UNESCO heritage in the Bordeaux vineyard

On the Bordeaux wine routes, the heritage has been shaped by history. There are countless bastide towns, remarkable villages and castles from all periods.

Some of them, of exceptional interest, are included on the UNESCO world heritage list. With 3 major sites, Bordeaux’s vineyard contributes to making Nouvelle-Aquitaine the French region with the most UNESCO sites (7 sites and groups of sites).

From the Vauban Fortifications to the Port of the Moon, passing through the vineyards of Saint-Emilion, discover the jewels of the heritage of the Bordeaux region.

Bordeaux depuis rive droite  


Bordeaux has been classed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 2007. This recognises the value and unity of the heritage of this city, which has modernised over the centuries without breaking with its harmony and its architectural richness.

With 1810 hectares, more than 347 historic monuments and a protected area of 150 hectares, it was the first urban centre to be recognised over such a vast and complex area.

Bordeaux, an architectural gem of the eighteenth century, owes its splendour to architects of all periods and its charm to its lively and cosmopolitan neighbourhoods: from narrow streets in Saint-Michel and Saint-Pierre to the buildings of the 60s and 70s in Mériadeck, from the Place des Quinconces to the popular water mirror, the city has evolved in its time without losing its character and identity.


In Saint-Emilion, beyond the amazing underground monuments and the medieval city, you will discover all the listed cultural landscapes.

On 5 December 1999, the Juridiction de Saint-Emilion and its 7 846 hectares, including 5 400 hectares of vineyard, obtained its UNESCO world heritage listing, in the “cultural landscapes” category.

Beyond the notoriety that it brings, this distinction is also a chance to preserve and perpetuate the authentic symbiosis between a terroir, its people, its production and the incredible wealth of heritage that has always accompanied the construction and development of this unique territory which is the Juridiction de Saint-Emilion.

Château La Rivière + élément paysage  
Cloitre collegiale  
Saint Emilion depuis les vignes  


Since summer 2008, the citadel of Blaye, the Fort-Pâté and the Fort-Médoc have been included, along with eleven other major Vauban sites, on the UNESCO world heritage list. This classification is the recognition of a single man’s exceptional work: Vauban, a talented engineer in the service of Louis XIV and a great spirit of his time. The citadel of Blaye, on the right bank of the Gironde estuary, the Fort-Pâté, a small oval fort built on an island, and the Fort-Médoc, a square fort on the left bank, make up a triptych unique of its kind, which used cross-fire to forbid access to Bordeaux by enemy forces.

The Fort-Médoc and the citadel of Blaye retain all the elements of Vauban’s defence system: ditches, moats, ravelins, gates, ramparts, posterns as well as the buildings essential to the soldiers who lived there: guard house, powder shop, chapel, barracks... The citadel also has underground quarters. It offers magnificent views of the Gironde estuary and a pleasant stroll along its small streets. As for the Fort-Médoc, it offers a rural setting with a breathtaking view of the Fort-Pâté.

Citadelle de Blaye  
Paysage Fronsac  


From where it rises in the Auvergne to the Gironde estuary, the Dordogne flows calmly over nearly 490km. A true haven of peace and an inspiration for walkers, it is a refuge for lovers of nature, beautiful patrimony sites and sport. With the Garonne, it gives birth to the largest estuary in Europe and possesses an incomparable biodiversity.

For all these reasons, the whole of the Dordogne river basin was included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 2012, a group of 661 exceptional sites over five continents. This classification also brings new objectives: protecting the biological diversity, promoting economic development and safeguarding the cultural values associated with it.

In the Gironde, from Sainte-Foy-La-Grande to the Bec d’Ambès, numerous activities are on offer: hiking, canoeing, fishing and mountain biking alongside the exceptional ports and villages. You only have to choose!


La Cité Frugès  


Le Corbusier, whose real name was Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris (1887-1965), has 17 architectural works inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, as an “outstanding contribution to the Modern Movement”. True testimony to a man’s genius, these 17 creations selected from around fifty, are intended to be a representative sample of his work on four continents (including 10 in France).

La Cité Frugès was completed in 1926, having been ordered two years earlier by the industrialist Henry Frugès who wanted to house his workers decently and at low cost. The latter expressed himself in these terms: “Pessac should be a laboratory. I fully authorise you to break with all conventions.” The message was clear: reform traditional housing with a view to providing sturdiness and efficiency. Le Corbusier was thus able to apply his pared-down style: the roof garden, reinforced concrete, horizontal windows and the free façade were to be his tools. A standardised project of 51 houses was the result, and despite inauguration with great pomp, there were not any immediate takers. Modern housing had arrived, along with worries about the upheavals to come...


You can also use your time in the Bordeaux region to discover several religious buildings inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1998 as part of the Way of Saint James.

CORDOUAN LIGHTHOUSE, the next listing in the Gironde?

Phare de Cordouan + gens  
Phare de Cordouan - Lanterne  
Phare de Cordouan vue aérienne  

And if the “Versailles of the Seas”, long used to represent royal power, were to be next on the UNESCO list? In any case, this is what is hoped for by the fierce defenders of this “King of Lighthouses”, which perpetuates the long tradition of these watchtowers of the seas inhabited by hermits (of which this is the last!). Designed 400 years ago with the ambition of rivalling the lighthouse of Alexandria, it was in any case a pioneer in the development of lighting techniques. Visible today at up to 40km at sea, it was randomly lit by the burning of whale oil, coal or even tar until its electrification in 1948.

Its remarkable geographical location (8km from the Gironde estuary) and its architectural value are assets that will help to convince UNESCO’s experts. So watch this space in 2019-2020, for a possible listing.

Meanwhile, you can visit it from April to October and support its bid for World Heritage status!

Support Cordouan's UNESCO application!