Nestled in the south of France on the banks of the Garonne River, Bordeaux is France’s most famous wine region. This UNESCO-listed vibrant and cosmopolitan city has had a vast makeover in recent years but retains old-age charm and beauty. Bordeaux is also famous for its food scene, booming with bistros, gourmet restaurants and cosy café’s.
With a high-speed train connection from Paris taking just two hours, it’s even more accessible from major European cities. And from Ireland, just a short 90 minute flight. We’ve explored some of the city’s best sites, unmissable attractions, local art scene, plus much more.
WHERE TO STAY
Luckily, Bordeaux offers a great mix of cheap, mid-range and boutique hotels in the inner city. Some are housed in the neo-classical buildings that line the streets, while others have been newly built with modern designs. Stay further afield in the smaller towns and villages of Saint-Émilion and Prignac-et- Marcamps, and you can experience a Château in the wine country or a family-run guesthouse.
Although Bordeaux is a city you can explore quite well on foot, with new transport systems in place and river cruises to enjoy, why not make the most of it? Not only can you use the tram system, you can enjoy a hop-on hop-off bus tour, ride a river shuttle or go back in time with a touristic train tour around Bordeaux’s oldest areas. The Bordeaux city pass gives you access to all of this, plus 20 museums and various discounts on wine tours and more.
The Bordeaux Tourist Office offer several tours, which makes getting around easier and quite efficient. Whether you choose to go on a walking tour of the main points of interest or savour French cuisine on a food tour, you’ll learn plenty about Bordeaux and its community.
THINGS TO DO
On your Bordeaux city break, you should take some time to explore some (or all!) of the major museums including the Natural History Museum, Museum of Fine Arts and newly built Cité du Vin which opened in 2016 and celebrates the city’s wine culture. Some of the historic landmarks worth visiting are the symbolic Place de la Bourse, Palais Rohan, Saint-André Cathedral and Pey-Berland Tower.
Once you’ve learned all there is to know about Bordeaux interesting past you might want to explore some of the urban areas and new initiatives in the city. Darwin is a former military barracks right on the river bank and has been transformed into a community space with graffiti art, co-working spaces, an indoor skate park, an organic grocery store, and the seafood restaurant Chantiers de la Garonne which has a man-made beach.
If you happen to visit during the summer months, it’s always a good idea to explore local parks and Bordeaux has plenty. The Botanical Garden is one of the riverside riches and was built in 1997, designed by landscape artist Catherine Mosbach and architect Françoise-Hélène Jourda. Another vast green space is Palmers Park, with 25 acres of tiered lawn and a grand cultural centre dedicated to musicians.
Recognised as the wine capital, Bordeaux is home to a pretty impressive gastronomy scene too. There’s a great mix of traditional French brasserie’s and fusion restaurants, street food and fine dining. On Rue Sainte-Catherine, the city’s main shopping street, you’ll find international high street and beauty chains and all manner of fast food joints. There are also a handful of creperie’s, casual eateries and coffee shops.
The options really are endless for dining in Bordeaux. For a mid-range sit-down meal, head downtown to Café Maritime which serves authentic French dishes in an impressive 700 m2 space. Likewise, Comptior Cuisine opposite Place de la Comédie provides a stylish and sociable atmosphere. Nofa is one of the most recommended restaurants, tucked away on Rue du Hâ. It’s small and modern with imaginative dishes that look (almost) too good to eat.
By night, there are some key places to visit for dinner and drinks, music and entertainment. L’I.Boat is a permanent ferry docked in the historic quarter spread across three levels. There’s a restaurant, cocktail bar, living room, heated terrace and concert hall on-board. For live music with a casual setting, try L’Apollo, a soul and funk themed bar. Rock fans will appreciate venues such as Wunderbar, El Chicho and El Boqueron.
Of course, there are enough wine bars in Bordeaux to rival the Garonne River! Try the vintage styled La Comtesse, the hidden gem Le Millésime, or Aux Quatre Coins du Vin with over 800 bottles of wine to choose from. Bordeaux also hosts many contemporary music events, festivals and concerts and some of the main venues include the Rock School of Barbey, Krakotoa at Mérignac and Rocher de Palmer at Cenon.