Perhaps rivaled only by Champagne on the opposite side of the country, there may be no region more closely tied to winemaking than Bordeaux. In the region alone, there are more than 7,000 chateaus, which together produce nearly 1 billion bottles of wine each year. Sitting in the southwest of France, the city of Bordeaux is the capital of this region. Alongside its mouthwatering wine, it’s famous for its picturesque plazas, world-class museums, and centuries-old architecture sharing the street with a bevy of striking new structures. Known for a certain brand of joy de vivre, locals can frequently be seen lingering over an aperitif at an outdoor cafe or enjoying a leisurely stroll along the waterfront of the winding Garonne River. In the heart of the city, Bordeaux buzzes with chic coffee shops, luxury boutiques, and elegant eateries, while more quirky and eclectic offerings can be found in the outer neighborhoods.
Areas & Neighborhoods in Bordeaux
From the heart of the Historic Center, the city’s neighborhoods sprawl out like a web. The majority of Bordeaux’s best landmarks and attractions can be found along the left bank of the Garonne River, sprinkled throughout districts that transition between the historically significant and the bohemian chic.
Downtown — At the center of the city, Downtown Bordeaux is where you’ll find much of the area’s most well-known sites, as well as an incredible selection of restaurants, hotels, and shopping streets. On the eastern side of the district, the Historic Center is home to breathtaking structures such as the columned Grand Théâtre, the Palace of the Bourse, and the 11th-century Bordeaux Cathedral. Just to the north, the Golden Triangle is an elegant area bursting with luxury boutiques and gourmet eateries, while Rue Sainte-Catherine to the south is the longest shopping street in all of Europe.
Capucins-Victoire — The Historic Center extends into the district of Capucins-Victoire, however, this area is more eclectic than its northern neighbor. Much of the district is centered around Saint-Michel, which is known for its diverse selection of multicultural eats. Come here to find everything from French and Italian to Moroccan, Hungarian, and Chinese cuisine. Four days a week, the streets near the basilica transform into a lively flea market, while down the road, colorful produce and fresh flowers can be found in the covered Capucins Market.
Chartons — North of Downtown, a cool, creative spirit imbues the more contemporary neighborhood of Chartons. Low-key bars fill centuries-old buildings, and the boardwalk along the water is lined with outdoor eateries, discount shopping, and a skating park. Nearby, explore contemporary art at the CAPC Museum, or enjoy charming attractions like the merry-go-round and puppet theater at the Public Garden.
Bacalan — Continue north and you reach Bacalan, a former industrial area that has undergone a transformation in recent years. Today, the neighborhood’s biggest draw is La Cité du Vin—The City of Wine—a high-tech museum with interactive displays and tastings inside an innovative building shaped like a decanter.
La Bastide — Located on the right bank of the Garonne, La Bastide is another neighborhood that has recently seen a revival. Head to the Botanic Garden to enjoy a stroll along the water, grab a cocktail at one of the area’s cafes, or simply relax while taking in views of the Historic District from across the river.
What to See in Bordeaux
Soak in the awe-inspiring sights of Bordeaux aboard a Garonne River cruise boat. From a dock in Chartrons, board the boat and grab a spot on either the outdoor deck or in the temperature-controlled lounge. As you begin your ride down the water, gaze out upon a skyline of UNESCO-listed buildings, including the Gothic Bordeaux Cathedral, the historic Porte Cailhau gate, and the belltower of St. Michael’s, which stands 374 feet (114 m) above the streets. Marvel at the way the ornate facades of these structures play against newer creations like the state-of-the-art Cité du Vin and the reflecting pool outside Palace de la Bourse. Back on land, see the city from a different perspective—from up in the belltower itself.
Sightseeing in Bordeaux
Uncork the secrets of the Bordeaux wine region with a class that teaches you not only how to taste the vin like a pro, but to create your very own blend. Alongside a knowledgeable sommelier, learn to swirl, sniff, and sip some of the best blends that Bordeaux is known for, and then compare them to ones from other regions like Burgundy, Provence, and Champagne. Cap off your workshop with a chance to make your own Bordeaux-style blend using varietals such as cabernet, merlot, and malbec.
For an even more immersive wine experience, head out of the city into the countryside of Bordeaux. On a full-day tour, dive into the wonderful world of cabernet as you sip samples of the varietal in postcard-worthy towns such as Margaux and Saint-Julien. Visit some of the most jaw-dropping chateaus in the region while learning all about the history of the estates and the winemaking process.
Once back in the city, explore the incredible cultural and artistic options that Bordeaux has to offer. Wander your way through the old part of town to visit sites such as Palais Rohan, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of Aquitaine. Take in a performance of opera at the royal Grand-Théâtre or see an over-the-top concert at the Mériadeck Rink. If Bordeaux’s world-famous wine is still on your mind, treat yourself to a sensory journey at La Cité du Vin. Work your way through the interactive displays and then savor a glass of fine wine while gazing out upon views from the 8th-floor observation deck.