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Once a rather insignificant port town, Bordeaux now reigns supreme as one of the most elegant and remarkable French cities. Since the millennium, the city has undergone considerable renovation thanks to its new mayor and former French Prime-Minister, Alain Juppe. The town centre has been completely pedestrianized, an extremely efficient tram system put in place and many old buildings restored to their original splendor. These recent developments have led to Bordeaux's value being formally recognized, now listed as a UNESCO world heritage for its impressive architectural ensemble. The stunning neoclassicism architecture, elegant avenues, hidden squares full of bustling cafes, picturesque waterfront and chic boutique shops will certainly keep you entertained for hours.
Bordeaux offers a wealth of impressive contemporary art galleries and museums, many of which are located in beautiful old buildings. The Natural History Museum is one of the oldest museums in the country, housed in a grand mansion overlooking the public gardens. A visit to Musée d'Aquitaine on the other hand provides a great source of information about the regional history and wine trade heritage. Art wise, the highly acclaimed Museum of Contemporary Art (CAPC) is located on the waterfront in an old 19th century warehouse and exhibits an impressive chronological of the major world art movements since the 1960's. The Museum of Beaux Arts also offers an outstanding collection, with pieces from renowned artists such as Rubens, Titans and Marquet.
Of course, Bordeaux's real claim to fame is an international reputation for vintage excellence, so it would be a sin to visit the city without exploring its extraordinary wine heritage. Tours to vineyards in and around the city are in abundance, as well as wine tasting in the various wine caves dotted around town.
For a little break between museums and sightseeing, there are the shops. Rue St Catherine is the longest pedestrianized street in Europe, and so zigzagging from artisanal shop to shop can turn into an all day diversion, especially if you stop off in one of the many cafes or patisseries along the way. And if you feel guilty for indulging in this retail therapy, each end of the Rue St Catherine is marked by ancient Roman arches, and to go from one end to the other is really a cultural activity in itself.