The bridge at Bordeaux © Shutterstock

Bordeaux travel guide

About Bordeaux

Bordeaux in Aquitaine is the region's capital and the home of French wine-making, recognised world-wide for its excellent wines, and is beautifully situated on the River Garonne.

Having grown grapes for wine since the Roman times, Bordeaux's popularity and fame as a wine producing region came during the 13th and 14th centuries after the marriage of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine led to the export of wines to England. Despite the ravages of the Hundred Years War and the Black Death, Bordeaux prospered again in the 17th and 18th centuries with the support of Dutch traders who helped to drain marshlands for vine planting and improved wine preservation.

Today, Bordeaux is one of the most famous and most prolific producers of wine in the world and in summer it hosts the prestigious Fête du Vin (the Bordeaux Wine Festival).

Whatever time of year you choose to visit Bordeaux, you can't miss out on the many wine tasting opportunities the city has on offer - whether it's a tasting at the Maison du Vin whilst enjoying a tour of the city or a more in-depth cellar visit and tutored tastings at the Millésima wine school, for example. 

It is well worth taking a tour around Old Bordeaux to really appreciate the history and art of this UNESCO World Heritage site. With over 350 monuments historique (only Paris has more) the town has a wealth of exquisite architecture to admire, particularly from the 18th century when the city underwent a huge development programme. Aimed at improving the look of the town to those arriving, especially by river, most of the architecture of Old Bordeaux , including the Palais de la Bourse, the Palais Rohan and the Grand Théâtre all date from this time.

The stunning St André cathedral and the basilicas of  St Seurin and St Michel form part of the famous pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago. Once you've had your fill of exploring the town on the inside, why not take another route to explore with a boat trip or cruise down the river that affords spectacular views of the buildings and their facades along the riverbank? The harbours and quays are a very pretty area for a stroll or tour whilst also discovering a facet of Bordeaux's more recent history with the U-boat pens built by the Italians and Germans during WW2.

Wander across the beautiful Pont de Pierre, or Napoléon's bridge due to its 17 arches like the 17 letters of Napoléon Bonaparte, that was built in the early 1800s from the orders of Napoléon I, or get away from the bustle of the city by escaping into the gorgeous Jardin Public (public gardens) that were transformed into a traditional English formal garden by Napoléon III. 

Bordeaux is an excellent place for shopping and the best area to shop is in the 'Golden Triangle' of Rue Ste Catherine, Place de la Comédie and Cours l'Intendance. After a long day's shopping why not enjoy a coffee sitting outside one of the many cafés and restaurants in the squares of the town? Place de Quinconces is one of the largest squares in Europe and where you'll find many buses and trams to get around the city.

You'll also find much great seafood and fish on the menu here including mussels and oysters, eels and even caviar made from sturgeon caught in the river. Beef and lamb are also popular dishes often served with a bordelaise sauce - made of red wine and shallots and don't miss the local speciality of cannelés, chewy and sweet caramelised brioche-style pastries.

The countryside around Bordeaux is well worth discovering - a mix of sprawling vineyards, forests and mountains with several golf courses including the excellent Golf du Médoc whose 'châteaux' course is ranked as one of the top 10 in France. Nearby are many vineyards and châteaux and the pretty towns of Saint-Emilion, Arcachon, and the Château de la Brède.

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