My trip to beautiful Bordeaux
This summer I was lucky enough to spend ten days in Bordeaux and attend a stunning wedding in a Chateaux. I want to try and explore as many French cities as possible, as I love driving around France.
I have driven from Calais to Perpignan several times now, stopping off at lots of different places on the way. Despite having driven around France a lot, I haven’t yet been able to spend much time in the Aquitaine region. This year we flew to Bordeaux for an extended city break. Bordeaux is becoming a really popular city to visit, and after visiting, it’s not hard to see why.
Pretty much all of the city is a World Heritage site, you will be blown away by the amazing buildings and classic french architecture as soon as you set foot in this city. There are so many historic landmarks and buildings dotted around the city that it’s difficult to decide which ones to see first.
Although Bordeaux is a large city, it doesn’t feel like most cities I have been to. It’s bustling and busy, but it doesn’t feel overcrowded or overbearing. The city is spacious and contains many open areas, from the lush green public gardens and seating areas overlooking the river to the city squares that are perfect for people watching. The people here are also very friendly and quite rightly, proud of their wonderful city.
Getting around Bordeaux
There are many different ways to see the city, each offer a slightly different experience and outlook. Something I would highly recommend is hiring a bike and cycling to all the main tourist spots. One of my favourite memories of Bordeaux is when we cycled along the river down to the Le Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas bridge. Once we got to the bridge we stopped for a few moments to take some pictures and glance at the city from afar, from here you can see many of the distinctive buildings.
We passed a few cafes, designer shops and caught a glimpse of the delicious dishes people were eating in the riverside restaurants. Bordeaux is very bike friendly with bike lanes all around the city and places where you can leave your bike. You can hire bikes using the V-Club bikes, I think they cost something like two euros an hour. However, make sure you hire them out online rather than paying by credit card at the machines (they took 200 euros from our card per bike as a deposit, it was taken from our account and not returned for two weeks).
You can quite easily walk around the city if you want to. We only hired bikes on one day and we didn’t have a car, however, you can get to most places on foot. I would also suggest going on the tourist train. You can catch a few different tourist buses, but personally I thought the train was more authentic. You ride around the city on this little white train with headphones that tell you about the history of all the places you pass.
If you really want to get to know Bordeaux and make sure you see everything then hop on this train, it takes an hour or so. There are also trams in most parts of the city, we hopped on one to take us from one end to the other.
Major landmarks to see
Of all the buildings in the city, perhaps the most striking was the Bordeaux Cathedral, a stunning Romanesque cathedral dating back to the 11th century. We walked up this extremely long street to get to it and the cathedral looked impressive, even from afar.
I would recommend going to see it in the evening when it’s all lit up, it’s absolutely beautiful. You can see where it has been delicately restored over the years. There are also a few restaurants that overlook the cathedral which are worth a visit.
One of the best places to see views of the entire city is at the top of the Tower of Pey-Berland. It’s a Gothic bell tower and you can climb the steps all the way to the top (for a small fee) where you can admire panoramic views of the city. We also went down into a room at the bottom of the tower where you can watch a video (in French) about the mummies that used to be housed here. It’s a little creepy but very interesting if you can understand a bit of French.
Then of course there is the Place de la Bourse, which is the most recognisable landmark in Bordeaux. This is the place to take a few selfies and get some snaps of the impressive architecture. It’s a very elegant and grand building that really stands out a lot.
Directly in front of the Place de la Bourse is the Miroir d’Eau de Bordeaux, which is a water feature that is meant to look a bit like a mirror. It’s a great place to go to cool off, as you can wander barefoot through the water, which switches from steam to little fountains of water. Lots of kids can be found here playing in the water here as well as a few dogs trying to cool down a little in the summer.
Things to do
There are many different things to do in Bordeaux, depending on what time of year you visit. The Jardin Public is a lovely place to go if you want some peace and quiet. You can stroll around the English style gardens and relax amongst the lush greenery and pretty flowers.
You won’t want to miss out on the chance to go shopping in Bordeaux. It’s home to Europe’s longest shopping street. I think it took us about two hours just to get down the street, there were so many good shops. From well known brands like H&M; and Mango to quirky French shops and designer boutiques.
Bordeaux is packed with a variety of different places to eat, there’s practically a restaurant around every corner. Choose from Italian, French, Spanish and Asian cuisines. I would suggest going to one of the traditional French restaurants, we also enjoyed a lovely meal at a little Spanish Tapas restaurant called Bodega El Pata Negra. In the evening, head to one of the squares and have a few drinks at one of the atmospheric cafes and bars.
You can also go on boat trips down the river, we saw a few boats go by and wanted to hop on board. I imagine it’s a lovely way to see the city.
A little further afield
There are some wonderful places to visit just outside of the city in the Aquitaine region if you are happy to venture further afield. You can catch a bus that takes about 45 minutes to Parc de Majolan (I imagine it would be much quicker to drive). This was one of my favourite parts of our holiday, this charming park is full of lovely surprises, it’s a peaceful oasis outside the bustling city.
There are a few different walks around the park, which is home to some cheeky little river rats (Coypu). It’s relaxing watching them paddle along the surface of the lake with their head poking out the water, some of them even came up the river banks with the ducks hoping to get fed. There were also some little ducklings swimming around with their mother. We went and sat on one of the park benches and read for a while, and caught a glimpse of a peacock in the distance, which added to the magic of the park. There are lots of bright and colorful flowers and also some caves to explore.
If you visit Bordeaux, make sure you plan a day trip to the Dune of Pilat, Europe’s tallest sand dune. You can catch a train to Arcachon (a seaside town that’s also worth a visit) from Bordeaux that takes about 45 minutes, then catch a bus to the dune which takes about 40 minutes. When you arrive, you follow this long path up to the dune, and then have to make it up to the top.
On one side of the dune is a vast forest, and when you reach the top you can take in the seas views on the other side. The view is quite simply breathtaking. You can also go right down to the bottom of the dune where you will find a beach, and you can go swimming in the sea (take care though as there is a very strong current here). Also keep in mind that the climb back up to the top is not for the faint hearted.
Bordeaux and me
Overall I was very impressed with Bordeaux, and wouldn’t hesitate to go back again. It has everything you could want from a city, but it doesn’t feel overcrowded or fast paced. The architecture is breathtaking and fascinating. Don’t miss out on the chance to see Bordeaux, my favourite French city (with Nice coming a close second) so far.