Go to the Riviera for the sun and sea; head to Provence for charm, go to Paris because….well, Paris. But if you’re looking to explore beyond the usual French stops, I say go to Bordeaux. It is my favorite city in France.
But first, a question you might have:
If Bordeaux is so great, how come I never hear that much about it?
Indeed, Bordeaux wasn’t that great until recent years, when civic initiatives entirely energized the city. Gone are ugly warehouse buildings that clogged the riverscape, and a huge pedestrian area has been cordoned off in the medieval city center. Buildings have been restored, and the city has an airy, open feel—while retaining its gothic history. I’ve never seen a place that’s so modern and Medieval at the same time.
Onto my five reasons (all photographs are from the Office de Tourism de Bordeaux, unless otherwise noted).
1. The City Center
In all of Europe, only Prague has a larger pedestrian area (closed to cars, busses, etc.). Wander from café to café, from shop to shop.
2. The Mirroir d’Eau
The Mirroir d’Eau (Mirroir of Water), created in 2006. Every 15 minutes, a light swell of cool mist emerges from the sleek granite, creating a magical fog that can rise 2 meters high. The effect can be cooling in the summer, and transporting any other time of year. The site lies between the river and the Place de Bourse—beauty in all directions.
3. The Architecture
Evening falls on the Opera and the historic buildings. Just another beautiful street in Bordeaux.
4. The Wine
Travelers often think of Bordeaux as the jumping-off point to explore the wine region in the surrounding area. Yet the city itself has quite a few places to taste and enjoy wine, including a great “Maison du Vin” where you can take informal classes. This photo is from Max Bordeaux, a fabulous wine-tasting venue in Bordeaux, where you can taste all kinds of rarities. You basically load up a card with money, then go to these wine dispensers for great tastes of cellar-trophy wines. Brilliant! Photo by Virginia Miller.
5. The Food
It’s not only France, but it’s the Southwest of France, where (arguably) France’s best regional dining can be found. Hearty yet refined food to go with all those great wines, and beautiful venues in which to enjoy it all.
I hope you enjoyed this little bit of armchair traveling. If you have any great Bordeaux tips, please share them here! I plan to go back again soon….and I’m sure other readers would be grateful for any leads.