The International capital of wine, a city I have always been drawn to for this reason. Being a wine lover, especially wines from this region I decided to make this the first stop of my European adventure. My goal: to discover more, both about wine and the cities I would be visiting, go places I’ve never been, taste all of the wines of the world, and to never stop learning. More than just an incredible destination for wine and wine tours, this beautiful city boasts more than that, so instead of venturing out to explore the wineries around with the little time I had, I decided to stay within the city limits and explore what it had to offer.
Arriving by plane I could already see that Bordeaux would be easily navigable as it’s a smaller airport compared to others in Europe, directional signs are both in French and English and point you in the direction of rental cars and ground transportation. The cheapest way to get to the city is by bus, it costs ~2 Euros and you pay right on the bus. Make sure you’ve got small change on you as they can’t always make change and accept cash only. It takes 30-45 minutes to get to the city center and once there everything is close by.
I don’t have any hotel recommendations for this area as I did not stay in a hotel but the Intercontinental Hotel across from the Grand Theater looked like an incredible place to stay just from the outside and right in the center of everything (this would definitely be a luxury hotel stay!) Another fun looking spot was Mama Shelter-more budget friendly spot and fantastic rooftop.
Time to explore…
Our first stop was the Miroir d’Eau (Water Mirror). It’s the largest water mirror in the world and alternates between mirror and fog effects. On hot days (as it was that day) it is a popular place for people of all ages to run through and play in the water. The Water Mirror is located directly across from the Place de la Bourse. The Place de la Bourse symbolizes Bordeaux’s opening onto the River Garonne and the rest of the world. It has two wings and a central pavilion, there is a Museum you can visit here: The National Customs Museum, to learn about the history of French customs. In the middle of the square is a magnificent fountain: The Fountain of the Three Graces.
All around the water mirror are beautiful rows of perfectly manicured gardens and grassy areas, a popular place among friends, couples, families, and even just for solo travelers to stop by and read a book in a beautiful setting. Situated right along the river it is a beautiful place to enjoy the day or watch the sunset! The walking/running/biking path along the quays (River Garonne) is one of the most impressive I’ve seen. This area definitely caters to those with active lifestyles. We had fun strolling along the path on our way to the next destination: Pont de Pierre for sunset.
The Pont de Pierre bridge is Bordeaux’s oldest bridge. It was under Napolean’s orders in the 18th century that the bridge be constructed to unite the left and right banks and make one city. Learning pieces of history like this transports me back in time, it becomes not just a beautiful bridge, landmark, or place to take photos but a walk into history. It was the perfect place to catch the sunset and provided sweeping views of the city!
After our sunset stroll we were off in search of rooftop views and food! The rooftop of Mama Shelter is a hot spot to hang but you definitely need to go EARLY or make reservations in advance. We went just after sunset and there was not a seat free but we did take in some incredible views of all of Bordeaux. For dinner we went to Cajou Cafe in Place Camille Jullian a square that truly comes alive on hot summer nights. Some of my favorite dining experiences when traveling are ones like these: sitting in a square under a terrace, drinking wine, watching people, amongst a setting that’s buzzing and full of life and laughter. A wonderful moment and an absolutely incredible meal! I ordered the salad de mer : it was a very nice sized portion, the seafood was incredibly fresh, and the prawns were flavored exquisitely. After enjoying our amazing meal and local wine it was time to retire for the evening, as the next day we had a full day of exploring!
The perfect day in Bordeaux begins with COFFEE and a CROISSANT, this is one of my favorite things about being in France-they are masters of the patisserie! My fav: pain au chocolat. There is a plethora of coffee shops and corner markets to make a quick stop at and pick up some yummy pastries or croissants before starting your day!
