Bordeaux is a small & really gorgeous city. I really wasn’t sure what to expect – my only knowledge was that this region of France is known for WINE, which was reason enough for us to make a visit.
Joe and I did something a little different this trip and stayed outside the centre of the city in a gorgeous little manor called Domaine de Ginouilhac, owned by the most lovely French couple. We got to enjoy the peace & quiet of the French countryside, while only being a quick 20 minute train ride into Bordeaux.
We ventured into Bordeaux pretty early the next morning as we had planned to squeeze a lot in. Our first priority was breakfast, so we headed directly to a super cute California-inspired juice bar called Cafe Kokomo. We had the most amazing Mexi-breakfast bowl, accompanied by some fresh squeezed juices and iced coffee. To make our breakfast even better, the weather in April was GORGEOUS – sunny & warm, so we enjoyed our meal on the sidewalk, watching all the locals pass by with their baguettes in tow.
Afterwards we walked around trying to catch all the major sights. First stop was the Bordeaux Cathedral, which is a large Gothic beauty. This church was named a UNESCO World Heritage site long before the entire city of Bordeaux was appointed in 2007. The claim to fame here is the Tour Pey Berland, the looming tower that was later attached to the Cathedral; and if you’re up for climbing the 229 dizzying steps to the top, your reward is a spectacular panorama of the city. Normally Joe and I never say no to quick climb to the top, but since we were short on time, we decided to skip it this time around.
The church shared an open courtyard with the picturesque Bordeaux town hall as well as a flurry of bistros packed with al fresco brunch-goers. We made a quick stop for an iced coffee at SIP Coffee Bar, which was a super cool and laid back coffee shop-store-gallery combo. We sat at a tiny bar where the barista let us try a couple of different blends and then made us our picks to go.
We strolled through the main part of the city where finally lots of the shops and restaurants were starting to open up. The vibe and architecture is very similar to Paris, just with a smaller & more local feel to it. There is something about the charm of French cities that is different to any other, and Bordeaux definitely pulses with it.
We shortly arrived to Port Cailhau, which is the iconic gate leading to the Old Town of the city that everyone envisions when they think of Bordeaux. It literally looks a building straight from a fairytale with it’s alternating spires and large opening fit for an extra large wooden door, big enough for a horse & carriage carrying the royal family. The Place du Palais had a really cute cafe that I can imagine would be perfect for sipping a cappuccino and people watching, but we were on a mission, so walking through the gate lead us straight to the Garonne River.
The promenade here is gorgeous, flanked with gardens and the background of all of the white and golden hued buildings with their iron-work balconies (so French!) built like a barrier to the rest of the city. We walked along the path (that actually goes for miles and would be AWESOME for a long run) until we arrived to Place de la Bourse. This iconic Bordelais building represents a sense of ‘freedom’ for the city because it was built to ‘open up’ the city walls and encourage growth and development for the future. It really feels like a place that the community gathers due to the large open space, and was actually packed with people when we were there. In front of the palace is Le Miror de L’eau which literally translates to ‘water mirror’ and that is exactly what is it is; a large plaza of granite with fountains spraying water that makes this the world’s largest reflecting pool! Since it was SO hot the day we were there, there were tons of kids running through the water cooling off. It was a really cool piece of architecture and from what I’ve read, is really gorgeous at night when all lit up. Although we were tempted to dunk our heads in the fountain, we resisted as best we could and carried on with our Bordeaux self-walking tour.
We walked back through the city and past the National Opera, until we were greeted by large gardens. This Place des Quinconces is actually one of Europe’s largest city squares at 31 acres, and is filled with many fountains and monuments dedicated to the city and country’s greatest. The day we were there it happened to be the same day as a food & antique market, which Joe and I enjoyed wandering through, examining all the different booths & local treasures.
Our morning of exploring was coming to an end as it was time to meet our tour guide for our afternoon Médoc Wine Tour. Obviously this was a must as we were in one of the most renowned places in the world for red wine. We had a small group and lovely French guide who drove us through the region and educated us on the official five level class system that Bordeaux uses to rank wines. Our first stop was Chateau Lascombes which is classified as a second grand cru classe vineyard. This is a gorgeous estate made up of an ivy covered chateau, rolling vineyards, and a modernised storage/bottling facility and tasting room. We tried two excellent red wines and spent some time discussing our tastes with the sommelier and our tour group.
