If you are a History buff and are interested in learning all about Bordeaux’s past from the Stone Age to the modern day, Musée d’Aquitaine is the place to visit. Just south of St André Cathédral, this magnificent 19th century building – with it’s grand columned entrance hall and further marble halls housing ancient displays – is truly awe-inspiring. You will be guided through history room by room, each one chronologically following the other. Displays are atmospheric and imaginative, and contain wondrous artifacts such as the tomb of the French 16th century author and philosopher Montaigne, a bronze statue of Hercules discovered in fragments in 1832, and a sarcophagus of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Do not miss the spectacular rose window from ancient Eglise des Grands Carmes, viewed from a gallery above. Browse a delightful early 20th century reconstructed grocers shop, and look out for a powerful exhibition on Bordeaux’s role in the slave trade. The nominal entrance fee is excellent value for money with special exhibits from time to time and audio guides are available. This is sophisticated curatorial work at it’s most outstanding.
Address: 20 Cours Pasteur, 33000 Bordeaux, France +33 5 56 01 51 00
Musée Nationale des Douanes
This interesting museum charting the history of customs, imports and exports is located in the magnificent 18th century former customs hall Hotel des Fermes du Roi, overlooking Place de la Bourse. Musée Nationale des Douanes provides an educational insight into the works of customs officials through history: theft of artifacts, counterfeiting, illegal products from endangered species etc. Many uniforms, maps, weapons, models, impounded items and records are on display. A highlight of the museum amongst the works of Art is a wonderful painting by Monet of a customs hut in the afternoon entitled Cabanne des douaniers, effet d’apres midi. Staffed by helpful serving customs officials, with audio guides available, this museum is a surprising little gem in a truly majestic location.
Address: 1 Place de la Bourse, 33000 Bordeaux, France +33 5 56 48 82 82
Musée du Vin et du Negoce
If you don’t have time to visit any of the renowned vineyards around Bordeaux, it is worth nipping down to this engaging little wine museum in the beautiful Chartrons quarter, just back from the river. At Musée du Vin et du Negoce you are told the story of the iconic Bordeaux wine trade set in atmospheric vaulted cellars filled with old barrels, vintage wine bottles and related artefacts. There are videos, maps and signs by way of explanation and the tour ends with a wine tasting included in the price.
Address: Cellier des Chartrons, 41 Rue Borie, 33000 Bordeaux, France +33 5 56 90 19 13
Musée des Arts Decoratifs
This elegant museum is housed within one of the most beautiful 18th century townhouses in Bordeaux. The Musée des Arts Decoratifs can be found in an historic quarter teeming with art and antique shops and close to the famous Musée des Beaux Arts. The former Hotel de Lalande, with it’s impressive courtyard, was built in 1779 by Bordeaux architect Etienne Laclotte for MP Pierre de Raymond de Lalande, and presents an informative, charming tableau of the lifestyle lived by the privileged classes around the time of the French Revolution. The sumptuous interior with its magnificent staircase, wood panelling and parquet floors, is beautifully set out over two floors. An exquisitely laid dining table of fine linen, cutlery and silverware will delight, alongside display cases of beautiful 18th century porcelain, gorgeous antique furniture, four poster beds, and harp. Decorative Arts from the later 19th and 20th centuries have been added in recent years, as well as temporary exhibitions, all of which make for an utterly enthralling visit for all lovers of fine Art. Don’t forget to try out the small café at the end of your visit.
Address: 39 Rue Bouffard, 33000 Bordeaux, France +33 5 56 10 14 00
Musée des Beaux Arts
The beautiful late 16th century Palais Rohan is the glorious setting for Bordeaux’s Hotel de Ville, (City Hall). But its two newly renovated wings (North and South) house a wonderful collection of paintings and sculptures by a distinguished group of artists from the 16th to the 20th century: that is Musée des Beaux Arts. There is a further Gallery in a separate location which houses the temporary exhibitions which are also well worth a visit. The museum itself has an interesting history and was originally established by the neoclassical artist Pierre Lacour at the beginning of the nineteenth century and moved to its present location in 1881. Commence your visit in the South Wing which takes you through seven rooms of paintings starting with the Renaissance, through works by seventeenth and eighteenth Flemish, (Rubens and Van Dyke) Dutch (Hals) and other European artists. The North Wing displays many awe-inspiring 19th century artists such as Gudin and Isabey’s maritime scenes, Corot and Boudin’s landscapes, portraits by Fantin-Latour and Morisot, as well as Bordeaux artists such as Lhote, Redon and Marquet. There is also a fine life-size statue of “The Death of Mozart”. Interesting Cubist and other abstract works take you through the 20th century. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the well-stocked museum shop and the pretty City Hall courtyard garden with its stunning entrance gate.
Address: 20 Cours d’Albret, 33000 Bordeaux, France +33 5 56 10 20 56
CAPC – Musée d’Art Contemporain
This cavernous 19th century restored brick warehouse, fronting the Garonne River, houses an eclectic mix of rotating modern Art Exhibitions set over three floors. The tally of the ever changing variety of exhibits – on such themes as music, literature, film, architecture and design, with a particular emphasis on young Bordeaux based artists – are suitably enhanced by this imposing interior space with its stone arches and vaulted ceilings. Guided tours for groups of ten or more are led by Art professionals and take place at the weekends. There is a Reading lounge in the entrance lobby, a library open by appointment, and annual membership allows free entry to all exhibitions, lectures and events. Do not miss the elegant Café Andree Putman (named after the museum’s designer) on the top floor, with outdoor terrace seating and wonderful views. It is worth a visit in itself.
Address: 7 Rue Ferrere, 33000 Bordeaux, France +33 5 56 00 81 50