The city of Bordeaux in south west France has so much going for it when it comes to a city break and definitely gives the likes of Paris a run for its money. With a relaxed and friendly atmosphere it’s a complete contrast to the bustling and somewhat impersonal streets of the capital although with sprawling terraces and mansions, the two are often compared. The Garonne River flows through a city centre that is alive with personality and a rich cultural scene whilst the surrounding countryside produces some of the world’s very best wines. Read this guide to Bordeaux to learn all about the wine tasting and cultural curiosities on offer; I hope you’ll be inspired to embark on a city break to this little French fancy…
Wine Tasting in Bordeaux
The French city of Bordeaux needs little introduction when it comes to its tipple; it’s renowned around the world for its fabulous wines. With rolling vineyards populating the surrounding Aquitaine region, it is the world’s second largest wine region and produces more than 800 million delicious bottles each year. It’s natural therefore that touring the vineyards and wineries of the region and tasting the fruits of their labour is simply the very best activity to enjoy during a trip to Bordeaux and perhaps reason enough to plan a visit.
Before you do anything else, plan a visit to the Musée du Vin et du Négoce (The Museum of Wine and Wine Trade). Located in Bordeaux itself, it’s the prime place to gain an introduction to Bordeaux and its long standing association with vino. You get to start the tasting process early, with two merchant wine tastings and discussion included in the nominal admission price too.
When it comes to visiting vineyards, you have plenty of options and can either join a wine tour or self-drive to some of the region’s major vineyards. Before you think we are condoning drink-driving (which we certainly aren’t!) remember that when tasting wine you aren’t actually supposed to swallow it! Besides, with an additional driver included you can have a designated driver for free.
As a starting point, Château de Pitray, located less than an hour from the city boasts a family history of 600 years. This vineyard produces close to a quarter of a million bottles of wine annually so it must be doing something right. Château Mouton Rothschild primarily produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot varieties. It still ferments its wine in oak vats which is a dying process and just 50km from the city it’s well worth a visit.
Do remember to do your research before starting your visits however, especially if you decide to go DIY; some vineyards require that you book in advance and some aren’t open on the weekends!
Cultural Curiosities in Bordeaux
If you are a bit of a culture vulture then Bordeaux will definitely be a winner in your eyes with its vibrant musical and arts scenes and variety of cultural attractions to entertain you. Bordeaux also has a thriving university population milling around the country’s largest university campus which means the city always has something going on.
Be sure to visit the Grand Theatre which dates to the 18th century. Interestingly, it is the only original wooden framed theatre in the whole of Europe and is a splendid example of neo-classical architecture making a visit here all the more special; plan to watch ballet or a musical performance. The National Opera House is also worthy of a visit if you are after a truly elegant night out in this fine city!
The range of museums certainly celebrate the arts with a number to choose from including those dedicated to decorative arts, fine art and contemporary art as well as the museum of Aquitaine which celebrates the local history including archaeology and ethnography. It’s also worth exploring the peacefully beautiful Botanical Gardens, which dates to 1855.
With plenty of attractions to see and do, it can be easy to overlook the simple things; just a walk through around the city is so enjoyable here with the architecture taking the spotlight; the entire city has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in fact which goes some way to showing just how special Bordeaux is.
So, for a short break in France, forego Paris in favour of beautiful Bordeaux. Hopefully this guide to Bordeaux has opened your eyes to the fantastic wine tasting and cultural curiosities on offer in this fantastic city.