I’ve always had a soft spot for France, with almost all my family holidays as a child taking me there. However, it wasn’t until my early twenties that I had the opportunity to visit the gorgeous city of Bordeaux – a UNESCO World Heritage city, famous wine-growing region and home to a stunning city centre and port area. While I travelled to Bordeaux for the wine, I stayed for just about everything else!
When to visit Bordeaux
To be honest, any time of the year is a great time to visit Bordeaux, but your trip will be even more memorable if you travel here during one of the cities many festivals and in the Spring or Summer when the weather is warmer and sunshine is almost guaranteed.
I was lucky enough to be in Bordeaux during their Wine Festival, which also included the arrival of some of the world’s most beautiful Tall Ships, as part of the Tall Ships Regatta.
Festivals to look out for include the Bordeaux Wine Festival in June, the Bordeaux Beer Festival in March, the Bordeaux Rock Festival and Festival Garorock.
A quick glance at the official Bordeaux Tourism site and you will find a vast array of other festivals, mainly in the spring and summer months, ranging from Ska and Reggae festivals to big concerts, piano performances and a lot of wine-themed extravaganzas. Have I sold you on Bordeaux yet?!
It’s also worth waiting until April 2020 as the world’s largest digital art centre will be opening in the city: the Bassins de Lumières. This incredible cultural centre is set to be located in a former submarine base, with a vast array of exhibitions on display devoted to the major artists in the history of art and contemporary art from around the world.
Similar to the Miroir D’eau mentioned further down in this article, the artwork will be reflected in huge basins of water on the floor of the submarine base.
Let’s start with (most likely) the main reason you’re planning a trip to the South of France: wine tasting!
With 22 bottles of wine from Bordeaux sold every second all over the world, it’s no surprise people come here for the wine. While it’s true that some of France’s most famous wineries and vineyards can be found about 30 or 40km outside of Bordeaux city, and certainly worth a day trip or two, you can also have some memorable wine-themed experiences without ever living the city limits.
My trip to Bordeaux was short and sweet, so I didn’t have time to do a day trip to popular wine areas like Saint Emilion or the Médoc region. Instead, I was able to do more than enough wine tasting sessions within the city.
My top recommendation is stopping by Un Château en Ville, a bar owned by a winery that lets visitors feels as if they’re as a winery without ever leaving the city. You get to taste 3 glasses of wine (one red, one white and one rose) for just 6 euro per person, and there are also food pairings such as cheese, oysters and small tapas should you feel peckish.
Another fun stop is Wine more time, where you can choose wines from many different wineries and regions rather than just one winery. The charge here is per person, but you actually need a group of 5 or more people, as they open new bottles of wine for each group – with over 400 bottles to choose from!
You can also pop into many of the wine shops in the city to do quick tastings if that’s more your style. Many wine stores, some of which do gourmet food too, will offer a tasting session of 4 or 5 glasses for about 10 euro per person. It’s a fun way to work out which wine is your favorite before making some bigger purchases.
Finally, a trip to the La Cité du Vin is perfect for wine aficionados interested in the history of wine-making both in France and around the world. You can spend a few hours exploring the centre and then finish up with a glass of wine with a view at the rooftop bar – at 35 meters high it has one of the best views in the city.
A taste of Bordeaux history
Many people don’t know that Bordeaux, one of the top French cities, is the most extensive urban environment in the world to be honored with the title of UNESCO World Heritage site. While most people are quick to travel to Paris for its world-famous historic and cultural sites, Bordeaux is home to just as many architectural wonders and fascinating museum sites.
The Miroir D’eau
The Miroir d’eau in Bordeaux is the world’s largest reflecting pool and is now the most photographed location in the city. The shallow pond, filled with just 2cm of water, covers an area of over 3450 sq meters. The pool itself is just 14 years old, but it reflects one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in the city, perfectly mirroring the 18th-century façades of the Place De La Bourse.
The pool alternates from a perfect mirror image of the square, and artificial mist that rises up from it every 15 minutes, creating a truly magical feel.
Bordeaux Old Town
Vieille Ville is the oldest part of Bordeaux city and where you will find its historic sites such the big bell tower, Place Pey-Berland, Bordeaux Opera House, and Port Cailhau, a 15th-century door to the city, as well as other buildings with elegant architecture and numerous wine bars!
There’s also a fun flea market to check out during the day as well as some of Bordeaux’s oldest and most beautiful churches and cathedrals including L’Eglise Notre Dame – the oldest in the city.
Musee de la Mer et de la Marine
This art museum is one of the newest additions to the Bordeaux art and culture scene, opening its doors in June 2019. The permanent collection shows off the link between the sea world and the art world, a nod to the fact that Bordeaux was once home to the largest port in Europe and has a long seafaring history.
There are also many temporary exhibitions, including one currently running that’s dedicated to the art and genius creations on Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci.
Where to stay in Bordeaux
I would say one of the absolute best things about Bordeaux is the incredible choice of accommodation on offer. Whatever your budget, you’ll find something perfectly suited to your tastes. And if budget isn’t an option, you can go all out and book yourself into a French castle!
That’s right, there are actually quite a few French Chateaux’s in Bordeaux that you can sleep in. Many of these luxury residences, will make you feel like a French Royal, with amazing unique accommodation options available, you might even want to rent an entire castle all to yourself.
NOTE: This article is a paid partnership with Tourism France as part of their Top French Cities campaign.