I can’t believe it has taken me this long to write about the beautiful city of Bordeaux in the Southwest of France, but alas that’s what happens when life gets in the way. My reasons for visiting was to attend (and be the celebrant of) my really good friends Yasmine & Svebor’s wedding, both are from the city but currently based in Florence.
I had so much fun at their wedding that I am planning a post about it but in the meantime let’s talk about the 9th largest city in France called ‘little Paris’, and one that produces around 960 million bottles of wine a year (my kind of town). Basically this means I could quite easily call this place home one day. There are many reasons to have a love affair with Bordeaux, it has history, it has the atmosphere, it has cute men in tight pants, and it has attractive trams that work.
I like you Bordeaux, I like you a lot.
Instead of hitting the city ‘hard’ like I normally do, we took a very rare chance to truly rest. We rented a cheap airbnb apartment in a nice area in the city and concentrated on a bit of ‘slow travel’ which is fancytalk for being lazy and walking around the city with no real plan. This is not something I often do, my anxiety to discover new places almost always prevails, but something I probably should learn to embrace more often.For a fun roundup of what stood out for the short ‘taste’ I had of the city, I compiled five reasons that made me fall in a Romeo & Juliet like love affair with Bordeaux, one thing I should note is that I definitely will be back, hopefully sooner rather than later.
1. Bordeaux is Fun: Namely for the People
Atmosphere is everything to me, I love stepping out of the door, fresh with perfume and ready to walk down a new city’s boulevard – ready for anything and everything. The first day we arrived for pre-wedding fun, within an hour we were drinking spritz’s in the garden of Alex & Mathieu’s house, two fun guys that we just met, cracking jokes and saluting our mutual friends who were soon to be married.
We were staying in their spare room for a night until our Airbnb rental was available and no-one even batted an eye. While it is true that French people don’t have the warmest reputation in the world, but honestly, I have to say that is utter bullshit. The more I go (and I am not yet even sort of close to being fluent) the people I have met have been some of the kindest, warmest, generous and fun. Just start with a drink and some broken French and anything is possible. I felt the same way about our recent trip to Lille, northern France. This trip, we were in Bordeaux in September and on the first day, after our welcome drink, we discovered an outdoor garden outside the grand theater where live music colored the night air and we sipped champagne on lawn chairs. It was awesome.
that perfect crisp glass of champagne in an urban garden, live music & dancing next to the grand theater
I also had almost too much fun in the lovable Miroir D’Eau ‘Mirror of water’ in front of the Place de la Bourse covering a space of 3450 m2. Residents and visitors have the chance to splash around in this attractive spot that couldn’t be more beautifully built if they tried. Literally everyone we saw there had a smile on their face as they walked along the shallow water.
Misty Miroir D’Eau, meeting point for many who live in the city
Relaxing in one of the vintage chairs next to the Miroir D’Eau, Bordeaux keeping it hipster cool!
2. It has Made Me an Architecture Lover
Most of the buildings that make Bordeaux the charming place it is today were built in the 18th century. During this time in France’s history, Bordeaux was its largest trading port and was remodeled with larger leafy streets and more attractive architecture. This continued in the 19th century and the city now successfully combines ‘old with new’.
La Grosse Cloche, old bell of the Bordeaux town hall, preserved from the 15th century
Some notable monuments include the Palais Rohan (city hall), Monument aux Girondins, Place de la Bourse, Pont de Pierre, Porte Cailhau, Grand Theatre de Bordeaux designed by Victor Louis who also completed the famous Theatre Francais in Paris. I suggest wandering the town slowly, you can find a yellow line to walk on which essentially takes you around the most important monuments in town.
3. The Mayor and I Share The Same Last Name
Well this isn’t entirely true, my last name is Jupe and Bordeaux’s major is Alain Juppe but that didn’t stop me trying to name drop (jokes). People used to call this city La Belle Endormie (Sleeping Beauty) choking in pollution and not the kind of place you really wanted to call home. Instead now, the city has undergone quite the revival because of my fake ‘relative’ Mr. Juppe who in 1995 put forth a massive regeneration effort, cleaning up the city and installing a hi-tech tram system uniting the city both physically and mentally. Now the historical center is a UNESCO-heritage site and the French are clamoring to call this city along the garonne, home. More about Bordeaux-reborn here via the Guardian with some food & visit tips.
