Bordeaux by Night

A night marathon through one of Europe’s most beautiful cities? Yes please.

Running a marathon is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Bordeaux, France, and running a marathon at night is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of running.

The Marathon de Bordeaux Métropole, which takes place in April, offers thousands of runners the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to run 26.2 miles (42.2 km) around a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the light of the stars. It’s a chance for runners to take in sites of one of the world’s most beautiful cities in an entirely unique way and see the city of Bordeaux as few others do.

A half-marathon and relay option are also available for those who want to spent a little more time exploring the world’s most famous wine region and a little less time pounding the pavement.    

The course  

Both the full and half marathons will begin at 7:30 pm in front of the Place de la Bourse, a 240-year-old palace that is Bordeaux’s most recognizable landmark. From the city center, athletes will follow the Garonne River on completely closed roads as they make their way toward some of Bordeaux’s world-famous wineries. After a brief tour of the vineyards, runners will make their way back into the city center and past some of Bordeaux’s ancient architecture, like the Pont de Pierre stone bridge, the Basilica of St. Michael and the 1,020-year-old Bordeaux Cathedral. The race will then finish underneath the bright lights of the Place de la Bourse.  

While wine is what has made Bordeaux famous around the world for centuries, it’s the perfectly preserved architecture from the 18th century that earned the city its UNESCO status and makes the Marathon de Bordeaux Métropole one of the most beautiful marathon courses in the entire world. With no cars or tourists crowding the streets at night, you’ll have the opportunity to go back and time and feel as though you’re running through Bordeaux in the 1700s. Both the marathon and half-marathon courses are relatively flat, with a few rolling hills and bridges to mix things up.    

Pre-and post-race attractions  

Let’s be honest: If you’re coming to Bordeaux for the marathon, you’re not coming to Bordeaux just to run. This is the ultimate race-cation destination, as much for its legendary wine as for the world-renowned architecture. There’s a lot to see and do in Bordeaux, so you don’t want to waste any time while you’re there.   Must-see landmarks   Bordeaux is the perfect city for a walking tour, whether you sign up for one with a guide or just map it out yourself. The Place de la Bourse is the city’s most visited site, and with the race beginning and finishing in front of it, you should have plenty of opportunities for photos. In front of the Place de la Bourse sits the world’s largest reflecting pool, which it what makes the Place de la Bourse especially impressive at night. You’re not going to find a better finish line anywhere in the world, period.  

The Bordeaux Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Saint Andrew, was consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1096 and was the site of the royal wedding of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII in 1137. The Cathedral is open to the public and is free of charge, although donations are accepted. It’s particularly renowned for its’ stained glass, especially the giant rose window on the front façade.   The Cathedral of Saint Andrew might be Bordeaux’s oldest monument, but the Basilica of St. Michael is the most impressive. Built between 14th and 16th centuries, it’s 114-meter bell tower soars above the rest of Bordeaux and is visible anywhere in the city. If you’re up for a little workout after the marathon, you can take the stairs all the way to the top of the bell tower for the best views in Bordeaux.  

For performing arts lovers, a visit to the Grand Théatre de Bordeaux to see an opera or ballet is a must. Built in 1780, it rivals some of the great opera houses of Italy and Vienna as being one of the best in the world. It’s open for paid tours during the afternoon and hosts performances most nights of the week. Check Opera-bordeaux.com for a schedule.   Bordeaux’s stunning architecture extends to its bridges, especially that Pont de Pierre and the Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas. The Pont de Pierre was built in 1820, after being ordered by Napoléon and was once of the most technologically advanced bridges in the world at the time. It has 17 separate arches to correspond with the number of letters in the name “Napoléon Bonaparte.” If you’re more impressed by modern architectural achievement, the Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas is perhaps the most impressive vertical-lift bridge in the world. The lifts raise the main span of the bridge 250-feet in the air to let large tankers and cruise ships through.  

Wine and food (and more wine)  

Now the part you’ve been waiting for: Bordeaux may have some of the best architecture in the world, but the city’s main attraction is the wine. First, some numbers: The Bordeaux region is home to 65 different appellations over 120,000 total hectares of vineyards. In an average vintage, Bordeaux wineries produce 700 million bottles of the good stuff—and we mean the really good stuff. Approximately 22 bottles of Bordeaux wine are sold every second around the world. While you can find some very good Bordeaux at your local liquor store, much of the very best is kept within France, so you need to make the trip to experience the best Bordeaux has to offer.  

The Bordeaux Tourism and Convention Bureau officially lists six separate wine "trails" that encompass most of the hundreds of wineries around the region. If you want to visit a handful of vineyards, the only way to do it is to pick a trail, find an organized tour for the trail, and go. The 80K tour through the Médoc Region (also known as the "Chateau Trail" for the many historic chateaus along the way) is the most popular and visits many of Bordeaux most famous wineries. Visit Bordeaux-tours.com for more information.  

When you think of French cuisine you might think only of fine dining, but the beauty of the Bordeaux culinary scene is that it’s easy to find restaurants that are serve up local and seasonal fare at a modest price.   Belle Campagne is a low-key spot in the city’s Saint Pierre district that sources only from local farms and fisherman. The menu changes every two months based on what inspires the chefs and main courses range from 14-30 Euros.  

Wine bars are quickly becoming food destinations in Bordeaux, thanks to the owners brining in some of the best chefs from Paris to spruce up their menus. Le Flacon is one of the finest wine bars in Bordeaux and the new chefs are serving up delicate small plates like lamb and mint spring rolls and blood pudding macaroons.  

If you want to experience Bordeaux’s fine dining scene, two-star Michelin chef’s Le Quatrième Mur, located next to the Opera House, is one of the finest restaurants in the city. A three-course dinner will start at around 50 Euros, but it’s also open for lunch, when a three-course meal will only cost you around 30 Euros. Make a reservation or you will not get in.

 

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