Unusual bordeaux: small itinerary n°1

 In Hotel, Visiter Bordeaux

Today, we offer you the first “short tour” starting from our hotel, the Best Western Premier Bordeaux Bayonne Etche-Ona: in search of unusual details of our urban architecture! Other tours will follow soon, don’t miss them 🙂

Are you ready?


Montaigne et Bordeaux

Montaigne and Bordeaux

When you leave the hotel, go to the Cours de l’Intendance, turn right and walk up to the Place Gambetta. Once on this square, look for n°10, you will find a discreet milestone, the grey color of the wall on which it is leaning. It is listed in the Inventory of Historical Monuments. The inscription “origine du bornage” (origin of the boundary) is barely visible. Since the end of the 19th century, this boundary marker has been the central point from which all distances to and from Bordeaux were measured.

It is on this same place Gambetta, in full renovation today, that the guillotine was installed during the Revolution and that 300 executions took place…

At n°14 of the square, above a café-restaurant, two mascarons symbolize the light in freemasonry:

  • The one on the left represents a bareheaded man and a beautiful crescent moon
  • The one on the right, a man wearing a hat, under a bright sun
Exemple de Mascaron à Bordeaux

Example of Mascaron in Bordeaux

The bareheaded man would be at the beginning of his initiation, he is illuminated by the soft light of the moon, while the man wearing a hat would be a master, benefiting from the bright light of the sun because he is more advanced in knowledge.

To learn more about the mascarons of Bordeaux, you can read our article from October 17, 2018

Go now to the street Bouffard, n°8, next to the place Gambetta. You will find a mascaron of Pierrot recognizable with its collar and its round cap. It was used as a sign from 1912 to 1990 to a store of rent of disguises and costumes 🙂

Then go back on your steps and take the passage under the Dijeaux Gate, go to the street of the same name. Then turn right in the street of Ruat until the first street on the left, the street Poquelin Molière. It is at n°45 that you will find this Masonic balcony: two triangles joined by their base, point up for one, point down for the other, frame a compass, a plumb line, a square and a level.

Continue along this street for 250 m and take the Rue Margaux opposite. At the corner of Rue Castillon and Rue Margaux is the Pharmacie des Carmes with its two sculpted vases on either side of the entrance door. It was a Carmelite monk who founded this pharmacy in 1791, after obtaining a dispensation to practice outside the convent. The two vases served as a sign. Their handles represent snakes, a medical symbol since 1222. There used to be a plate in the center of the vases with the inscription “Eau de Mélisse”. This is where the Carmelite Eau de Mélisse was sold, an alcoholic preparation made from 14 plants and 9 spices. The secret formula was created in 1611 by the Carmelite monks in Paris to relieve many ailments, digestive problems, migraines, nervousness, etc. The Bordeaux formula is probably a little different.

If you want to see the oldest pharmacy of Bordeaux, you will have to go to 70 cours Alsace Lorraine. It was founded in 1729. It has changed since then, but has kept its old decorations, woodwork, marble and gilding. It is located outside of this circuit, at 700 m, at about 8 minutes on foot.

Discover also our article about the covered passages of Bordeaux

Now continue to Rue Sainte Catherine, the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe. Cross it and continue on Rue du Parlement Sainte Catherine, towards the Place du Parlement. Then take Rue du Parlement Saint-Pierre and turn left onto Rue des Capérans. Look up and look for the unusual windows: you will find them at number 19. They have been shifted to catch the maximum amount of light in this narrow and dark street.

Go back on your steps and take on your left the rue du Parlement Saint-Pierre. After about 70 m, take on your left the rue des Faussets. At n°7, you will see a remarkable wrought iron balcony. This building was built for a shipowner from Bordeaux during the First Empire, as the frieze of eagles at the top of the façade suggests. The balcony features several symbols, such as tridents, five-pointed stars, sea serpents biting their tails like ouroboros, this esoteric symbol found in many ancient jewels. The first appearances of this motif date back to ancient Egypt. It is an emblem of the eternal cycle of nature and time that repeats itself endlessly. It is also a symbol of protection for many civilizations.