Nico jumping for joy in the majestic Miroir d’Eau, a refreshing haven on humid days
4. The Food is magnifique!
In France, you know the food is going to be good. I mean trust me, it would be a crime to have a crap meal in this country though I know it happens. Being that Bordeaux is close to the ocean (and a famous dune that I didn’t get to see this trip) seafood is a must-have here. We decided to stop by La Petit Commerce, a lively place with loads of seafood platters to choose from, the style very much like ‘tapas.’ Shoved on an outside table so close to the next tables that I could have quite easily rested my elbow on them, I have to say I love the busy, frenetic atmosphere. Believe it or not, we actually like snails so we indulged in some herb-butter escargot and a sweet large crab, using tools that could be at home in an anatomy class. We washed the goodness with a local white wine, you just can’t go wrong here.
If that wasn’t enough, they do a pretty good brunch as well. The ‘morning after’ the wedding, we needed something hearty after dancing till 4am so we headed to The Breakfast Club (love that name!) for eggs, cheddar, scones and happiness. It also happens
Also we had possibly one of the best burger experiences I have ever had, I wish Florence could match something like this. Just one visit to the West Coast Gourmet burger chain and I was in heaven. Here’s why:
A trip to Bordeaux would be actually unthinkable without trying the famous canelé, this local pastry from the 18th century has a soft, custard center with a thick, browned crust and can be spotted all over the city.
We skipped going on a wine tour this trip and headed over to a local wine bar to try a few samples. It was a Monday late-morning and within ten minutes we had at least seven wine glasses in front of showcasing the wonderful wines from around Bordeaux’s famous vineyards. I think we paid around 7 or maybe, max 10 euros for the generous tasting. Drinking before noon is absolutely ok when you’re in vacation and it’s a wine school, or at least that is what I told myself 😉
5. The Public Parks Will Make Anyone Love Nature
What really impressed me about this city were 100% the public gardens. One afternoon we wandering to the massive Jardin Public which was built in the 18th century, destroyed in the French Revolution (those naughty frenchies!), and eventually re-landscaped in the English style. You can make this your place to picnic, people watch, bike ride, go on a boat ride. We even spotted some ballroom dancing in a hidden corner, in my opinion my own city of Florence has a lot to learn when it comes to public gardens, and they should go to Bordeaux for their education ;-).
Where to Eat
Le Petit Commerce, 22 Rue Parlement Saint-Pierre, 33000 Bordeaux, France. Seafood and great wine, highly recommend for the fresh fish and crabs, portions are very small.
The Breakfast Club, 27 Rue des Ayres, 33000 Bordeaux, France. Facebook Page. Brunch place near the popular shopping street, Rue Sainte Catherine, we loved it!
West Coast Gourmet Burgers, 31 Rue du Cancera, 33000 Bordeaux, France. Hip burger restaurant with American-style gourmet options, I liked the Venice beach burger. Skip the fries and go for the onion rings. website
To try Bordeaux’s most famous pastry: Canelé Baillardran Café (all over the city). Website.
Where to Drink
Les Jardins de L’Opera, Place de la Comédie website. Cool outside garden bar (and restaurant) with live music and drinks in the summer months. Highly recommend.
Le Bar à Vin, Conseil Interprofessionnel du vin de Bordeaux . 3, cours du XXX juillet. Besides the fact that it is a wine school, this is the perfect spot to try some local specialities before embarking on a wine tour. Great price and knowledgeable staff.
Where to Go
Jardin Public, Cours de Verdun, Bordeaux, France, FR. Beautiful public gardens, perfect picnic spot or to just wonder the botanical area.
Next time I’m in town, I will definitely be heeding the advice of Bruno Loubet who shares his love for the city along with foodie hideaways that make me drool on my computer keyboard. Article via The Guardian.
