Home of the Girondins, dominant force in France during the golden era of the mid 1980s, Bordeaux is a classic one-club city in the mould of a Marseille or a Toulouse.
The six-time title winners switched stadiums at the end of the 2014-15 campaign, leaving behind the Stade Chaban Delmas, opened for the 1938 World Cup and revamped for 1998 for the Nouveau Stade Bordeaux, built at Bordeaux-Lac north of town, for Euro 2016.
The Chaban Delmas was also home to the Bègles rugby team, Bordeaux being situated deep in the oval-ball heartland of south-west France. Given the significant British expat community gathered here in wine country, there’s ample demand for the many sports pubs in town.
In fact, it was an English family, descendents of Nathaniel Johnson, who sold the city council the land, formerly vineyards, on which the former stadium was built. Its part Neo-Classical look and maritime decorative touches reflecting the city’s grand appearance and history, the venue was originally named after the area it was set in: Lescure.
Now a new chapter has opened in the city’s sporting history. The Nouveau Stade, also named after its sponsor Matmut Atlantique, stands near the exhibition centre, Parc des Expositions, surrounded by chain hotels. It’s also at the terminus of tramway line C, part of the city’s swish, modern transport network, which will ferry fans for five Euro 2016 matches, including a quarter-final. France have already played an international match here, a 2-1 friendly win over Serbia.
Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport is 12km (7.5 miles) west of Bordeaux city centre. Budget airlines use the Billi terminal adjacent to the main one, where public transport can be found.
City bus Liane 1 (every 10mins, €1.40) takes 25mins to reach Mérignac, terminus of the A tramline, convenient for the stadium; 40mins to reach Barrière d’Arès, a 10-min walk to the stadium; and nearly an hour to reach the main square of Quinconces. The almost hourly Jet’Bus (€7) takes 45mins to reach place de la Victoire and the main train station of St-Jean. A taxi (+335 56 77 24 24) should cost around €30.
Public transport consists of three tramlines (A, B and C) and buses. A day pass (Tickarte Jour) is €4.30, available from machines at every stop – validate on board for each journey.
The Bordeaux tourist office runs a room-booking service.
A handful of hotels in the Accor chain are set up near the Nouveau Stade, including the Novotel Bordeaux Le Lac, which has its own pool, as has the Hotel Pullman Bordeaux Le Lac. At the more budget end of the scale are the Hotel ibis budget Bordeaux Le Lac and the Mercure Bordeaux Lac Hotel.
Also in the same complex is the three-star INTER HOTEL Apolonia Bordeaux Lac.
Near the station, among the chains, internet cheapie Hôtel Stars has a maritime theme that extends to cabin-sized rooms. It’s a convenient one tram stop from the station, all the same.
A football town, a rugby hub and teeming with students, Bordeaux is not short of bars where you’ll find matches screened. Even a downtown landmark such as the Grand Café on place Gambetta will put a large screen outside on big-game nights.
The square to head for, though, is place de la Victoire, where you’ll find the barn-like Café des Sports (5 cours de l’Argonne) and the Pub Saint Aubin, the best bar/restaurant in town for sports fans. Outside, a terrace covers a huge chunk of the square, while within, a four-room space suits diner and drinker alike. Happy hour is three hours’ long and it’s pints only in the evening. Just off the main square of Quinconces, Nulle Part Ailleurs (19 cours du Maréchal Foch) is a more upscale brasserie, owned by ex-Girondins star Christophe Dugarry for ten years. Decent food is also served at the age-old, riverside Grand Bar Castan, with few sporting links but a good place to start the day.
For a real football bar with a European flavour, the Relais St-Michel (12 rue Camille Sauvageau) is decked out in Iberian soccer paraphernalia, with table football, too. It stands close to the riverbank, where you’ll also find expat pubs such as the Charles Dickens, Molly Malone’s and, near a branch of the Frog & Rosbif, Sweeney Todd’s (2 cours Alsace-Lorraine). All show football on TV, as do the centrally located City Bar (21 rue du Palais-Galien), the Sherlock Holmes, Connemara and the Cock & Bull (23 rue Duffour Dubergier). Perhaps the best of the bunch, the friendliest and also famed for its burgers, is the Golden Apple.