Bordeaux was the first stop on mine and Jacks three weeks around Europe and without any expectations of being so, it became one of our favourite destinations of the whole trip. Our original plan was to start in Paris but due to France being in the final of the Euros it was far too expensive for us to stay anywhere near the capital. Through a bit of a fluke, I googled nice places to stay in France, and Bordeaux popped up.
After a hellish flight there, our flights were cancelled the day before and we had to quickly re-book new flights from a completely different airport, we finally arrived and headed over to our new home from home. The place was small but big enough for two and even came with a little kitchen area, perfect for breakfast and lunch. After a quick wardrobe change and a little help from google maps we headed out towards the promenade along the river front.
Bordeaux is huge, a lot bigger than we had first expected, and no amount of walking or cycling allowed us to see the whole city in the short amount of time that we had. The actual city itself has a beautiful maze like feel with the tall shuttered building lining the narrow streets creating an almost abandoned city atmosphere when you find yourself alone along the streets. This abandonment feeling becomes suddenly juxtaposed when you open out in to one of the cities many bustling squares filled with bars and restaurants frequented by the locals. As you head further into the more touristy areas of the city, towards the river front, the city comes alive with people enjoying the beautiful views of the city and all the amenities you’d expect to find on holiday. Although this area was definitely the more touristy area of the city there was never the feeling of ‘little England’ that can often occur when abroad and the number of people about was perfect for a great atmosphere without feeling like you were being pushed from one place to the next.
The first thing we did when we reached the promenade was find a cute little café to stop and have a couple of drinks in the sun, somewhere we visited every day we were there. In fact the majority of our break in Bordeaux was incredibly laid back consisting of long walks along the promenade, meandering around the old town areas of the city as well as heading into newer more modern parts of town to do a little shopping and of course eating and drinking enough for two people each!
Whether you’re there to take in every sight possible and fill your days to the brim or you fancy something a little bit more laid back Bordeaux has something for you and I’d highly recommend going. Below I’ve put together a list of a few of the things me and Jack enjoyed the most to help give you a little inspiration for your trip.
City Bike Hire
As I said before, Bordeaux is huge and if you’re only there for a short city break it can be hard to see everything in such a short time. A great and very fun way that me and Jack got around this was to use the city bikes rental service. The bikes are readily available to hire at over 80 stations throughout the city for an incredibly cheap price. There is an initial cost of €1 to hire for 24 hours. After this you are charged by time. The first 30 minutes are free and then there is a €2 charge to your card every hour after that and the bikes can be returned to any station throughout the city. It’s so cheap we actually didn’t believe it at first and had to double check. There is a €200 security deposit but this isn’t charged unless the bike is stolen or damaged so there is no need to let this put you off.
The whole city of Bordeaux is completely kitted out for cycling; the area in general is very flat making cycling quite easy, every main road or walking area has a cycle lane and there are plenty of places that you can chain the bike up if you fancy stopping for a drink or to get something to eat. It’s such a great way to get around and quite a fun change of activity on holiday that it’s by far my most recommended thing you do in Bordeaux.
The Water Mirror and The Place De La Bourse
The Place De La Bourse is the iconic building you think of when you think Bordeaux and is definitely worth the photo opportunity. The stunning architecture is amazing to look at and really stands out in the centre of the city’s water front. You can’t really go to Bordeaux without stopping to see this iconic building steeped in history of the French Revolution.
In front of The Place De La Bourse you will find the water mirror, a large area of pavement flooded with a thin film of water. At night the water creates a perfect mirror reflecting the river front and The Place De La Bourse, living up to it name. In the day it makes for a great place to stop and cool off, particularly in summer where you can join the scores of people running through the shallow waters.
Eat, Drink and be Merry
The region of Bordeaux is famous for its wine and is still today one of the largest wine producing regions in France. Red wine tends to be mostly what you think of when you think of Bordeaux and it’s clearly their specialty though if you do prefer a white the region produces quite a sweet white wine as well. As someone who sampled a couple of glasses of Bordeaux wine a day whilst in the area I can assure you it’s pretty damn great! When it comes to food there’s plenty of seafood and shellfish on offer as you would expect in any French city, though Bordeaux is definitely a carnivorous area and if beef is your thing I’d recommend getting the specialty entrecôte marchand de vin or steak fried in a red wine sauce if your french isn’t quite up to scratch.
St Andre Cathedral
If you’re a fan of history particularly in the form of old age architecture then Bordeaux is definitely the place to be. The St Andre Cathedral is breath-taking to look at with its two large steeples and intricate patterned brickwork. Whether you’re a fan of history or not it’s a great place to stop off at as the beautiful building is surrounded by a large open square making it an excellent place to relax and take in the view. The cathedral is very close to the main promenade and only a short walk from The Place De La Bourse so there really is no reason not to check it out.
If you’re actively seeking it or not you really can’t walk through Bordeaux without running into some of its beautiful historical treasures with the most notable being the Porte Cailhau, a stunning roofed arch way that leads from the main river front through to the more restaurant/bar area of the city. St Michaels Bailique, a smaller but no less impressive church again adorned with intricate brickwork creating a gothic feel and the beautiful Monument aux Girondins, a large water fountain built in memory of the deputies of the group of Girondins. The fountain itself consists of a large centre piece tower in which horse statues cascade out as if running along the water.
Shop till you drop!
If you fancy doing a little shopping while you’re away then, like any other big city, Bordeaux has a pretty extensive main strip of shops that’s sure to satisfy your cravings. Head over to the Rue Sainte-Catherine, the main high street in Bordeaux, and you won’t be disappointed with the availability of shops to choose from, including big international chains and trendy independent shops. This is quite a large shopping strip so you could easily make a day of it if you wished to and from here you can head out to a lot of the smaller strips in the area that include a mix of shops, cafes and bars.
Have you been to Bordeaux? Let me know some of your favourite things to do and where you’re planning on going this year!
Thanks, Megan x