Listed by UNESCO, the banks of the river Garonne have changed the face of Bordeaux since 1995. Gone are the facades blackened by centuries of history of the Bordeaux wine which King Louis XIV greatly enjoyed. Pedestrians and bicycles are all over the city that was remodelled in the nineteenth century. Today, several squares and avenues look like the Paris of Haussmann.
Favouring eco-friendly transports such as the tram, Bordeaux is also a museum city with heritage revealed at every corner. Cruising is a favourite game in Bordeaux, long considered bourgeois and uptight city. On the contrary, Bordeaux has many gay places, and a lesbian gay centre opened in 2010. By Jerome Aznar.
When to go?
Bordeaux can be discovered throughout the year, although the heat from June to September could be suffocating. The Gay Pride is held every June, just before summer, a season when the city is mostly empty.
What to see / What to do
As part of a huge urban harmonization plan, the former cruiser Colbert left the banks of the Garonne in 2007 so that we can now walk from the Stone Bridge (Pont de Pierre) to the marina. There you’ll dive into the old cellars atmosphere. One them has been converted into a contemporary art museum and part of the old ferry terminal was converted into a shopping mall. The tram links all places as far as the local Golden Gate Bridge painted red, the Aquitaine Bridge.
Films like Camping 1-2 and l’Inconnu du Lac plunge us into the atmosphere of Bordeaux beaches of Porge, Lacanau or of La Lagune, close to the famous Dune du Pyla, in the middle of vast naturist beaches, 50 km from Bordeaux. Celebrated under the Second Empire, sea bathing saw their heyday in Arcachon, connected by 20 regional trains daily. You’ll admire the seaside architectural blend of summer or winter city.
In Bordeaux, you can eat anything, from take away to top gourmet cuisine. There are no more 100% gay restaurants but some stand out in the evening, like La Cigale close to the Justice and City halls, the Saint-Pierre and Parliament Squares. For lunch, you have the choice between eating at the RDV brasserie, at Cours de la Marne, or in front of the Galeries Lafayette, at the Saint-Rémi brasserie, and drinking hot tea at Namasthé. Menu-wise, the bistro cuisine alternates with oysters from the nearby Bassin d’Arcachon or Marennes Oléron, and the cannelé small cake to accompany your coffee. During the day, try a coffee at the Dijeaux terrace while shopping, or on Place Camille Julian. The famous Chartrons market has “bobos” and gays stroll every Sunday morning. There Bordeaux wine booth offering glasses for 1€ and plates of oysters. The market can be flooded with tourists when a ship docks at high tide.
A drink in Bordeaux is very easy. There are two gay bars: the Go West towards the cathedral and the Trou Duck in the pedestrian downtown. The LS Café in Bègles welcomes girls and their girl friends. La Fabrik and the Shine are clubs of the Quai de Paludate quay, near Saint-Jean SNCF train station (tram C stop). There, you’ll find a subtle mix of eclectic gay and straights.
Today Bordeaux still has the reputation of being a bit uptight. However has a good deal of cruising spots. Run by Graham and Preston, the Buster Bar is a cruising a bar with theme nights and busy backrooms in winter and summer (access with trams A & B). The L’Ours Marin (marine bear) is the other cruising-bar for bears and their friends, very close to the Hugo sauna.
A sex-club/sex-shop, the Traxx is still standing strong with its labyrinth of cabins and alcoves on 2 levels. The Sous-Marin (Submarine) completes the list of meeting places for hot boys.
As for saunas, the Thiers is hot again. Naturists and foam party afternoons are highlights of the Saint-Jean sauna, located near the SNCF train station. As for the Hugo sauna, it offers a sublime decor and incredible fun cruising area, with straight clubs where gays are welcome. The administrative district of Meriadeck is still a recognized crusing spot. The Bordeaux park has been fenced which now restrains crusing.
Where to stay
Bordeaux does not have any gay or gay friendly gay houses. However the city offers two gay friendly hotels : the sublime Seek’oo hotel on Quai des Chartrons, with its korian facade, a flexible material used in kitchens, and Hotel Continental, near Cours de l’Intendance and Place Gambetta. The Continental Suite offers an incredible view on the city, while the Seek’oo’s suites overlook the Garonne river.