Fall in Love with Bordeaux: A Guide to One of the Most Elegant Cities in France
Bordeaux is the name of France’s most renowned wine-producing areas and also one of the country’s most beautiful cities. Although there are many excellent wineries to see and enjoy, that’s not all the region has to offer. Boasting magnificent architecture, captivating history, and outstanding cuisine, the capital city of Nouvelle Aquitaine has something for everyone. Be ready to fall in love with Bordeaux!
This place has never been a more enjoyable location to visit than it is right now thanks to its selection of new boutique hotels, fantastic restaurants, and festivals. In addition, the pedestrian-only zones and Place des Quinconces, the largest public plaza in France, makes the entire city quite walkable.
It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has grown significantly during the past few decades. It is most noticeable in the city’s innovative new bridge, which combines modern and futuristic design elements. And now, thanks to the introduction of high-speed train service, you can get to Bordeaux from Paris in just 2 hours!
Bordeaux’s Stunning Architecture and Vibe
Port City: La Garonne, The Quays, Miroir D’Eau and the Vieux Pont
The beauty of Bordeaux is what will impress you the most. Its stunning waterfront with the quayside and the 18th-century exteriors along the river contribute to this impression.
With all its features, this city section establishes a new way of life for all of Bordeaux. You may go for a stroll, ride a bicycle or just rest and enjoy yourself in the greenery that lines the Garonne.
Le Miroir d’Eau, the reflecting pool built in 2006 opposite from Place de la Bourse, captures the lively, enchanted spirit of the quays. From its vantage point, the Vieux Pont and its 17-stone arches offers breathtaking views, and the bridge itself is a good sample of the Napoleonic style of architecture that characterizes the whole riverfront.
From 15th c. Houses to Modern Structures
The Bordeaux city center is full of sites that are sure to catch your eye. The 18th c. Grand Theatre is an exquisite house that will astound you with its beauty, elegance, and the quality of its performances. The imposing medieval Cailhau gate from 1494 is reminiscent of an age long gone. Take the time to wonder around, look at the facades and admire the architectural details of this beautiful city.
Another structure is the modern Cité du Vin, a cultural center where the world of wine comes to life via an interactive, multisensory experience. There is no other place like La Cité du Vin in the world. Here you’ll get a new perspective on wine within the context of striking architecture.
These few notable pieces of architecture mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. Bordeaux has much more you need to discover and appreciate in person.
Little Squares Filled With Cafe and Restaurants for a Unique French Vibe
Located away from the madding crowds is the placé du Marché des Chartrons, a quiet village square. Restaurants have added to their terraces and turned the market square in Chartrons into a cultural hub. This welcoming family environment is punctuated by lively discussions, laughing, and glasses clinking, radiating a genuine sense of community.
While exploring Saint-Pierre, you’ll come across Place du Parlement, where you’ll discover other casual patios frequented by international travelers. Place du Parlement is the best spot for weekend brunches, late-night munchies, and beverages after work any day of the week.
A bit farther to the south lies Place du Palais, which offers stunning panoramas of the Cailhau Gate. In 2009, the square had a comprehensive renovation that elegantly accentuated its distinctive triangle form and was surrounded by its array of restaurant terraces.
Amidst the bustle of Bordeaux’s main streets are a few covered arcades that transport you back in time to the retail centers of the past. A good example is Passage Sargent, a beautiful walkway that links Place du Chapelet and Cours de maintenance. The arcade’s glass ceiling and metal support beams contribute to the one-of-a-kind vibe that permeates the space. Somewhat older, Galerie Bordelaise cuts a peculiar diagonal across the center of the houses on each side, connecting the streets of Rue Sainte-Catherine and Rue des Piliers de Tutelle. You can’t walk this route and fail to see the iconic Verdun model and toy store.
There are many shops in the streets of Bordeaux so have your credit cards ready for a fantastic shopping spree. Sainte-Catherine Street is the city’s “backbone,” linking the city’s central plazas, the Place de la Victoire and the Place de la Comédie. The 1.2-kilometer-long boulevard is lined with many well-known classic French stores like Galerie Lafayette.
Rue Notre-Dame is another famous major avenue in the Chartrons neighborhood and a symbol of its historic, bohemian character. In addition, about forty antique stores on rue Notre-Dame are the reason for the street’s fame. The neighborhood’s quaint, village vibe has also attracted several home goods businesses, galleries, and mom-and-pop shops.
