region features over 9,000 wine-growing chateaux, producing wine of 57 prestigious apellations. Both red and white Bordeaux wine is appreciated. However, it's the red wine, made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot or Malbec vines, that has a truly legendary status. The region's five premier cru (first-growth) red wines are listed among the best wines in the world.

Bordeaux is an internationally recognised artistic and cultural centre. Most of the city centre is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on which it figures as "a genuinely outstanding urban and architectural ensemble." What makes Bordeaux a beloved destination for travellers and film crews in search of picturesque locations is one of the largest 18th-Century architectural urban areas to be found in Europe.

The capital of Acquitaine is one of the first French cities to have entered the era of urban planning and large-scale metropolitan projects, supervised by the established father-and-son architect team of the Gabriels, who were the royal architects for King Louis XV. It was their minds that created some of the most spectacular gems that Bordeaux boasts today, such as Place de la Bourse, constructed between 1730 and 1775 as a surrounding for an equestrian monument to Louis XV. The lovely 18th-Century buildings blend seamlessly with Medieval and Reneissance treasures, such as the Cathedral of Saint-André and Church of Sainte-Croix, thus creating the unique spirit of the city.