Next on deck was Chateau Siran, which was love at first sight for me – a lovely pink manor with white trim, shaded with big trees and crawling with red roses. We had a quick tour of the grounds and museum, learning a lot about the history of the Chateau and the family who runs it. We were able to have a relaxing moment on their rooftop which had views over the vineyard and was the exact image I had in my mind of what the Médoc region would look like. Our tasting followed and we enjoyed four different types of wine in their cellar. This wrapped up our wonderful afternoon of sipping wine. We headed back to Bordeaux through tiny, quaint villages that were barely alive on a Saturday at 5pm. The tour was the perfect ending to our day and I highly suggest anyone who enjoys wine to indulge in one of these adventures to learn about the rich history of this region.
Joe and I then took a stroll through what felt like a younger & hipper area of the city that we briefly saw earlier called Saint Pierre. The streets here are lined with cool cafes & coffee shops, with all the locals sipping on cappuccinos and chatting away. There are also a ton of cool places to shop and trendy concept stores; some of our favourites being The Black Sheep, Frip’confit, and Bonendroi.
We walked down Rue Parlement Saint-Pierre trying to decide which place to stop and have a drink, with each place looking cuter than the next. We ended up in Place Saint-Pierre, an lovely little plaza, buzzing with people having drinks and kids running around. It was a gorgeous and sunny early evening, so this was the perfect opportunity to kick up our feet for a bit and relax with some (more!) wine. I seriously don’t think this place could get much more charming. We sat for an hour or so, listening to a guy play his guitar, and watching all the French hang out. It was such simple, but very relaxing way to end a busy day in Bordeaux.
For a first, we didn’t have a dinner booking, so decided to do a bit of wander to find a place. I have to say I am really glad we did, because we wound up finding this incredible little gem called LouLou. What lured us in was the big open windows, rustic interiors, and glowing candles – but what made us stay was the mouth-watering Bordelaise menu. Not only were the dishes delicious, but really unique as well. We shared a burrata with crispy proscuitto in a mushroom truffle cream sauce (OMG, I’m drooling writing this), linguine with clams with chilli & parsley, and braised short rib with roasted beets, carrots, turnips and a citrus thyme sauce. It was seriously an amazing meal that we were sad to see end, but we weren’t quite ready to end the night. We headed to another restaurant called L’Autre Petit Bois for a cheeky late night espresso and dessert. Besides the fact that this place looks like you stepped into Alice in Wonderland (walls lined with picture frames, hanging plants, quirky statues and colourful lights), I had read that they are known for their desserts and offer over 50 options, so I knew this would be the best spot. We went with a salted caramel & graham cracker cheesecake and a frozen oreo trifle; both were to die for. At this point we were about ready to be rolled home, so headed back to our hotel for a peaceful night’s sleep out of the city.
The next morning we decided to lie in a bit and enjoy the lovely little Domaine we were staying in. We had a leisurely breakfast of local cheeses, fruit, and yogurt, accompanied by freshly baked croissants made by our generous hosts. We took our cappuccinos outside and laid by the pool as it was a warm & sunny morning. Staying at this little oasis definitely helped to make our trip feel a bit more special, and we definitely said we would look into even more ‘local’ accommodation options on some of our future trips.
We headed into the city for one last walk around, and spent some time walking around the Basilica of St.Michael where there was a huge flea market happening. We strolled along in the beautiful weather and came to the conclusion that we wanted to have our last lunch al fresco. Again, we didn’t really have a spot picked out, and spent a lot of time walking around trying to find the perfect place & location. We ended up back at L’Autre Petit Bois (against all of our rules of not going to the same place twice!) because as we walked past they had a perfect able for two, flooded with sun, and facing the bustling square. We were sooo hungry by this point, we felt it was a sign. We ordered some rose, a veggie tartine, and a French cheese plate. It was a lovely lunch and fantastic farewell to Bordeaux.
I still think Bordeaux is a bit of a hidden gem – it’s certainly not everyone’s number one France destination, but it should definitely be at the top of your list! The city is incredibly clean & modern, but still looks like a page out of a storybook. The streets are charming, the restaurants and stores are plentiful, and the wine is top notch. A totally underrated city that you should definitely pay a visit to before everyone else catches on.