Bordeaux and its surroundings are a perfect place to spend a long weekend, perhaps going outside the city borders to visit the medieval village of Saint Emilion, surrounded by the Bordelais vineyards, or go to the sea, to climb the Dune du Pilat, the higher sand dune in Europe.
Bordeaux, the small Paris on the Garonne banks
Until the 1990s the city of Bordeaux did not arouse too much interest, because it was considered gray, cold and above all “asleep”. But in the last 15 years Bordeaux has been reborn, thanks to continuous development and restoration works, and recently it has often been mentioned among the unmissable European destinations.
Tourists have learned to appreciate it and in 2007 the recognition also came from UNESCO, which included its buildings in the historic center among the World Heritage sites.
The elegant Place de la Bourse is certainly one of the most scenic spots in the city, especially in summer time when the buildings surrounding it reflect in the Miroir d’Eau, Europe’s largest reflective surface. In some moments the water of the miroir comes out in the form of vaporizing jets, very refreshing. If, like us, you go there in winter, you will find it unfortunately dry.
The Cailhau Gate is the ancient gateway to the city and, together with the Grosse Cloche, is one of the most important monuments in the center. This great bell has the power to remove the storms coming from the sea.
We are in the Saint Pierre district, full of ancient alleys and small squares, the ideal place for a gastronomic break: here, in fact, there are several small restaurants and wine bars!
The interesting religious buildings are the Cathedral of Saint André, with its very tall bell tower, slightly separated from the church, and the Basilica of Saint Michel. Not far away, the Esplanade de Quinconces, the largest square in France, decorated with monuments and fountains.
If you like shopping, a must is the walk on Rue Sainte Catherine, considered the longest shopping street in Europe, with over 3 km of shop windows.
The most interesting viewpoint on the city is certainly the very suggestive riverfront of Garonne. Here you can walk on the Pont de Pierre, a majestic 17-arched bridge, commissioned by Napoleon (the number of arches corresponds to the number of letters of the name Napoléon Bonaparte).
Or you can move to the neighborhood where the modern and spectacular Pont Chaban Delmas stands, the largest vertical lift bridge in Europe. Its span rises over 53 meters and allows the passage of merchandise and cruise ships.
The area has been the subject of a recent redevelopment and today it is a favorite destination for the Bordeaux people for running, cycling and skateboarding.
A little further north you can find the futuristic construction of the Cité du Vin, the largest museum in the world dedicated to wine.
The magnificent Dune du Pilat
If you spend a few days in Bordeaux don’t miss an excursion to the Archacon Basin. It is a huge saltwater basin, closed to the west by the Cap Ferret strip, beyond which the Atlantic Ocean opens up.
We advise you to get around by car, the best way to fully enjoy the scenery and stop at the main places of interest. Archacon is a pretty, lively town, rich in colonial architecture, already known in the 1800s. Its first bathhouse was built in 1823!
A few kilometers from Archacon, there is the spectacular Dune du Pilat, a 114-meter-high strip of sand that stretches into the sea, protected behind by the green of the pine forest.
A marvel of nature to enjoy lying on the fine sand, with the sound of the wind and the look that stretches to the ocean.
On the opposite side of the bay you can reach the peninsula of Cap Ferret, driven by wind and ocean waves.
Along the inner slope, the coast is instead dotted with wooden cabanas where a must is to stop to taste the oysters!
The Bordeaux wine roads
In addition to the city of Bordeaux, there are even 5 wine roads to travel in the Bordeaux region. Visits to the cellars, tastings at the castles, walks among the vineyards: for the wine enthusiasts this area alone deserves at least 3 or 4 days of visit.
If you have less time, we recommend at least one day to visit three must-see destinations in the area.
The Châteaux road is by far the most beautiful route among the vineyards of the Médoc region, one of the most prestigious wine-growing areas in the world, home to very famous red wines.
Further north the road of the hills leads to Bayle, a town known not only for its full-bodied red wines, but also for the Cittadella, in a dominant position over the Garonne estuary.
Saint-Émilion, along the Patrimoine road, is a medieval village located on a rocky promontory, included in the Unesco World Heritage. The village itself is very interesting for a visit even if you are not passionate about wine.
A treat not to be missed is the unusual 11th century monolithic church carved into the rock. And then climb to the top of the Tower of the King, for a view on the vineyards of the valley below!