Bordeaux Travel Guide

Overview

Bordeaux, France, an elegant city 360 mi/580 km southwest of Paris and near France's Atlantic coast, is the heart of the famous Bordeaux wine region.

In addition, Bordeaux has some of France's best 18th-century architecture, a major fine-arts museum and a world-renowned wine museum. Go for a walk along the river near the Quai de la Douane (Customs House Quay). The city is a walker's paradise, especially in the compact center, where the only transportation is an electric tram.

Long a bastion of conservatism, Bordeaux has loosened up considerably. The Gironde departement was greatly revitalized in the 1990s, and the banks of the Garonne River have been transformed with an esplanade of shops and restaurants replacing old river warehouses. Downtown, visitors should be sure to traverse Rue Saint Catherine, a shopper's nirvana.

Bordeaux was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007, the largest urban entity to be so honored.

Geography

The captivatingly beautiful city of Bordeaux, ironically known as "Little Paris," (as Bordeaux greatly influenced the architecture and design of modern Paris) is situated on the banks of the Garonne River. This prominent wine-producing hub, once leading seaport and thriving industrial center is located 50 mi/80 km from the Bay of Biscay.

Bordeaux is a flat city, hence bicycling is an excellent way to explore its charming streets. The city is furnished with more than 360 mi/580 km of bike paths.

Sightseeing

Many visitors to Bordeaux will immediately think of the surrounding region's famed wine, and indeed, wine is a central part of sightseeing in Bordeaux. Be sure to visit wineries and wine bars to take advantage of this local specialty.

But wine is far from the only attraction to Bordeaux: The city is also home to several historic sights, including its famous Grosse Cloche, or bell tower, a central city landmark that you won't want to miss. Walk in the charming Chartrons district for a taste of daily life, and set aside a day for visiting some of Bordeaux's famous museums, including—of course—one devoted to wine-making. Bordeaux is also home to the Saint Andre Cathedral; visit for an evening organ concert to see the cathedral in its best light.

Nightlife

It's perhaps no surprise that wine bars are a big part of nightlife in Bordeaux, but they're far from the only place to spend an evening. After an aperitif and dinner, try one of Bordeaux's nightclubs for dancing and drinks. Alternatively, have a low-key night in a bar or pub. In the city center, it's easy to dine out and walk to your next destination.

Dining

Every French region has its own specialty, and Bordeaux is no different. This city is known for its sauce bordelaise, a red wine sauce used for topping some of its famous local Bazadais steak. Seafood is another highlight: The oysters from Arcachon Bay are some of the most famous in France. Other regional specialties are Nouvelle Aquitaine sturgeon caviar and fois gras. On the pastry end, you cannot leave the town without trying one of the canele or a gateau basque.

Bordeaux produces wines of unparalleled quality. Anyone with time should tour at least one regional vineyard. In restaurants, even if you don't know your Medoc from your muscadet, just order one of the house wines—they are usually excellent and surprisingly inexpensive. These are typically the vin de pays or vin de table.

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