Located in western France near the Spanish border, this port city on the Garonne River attracts visitors year round with its food, vineyards, history, and special charm.
I went to Bordeaux for all of those reasons — and because a friend invited me to visit. And I never turn down the chance to see the local version of a famous city. An insider’s look into the food scene of Bordeaux? Yes, please.
One expensive flight from Amsterdam later, and I arrived in Bordeaux. It was August and most of the locals had gone to the beaches to the south, providing me with a quiet time to get to know the city.
Bordeaux began as a settlement of Celtic tribes. Later it became the capital of Roman Aquitaine, flourishing especially during the 3rd century. In the late 6th century, the city reemerged as the seat of a county and an archdiocese within the Merovingian kingdom of the Franks. The city fell into obscurity as royal power waned in southern Gaul in the late 7th century.
The 18th century was the golden age for Bordeaux. Many downtown buildings are from this period. Baron Haussmann used Bordeaux’s 18th century big-scale rebuilding as a model when he was asked by Emperor Napoleon III to transform Paris into a “modern” capital.
All in all, the city has a long history. As a wine lover who still plans to one day do a grand wine tour of Europe, Bordeaux is a city I had long wanted to see. I love Bordeaux wine, with its deep notes and heavy texture. It’s my favorite varietal in the world.
My friend had promised me a weekend of eating, drinking, and sightseeing. In the end, we really only did the first two. There were no winery visits, no visit to tourist attractions, no strolling the city. (Those would have to wait until my next visit.)
For now, it was all eating and drinking.
The food in Bordeaux is excellent, and we had amazing seafood and sandwiches at the cafes and restaurants while drinking great red wine. Be sure to check out Le Petit Commerce for the world’s best seafood. It’s located on what must be the most quintessential French street in the country with cobblestone streets, old musicians playing tunes for the diner out on the wrought iron tables eating and drinking wine. It’s my favorite street in the country and is the background image on my phone!
Three quick days there was hardly enough so the following year I returned for another visit with wineries, museums, nearby beaches, and history on my mind. There are quite a lot of things to do in this city and I found myself racing around to see as much as good. My highlights are:
Go on a wine tour
The main industry and activity in Bordeaux is wine. With over thousands of hectares of vineyards and 9,000 wine-producing chateaus, there is always wine available. You can get anything from amazingly expensive wine to cheap bottles that won’t break the bank. But, remember you are in France, and the French love their wine. Even what they consider crap is still probably pretty damn good by my standards.
Depending on the length of your tour, you’ll visit two to four wineries, The cheapest tours start at 45 EUR. However, discounts are available if you have the city pass.
Wander through Saint Emilion
This village has a strong connection to red wine production, and vineyards have existed here since Roman times. Even if you aren’t on an organized wine tour, a visit to this village and an afternoon walking through its streets can be a peaceful way to spend a day.
Walk around the Old Town and Rue Sainte-Catherine
There are is home to one of the largest remaining 18th-century architectural urban areas in all of Europe. There is the Grand Théâtre that was built in 1780, which is truly beautiful. There is the infamous Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux, which was consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1096 and was impressive to see, though the recent cleaning effort got rid of its old, Gothic charm. Nothing says gothic like a little grime.
For the walkers and shoppers, visit Rue Sainte-Catherine, a shopping street that is 1.2 km long filled with great shops, restaurants, and cafes. It is the longest shopping street in Europe.
Take a day trip to Dune de Pyla
If you have time, take a trip out the famous Dune de Pyla. This sand dune is located about a hour outside Bordeaux in Pyla Sur Mer, a resort town where many of France’s well-to-do “summer.” The Dune de Pyla is the largest sand dune in Europe and is the result of winds eroding one shore of the bay and blowing it over the other. The dune provides great views but is a pain to walk up (though really fun to run down!).
The dune is located an hour outside Bordeaux in Pyla Sur Mer, a resort town where many of France’s well to do “summer.” It’s the largest sand dune in Europe and the result of winds eroding one shore of the bay and blowing sand over.
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