Located in the south-west of France, Bordeaux hosts Ireland’s second Euro 2016 encounter as they take on Belgium at the Stade de Bordeaux.
Once you arrive into the main train station in Bordeaux, Gare St Jean, getting around the city could not be easier as there is a tram system in place that covers the entire city centre. It is an exact replica of Dublin’s LUAS system and is very straightforward to use, buying tickets in a similar way to the station-side machines.
A single journey costs €1.50, while there are cheaper options if you buy five or ten-journey tickets, which will save the hassle of queuing every time that you take the tram, but you are also meant to validate your ticket once you get on board. A trust system appears to be in place as I never encountered any ticket inspectors, but perhaps they will be out in force during the tournament due to the amount of tourists coming into the city.
A lot of the city is pedestrianised so it is certainly easier to use the tram than to rely on taxis. Check the map to see what part of the city you are staying and you will easily work out a connection to the closest tram station to your hotel.
GETTING TO THE STADIUM
Stade de Bordeaux was purpose built for the tournament, opened last summer and is now home to top-flight side FC Girondins de Bordeaux. The capacity of the stadium is 42,000 and there is not a bad seat in the house in what is the perfect design for a football ground with the crowd virtually on top of the pitch. The noise levels for the Ireland v Belgium group game should certainly be hitting the highest decibel levels of the tournament.
Located outside the city on the tram line, Stade de Bordeaux is much more than a sports arena but a veritable work of art as the construction features a floating roof supported by 900 stanchions, designed to represent the region’s renowned pine forests.
Travelling out of the city take Line C to Parc des Expositions and the stadium is the final stop, taking about 20 minutes from the city centre, but obviously a bit longer on matchdays.
As mentioned in the Paris article, security is going to play a huge factor in this year’s tournament, so leave in plenty of time and aim to get to the stadium at least an hour ahead of kick-off to avoid disappointment.
Expect delays and random searches and the police and other security forces will not tolerate any over-exuberant antics in the vicinity of the stadium. So what you might consider “a bit of craic” on normal matchdays, may not be appreciated by the under-pressure and overworked security personnel.
Make sure you have pre-paid tickets for the homeward journey after the match as there are likely to be huge queues, so this is where the aforementioned five-journey tickets can come in very handy.
The Bordeaux Fan Zone is located right in the centre of the city at the Esplanade des Quinconces. Big screens will show every match of the tournament live and should be a real hive of activity throughout the day and on into the night with game zones and plenty to keep children entertained. Beer, popcorn and hotdogs, as well as a McDonalds, will be available within the fan zone with some entertainment planned in between and after the live matches.
You are well advised to turn off your data roaming when you arrive in France and rely on the local wifi, whether in your hotel or when eating or drinking around the city, as most establishments are well equipped at this stage.
If you really cannot function without tweeting and snapchatting your every move, you can invest in a mobile pocket wifi. Hippocket is very reliable and the battery pack should get you through the entire day.
FOOD AND DRINK
Known as the City of Wine, Bordeaux offers excellent eating and drinking options throughout the town. And the city enjoys a wealth of international cuisine with a wide range of restaurants for all budgets, including the newly opened Le 7 at the Cite du Vin, which offers great panoramics of the town. The stylish Ibaia Café is located along the riverbank and offers a mixture of Mediterranean and South American dishes. Chez Greg, Gravelier, Bodega Bodega and Le Frog and Rosbif are other well-known eateries around the city centre.
A lively nightlife exists in Bordeaux with a range of excellent bars dotted about the city, including Chez Fred, Pub Saint-Aubin, Café Brun and the Mama Shelter Bar. The Connemara, The Blarney Stone and The Black Velvet Bar are three of the best known Irish pubs in the city.
Bordeaux is a very walkable city and you will be able to move easily between tourist attractions.
The river is a major focal point and the Water Mirror is one of the most popular attractions in the city. A fun place for kids, the Water Mirror is a contemporary instillation surrounded by some of Bordeaux’s finest 18th century buildings.
Bordeaux is a world heritage city and one of the best ways to explore the town is to follow the Unesco Heritage Tour that takes you on a ramble about the old town from the Monument aux Girondens to the Grosse Cloche (Big Bell).
La Cite du Vin is one of the city’s newest attractions and offers a great insight into the famous tradition of winemaking in the region, but is worth visiting just to gaze upon the amazing exterior.
Elsewhere in the city centre, there are several public gardens to enjoy during the summer time, while there is always an option of a cruise down the majestic River Garonne.
But for many, the highlight of a tourist visit to the region will be a trip out to the neighbouring vineyards to sample some of the best wine in the world. A range of tours exist from the quick-fire half-day tour to the more relaxing ‘Saint-Emilion by Bike’ tour.
For more information about Bordeaux, visit www.bordeaux-tourisme.com.