My husband Adam and I went to Bordeaux on a whim. We booked our Airbnb the night before, and started looking at things to do on the train ride down from Paris. Side note, the fast train is only 2 hours and super comfortable. Also, out Airbnb was a lovely apartment with a view of St. Michel Cathedral from the balcony, score! What we found when we got to Bordeaux was a beautiful and quaint French city, in the middle of France’s famed wine region. The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you get the sense they’ve spent a great deal of effort renovating these buildings. It was mostly built in the 18th century from limestone, so as you walk down the cobblestone streets it feels like you’ve stepped back in time.
Wander around Old Town
We strolled to the banks of the Garonne River to see the Place de la Bourse, an iconic city square with a vast 2cm deep reflecting pool. We continued walking back into the old town past several adorable restaurants and trendy shops towards the Big Bell of Bordeaux. We turned left towards the bell just as the sun’s rays were glowing from behind the view of 7.75-ton majestic centerpiece. Every inch of Old Town is stunning, a perfect blend of old world charm and modern sensibility.
In Old Town Bordeaux, there’s a cute restaurant every 10 feet. Our first stop was Lecarreau for lunch on the recommendation of our Airbnb host, and it was a good one. The restaurant itself is pristine, a modern French vibe with great service and ambiance. We opted to share some small plates and a bottle of rosé. The scallops were buttery, the ceviche flavorful, and the croquettes were delicious, crispy, cheesy delights. Top it all off with Vanilla Crème Brûlée!
After filling our bellies at lunch, we walked to The Place des Quinconces, one of the largest city squares in Europe. A swap meet was just closing shop as walked towards the large column and fountain monument.
Wine Tasting at Le Bar à Vin
Le Bar à Vin is a modern tasting room with a grand selection of French wines for very reasonable prices. Apparently they keep the prices low for wine students to come in and try all the varietals. The AOC Fronsac - Haut-Carles was my favorite! It’s a beautiful and elegant space, my only complaint would be that it felt a little stuffy because they don’t play any music. I still think this is worth a stop for the prices and selections of wine.
Place de la Victoire
This main square is right next to Le Bar à Vin, and is where The Grand Theater and tourism office are. Just off this square is Rue Sainte-Catherine, the longest shopping street in Europe. It has your standard H&M’s and other mainstream names. I preferred poking around Rue Saint James near the Great Bell of Bordeaux, it’s more boutique style shops.
This restaurant has a warm ambiance and charming atmosphere. The dishes are creative and tasty, and the prices are amazing for the refined dishes they serve. They offer a 3 course dinner for around €18 or $20, and the wine at restaurants is very reasonably priced as well. You can get a bottle for around €15.
Cité du Vin (The Wine Museum)
If you want to learn more about wine, check out the Cité du Vin. This new ultra modern building houses the largest wine museum in the world. We enjoyed the creative ways the museum introduced information using high-tech interactive displays. After you’ve expanded your knowledge on wine, you can head upstairs to a tasting room with a view on the Garonne River.
Day trip to Médoc
Thought the tourist office in Old Town we booked a day trip to Médoc wine region. Our tour guide picked us up, and while he drove up an hour north, he explained all the mysteries of French wine. For example, did you know that the French define their wine by region? You’d be hard pressed to find a bottle that clearly states the type of grape that the wine was made from (Grenache, Syrah, Merlot). The French feel that the “terroir,” or soil, is the wine's expression of the place from where it came. We visited Chateau d’Arsac and Chateau Paloumey, both wonderful wineries. What I loved most about the trip was seeing all the beautiful Cheateau’s throughout the countryside. They all have a very old French regal authority to their essence.
Wine & Bites at Le Wine Bar
After a long day in wine country, Adam and I went to Le Wine Bar to snack on some tapas and try some more wine. It was cozy and warm, with delicious charcuterie, cheese plates, and other easy small plates for reasonable prices. Of course, they have an extensive wine list as well.
We bar hopped along the way home to a few more small places, and you really can’t go wrong. Bordeaux is a food and wine lovers dream come true!