In this building lived a sulphurous artist, painter, photographer and poet. A plaque has been placed in his memory: “Pierre Molinier, painter born in 1900, the Woman, the Painting, the Gun, DCD in 1976, here the town of Saint Pierre in old Bordeaux. “Known for his erotic work in which he staged himself, he had a fetishistic passion for legs.

Let’s continue our tour: go north on rue des Faussets and turn left on rue Leupold, then right, down rue Fernand Philippart, to Place de la Bourse. Although it’s not part of our tour of the city’s unusual places, since it’s one of the emblematic places of Bordeaux, with its 18th century facades, its fountain of the 3 graces and its water mirror, take the time to admire it 🙂 Then look towards the river. If the tide is low, you will be able to see what seems to be wooden logs. In fact they are wrecks of ships from the Second World War, sunk by the Germans before leaving Bordeaux in August 1944.

Miroir d'eau Bordeaux, patrimoine UNESCO, visite Bordeaux, hôtel Bordeaux

On your left, if you are facing the river, just next to the National Customs Museum, you will find a very interesting museum which houses the Cultural Site Bordeaux World Heritage. It presents the exceptional heritage of the city, its evolution over the centuries until 2030 thanks to computer generated images, touch tablets, video-projections and films. A large interactive digital table allows a 3D visit of the current city and to show the ramparts and monuments that have disappeared, as well as future developments (open every day from 10am to 7pm – free admission).

To read the article on the water mirror of Bordeaux and discover its history, it is here

Before entering rue Fernand Philippart, at the corner of the square and the street, admire the mascaron representing the head of an African woman. It evokes, of course, the part played by the city of Bordeaux in the triangular trade. From 1642 to 1848, ships left European ports loaded with goods destined for African trading posts. After emptying their goods, they replaced them on board with Africans torn from their land to be sold as slaves for the plantations of the West Indies. They then returned to their port of origin loaded with sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, spices… Some ships also returned with slaves that they sold on the spot. There were up to 3200 slaves present in Bordeaux. The city was the 2nd slave trade port of France.

When you go to visit the Cité du Vin, you will find a commemorative plaque in a low wall on the Quai des Chartrons with the inscription: “At the end of the 17th century, the first ship in the port of Bordeaux to trade in blacks left from this place”.

Cité du vin Bordeaux

Go up the street Fernand Philippart, politician, entrepreneur of Bordeaux and mayor of Bordeaux from 1919 to 1925. Narrow street, with facades of the XVIIIth century, two floors with high windows surmounted by mascarons and balconies decorated with ironwork. Under the street sign with his name, you can read, engraved in stone, the previous names of the street: rue Royale, then, during the revolution, rue de la Liberté. Take the time to observe the mascarons all along the street.

You arrive at the pretty Place du Parlement, formerly called Place du Marché Royal, then, of course, Place du Marché de la Liberté. Go up Rue Parlement Sainte-Catherine, then the second street on the right, Rue Piliers de Tutelle. Go up it to the Cours du Chapeau-Rouge, which runs alongside Le Grand Théâtre. Cross the Place de la Comédie and return to the Cours de l’Intendance.

Just before arriving at your hotel, the Best Western Premier Bordeaux Bayonne Etche-Ona, notice on your right the Dog’s Bar, a remnant of a dog watering hole. It was installed in the 1950s by the founder and owner of the Bordeaux Stylos store. Did he love dogs or did his customers own them? And why was the inscription in English? A reminder of the city’s ancient past and of Eleanor of Aquitaine, perhaps? The watering hole was carved from a block of Norwegian granite. It was inaugurated with great pomp, to the sound of the hunting horn and in the presence of a pack!

And here you are, back in your hotel 🙂
You’ve earned the right to relax in one of our lounge areas or in your cozy room.

For more details on the unusual places in Bordeaux, read Jean-Marie Beuzelin’s book “Bordeaux Méconnu”.

Your Google Maps routes:




Recommended Posts