Bordeaux is not just a wine-producing town – it is a thriving city in its own right.
Annual river and wine fête in June every year
Bordeaux’s big party takes place every year in June, alternating between the River Festival (2017) and the Wine Festival (2018). Expect music and entertainments, quayside fireworks and enough food and wine to satisfy the most ardent gastronomes.
Urban wine trail
A wine bar odyssey that will lead you to hidden gems strung across Bordeaux’s many old quartiers – a pleasing way to discover some of Bordeaux’s diverse wines without muddying your mules in a vineyard. Website: www.bordeauxwinetrip.fr
Discover Les Chartrons
The old wine merchants’ district of Les Chartrons is now the home of many antiques and vintage shops, chic new restaurants and funky designer furnishing and clothing stores. And when the bobo crowds get too much you are just a moment’s promenade from the freedom and open-air delights of the quayside.
Since the city has cured much of its former traffic problem it has become a safer place to discover by bike – the sinuous quayside along the Garonne has cycle lanes for a grand view of the river and you can freely cycle through many of the old medieval streets. Rent one of the city’s own from a bike stand or join a tour. The Gironde cycle guide reveals cycle routes both in the city and countryside. Why not head out to the vineyards and get to know the château trails on two wheels – but don’t overdo the dégustations! Website: www.bordeaux-bike-experience.com
The old city
Become a flâneur (a wanderer) for a day and meander through the many historic, now pedestrianised lanes of the old Saint-Pierre quartier where tourists and students alike hang out at bars, bookshops, cafés and restaurants. The area around the clocktower, the Grosse Cloche, is becoming hipster central with growing numbers of vintage shops, bohemian wine bars and artisan food shops – and when you have seen and tasted enough wine there’s L’Amirale, an artisan brewery and beer specialist.
There are some fine museums in the city to help you appreciate the diverse history of Bordeaux. In the Chartrons district there’s a small museum devoted to the history of the wine trade. Elsewhere, you can enjoy contemporary arts, decorative arts, ethnography, art brut, (so-called ‘outsider art’). Meanwhile, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux is a world-class collection of artworks including masterpieces by Rodin, Corot, Delacroix, Matisse and Bordeaux artist Odilon Redon, amongst many others. Website: www.musba-bordeaux.fr
Phare de Cordouan
Visit the last remaining offshore lighthouse open to the public, a magnificent piece of architecture built to protect sailors at the mouth of the Gironde estuary. Website: www.phare-de-cordouan.fr
Discover Bordeaux and its wines with local experts
Sylvie Berteaux takes visitors on tours of the city to discover some of its hidden culinary delights and gastronomic specialities. Website: miam-bordeaux.fr
Stephan-Henri Soutre is a wine and food connoisseur who leads customised tours of the vineyards, châteaux, museums and restaurants. Website: www.bordeauxalacarte.com
Pauline Robin Champeil is a winemaker and wine teacher, leading tours of the vineyards and also running classes and workshops. Website: www.lesateliersdebacchus.com/en
Boat trips on the Garonne
Left bank, right bank? Get another perspective on Bordeaux’s wine – see both banks of the river and stop for vineyard visits on one of the many boat tours leaving from the city centre or the Cité du Vin. Websites: www.bordeaux-river-cruise.com and www.bordeaux-tourism.co.uk/What-to-see-do/Leisure/Cruises-boat-tours
A little way out of town, but still worth a mention here, as we haven’t mentioned it elsewhere. This is the place to discover the humble but affordable Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur wines. Website: www.planete-bordeaux.fr
From France Today magazine