Many people who come to Bordeaux come for only two days, which is a shame because it really is a charming city with so much to see! You could spend a whole day just wondering each of the Bordeaux neighborhoods (which we could debate the number but let’s go with eight at least!). One of the lesser visited areas is Saint Michel, named after the Saint, who is considered (historically) as the French opposition to the English Saint George.
There has been a religious structure in this part of the city for hundreds of years. From the late 18th century, in the Eglise Saint Michel, people used to visit the ‘mummies’ of Bordeaux. The bodies of nearly seventy poorer Bordelaise who were unable to afford the cemetery were put into an underground catacomb, which due to the temperatures and humidity…mummified. By the 1950’s, after decades of visits, the bodies had disintegrated into shards of skin and loose bones. They are now properly buried in the cemetery de la Chartreuse.
WHAT TO SEE IN SAINT MICHEL
I highly recommend just taking a stroll through the streets and enjoying the architecture and design of the facades. If you are into visiting churches, you have a couple to choose from. The Basilica of Saint Michel as we mentioned and the Abby de Saint-Croix de Bordeaux. The former structure is unfortunately generally closed except for Friday afternoon and the first Sunday of every month.
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK IN SAINT MICHEL
La Table Deruelle, owned by Elodie Deruelle of Fromagerie Deruelle in Saint Pierre, you’ll have a choice of multiple plates with a focus on cheese. Grilled halloumi, baked Saint Necaire or Greek yogurt will accompany seasonal vegetables or lovely spice/nut blends offering great texture / 9 Rue Gaspard Phillipe, 33800 Bordeaux / https://www.la-table-deruelle-restaurant-bordeaux.com/
La Tupina – My parents love this space, they had roasted black porc Biggorre and seared foie gras with grapes for lunch. Review is found here https://aquitainetravelguide.com/2022/02/03/classical-french-restaurants-in-bordeaux/
La Petit Atelier Aux Faures is a sister restaurant to the Michelin rated restaurant by Tour Ha, offering incredible daily menus of seasonal ingredients. Book well in advance / https://www.lepetitatelierdesfaures.fr/
CaveY is a new wine bar serving wines by the glass at 6 EURO a piece with selections from all over France. Small plates of charcuterie and cheeses are available with some of the best olive oil I’ve ever had. The view onto the Abby of Saint Croix is incredible / Place Pierre Renaudel, 33800 Bordeaux / open daily from 12pm-11pm
LE MARCHE DES CAPUCINS :
Named after the religious order that used to inhabit that area, the now famed covered market ‘Marche des Capucins‘ is a sensory theme park. The noises, the smells, the stands of beautiful fruits and vegetables…maybe a local chef sighting as well?! It is best Wednesday-Sunday and often has seasonal finds that you cannot buy in other locations outside of the city, like wild garlic or cepes. When it first started in the 18th century, it was for the sale of cattle but over the next two centuries it morphed into what we see today. The covered roof was added in 1878 and still covers the 80 plus merchants inside.
WHAT TO BUY IN MARCHE CAPUCINS :
Some of my favorite items to try are the Puits d’Amour, a pastry specialty from Captieux, in the Landes region outside of Bordeaux. Of course you can also find the famous canelé as well, but there are so many places to try them in central Bordeaux! https://aquitainetravelguide.com/2019/04/08/south-west-france-desserts/
If you are looking for cheeses, there are multiple cheese mongers who will help you select the perfect cheeses. Locally we aren’t really a cheese producing area, but you can try Rocamadour from the Lot&Garonne or Ossau Iraty from the Pays Basque https://aquitainetravelguide.com/2020/03/11/southwest-france-cheeses/ . Just outside of the actual market is a cheese maker called ‘Laiterie Burdigala‘ that sells mozarella, burratta and other Italian cheeses made in-house by hand with French cows milk (you can watch them make everything by hand through the window).
On the weekends are there is the Basque food vendor which is a lot of fun! Just get there early enough to find a spot! The oyster stand offers oysters from Ile d’Oleron and a glass of wine for around 6 EURO per person. There is Chinese food, Reunionaise cuisine (a French Island off the coast of Madagascar) and just outside of the market a restaurant called ‘Le Couchon qui Volant‘ that offers locally sourced meats and fries that is perfect on a winter’s day. The menu is written on the wall and it’s a really charming location (I’d personally advise against the ‘dishes’, the butchers cuts of meat are the best option and reason to go!).
WHERE TO STAY IN SAINT MICHEL
If you have the budget, you’ll want to stay at Hotel La Zoologie, which is a four-star hotel located in an old Bordeaux University building. Hosting a spa, gym, dining, bar, and spaciously stunning rooms / 151 Cours de la Marne, 33800 Bordeaux / https://www.hotelzoologie.com/fr/
With a very affordable room plus breakfast, you can’t miss LOLA Bar Hotel which is right next to the eglise Saint Michel. They have a charming bar and breakfast room on the ground floor which greets you. The rooms are clean but small – maybe avoid room number 10 if you want to go to bed early as it’s the one everyone walks past on their way to their room. The bathrooms are new and very clean. Staff is very friendly and helpful / 13 Rue des Faures, 33800 Bordeaux / +33 (0)7 82 84 77 82
Fabulous pictures and a wonderfully evocative review Anne – thank you for reminding us of the delights found and still to be found in the City.
Thank you so much!