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 main rivals Marseille or 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, descendants 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.
A new chapter has opened in the city’s sporting history in 2015. The Nouveau Stade, 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 ferried fans for five Euro 2016 matches, including the dramatic quarter-final between Italy and Germany. France had already played an international match here the previous September, a 2-1 friendly win over Serbia.
In many ways, though, the inaugural match there was the most symbolic, old boy Zinédine Zidane kicking off Bordeaux’s encounter with Montpellier in May 2015, at the club where he made his name back in the early 1990s.
Bordeaux Airport is 12km (7.5 miles) west of the city centre. Budget airlines use the terminal by the main one, closer to public transport.
From Gate 7, Hall B, bus Liane 1 (every 10min, every 15-20min Sat-Sun, single ticket €1.70, valid 1hr) takes 40min to reach St-Jean station (via Mérignac Centre (15min), where a change onto Tramway A brings you closer to the city centre.
The 30′ Direct bus (every 45min-1hr winter, every 30min summer, €8) runs from Hall B direct to St-Jean station (30min), on the same Tramway C as the stadium up north – airport-to-stadium would take around the same time using Tramway A from Mérignac Centre as you’ll need to change at Porte Bourgogne or Hôtel de Ville then Quinconces.
Taxi Bordeaux (+33 5 29 10 25) should charge around €30 from airport to town.
Transport company TBM oversee four tramlines (A-D), buses and a boat service. A single ticket is €1.70, (valid 1hr), a day pass (Ticket 24 heures) is €5, available from machines at stops – validate on board for each journey.
A handful of hotels in the Accor chain are set up near the Nouveau Stade. The Novotel Bordeaux Le Lac has its own pool, as does the Pullman Bordeaux Lac. At the more budget end of the scale are the ibis budget Bordeaux le Lac and the Mercure Bordeaux Lac Hotel.
Also in the same complex is the three-star Apolonia Bordeaux Lac, with free secure parking.
In town, and in the same family for four generations, the Hotel de Normandie sits by focal Quinconces while the landmark InterContinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hôtel overlooks place de la Comédie. Centrally located mid-priced options include the Acanthe on rue St-Rémi, the St-Rémi itself and the redesigned, urban Hôtel de la Presse five minutes further along.
Internet cheapie Hôtel Stars on rue de Tauzia has a maritime theme that extends to cabin-sized rooms, all a convenient one tram stop from the station.
A football town, a rugby hub and teeming with students, Bordeaux is not short of bars where you’ll find matches screened. Even the elegant Grand Café on place Gambetta puts up a large screen for big-game nights.
The square to head for, though, is place de la Victoire, where sport-friendly Pub Saint Aubin has a large terrace, and a four-room space inside for diners and drinkers. Happy hours are generous. Across the square, the Grizzly Pub shows matches, serves cocktails and stages DJs.
The riverbank is also lined with drinking options, such as the Charles Dickens, Molly Malone’s and, near the Bordeaux branch of Frog & Rosbif, Sweeney Todd’s (2 cours Alsace-Lorraine), home of big-screen action and fry-up breakfasts.
Football is also shown at centrally located The City (21 rue du Palais-Galien), the Sherlock Holmes on rue Judaïque, Casey’s Pub nearby, the Connemara on cours d’Albret 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 on rue Borie. 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.
Just off the main square of Quinconces, Nulle Part Ailleurs (19 cours du Maréchal Foch) is more upscale brasserie, first owned by ex-Girondins star Christophe Dugarry. DJ nights and live music are occasionally scheduled.