Nestled in the South of France-ish, about a 2-hour drive from the iconic Basque Country is the beautiful wine region of Bordeaux. At least that’s all I thought it was prior to arriving in this bustling metropolis.
Yeah, I said metropolis. I wound up spending nearly 4 weeks exploring the delicious alleys and bustling squares of Bordeaux and personally trying to sample every single bottle of wine possible, all in the name of research, of course, for this guide to Bordeaux.
The city has recently been topping charts as one of the best destinations to visit in Europe and the world! So what is the hype about this city and how should you spend a weekend, week or lifetime there?
Glad you asked.
How to Get There
The simplest way to Bordeaux is by air. It has an airport with connections directly to a lot of destinations within Europe for the famous cheap European fares. I flew from London for 17 Euros. It’s a tiny airport but British Airways, EasyJet, Ryanair, and many others have developed routes to get you there!
Another option is the train. There are great connections via the European rail lines through Paris. Set to be constructed this year is a super fast train which will make getting to and from Paris much quicker and easier at roughly 2 hours.
Bordeaux can be as expensive or inexpensive as you’d like to make, I believe.
A hotel will run you typical costs in Europe of over 100 Euros a night. There are luxury hotels and budget hotels that range from that. Hostels are scarce, if not non-existent so for the budget traveler, I’d highly recommend Airbnb for a few nights stay where you can find a decent apartment for $50 a night or less.
The food at restaurants can set you back. It is customary to have a few courses, a few glasses of wine, dessert, espresso, cocktails yadda yadda. Pretty easy to rack up a bill over 70 Euros. Yup, did that.
If you want to splurge on dinners, look for places with set menu options, they still seem steep but in the end, they will more than likely save you money and tantalize your taste buds more.
I went the more cost-effective route as I had a full kitchen to work with. Groceries, produce, and most importantly cheese is cheap, extremely high quality and ravishingly delicious! Adventure out to one of the bazillion fresh markets daily and pick up fresh, local ingredients to whip up your favorite meals with at home with a 5 Euro bottle of DELICIOUS Bordeaux wine.
A wheel of Camembert cheese in Bordeaux at a decent quality will be about 2 Euros, same thing in NY $7.99. Eat up! I recommend it warmed in the oven, with toasty bread for dipping. Or fingers…. Whatever you have laying around. Don’t limit yourself
Transportation is extremely cheap. The tram system is less than a $1 a ride if you buy a multi-ride pass and if you get in a financial bind is rarely checked to ensure that you’ve stamped it upon entering.
Finally, the most important cost to consider: WINE! I’m going to give you a few wine bars that are GREAT options for sampling some delicious local wines at extremely reasonable prices, go to them! Bordeaux-ians are excited to show off and help visitors to experience their wines. Many wine bars offer half pours for 2-3 Euros to help get your palate falling madly in love with Bordeaux vino.
Great bottles can be found in shops for 5 euros, trust me, I was always a “A great bottle of wine can’t really be found for under 15$ kinda gal” and I swear that price isn’t always indicative of taste in Bordeaux. Experiment! Cocktails, on the other hand, will run ya 9-10 Euros apiece. Stick to wine, you’ll thank me later.
What to Eat
Our guide to Bordeaux wouldn’t be complete without talking about food and this one is easy: EAT EVERYTHING! But really…..
First, go to the Marché des Capucins market by the Saint Michel Cathedral. Find the Moules Frites place, sit down and order as many batches of mussels and fries there as you can possibly stomach. A. They are like $8 so stop whining. B. These are the best mussels that ever graced this Earth and your mouth, I guarantee it.
Second, for an unbelievable expensive dinner out, mosey over to La Tupina. It’s a little North from the Old City Center but well worth the little ganter to get there. The atmosphere is super charming, and the food is extremely simple yet, yummmm. I had the best lamb I think I’ll ever have in my life there. And made a friend out of one of the waitresses! Bonus!
Third, just try it. I’m pretty convinced that you can’t go wrong with anything you eat in Bordeaux.
Some things for sure: You’re close to Basque Country so find a Basque restaurant, it’s a fun little twist in the food game. Get a large chicken, apparently, it is a thing. Oysters are everywhere! They are different than the East or West Coast USA oysters but still delicious in a whole new way! And most markets will have them for a $1.
Don’t skimp on the meat, filets are so rich and juicy, I have no idea why!
Try out a Michelin star restaurant. Across the river in Bouliac lies a lovely Ultra-Modern Hotel, St.Le Saint-James, which was custom designed by famed French architect, Jean Nouvel, and home to the smallest vineyard in Bordeaux and a delicious Michelin Star restaurant. I was graciously shown around the property and given an insanely coveted bottle of wine from their < 500 bottle production and enjoyed a 7+ course lunch with pairing at their restaurant.
I can’t tell you what that experience was like because I am fairly certain I died and went to heaven. Lunch is a great way to experience it on a slightly more casual, and more cost-friendly level, a 6 or 7-course lunch menu with 2 glasses of wine is only 60 Euros!
What to Do
Go straight to the La Cité du Vin immediately upon arrival. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Well, if you see $200 grab it. You can buy more wine. They have wonderful wine classes and 8 stories of information about the wine region!
Take day trips: The largest sand dune in Europe is only an hour away, Dune de Pilat. There are also really great coastal towns with delicious seafood and relaxed vibes that are easy to get to via train or bus!
Explore Saint- Emilion. This part of Bordeaux is RENOWNED for its wine. All of the wine shops in the town do free tastings, so go in and start asking questions!
Wander the streets. There is literally beauty around every corner. From quaint little shops to great architecture and stunning views, moseying around was my favorite thing to do!
Dance in the Miroir d’eau at sunset! Find someone to photograph it!
Shop on the world’s longest shopping street at Rue St. Catherine.
Ready to plan a trip to Bordeaux? Jennifer from Luxe Adventure Traveler has a great more in-depth guide to Bordeaux with great tips for planning your trip!