‘Bordeaux on a Budget: A guide for Foodie’ via ShermansTravel Blog, loved this article, lots to bookmark on this list. Once again you can see I’m obsessed with food!
An awesome Cannelés recipe from a French foodie in Dublin. I am so happy I found her blog.
Bordeaux was never really on my travel radar before, but now I’m thinking I’ll definitely have to check it out. The Miroir d’Eau looks awesome – I’d probably have way too much fun there with a camera in hand!
Sara I think you would adore this place! I honestly took more photos of the miroir d’eau than anything else in the city. Also because everyone there had a smile on their face. This is the perfect weekend getaway, plus you bike ride everywhere, including nearby Saint-Emillion (wine country).
I LOVE this post. As a wine certification student, Bordeaux is definitely on my travel-to list because of their rich wine history. I love that you went outside of the wine story and really showed parts of the city instead. It’s a new and refreshing view of what looks to be a gorgeous place!
Ciao Heather, thank you! I figured that this city has almost too many articles about wine and wine tours so why not just share a bit about a fun, rather slow weekend about what to appreciate. I know there is so much more to say about Bordeaux but this if anything, gives me a darn good reason to be back.
great post! really enjoyed!
Hello Lara! Thank you 🙂
I really enjoyed this post. Your skillful writing and beautiful pictures made me feel like I was there along side you two. I could taste the escargot, pastries and wine as I read along.
Thank you so much Gil, you are very kind to say that! Do you like escargot? They aren’t for everyone but they are actually very very good!
I like escargot. I only had them French style once or twice. My family used to cook them when making sauce. Delicious!
yum! They are so good and they make you work for them too, I have to appreciate that 😉
Once again you’ve made me hungry! Thanks for taking me along on another great adventure!
This is one of those places you need to go on a diet before you visit or just rent a bike while there, the food is almost sinfully good in this area of France.
Great post! I loved reading it. Anything you need in Bordeaux I’ll be happy to help.
Have a beautiful day….. A girl from Florence living in Bordeaux :-))
Thank you Luciana! I hope to be back there next year, I need to see more of this city!
Hello and thank you for your post about my great city. You make me discover new places here (The breakfast café). I have one comment though about the canelé. The canelés from Baillardran are probably (and sorry for that) the most disgusting canelés of the city. Next time, i personnaly recommend the canelés from “La Toque cuivrée”. Hope you will taste it when you will come back here. Ciao !
Hello Sam! thank you for reading and commenting, you know I actually had a feeling about the ‘canelés from Baillardran’, I actually liked them but I knew there were more places that were probably better, it was just hard to find anything open on a Sunday. I will definitely take your suggestion when I am in town again, I would love to write a post trying canelés in many different places, together with a local!
I will be glad to help you in your next visit. My only regret with your blog is that i discovered it after my visit to Florence… I fell in love with this city and i will, for sure, go back there (although i don’t know when…)
Bonjour i’am Alex a Bordelais living in US i just read your post and really enjoy it 🙂 and you are right atmosphère is everything and Bordeaux have this special thing…
Ciao Alex, where in the USA are you based? For this Americana, atmosphere is everything. It’s what makes the city come alive, plus I really felt how nice people are in this region of France. It must have been hard to leave..
hello. I’m living in Philly an other city with a lot of atmosphere full of good vibe and culturally really rich. it’s been a bit hard to leave but it make it even more amazing all the time im going back for vacation…. 😉
Thanks for your kind words.. Hope to see you again to the Petit Commerce..
Arno operation manager Petit Commerce !
My pleasure, our first meal was at the Petit Commerce and we had an amazing meal and time. That crab is still fresh in my memory, I will be back!
I live IN Bordeaux since less than a year, and this city is fabulous, its heritage, the cultural places, the concert halls…. the life is very pleasant there
Bonjour Delphone! If we go back we should remain in touch, I would love to see more of Bordeaux, especially the cultural side (which is why I moved to Italy)
Hi from a French person from Bordeaux living abroad, thank you for that amazing article on Bordeaux !! You describe it very well, and it’s nice to know that foreigners enjoy our beautiful city 🙂
Bonjour Laura! I was shy to originally write this post because I am by no means an ‘expert’ in the city after just one visit. I just wanted to showcase why I fell in love with Bordeaux and hopefully will visit again and write about all sorts of different things I see/experience in the region. I really appreciate you reading, and taking the time to comment on my post. Viva Bordeaux!
