What to do When Visiting Bordeaux

Bordeaux is one of those cities that will always leave you wanting to come visit for longer. A day is certainly not long enough in this charming French city, filled with centuries of history, more restaurants per capita than Paris, and incredible wines known the world over. With cheap, nonstop flights to Bordeaux Merignac airport from many major European cities, it’s also easy to get to. The highspeed TGV is only a two hour trip from Paris, with some great deals found on the budget train OuiGo. While driving around the city can be challenging, a rental car is a great option for exploring the surrounding countryside.

Built along the Garonne river, the historic part of the city is found on the left bank. If it feels like a mini Paris, you wouldn’t be mistaken. ‘Modern’ 19th century Paris was modeled after 18th century Bordeaux. Even the Paris Opera was inspired by the Bordeaux Opera house. My favorite area to wander is probably along the narrow streets between the Grosse Cloche and the Eglise Saint Pierre. It’s a great area to wonder around and find some of the old Medieval buildings on streets with names like ‘Rue du Loup’, named after the trades of people who used to work on them, in this case selling wolf skins. You can taste historic dishes like lamproie a la Bordelaise at the oldest restaurant La Tupina or more modern and unique meals at chef owned restaurant C’Yusha.

There are many great museums, if you love history and want to know more about the city and region of Aquitaine you’ll want to visit the Musee d’Aquitaine. It has a lot of great exhibits from the Roman era until modern day, but possibly the most impressive is their exhibit on the Triangle slave trade which is one of the main reasons Bordeaux prospered so much in the 17th and 18th century, making it what you see today. Modern art and activities can be found at the Bernard Magrez Cultural Institute (there is also more at the CPAC modern art museum). For traditionalists, there is the Musee des Beaux Arts which also hosts kids activities and some lovely large paintings of Bordeaux, one in particular I enjoy is of the markets two centuries ago. Don’t miss a ballet or classical music concert in town at the stunning Grande Theatre.

There is always something to do in Bordeaux, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for events like the Fete de la Vin when multiple wine makers cover the quais along the Garonne, with live music and multiple old sailing ships to visit. The Tourism Office has many walking tours available (as do we!), but maybe one of the more fun ways to see the city and learn is through a river boat tour.

One of the first questions is always ‘where to stay in Bordeaux‘. It is a very walkable city with enough trams to help you get around nearly anywhere, but staying away from Rue Saint Catherine might be my best advice. The noise and crowds are not calming and I would personally choose to stay a bit off the beaten path. There are plenty of great boutique hotel options, one of the larger hotels I stayed at which was a great value and the staff were so helpful and thoughtful was the Hotel Burdigala (Burdigala is the name for Bordeaux from the Roman era). It’s near to a tram that in four stops takes you to the center. Maybe the best is an apartment rental like this in the center of town. You can then visit the markets and small shops to buy incredible products to make your own meals at home when you don’t want to eat out, although this apartment is located right next to CRU, which is a must try restaurant specializing in all things raw.

The large Rue St.Catherine is a great shopping street, but you might find it too crowded and touristy. Take time to explore the streets on Rue St James with smaller boutique shops and around the oldest independent bookstore the Librarie Mollat.

There is also the charming area of Chartons which is filled with homes for the wealthy wine merchants and currently has some of the most charming night life and small restaurants. Symbiose has a wonderful lunch menu and is on the quais side and has a speakeasy for cocktails at night. You will also find Pastel next door which is equally great for seasonal and local produce. These smaller streets are full of beautiful images to take home.

For more ideas on where to visit if you want a wine focused trip, read our post which includes museums, tours and more https://aquitainetravelguide.com/2021/06/28/wine-tourism-and-bordeaux/

If you want to explore more ideas for travel with children in Bordeaux and the SW of France, including museums, workshops and farm visits, check out https://aquitainetravelguide.com/2020/12/02/traveling-with-kids-in-aquitaine/

As always, feel free to contact us for ideas or help planning your travel by emailing us aquitaineguide@gmail.com or calling us on WhatsApp at +33 (0)6 33 91 37 90 or +1 910 682 0676. We have so much more to share, more than could ever be written in a post!

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