Bordeaux is one of the best known wine regions in the world, but most of us know little about the city of Bordeaux. Located in the Southwest of France, Bordeaux is the only city in the world to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site!
I have a hunch there will be another wine from Bordeaux in this advent calendar, so will wait to discuss the Bordeaux region later and primarily keep to providing information on the city in this post.
A visit to its recently opened and widely acclaimed Cité du Vin (city of wine) museum and exhibition seems an appropriate introduction to the city’s history and wine industry, and includes a wine tasting with your entry ticket!
Apart from wine though, Bordeaux offers much as a city destination. Similar to Paris, the city of Bordeaux has a left bank and right bank (the Garonne River), making river bank strolls popular. Bordeaux’s public transport system includes boat rides on the river, providing a different view of the city. The city’s diligent work to preserve and maintain more than 5,000 unique architectural buildings and 347 historical monuments is evident, making it one of the most complete collections of architectural history anywhere in the world.
Numerous named “place” (le Place des Quinconces is the largest square in Europe), and “quartier” provide historically defined areas of the city that will have you exploring from morning to night. Each area offers up its specialty, whether medieval architecture, 18th- to 19th-century mansions, notable art museums, WWII historical site, an 18th century Grand Théatre where you can still take in performances, local independent shops, bell towers (the 230-step tower of Saint-André Cathedral provides one of the best views of the city), hidden passages, Roman ruins, chic boutiques, bars and restaurants – did I mention Bordeaux has the largest number of restaurants per capita in France?
photos courtesy of Bordeaux Tourism Office, AmaWaterways and Scenic River Cruises
For shoppers, Bordeaux will also not disappoint! The river banks are lined with big brand discount outlets, plus La Rue Sainte-Catherine, the city’s main shopping area, is recognized as the largest pedestrianised street in Europe. Numerous neighborhood vintage and antique shops also beckon to be explored.
Situated near the Atlantic Ocean, at the mouth of the Garonne River near the Atlantic Coast, just a few hours north of Spain, and a few hours from Paris, Bordeaux (the city as well as the region) can easily be part of your Europe travel itinerary. And with a Eurostar train route between London and Bordeaux currently in the works, it will soon be even easier to include Bordeaux on a UK/France and beyond trip.
Allow 3 days to visit Bordeaux, which could include a vineyard visit. Given its location, a trip from Bordeaux to Lisbon (allow 10 days) would make a lovely coastal journey and could include Portugal’s Douro Valley (see Day 1).
Bordeaux experiences peak times between June and August when many French and other Europeans visit. If you prefer smaller crowds, spring or autumn times are better, except for September when some wineries don’t allow visitors due to busy harvest time.
With France always a popular destination among Americans as well as Europeans and the rest of the world, book your Bordeaux vacation at least 9 months prior to your travel dates. Suppliers have now published rates for 2021 and some of 2022, and with no risk cancellation policies, book early discounts, reduced deposits and other special offers, you can confidently plan your Bordeaux vacation now.
WHEN TO GO: Spring or Fall, Allow at least 3 full days in Bordeaux, more days if taking in surrounding countryside, regions and/or countries
POPULAR TRAVEL STYLES: Small Private Groups, River Cruise, Small Ship Cruise, Independent Travel
IDEAL FOR: Culinary/Wine, Romantic Travel, Bicycling, History, City Stay, Regional Travel or Multi-Country Tour