I am a Scot, who lived in Bordeaux from 1980 to 1985; Loved the city! the first ten or so years that I lived here in Canada, whenever I got homesick, it was for Bordeaux. Now I occasionally go on a walking tour, courtesy of Google maps! And if anyone asks what I would do if I won the lottery, I would go back in a New York minute.
That’s really something that the city has remained in your mind for so long (ps. I love the walking tour idea via google maps, I can’t believe I’ve never thought of that). I knew it would be nice but I think what was nice was the fact that the city feels like it is a great place to live, for it’s citizens. Which sometimes in Florence isn’t the case (lack of nice public parks, decent public transportation etc). I want to go back and explore a little more, and of course visit the famous dune
I really enjoyed reading your post, mostly for two reasons. I live in Bordeaux, and us frenchies love to read good stuff about our cities ! But what’s important is that you reminded me of how cool and beautiful Bordeaux is. I feel like I know this city so well I don’t even take the time to enjoy the view when I go for a walk or just meet up with friend anymore. And that’s something that has to change. Therefore, all I want to say is : merci.
Really great article and you’re so right, it’s really easy to fall in love with Bordeaux. I used to live there but due to some professional reasons, I had to move in Paris and as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather return back to Bordeaux. An advantage of this town is that it has lot of “funny” places just like big cities and at the same time, it can be quiet and calm like small cities. Thank you for your article.
What a fantastic post! Bordeaux totally caught me by surprise too! My trip there was so spontaneous that I had done zero research and expected to see nothing but vineyards. What a beautiful and underrated city. Some of my favorite photos I’ve taken were at the Miroir d’Eau. I have to say though, the best food I had at France and some of my fave experiences were on day trips from Bordeaux to the chateaus and vineyards; I’ve got a blog post coming soon with details!
You’ll have to keep me posted Suzette, this city captures the hearts and minds of many I reckon. I think it is, as you say, very underrated which is why I needed to write about it. I hope that it won’t be the last time I visit either.
Thank you Georgette for your post. I am an American who studied in Bordeaux in 2000/2001. I got to experience the charm of Bordeaux and the lovely people and good food, but not yet the changes that have happend in the last 13 years to make the city so “hip” and “fun” as you experienced it. When I was there the streets were all torn up making way for the new tram and many parts of the city were still needing to be cleaned up. I haven’t been back since 2001, but your article inspires me to check it out and fall back in love with the city and the area. You’ve got to do the dunes next time you visit, try running all the way down; what an adrenaline rush! Thanks for the inspiration and the great pics.
Hello! I loved this blog post. I will be moving to Bordeaux in February and am reading any and everything I can get my hands on in preparation! This excited me even more for my next adventure. Thank you so much!
Ciao! Thank you so much! I really enjoyed this city and hope to go back for a bit more time next year. You will like it too I’m sure. Have a great time!!!
Je t’aime, I am envious of you. I’m considering moving to France and Bordeaux is looking so wonderful. You must be so full of excitement about your move, since it’s so close! I do wish you well and hope you’ll be really happy there. If you’re able to respond, and I realize you may be too busy by now, do you speak French? Helen/DallasTX
Hello Helen! I speak and understand very little. Like a word here and there. I have the extreme basics, beyond that I will need some serious help. My husband is French, and I will qualify for language courses through him. Hope I can learn quickly 🙂 And I hope you can make the move as soon as you are ready!
Great post! My husband and I spent two months in Bordeaux last year, to improve our French. We couldn’t have chosen a better city!
I’m looking forward to having a similar experience in Italy and I’m looking for a city with the same spirit: lots of cultural programs, cool atmosphere, easy to walk around. Would you have any recommendations for me?
Hiii, thanks for this! What area did you stay in please?
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