Bordeaux, France Travel Guide: Top Things to Do and See in France
Straddling the Garonne River, Bordeaux is a city bursting with gorgeous historic buildings, surrounded by luscious rolling vineyards and offering more wine bars than you could shake a hangover at. Forget the City of Love and head to the City of Wine. Indeed, you may even find love there too...
- The Gironde district, which encompasses Bordeaux and Saint-Émilion, among other communes, is the most popular destination for wine tourism in France.
- Of the red wine produced in Bordeaux, 66% is Merlot. In terms of white wine production, 47% is Semillon and 45% is Sauvignon Blanc.
- The City of Bordeaux (officially The Port of the Moon) and the Jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion, are both listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- The City of Bordeaux boasts 347 listed buildings which is more than any other city in France, second only to Paris in number.
WHAT TO DO
- Wine, wine and more wine. The best (and cheapest!) way to try as many varieties as possible is to do a self-guided wine tour. Bordeaux's tourism board has compiled an excellent route which is available for download here. It guides you to many different bars, listing deals on offer as well as any recommendations. Be sure to check opening times however, as some places are closed on Sunday and/or Monday and may only open in the evening.
- Want to learn a bit more about the making of wine, as well as its cultural and historical significance? Then head to La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux's wine museum. Here you will find an interactive exhibition (available to enjoy in eight languages), which invites all of your senses to get lost in everything wine — the ticket price even includes a cheeky tipple!
- Visit the Place de la Bourse and its Miroir d'eau (water mirror), the largest reflecting pool in the world. For the perfect photo, head to the bank of the Garonne and face the square — the water will perfectly reflect the backdrop of gorgeous 18th century architecture. In the summer, feel free to dip your feet in but remember, in winter the water is turned off to avoid damaging the mechanisms.
- Take a day trip. With handfuls of tour providers to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice! Whether it's a trip to the Medoc region that makes your mouth water, or if it's a gander to Saint-Émilion that tickles your taste buds, there is plenty of wine to go around. Chauffer driven coaches, bike hire, e-bike tours — choose your mode of transport and spend a day (or two) exploring the many châteaux in the region.
- Spend a day visiting Bordeaux's many museums and churches, including her cathedral. Musee d'Aquitaine is a popular choice, especially if you'd like to learn a bit more about the Aquitaine region, independent from any wine-talk!
WHERE TO EAT
- Restaurant Mélodie: For a bit of traditional French fare, head to Restaurant Mélodie. For just €20, you can indulge in three delicious courses, ranging from aubergine caviar to foie gras, beef fillet to duck leg. Adorned with welcoming fairy lights and bare stone walls, this romantic restaurant is very popular so booking is recommended. Bon appétit!
- A Cantina Comptoir Corse presents you with something a bit different — Corsican food! The least of your worries will be choosing whether to settle for a seat at the bar, a low stool crouched over an old trunk, or a larger table hidden in a corner. The difficult choices show themselves when you peruse the menu (only offered in French, but the staff are wonderfully helpful!) When faced with the option of deep fried courgette beignets, duck spring rolls, fresh slices of raw tuna, or mini veal sliders, what will you choose? (Closed Monday)
- Chez Fred cafe/Plan B: If you're looking for something a bit lighter, check out Chez Fred cafe/Plan B sandwich shop in Place du Palais. Although they are physically two separate establishments, they work together so you can enjoy your freshly baked ciabatta roll (stuffed with prosciutto, rocket, mozzarella, beef tomato and pesto, perhaps...) from Plan B, in the sunshine outside Chez Fred, who offer up a mean hot chocolate themselves.
- Maison Georges Larnicol: By this stage you'll probably want something to satiate your sweet tooth (and soak up some of the alcohol) so why not head to Maison Georges Larnicol. Here you will find tasty treats to satisfy all of your cravings, whether its macarons in a range of flavours, chocolate-coated anything, truffles or just good old, trusty chocolate itself. If you want something a bit more substantial, go for canelés. These custard-based treats originate from Bordeaux so you will be able to get your hands on them almost anywhere. Flavoured with rum and vanilla, they will certainly perk you up!
WHERE TO DRINK
- Recommended above all else has to be Bar à Vin by the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bordeaux (Wine Council). Listed as the first stop on the Urban Wine Trail (although probably safest to do last!) this establishment is subsidised by the CIVB, meaning that you can try delicious and expensive wines for a fraction of the price — and they mean a fraction! For just €3 you can enjoy a Rose Brut or Medoc Reserve, among others, with many wines sitting comfortably at only €2 per glass. And these aren't just 'tastings', these are full glasses of wine. Fasten your seatbelts! (Closed Sunday)
- A great place to start your self-guided wine tour, Max Bordeaux takes pride in teaching you about the region's different wines, the châteaux around the area and the different grape varieties used to produce 'Left Bank' and 'Right Bank' wines. The wine tasting here is also fantastic: you are given a card which you pre-load with however much money you like, slot the card into the wine fridge of your choice, choose your volume, and then wait as the desired amount fills your glass! (Closed Sunday)
- Many places close too early for a late night libation but if you're not quite ready for bed, look no further than Aux Quatre Coins du Vin. Using the same pre-loaded card method, this bar offers some great wines as well as some rather expensive bubbles. Ever wanted to just try a €300 bottle of Champagne? Well here you can, for only €3! (Open Monday & Tuesday until 12am, Wednesday-Saturday until 1am)
- One thing to bear in mind throughout your bar-hopping is that many places require, by licence, that you order food to go with your wine. Many places offer small dishes or charcuterie boards, but the cost can really rack up! The above three bars, all listed on the Urban Wine Trail, do not require you to order food. Le Flacon and L'Oenolimit are two that do, but come recommended nevertheless (both closed Sunday). If bubbles are more your thing, head to Secret d’Initiés where they do Champagne by the glass and, even better, seem to circumvent the food issue by serving a small tasting plate with your drink. Score!
- If you're sick of wine by this stage (surely not...) then head to Gintoneria, located just off Place Saint Pierre. Here you will discover an array of gins from around the world, the delights of different flavoured tonics, and some pretty funky herbs, spices and other fauna used to jazz up your drink. (Closed Sunday & Monday)