How to do Bordeaux
Kicking your heels in this port city? Tim Pike, of the Invisible Bordeaux blog, has the inside track on what to do if you're in town for a day, an evening or just an hour.Featured March 18
…In a day
Your starting point is the lively Capucins food market, where your senses are your guide. Expect a feast of sights, sounds, smells and colours, and do sample the produce. Then, as you're in the epicentre of arguably the world's finest wine-producing region, hop on a tram and head to the Cité du Vin, Bordeaux's wine museum. The permanent exhibition covers the history and culture of wine, with plenty of high-tech wizardry. The visit ends with a glass of wine on the top floor of this frankly oddball building. Enjoy the view, the focal point of which is Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas, Europe's highest lift bridge. You might even see the central section ascend to let a tall ship through.
Lunch can be at the charming Au Bouchon des Chartrons, which serves classic French cuisine with a modern twist, or else catch a tram back to the city centre and enjoy the light meals served in the restaurant of l'Utopia, a much-loved arthouse cinema in a converted church.
Your afternoon agenda could include a tour of the unorthodox CAPC modern art museum, in an old trade warehouse, or else the more conventional delights of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, in the grounds of Palais Rohan, the city hall. Balance that intake of highbrow culture by heading to Rue Sainte-Catherine, the vibrant commercial heart of the city and one of the longest pedestrianised shopping streets in Europe.
A must-try is a canelé, the ubiquitous local pastry: it has a soft, custardy centre and a thick, caramelised crust. Finish off by browsing in the designer outlets of the Golden Triangle area around Place des Grands-Hommes, then treat yourself to a bit of laidback wine tasting with trendy sommeliers in the peaceful hidden courtyard of Le Boutique Hôtel's aptly named Wine Bar.
…In an evening
Using Place Saint-Pierre as your hub, work up an appetite with a meandering backstreet stroll, taking in old city gates such as Porte Cailhau and Porte Saint-Eloi, and scenic squares including Place du Parlement and Place Georges de Porto-Riche. Dine at Lecarreau bistro or, if you crave the unexpected, the quirky, innovative international menu at Mampuku.
This being Bordeaux, you should really finish off with a glass of wine at L'Oenolimit on Place Fernand-Lafargue, the city's square that never sleeps. Other beverages are available, though, and one of the city's finest selections of craft beer can be found at Jaqen, just off the central Place Pey-Berland, where you can take in the floodlit delights of Saint-André Cathedral and its bell tower, Tour Pey-Berland.
…In an hour
The unmissable sights in Bordeaux are all conveniently within walking distance of each other: the spectacular Monument aux Girondins, the promenade and harmonious façades of Allées de Tourny, and the impressive Grand Théâtre opera house.
Pose on the majestic Place de la Bourse and by the photogenic Miroir d'eau water feature, a shallow pool which moves according to a computerised sequence. From here you can admire the city's first bridge, the 19th-century Pont de Pierre, and observe the curve in the Garonne river that gave Bordeaux its lunar-crescent-based emblem and nickname, ‘le port de la lune'.
And, if you've got to work…
Open your laptop here:
Nomade: A welcoming drop-in co-working facility and business centre run by the post office.
BD Avenue: A quiet, comfortable café environment with the city's largest selection of comic books in the basement store.
The city centre itself: Free wi-fi is available throughout much of the city centre, so just find a spot and log on.
Tim Pike documents the city's sights and stories on invisiblebordeaux.net, Facebook, Twitter (@invisiblebx) and Instagram (@invisiblebordeaux).