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The Rohan Palace or Hôtel de Ville, the Bordeaux Town Hall

Bordeaux’s Rohan Palace or Hôtel de Ville is an important historical building located in the city of Bordeaux, France. It was built between 1771 and 1784 and was originally the Archbishop’s Palace of Bordeaux. After the French Revolution, it became the Bordeaux City Hall in 1835. It now houses an art collection and is used for official events and ceremonies. Recently, it suffered an arson attack during the protests – find out all about it!

History of the Rohan Palace in Bordeaux

The Rohan Palace in Bordeaux, France, has a fascinating history dating back to the 18th century. Originally, it was built as the Archbishop’s Palace of Bordeaux between the years 1771 and 1784. This majestic mansion was designed by architect Richard-François Bonfin, intended to reflect the status and rank of the Archbishop of Bordeaux at the time, Ferdinand Maximilien Mériadec, Prince of Rohan. To know this and other wonders of Bordeaux we recommend you to go on a Free Walking Tour of Bordeaux.

The construction of the palace was an ambitious process that sought to replace the old medieval archbishopric with a more imposing building in accordance with the standards of the time. During this period, Bordeaux was a prosperous city and this was reflected in the architecture of its most emblematic buildings.

The French Revolution and the Rohan Palace

With the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, everything changed for the Rohan Palace and for the country in general. After the Revolution, the palace underwent a major transformation in its use and purpose. In 1791, it became the prefecture of the department of Gironde and later, in 1835, it became the Bordeaux Town Hall, i.e. the city’s Town Hall.

The Third Republic and the Palais de Rohan

Over the years, the Palais de Rohan has witnessed many historical events and challenges. During the Third Republic, in 1889, the City Council Chamber was designed, adapting the palace to the new official architecture. However, this period also brought looting and damage to the structure of the palace, including the destruction of part of its gardens and the loss of valuable works of art.

Hôtel de Ville de Bordeaux today

Fortunately, after the devastation of World War II, the Palais de Rohan was restored and regained its original function as Bordeaux’s Town Hall. Today, the palace continues to play an important role in the life of the city, being the administrative center and an emblematic venue for official events and ceremonies.

Architecture and design of the Rohan Palace

The Rohan Palace in Bordeaux stands out for its impressive architecture and design, reflecting the opulence and elegance of the era in which it was built. The following are the main features of its architectural style and the outstanding Louis XVI style façade. It is also very close to such gems as the Meriadeck district and the Gambetta Square.

Architectural style 

The Rohan Palace presents a characteristic architecture of the 18th century, framed by the aesthetics of neoclassicism. This style is characterized by its emphasis on simplicity and symmetry, inspired by the classical forms of ancient Greece and Rome. The architect Richard-François Bonfin managed to capture these influences in every detail of the building.

The Palais de Rohan is a remarkable example of neoclassical architecture, with its straight lines and balanced proportions. The architectural elements, such as columns, pediments and cornices, highlight its elegance and serenity. In addition, it has ample interior spaces that reflect the grandeur of the building.

The Louis XVI façade of the Rohan Palace

One of the most outstanding features of the Rohan Palace is its façade, which follows the Louis XVI style. This façade is characterized by its delicate and refined ornamentation, with meticulously carved details and magnificent sculptural decoration.

The Louis XVI facade of the palace features a series of decorative elements, such as Corinthian capitals, decorative moldings and floral motifs, which enhance its beauty and sophistication. In addition, it has large windows adorned with wrought iron balconies, which allow natural light to enter and create a sense of elegance and brightness inside the building.

The Palais de Rohan as Bordeaux City Hall

After the French Revolution, the Palais de Rohan was transformed to house the Bordeaux City Hall. This transition occurred in 1835 and marked a new chapter in the history of the magnificent building. Since then, the palace became the heart of the city’s local government and a symbol of its administration. This palace is one of the 5 reasons to visit Bordeaux, not to be missed!

The Rohan Palace plays a fundamental role as the administrative center of Bordeaux. Inside, it houses different dependencies and municipal offices where important decisions are made for the city. It serves as a meeting point for local political representatives and as a space where public policies that affect the citizens of Bordeaux are discussed and approved.

Celebration of official ceremonies 

In addition to its administrative function, the palace is also used for official ceremonies. In its elegant Municipal Council Hall, protocol and important events are held, such as the inauguration of mayors and councilors, the signing of municipal agreements and the presentation of awards or prizes to outstanding personalities. The majestic surroundings of Rohan Palace provide the perfect setting for these special occasions. It is also very close to the Museum of Aquitaine.

The Rohan Palace Garden and the Museum of Fine Arts

The Rohan Palace has a beautiful garden that was initially designed in the French style, but was later transformed into a romantic English style. This garden offers an oasis of tranquility in the middle of the bustle of the city.

Surrounded by two beautiful wings of the palace that have housed the Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts since 1880, the garden is an enchanting place to stroll and enjoy the beauty of nature. Its well-tended flowerbeds, fountains and sculptures create a serene and pleasant atmosphere.

The Museum of Fine Arts, located inside the palace, houses an important art collection. Here you can admire various paintings, sculptures and antique furniture that are part of Bordeaux’s cultural heritage. Art lovers will find in this museum a real jewel, as it houses works by renowned national and international artists.

The art collection of the Rohan Palace

Rohan Palace houses an impressive art collection spanning different periods and styles. Within its rooms, visitors can contemplate a careful selection of paintings, sculptures and antique furniture that offer an outstanding view of the history of art.

Among the paintings on display are masterpieces by renowned national and international artists. The collection ranges from Renaissance painting to contemporary art, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the evolution of different artistic currents over time.

In addition to paintings, the Rohan Palace has an outstanding selection of sculptures representing different styles and techniques. These three-dimensional works of art showcase the sculptors’ ability to capture beauty and expressiveness in marble, bronze and other materials.

The palace’s collection of antique furniture is also noteworthy. This furniture represents the splendor and elegance of different historical periods, from Rococo to Neoclassical. Each piece features exceptional craftsmanship and meticulous details that reflect the aesthetics of its era.

Recent incident at the Rohan Palace

The Rohan Palace, in the midst of social unrest in France, suffered an incident that left a mark on its history. During mass protests in March 2023, a fire was set on the portico surrounding the building and giving access to the atrium. For 15 minutes, a mob of protesters wreaked havoc in the palace before firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze.

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