A 4-day Easter Weekend escape to Les Sources de Caudalie, my dream spa & wine destination, took me to Bordeaux. But as I researched our trip then experienced it in person, I was amazed by all this city and region of France have to offer! Obviously, if wine is your thing, this is a must visit… the Châteaux, the festivals, the tours.  But there’s more… architecture, art, music, monuments, churches, walking & biking & boat tours, shopping, dining, the river, and even beaches not too far away!  In our 4 day visit we barely scratched the surface.

Bordeaux is a beautiful city…more like a town in feel but so very majestic! It reminds me of a mini Paris…and turns out Baron Haussman, who was asked by Emperor Napoleon III to transform Paris into a modern capital, used Bordeaux’s 18th-century rebuilding as a model. Built on the River Garonne just in from the Atlantic coast, its has been a major port since pre-Roman times and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2007.  As you walk the streets of gorgeous 18th-century facades, you’ll see why.

A few MUST GO’s for your trip…

* Bordeaux City Walk – a very walkable city, there is much to see on foot…

  • Sites: the stunning Place de la Bourse, right on the river with the Mirror of Water; Le Grand-Théâtre (the Bordeaux National Opera House); Esplanade des Quinconces; Triangle District with streets named after Enlightenment philosophers.
  • Tourism Office: (12 cours du XXX Juillet) stop by upon arrival to town (check out their website for pre-planning tips, festival details, etc…), its one of the best city tourism offices I’ve seen full of maps, information, helpful staff, gifts and THE place to sign up for all sorts of tours.
  • Wine Bars: Bar ā Vin (3, cours du XXX Juillet) is a must stop, across from the Tourism Office, and was named by Travel & Leisure this spring as one of the best wine bars in Europe. Its run by the region’s wine council (CIVB) with a sampling of wines from throughout the region for only €3 per glass, nibbles to pair with your wine and beautiful interior design to enjoy with walls full of wine bottles and stain glass art of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine.
  • Cuisine: so many choices…two we really enjoyed were Karl (6 Place du Parlement), for a great French lunch of tartines and salads, and Le Régent (46, Place Gambetta), an upscale brasserie serving the Bordelais for 117 years (we had an incredible braised pork asparagus risotto).
  • Shopping: check out Le Comptoir Bordelais (1 bis rue des Piliers de Tutelle), a great little 18-year-old gourmet shop.

* Bordeaux Wine Country – can you believe wine dates back to the 1st century here?  Bordeaux is the largest fine wine district in the world, has 60 appellations and 8,650 winemakers. 89% of the wine is red (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc), 11% white (Sauvignon, Semillon, Muscadelle). No wonder it can seem overwhelming! Here are a few ways to explore…

  • Wine Road Drives: there are 5 official wine roads of Bordeaux as mapped by the CIVB so a car is a must: The Châteaux Road to the North-West (Médoc), The Hillside Road to the North-East (Bourg, Blaye), The Heritage Road to the East (Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac), The Fortified Towns Road to the South-East (Entre-Deux-Mers) and The Graves Road to the South-West (Grave, Sauternes).  The CIVB site has a map for each with details on what to explore.
  • Tours & Tastings: Tours are a great way to see many wineries all pre-arranged for you…check out the Tourism site or CIVB site for details.  You can also do your own thing which we did (and I was able to try wine from 13 of the most well know appellations)…our hotel offered us a tour of the fabulous Smith Haut Lafitte Châteaux where we stayed, Le Winery is a great place to explore the entire region in one place and get your Wine Sign, and many wineries like Château Pape Clément are open for tours so check out the Tourism/CIVB sites for more details.

Where to stay? We loved the Les Sources de Caudalie, an amazing property in the Graves with the Smith Haut Lafitte winery, two restaurants, a hotel, and a legendary spa. More to come on that slice of heaven in my next post! Â You can browse many accommodation options on the Tourism website.

As French writer Andre Berry said, “But if beauty is of no regard to you if wine is not your taste, then visitor return from whence thou came, the bridge of Bordeaux is closed to you.”   I think you should go. :)

To see more great photos of Bordeaux visit the gallery.