Foodies, Be Ready to Indulge Yourself in French Food
Covered Markets Filled With Local Food
Walking through a farmer’s market while carrying a fresh baguette is the ultimate French experience. Visiting one of Bordeaux’s numerous farmers’ markets is an excellent chance to sample the region’s fresh vegetables, learn about the city’s history, and help out local businesses.
Plus, you can get a drink, some snacks, or maybe breakfast at any local farmers market in Bordeaux. Foodies may find anything from fresh produce and seafood to smoked meats and cheeses. One of the most well-liked places to visit in Bordeaux, whether on your own or as part of a cuisine tour, is Marché des Capucins. This market is open every day of the year, making it ideal for last-minute grocery runs before a trip to the kitchen or a riverside picnic. The market is also home to a wide variety of eateries, guaranteeing that everyone will find something to their liking.
Another great covered market is Les Halles de Bacalan where you could stop by after exploring the renowned wine museum. Choose from a wide variety of unusual dishes and a decent range of European wines, or get a coffee and a pastry. On Saturdays and Sundays, the market is very hectic at midday. Early arrival is encouraged to avoid waiting in line and secure a seat.
If you plan to sample local cuisines and regional wines on a walking food tour in Bordeaux, feel free to book with the best in business: Anne Jordan.
Despite Bordeaux’s reputation as the world’s wine capital, the city’s dining options have historically lagged behind those of other major French cities. However, due to the city’s development, that is history and Bordeaux now boasts a top-tier French gastronomy scene that rivals Lyon and Paris. The following is a small selection of our preferred city eateries:
1. Cabane 101
A small oyster restaurant on Place du Marché des Chartrons with great vibes at night. Some other items available on the menu.
2. Casa Gaia
One of the local’s favorites. It is a farm-to-table restaurant using only seasonal and organic products.
A classic Steak & Frites restaurant: 170 grams sirloin steak drizzled over with the restaurant’s signature secret sauce and as many French fries as you can consume. As an appetizer, there is a veggie salad with walnuts included. This prix fixe menu is all you can choose from. You can only decide how you’d want your steak grilled.
The recipe has not changed since Henri Gineste, the restaurant’s creator, launched the first establishment, in Toulouse, in 1962. No reservations. To secure a table, arrive at the restaurant half an hour before service begins.
4. L’Avant-Comptoir du Palais
Excellent tapas restaurant on Place du Palais by the magnificent Porte Cailhau. This would be a great opportunity to try some small plates of Basque food!
5. Papà Lello
Trendy and classy pizzeria on the quays. Delicious thin crust pizza to be paired with a Spritz cocktails. We recommend the cream and truffle pizza.
The InterContinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hotel is home to Gordon Ramsay’s Le Pressoir d’Argent. Gordon Ramsay and the kitchen staff at Le Pressoir d’Argent developed a menu with exquisite items sourced from the area, showing a deep appreciation for the quality of their products and their place of origin.
Another fantastic establishment is Le Quatrième Mur. It is in the center of the Grand Théâtre. Everyone who visits this restaurant adores the wonderful French food on the menu, and the service is excellent. The broad wine selection can meet any customer’s demands.
Chocolate and Pastry Shops
Bordeaux’s Cassonade, situated beneath the Grosse Cloche, is a bakery and cafe famed for its cannelé, a little caramelized cake that’s helped make the city famous across the globe. Also, cannelés come in different flavors and varieties, from rum and vanilla to vegan.
Among Bordeaux’s many chocolatiers, Cadiot-Badie Chocolate is one of the city’s oldest and most well-known. It was set up on 26 All. de Tourny in 1826, much to the pleasure of foodies everywhere. Every year, they come up with new and unique chocolate varieties.
Dunes Blanches Chez Pascal offers just one product, the little puff pastries, and only one flavor-with the exception of weekends when a rotating flavor is provided and advertised on the business’s Facebook page on Mondays.
Visit Patisserie Micheline et Paulette if you’ve always wanted to try French pastries but never had the opportunity. You’ll be served some deliciously prepared pies and other delicious desserts including Pavlova, parfait, and biscuits. This pastry shop is sure to satisfy your sugary appetite.
Bordeaux: Wine Capital of the World
When it comes to producing high-quality wines, no other region compares to Bordeaux. It’s a sizable area with a wide variety of wines from lesser-known appellations and the more prestigious cru classés. The various soils, climates, and the skill and attention given to the vineyard by those who create the wine are responsible for the variety in flavor and style.