After breakfast we went straight to the Bordeaux Tourism Office to pick up our city passes: the best way to explore most of the Bordeaux attractions for free or reduced admission. There are 3 types of passes they offer: 24 hr(29 Euros) 48 hr(39 Euros) and 72 hr(46 Euros). Some highlights of the city pass are free entrance to La Cité du Vin (before 12pm) and unlimited tram and bus access. After getting our passes the first step to exploring is to map out the sights to see in order of importance and hours open. La Cité du Vin (The City of Wine) was our first stop as we had to be in before noon. Being on a time crunch our best option was to rent bikes (not included in the city pass) and race across town to get there. We arrived just in time and began our journey into the city of wine…
La Cité du Vin is quite the impressive place! It has a very unique and modern architectural design, and is ranked by National Geographic as seventh on it’s list of the best museums in the world. It definitely became one of my favorites fast as it provides extensive information on one of my favorite topics: WINE! The museum takes you on a journey through wine culture: from it’s origins, to wine culture around the world, to a sensory journey through all aspects of wine. You begin with wine geography, history, and lessons in grapes and locations. You then take a walk back in time to more in depth wine history across Ancient Egypt, Italy, Greece, all times when wine was considered the nectar of the gods and drinking wine would lead to immortality (now we are talking!) It shows the progression of popularity and increase in development throughout time, until today where more wine is being produced and consumed than ever before! The sensory journey of this museum ends at the top floor with a tasting, there are wines from all around the world (and of course some local wines too) but you only get to try one included with your entry (more can be purchased at the bar.) Along with the tasting are some incredible panoramic views of the entire city, and going along with the modern theme- the bar is designed in a very unique and beautiful way! It’s all windows and mirrors and empty bottles and white, really makes the colors of the wine pop!
Now, TIME FOR MORE COFFEE!! And off to explore more destinations…
We hopped on the tram and it was back to the city center!! Our next stops were the Grand Theater(WOW! SO beautiful!) and Flèche Saint Michael(St. Michael’s Spire) where you can go to the crypt, then get a workout in by climbing the 47 meters of stairs winding around the tower to the top. Being one of the tallest buildings in Bordeaux, it’s a little windy at the top, but another incredible panoramic view of all of the city. What’s even better is that all of these sights and transportation were included with our city passes!
BREAK FOR WINE!! Because when in Rome (/Bordeaux) right?! We stopped at Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery & Cellar to taste some wines from the region. They do tastings here in one of my favorite ways- wine vending machines!! You load up a card with your desired amount and go around tasting all the wines you want, paying by the size of the pour. We filled up our cards and filled up our bellies with some incredible wines from all around (a lot quicker than going all around the region with the little time constraint that we had). Finished our wines and it was back to exploring!
Looking through the city pass guide book I noticed an attraction that caught my eye- Moon Harbour Distillery: a distillery set in a WORLD WAR II BUNKER!! Our little wine teaser had our palettes dripping for more… We decided to head to the distillery!! The last tour time was in 25 minutes and we were 20 minutes away. Again we grabbed some bikes and raced the clock to get there just in time. When we arrived, much to our dismay, we received the news that we had to make reservations in advance to tour the facility (say it isn’t so!!) but luckily the co-founder and his wife are wonderful people and made an exception for us and still gave us a very insightful tour of the distillery and let us taste some of their whiskey! More information on this exciting adventure in a blog post to come!
By the time we were done here it was HAPPY HOUR! And time to find some food. Happy hour spots can be found all around the city and usually go until 8pm (my kind of happy hour!)
Most of the attractions with the city pass close by 6pm so it’s definitely worth it to start as early as possible. What a way to explore Bordeaux!! A special thanks to Bordeaux Tourism for giving us all of the information necessary to have an incredible time in this beautiful vibrant city!! I can’t wait to return and explore more as we barely scratched the surface.
-The Water Mirror (Miroir d’eau)
-Place de la Bourse
-The Fountain of the Three Graces
-Pont de Pierre
-Monument aux Girondins
-Cathedral Saint Andre & Tour Pey-Berland
-Walking along the quays
-La Cité du Vin
-Moon Harbour Distillery
-Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery & Cellar (wine)
-Place Camille Jullian
-Cajou Cafe (food)
Side note to this blog post: I first started writing this post as I was out on the sea, cruising through the Mediterranean and watching a volcano (Stromboli) letting off some steam in the distance… I’m now finishing it while at the beach in the Cyclades (Greek Islands). Theses magic moments are what life is all about for me, seeing incredible sights and finding inspiration in the sea. My favorite days as a writer!