The haven of tranquility that is Place Georges de Porto-Riche is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, despite being a stone’s throw away...

Place Georges de Porto-Riche: the secret square

The haven of tranquility that is Place Georges de Porto-Riche is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, despite being a stone’s throw away from the hives of activity that are Rue Saint-Catherine and the Grand-Théâtre.
Georges de Porto-Riche

The square is named after a playwright and novelist who was born in Bordeaux in 1849 and spent much of his life in Paris. After a short period working there as a bank clerk, his initial breakthrough came aged just 20 when his first historical dramas were performed at theatres in the capital. Around the same time, his first collections of poetry were also published and well-received.

De Porto-Riche then focused on “psychological drama”. Plays included La Chance de Françoise and Amoureuse in the early 1890s, followed by L'Infidèle and Le Passé, the four works becoming collectively known as Théâtre d’Amour.

De Porto-Riche became such a fixture on the intellectual scene in Paris that he was elected to become one of the forty so-called “immortal” members of the Académie Française, the prestigious body that serves as the ultimate authority on the French language. In the speech he gave upon his election, he disrespectfully skimmed over the career of the person whose place he’d inherited, Ernest Lavisse. This went down badly with the Académie, who never officially welcomed him into the institution - he died seven years later in 1930.

There are countless curious little features to spot on the 18th-century façades around the square.

The square which bears De Porto-Riche's name is a place to rest, reflect and possibly even drink from the Wallace fountain (or possibly not, it's currently out of order), one of seven of these cast-iron public drinking fountains to be found in Bordeaux and named after Sir Richard Wallace, the philanthropist who funded their initial creation in Paris in the late 19th century.

The Wallace fountain.
Part of the square is currently obscured by hoardings
that surround ongoing work on gas and electricity supplies.

The peaceful square used to be the cemetery of Saint-Rémi church, which can be seen over to one corner of the square (in fact, the square was formerly known as Place Saint-Rémi). The church was originally built between the 11th and 12th centuries on the spot where a pagan temple used to be.

Over the years, it has gradually been transformed and was recently converted into an art and cultural centre (Espace Saint-Rémi) which puts on a rich programme of exhibitions. While most churches in Bordeaux have plenty of room to breathe, this one is very much landlocked on most sides, as was so often the case in Medieval times.

The most excellent Espace Saint-Rémi, over to one corner of the square.

Finally, I feel it is my duty to point out that in the tiny streets that lead away from the square, ageing prostitutes can often be spotted awaiting their next customers in broad daylight, patiently sat on folding chairs positioned in front of their doorways!


  1. Great read Tim! I enjoyed walking through this square when I first arrived in Bordeaux. Always felt it was a secret hide away from the busy streets around the corner. Never knew Mich of its history though, except someone once told me that the street that runs down its border once formed the border of the ancient ramparts of the old city (fact or fiction?!). The ageing prostitutes are always a bit strange... I first thought they were part of a bizarre student film!

    1. That would make sense, yes, as the edge of the old city ran pretty much where Cours du Chapeau Rouge is - i.e. the northern flank of Porto-Riche square. Check out this old map. As for it being a peaceful hideaway, those photos were taken on Sunday while Rue Sainte Catherine buzzed with thousands of shoppers, all of 100 metres away (if that).