Holidays in Bordeaux
- Good forfoodie breaks
- Don't misswine tasting
- Best time to visitspring and summer
Bordeaux is world famous for its Clarets, but there’s a lot more to discover in and around this city than just wine. A large part of the city centre has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the reason becomes obvious as you walk through the streets. There are so many fabulous buildings to visit, you may have to stay a bit longer just to pack them all in.
If you fancy a bit of shopping, rue Sainte-Catherine is the longest shopping street in France. At nearly three kilometres long, it should satisfy even the most enthusiastic of shopaholics. The street is mainly pedestrianised with plenty of cafés and restaurants where you can stop to rest and refuel.
Once you’ve explored the city itself, you then have the surrounding vineyards to visit, and there are a lot of them, over 120,000 hectares to be specific. If you’re not renting a car, or you plan on doing a lot of tasting but not a lot of spitting, you may want to take a wine tour. There are plenty on offer from the Tourist Board, which even offers a selection of wine cruises where you can sample the wines as you float along the Garonne, what’s not to like?
With the new high-speed train from Paris you can now leave London and be in Bordeaux sampling some of the local wine in under 5 hrs 30 mins.
Burgundy makes you think of silly things; Bordeaux makes you talk about them, and Champagne makes you do them.
As part of the city’s regeneration, the whole riverfront area has been redeveloped, turning the banks of the Gironde into a wide pedestrian boulevard punctuated with parks and gardens. This is the perfect place to walk, cycle, roller skate or just relax, while enjoying fabulous views of the city.
There’s a massive water feature on the quays next to Place de la Bourse called the Miroir d’eau (water mirror), a large sheet of water, shallow enough to be walked on, which acts as a mirror reflecting the amazing architecture of the Place. It’s also great for cooling off when the weather gets hot and kids can have a blast splashing about.
The town centre
There are so many fabulous buildings and monuments in the centre, it’s hard to pick just one. The tourist board organise a two-hour walk through the centre which takes in most of the main sights, including:
- Grand Théatre
- Cours de Chapeau-Rouge – neo classical architecture at its best
- Place de la Bourse - where you can also see the mirroir d’eau
- Porte Cailhau – a renaissance triumphal arch
- The Medieval Saint Pierre district
- Saint-Andre catherdral
- Palais Rohan – a former Archbishop’s residence, now the town hall.
The tour is a great way to get your bearings and decide what you want to go back and visit at greater length during your Bordeaux holiday.
Quai des Marques – outlet village
Unlike most shopping centres in France, this outlet village is open on Sundays, so it’s a great place to go while away a few hours and pick up some bargains when most other things are closed. If you’re driving, there’s parking nearby and a handy tram stop if you’re not.
There’s a great view of the ultra-modern Chaban-Delmas lift bridge from the quay, so less enthusiastic shoppers can wait in one of the bars or restaurants watching the bridge lift to let boats through, while others are shopping in the 34 discount boutiques that stock over 400 brands.
La Cité du Vin
This space-age looking building is pretty much a temple to wine, everything you’ve ever wanted to know about it will be answered here. It’s a museum, a gallery, an exhibition space, a conference centre and a theatre, all rolled in to one amazing modern building and all focused on the glorious grape.
Do a wine-tasting workshop and find out how to taste wine like a pro. You can ask all those questions you’ve always wanted to ask about top notes and legs without feeling stupid. A lot of the classes are in French so do check before booking if you’re not too fluent.
Musée de la Création Franche
If you like your art a bit more challenging, then this little museum, slightly off the beaten track, is the place for you. The museum is a bit out of the centre so doesn’t get as much traffic as some of the more central museums, allowing you to really browse the exhibits.
This is not your usual art museum, so don’t go expecting classical works or well-known artists. This is all about art brut (outsider art), works by self-taught artists, psychiatric patients, children, anyone outside the official art scene. It’s raw, spontaneous and unpretentious and not everyone’s cup of tea.
The museum is open on Mondays, unlike a lot of other monuments and tourist sites in France. To get there, Stade Musard stop on Tramline C is about a 10 minute walk from the museum or you can take the bus.
Eat like a local in Bordeaux
The best introduction to Bordelaise food is a visit to the Marché des Capucins, tram stop Place de la Victoire - Quai Sainte Croix. Here, you’ll find butchers, bakers, cheesemongers, seafood stands, chocolatiers and every other kind of food seller you could want. Stop and have a crêpe or a plate of moules frites if looking at all that glorious produce is making you hungry.
The best introduction to Bordelaise food is a visit to the Marché des Capucins , tram stop Place de la Victoire - Quai Sainte Croix. Here, you’ll find butchers, bakers, cheesemongers, seafood stands, chocolatiers and every other kind of food seller you could want. Stop and have a crepe or a plate of moules frites if looking at all that glorious produce is making you hungry.
Top 5 local specialities to try in Bordeaux
1. Canelés Bordelais – slightly rubbery, caramelised sponge cakes with a distinctive fluted shape and a custardy centre - bit of an acquired taste. You’ll find them in Baillardran outlets all around the city.
2. Shellfish – super-fresh mussels, oysters and all the rest are readily available due to the city’s proximity to the sea.
3. Entrecôte marchand de vin – steak with a reduced (Bordeaux) wine sauce - a local favourite, found on most menus
4. Noisettines du Medoc – roasted hazelnuts coated in caramelised sugar and rolled in crunchy caramel. Delicious, moreish and tooth-achingly sweet.
5. Grenier Médocain – local pork charcuterie made with pig’s stomach, garlic and spices – yum!
Walking is generally the best way to see a city and soak up the atmosphere, but public transport is a useful option when your feet start to ache. Bordeaux has a great network of buses and trams that will get you pretty much anywhere in the city.
From Gare St-Jean station, tramline C will take you into the centre in no time. Trams run every 3-10 minutes from 5:30 am and a ticket costs around €1.50.
There are three man tram lines, A, B and C which all start in the centre and radiate out.
There is also BATCUB, a riverboat that connects with bus routes and tramways.
TBM (Transport Bordeaux Metropole) has a great interactive map that shows all the bus, riverboat and tram routes.
Another great way to get around, once you’ve got your bearings, is by bike. VCUB has 1,800 bikes at 166 bike stations throughout the city. The system is similar to Velib in Paris or Santander Cycles in London. The first 30 minutes is free for members, after that it’s €2 an hour.
Get yourself a CityPass, this covers unlimited public transport, entry to most museums and exhibitions and a free walking tour through the old town (in French and English). It will also get you reductions on wine tours and other activities and comes with its own app which acts as a personal assistant giving advice, directions and even makes reservations.
There are three different versions, each for different lengths of stay. The pass is most useful when you are visiting in peak season as some of the buildings and monuments are shut off peak.
Winter in Music – Jazz and Blues Music festival
Winter in Music – Jazz and Blues Music festival
Cartoon film festival
Bordeaux Swing art festival
Fous Rires comedy festival
Bordeaux Metropolis Marathon
European Opera days
12th weekend des Grands Crus wine festival
Bordeaux river festival
Bordeaux Metropolitan Summer festival
Bordeaux International Arts festival
Wine and Flea market
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Image credits: © Getty; © Getty; © Thomas Sanson / Bordeaux Tourisme; © Thomas Sanson / Bordeaux Tourisme; © Vincent Bengold / Bordeaux Tourisme; © Musée de la Création Franche, permanent collection; © Vincent Bengold / Bordeaux Tourisme; © Thomas Sanson / Bordeaux Tourisme; © Gilles Arroyo / Bordeaux Tourisme