The gateway to the important and impressive Bordeaux wine region, the city of Bordeaux is an exciting travel destination in its own right. A city alive with splendid architecture, historic import, and a vibrant cultural scene, you’ll also find restaurants representing every cosmopolitan cuisine including those showcasing local gastronomic pride. They have interesting wine lists that bring together the best wines from each of the surrounding subregions, so you can explore and taste the masterpieces exhibiting the best from over 8,500 wine producers, within the city limits.
The Bordelaise celebrate their heritage and culture every day through the philosophy of “l’art de vivre”, which augments home, family and work life by placing the arts, creativity (be it in sculpture, artisanal production or winemaking), great food, beautiful places and bonhomie at the heart of everyday living. It’s an ethos we fully endorse here at Winerist.
This port city stands proud and fair on a bend of the Garonne river in the south-west of France. Demarcated into smaller neighbourhoods, the city moves from one epoch of its history to another as you travel around. From Les Grands Hommes with its luxury shopping at the likes of Hermès and Longchamp; through Saint-Pierre with its trendy boutique and thrift shop offerings; to Saint-Michel with its gastronomic window on the world; and on to Chartrons, the historic wine and trading quarter adjacent to the mighty and voluminous Garonne - all are easily navigable by foot, bike, e-bike or thanks to the efficient and scenic tram system.
It’s worth investing a couple of hours to travel to the furthest outposts of the region when you have the time, but even a short hop in Bordeaux city grants you access to some sublime highlights of the region under an hour away from the centre. Indeed, many exploratory tours have the city as their starting point, so you can escape to the country, the coast, or check out our recommended winery visits below.Read less
Travelling to the Bordeaux wine region by air will most likely bring you into Bordeaux airport in Mérignac, just west of the city centre. From there, it’s a short ride into the city centre so you can begin your experience of ”l’art de vivre” tout suite. It’s south-western location makes driving from the continental mainland and UK, scenic and straightforward. Make sure you hit the famed D2 or Castle Road for vistas of some of the most eminent and enchanting châteaux. The train network also brings you into the heart of the city with great regularity.
One thing’s for certain - you’ll be wanting to spend money in Bordeaux, for there’s so much that’s delicious and delightful to be had. The unit of currency in France is the euro, as in most other countries of the European Union. Bills/notes are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros. As you’d expect, all the established stores accept international credit cards, and ATMs delivering local currency are easy to find.
You can plan travel here all year round due to the city’s bustling programme of events and permanent residential status, although the tourist season begins around Easter and peaks in the summer, when warm, sunny weather prevails. However, the river and Atlantic weather influences are part of what makes this such a fertile area, yet less favourable conditions are just a great excuse to seek sanctuary in the city’s buzzy bars and restaurants. Christmas and New Year are especially pretty and atmospheric outside the traditional tourist season. Just be sure to book your flights, accommodation and tours well in advance so you don’t miss out or arrive to find an out-of-town experience in hibernation.
Your visit duration can fit flexibly into a wider tour of mainland Europe’s key wine and gastronomy temples or can form the focus of a single-stop holiday, for there’s plenty to amuse here – history that entwines the fate of the Tudor dynasty with that of Eleanor of Aquitaine and neighbouring duchies and kingdoms; a rich and diverse regional history; arts performances aplenty; destination dining opportunities showcasing local ingredients in their cultural context; incredible shopping; luxurious or quirky hotels (I can personally recommend the Hotel de Tourny with its accommodating staff and quiet but central location); and wineries that exemplify the unique terroir and wine culture.
Equally, this is perfect city break territory with travel frequency, times and connections from London and the other major capitals landing you in Bordeaux with amazing alacrity. A long weekend or midweek break provides plenty of scope for immersion in this pretty part of France, and relaxation opportunities.
Festivals abound here, and no wonder, there’s much to celebrate. One of the largest, the Fête du Vin takes place every second year, with the next edition planned for 2020 - that’s what a massive party it is, it takes two years to prepare! This year the Bordeaux Fête Le Fleuve, or the River Festival, from Thursday 20th to Sunday 23rd June marks the opening of the “Liberté! Bordeaux 2019” cultural season. This inclusive series of events includes free concerts; nautical activities; gastronomic huts; exhibitions; a white wine festival; talks; art installations; and even a pyrotechnic show on the Garonne.
In between the major festivals are frequent, more specific festivals. For example, the Week-End des Grands Crus (Thurs 24th May-Sat 26th May 2019) brings together wine enthusiasts and is a chance to taste over 110 Grands Crus, while enjoying views over the banks of the Garonne River. Representatives from each estate will present their 2016 vintage as well as one other wine. It’s the ideal opportunity to meet château owners and representatives is followed by unique activities such as private dinners at selected estates, as well as vineyard discovery tours complete with wine tastings and lunch.
Great resources for what’s on when you plan to visit can be found here:
Culture vultures will find heaven here, and you can form a complete itinerary wandering around and between great institutions housed in magnificent architecture. The Grand Théatre hosts opera and ballet performances as well as oenological and artistic events within its classical walls. Museums celebrate the whole gamut of artistic and historic pride, with the Musée des Beaux Arts and Musée des Arts Decoratifs as highlights. The Basilique Saint-Seurin, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Cathédrale Saint-André are both historic monuments with a fascinating part to play in the city and region’s history; as well as being well-conserved architectural marvels. Contemporary arts are diverse and dynamic here too, with a lively schedule of pop-up events and installations.
The Gateway To The Vineyards: La Cité du Vin is a great place to start your vinous voyage of the city and its close environs. It’s part of the recent and ongoing development plans around the Chartrons, Bassin A Flot and Bacalan neighbourhoods, and beyond. Here, you have the opportunity to learn more across nearly sixty regional appellations encompassing whites, sweet whites, sparkling wines, Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur, the reds, rosés, clarets, dry expressions of viticulture. It provides inspiration for your movements thereafter, which can include forays into the châteaux and vineyards or exploring the region’s incredible wine offering from the comfort of restaurant tables and lounge bars that create dishes and environs that flatter and complement local wines. There’s well-constructed synergy between the menus and wine lists in virtually all of Bordeaux’s restaurants, and it’s harder to name a bad one, than good ones. There’s a mine of information on wine events, visits and even desirable pairings to taste here.
Many Winerist tours are fully-formed itineraries in their own right, and cover many single or multi-day trips, meaning all the thinking is done for you. Immersive and exciting examples can be found here:
Whatever your preferences, timescale or budget, a unique bespoke tour can be created by the travel experts here at Winerist, for you. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to Catherine or Céline on 020 7096 1006.