Located between the Atlantic and the left bank of the Gironde estuary (where the Garonne and Dordogne river meet) the Medoc wine region of Bordeaux is composed of about 39,500 acres of vines. It is home to four of the world’s most prestigious wine villages: Pauillac, Margaux, Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien and 60 Grand Cru Classes listed in the Bordeaux 1855 classification. This region produces mostly red wines.
Booking a day trip is the best way to take full advantage of the experience as many wine estates require reservations. If you wish to visit one of the five 1er Cru Classes Chateaus (Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux, Château Mouton Rothschild and also Château Haut-Brion in Pessac-Léognan) make sure to plan your visit 6 months in advance at a minimum.
St Emilion Wineries
Saint Emilion needs no introduction to connoisseurs of fine wines. Although it only accounts for 6% of the vines in the Bordeaux designation, the little wine appellation has long been considered among the world’s best. St Emilion is also one of the cutest medieval villages in the region. It’s easy to see why over a million people go there yearly. To fully appreciate the St Emilion wineries, you can always book a one-day trip from Bordeaux. We actually recommend spending the night there as there is so much to see and do!
La Cite du Vin
Located in the heart of Bordeaux, La Cité du Vin is a one-of-a-kind cultural center celebrating wine as a living, global legacy. Make sure to allow a few hours on site to fully take advantage of all the facilities. Your ticket includes a glass of wine at the Belvedere located on 7th floor of the building from where you can enjoy a 360 view above Bordeaux, the Garonne river and its surroundings. If you have time enjoy lunch with a view at the restaurant on site.
Many Wine Bars
The primary focus of a Bordeaux wine bar is not on heavy drinking and wild celebrations. More than anything, they are about relaxing, socializing, and having fun. In typical French fashion, a laid-back place to sip wine, eat a meal and watch the world go by. A good example is Le Bar à Vin which provides the most extensive pour-by-the-glass range of Bordeaux wines, emphasizing promoting the region’s vintners. Other wine bars include Le Vertige, Aux 4 Coins du Vin, Un Château en Ville, Le Métropolitain, and many others.
History and Art to Complete Your Journey
From the tenth century on, the Dukes of Aquitaine ruled over Bordeaux. After King Henry II of England wed Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 12th century, the whole Gironde region became wealthy and established a wine export industry to supply the United Kingdom.
There are 362 historical monuments in Bordeaux, many dating back to the 18th century. The La Bastide district and the downtown area are linked by the Pont de Pierre, also known as the Stone Bridge. Although the bridge’s construction occurred between 1819 and 1822, it was conceived during Napoleon I’s rule. There are many other historical landmarks, such as the Bordeaux Cathedral, the Porte Cailhau, the Grosse Cloche which you can enjoy by booking a walking tour of the city.
Les Bassins de Lumières a prominent art center inside a former U-boat base features massive immersive digital displays dedicated to the most influential artists throughout art history and the current day. Each year a new exhibition attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.
And for over two centuries, the Grand Theater has been Bordeaux’s crowning cultural achievement, bringing pleasure to its residents and tourists alike. The Grand Theatre is home to one of the world’s most exquisite music halls from the 18th century. Depending on the timetable for rehearsals and performances, this neo-classical monument may be visited at any time of the year.
You will also be able to find a fine arts museum, a contemporary art museum and the Musée d’Aquitaine home to an array of artifacts and displays detailing the history of this important region.
When planning a trip to France, make sure Bordeaux is at the top of your itinerary. You will find that you simply cant get enough of the city’s delicious wine, fascinating museums, and local food. Furthermore, it is easy to get there using BOD airport or train. By train it is just a 2h15m train ride from Paris, 3hrs from Carcassonne, 4h30m from Montpellier, 6hrs from Marseille, and 1h45m from Bayonne.
Remember, there are many places you can visit outside of Bordeaux. A small selection of the sites available to you outside the city limits includes St. Emilion, as mentioned above, and the region around Arcachon, known for its oyster farms. The area around the Dordogne is also a must see, known for its beautiful medieval villages like Sarlat, castles, and the Dordogne River Valley. Finally the Basque region, South of Bordeaux, is known for Bayonne, Biarritz, St. Jean de Luz and the world-famous San Sebastian, Spain.
To experience the highlights of Bordeaux from this article, you can join us on a 8 day Bordeaux and Dordogne Small Group Tour of the region with an expert local guide and a small group of like-minded tourists to make friends and memories along the way. Click here to see our tour: https://tripusafrance.com/bordeaux-dordogne-tour/