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Things To Do In Bordeaux
A port city situated along the River Garonne in southwest France, Bordeaux is best associated with its fabulous vineyards and world-renowned varieties of wines. However, the ‘City of Art & History’ also boasts an illustrious past that is displayed in its neo-classical architecture and museums. Almost half of the entire city has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for ‘an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble’. Tourists will also be interested in knowing that most of Bordeaux’s attractions are free for visits if you get the Bordeaux Metropole City Pass. By choosing options between 24, 48, or 72 hours, travellers are allowed free access to most local attractions and public transportation for the selected period of time; you can also use your city pass for discounts on wine tasting tours.
Add to it a spectacular fine dining experience and some fun cafes and shopping spots, and you’ve got yourself a holiday destination brimming with promise. Here is our recommended list for some of the top things to do in Bordeaux.
Wine Tasting Tour
When you’re visiting Bordeaux, one of the first trips any tourist will embark on is a wine-tasting tour. The second-largest wine-growing region in the world, the borders of Bordeaux are surrounded by some of the finest vineyards and wine chateaux on the planet. A guided tour to this treasure trove will take you through places like Saint-Émilion, Maison du Vin, Canon Fronsac, the Médoc and many other such wine estates. You will get the opportunity to learn about various wine-making processes and peek into the wine-storage vat rooms and cellars; tasting sessions are particularly fun in the blissful weather of summers.
Tourists can also book half-day tours with the Wine Cab – a unique concept where taxis take you around on the wine tour while you enjoy the luxury of a tasting bar within the cab itself. The drivers of these taxis are one of the highlights of such tours; they are knowledgeable individuals who will continue to regale you with lots of information about the places you visit and the wines you enjoy.
Enjoy Bike Rides
Experiencing Bordeaux on a bicycle is something that everyone who visits the city should try at least once. With more than 600 km of bicycle paths, Bordeaux is easily one of Europe’s most cycle-friendly cities. You will find locals going about their day on bikes everywhere in Bordeaux, and now with numerous bike tours on offer in the city, tourists can be a part of this local culture as well. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a newbie looking for a new fun activity to pursue, the unchallenging bike routes across Bordeaux are safely enjoyable for even the most hesitant cyclist. The Roger Lapébie greenway, Canal du Midi and the Vélodyssée are some of the most popular routes to explore here.
While all leading travel agencies offer guided bike tours across Bordeaux, the bike-sharing program V3 allows you to borrow a bike for a very reasonable rate and explore the city on a self-guided trip.
Visit the Museums
La Cité du Vin is easily Bordeaux’s most famous and iconic museum; this interactive wine museum offers visitors the opportunity to learn about wine-making processes from around the world and even enjoy a tasting session on top of a 55-metre tower, surrounded by panoramic views of the city. An astounding 10 other museums in Bordeaux provide visitors with knowledge about the city’s past and explore vast collections of different artworks, including exhibits related to natural history, archaeology and French culture.
Some of the best ones to check out are the Musée d’Art Contemporain (CAPC) for its themes of music, film, architecture and literature; Musée d'Aquitaine if you want to learn all about Bordeaux’s history; Musée du Vin et du Negoce, the Wine and Trade Museum and the Musée des Arts Decoratifs for some amazing displays of fine arts and a glimpse into the lives of the rich during the time of the French Revolution.
Watch an Opera at the Grand Theatre de Bordeaux
The Grand Theatre of Bordeaux is a perfect example of 18th-century opulence and magnificence that is visible in this architectural gem. Visitors can choose to take a guided tour through the theatre that is just as fascinating from the inside as it is from the outside and learn about its history. Or if you have more time to spare, nothing else beats watching a traditional French ballet or theatre performance in this monument.
Climb the Pey-Berland Tower
The Pey-Berland Tower serves as one of two bell towers and a part of the Saint-Andre Cathedral that was constructed as an addition to the monument in the year 1440. 229 stairs lead up to the top of the tower, which may prove to be a steep climb for some. However, the mesmerizing panoramas of the city on offer once you get to the top will make it worthy of the trouble.
Splash around in Miroir d’Eau
Opened in 2006, Miroir d’Eau is a public art installation by artists Michael Corajoud and Jean-Max Llorca. It is known to be the world’s largest reflecting pool and its creation was inspired by the sight of a flooded Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy. The pool goes through a programmed sequence of alternating between fog and clear-as-a-mirror water pool for three minutes each, followed by 10 minutes of normal pool appearance. Situated across the street from the very famous Place de la Bourse, the water mirror, as it is popularly known, is a favourite spot among both locals and tourists for amazing picture-worthy moments. Since the water is only 2 cm deep, kids also love to use it as ‘wet’ playing field and can often be seen splashing around in the pool; sometimes the adults as well.
Shop at Rue Saint Catherine
At 1.2 km long, the Rue Saint Catherine is known to be the longest pedestrian shopping street in the entire continent of Europe. While it has maintained its pedestrian-only status since 1984, its true origins can be assumed to date back to Roman times. With more than 250 stores, not including the numerous restaurants and cafes here as well, it is no surprise that the street can be seen teeming with people through most days of the week. Even if you are not very fond of shopping, Rue Saint Catherine is still an iconic part of Bordeaux that should definitely be visited; even if it’s simply to relax in one of the cafes or enjoy a bite in one of the restaurants, while watching the shoppers around you hustle by.
Swim in the Arcachon Bay
Bordeaux may not be known for its beaches, but the Arcachon Bay area has been listed as one of the 50 best beaches in the world by The Guardian. Situated just around 50 km away from Bordeaux, the bay is surrounded by sand dunes on all sides. The Dune du Pilat is the main highlight of this beach and is known to be the highest sand dune in Europe at over 100 metres high. A staircase located on one side of the dune helps visitors climb to the top and enjoy the lovely panoramic views of the Arcachon Bay on one side and the Landes forest on the other. There are also options with helicopter rides over the dunes and for the more adventurous kind, paragliding off the Dune du Pilat.
Indulge in Local Cuisine
A good glass of wine is best enjoyed with some delicious complimentary food, and there is no better place to do so than in Bordeaux. Le 7 Restaurant is widely known to be one of the best places to eat in the city, where great food can be paired with exquisite glasses of wine and stunning views of Bordeaux. Bordeaux specialities like steak with Bordelaise sauce, canelés and locally grown oysters are a must-try. Marché des Capucins is another place to enjoy some of the best culinary experiences you will ever have; also known as the ‘belly of Bordeaux’, visitors will find endless food options in cheese, seafood and other local delicacies here. Souvenirs and edible gifts can also be purchased here to take for loved ones back home.
Shop at Marche des Quais
Every Sunday morning, a large selection of stalls line up on this market square and sell a wide array of fresh, local produce that brings in hordes of tourists and locals alike. Everything from fresh bread, vegetables, cheeses to even seafood can be purchased from these stalls; you will also find vendors selling a wide range of international cuisines that are best enjoyed on the spot. There are little tables arranged near these stalls where customers can simply purchase their food and sit down to enjoy their meal with a glass of local wine. It is best to visit this market during the earliest part of the day since the stalls usually sell out by around noon and close by 1 pm.