When we travel to the city of Bordeaux, France, we are traveling to an international tourist destination with a rich cultural heritage going back centuries. The port city is located on the river Garonne in the Gironde department of Southwestern France, with a population of more 240,000 people.
It is one of the world capitals of wine, with fairy tale hilltop castles, and gently sloping vineyards, interspersed with amazing restaurants. When we visit the region, there is something for everyone, and after Paris, it is the most visited city in France.
The city was settled by a Celtic tribe in around 300 BC and later came under Roman rule. From the 12th to the 14th century Bordeaux grew and flourished, and by the 18th century, the area supplied coffee, sugar, cocoa, and cotton to the rest of Europe.
It was also a major trading center for slaves to Africa. The city then endured a period of war, liberated by British troops in 1814.
The economy was rebuilt by traders and wealthy shipowners. During World War 1 and WW2, the French government moved to the city when it became obvious that Paris would fall to German occupation. By 2007 the area of the city around Port of the Moon was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with buildings protected.
The area has a temperate oceanic climate, it is said to have warmed and become slightly more humid recently. Winters are cool due to westerly winds, and frost sometimes occurs, but snow is rare. Summers are warm 23-25 degrees centigrade, making it a good tourist destination to visit every month of the year. May and June appear to be the wettest months.
Wine production in the area goes back as far as the Romans, probably to the mid-first century. The Romans planted vines wherever they went, as water supplies were unsafe and Roman soldiers and residents all drank wine to avoid water born bacteria, and to stay healthy.
Consequently, there are at least 287,000 acres of vineyards, with an annual production of more than 960 million bottles of wine, both red and white produced in the area. Visit the Cite du Vin, a museum which is devoted to all things wine and opened in 2016.
What to see in Bordeaux?
Usually, when traveling we only have a few days to visit a city and there are several sites that should not be missed, we will take a look at them.
- Place De La Bourse, a beautiful square with a fountain.
- Miroir d’Eau is a water mirror that reflects the Place De La Bourse, so take the camera for some photo opportunities.
- Sainte-Catherine Street is the longest shopping street in Europe, always crowded, but interesting.
- Opera National de Bordeaux-Grand Theatre, an Opera House built in 1780, hosts dance, opera, and other cultural events.
- Grosse Cloche, Rue Saint-James, the big bell, is the last remaining original bell in the city.
- Port Cailhau is the last remaining old gate of the city and commemorates Charles VIII’s victory over the Italians. This is a remaining defensive gate from the Middle Ages when the city was walled.
- St. Andre Cathedral is the biggest Church in Bordeaux, and from the Bell Tower, we can see the most amazing views over the city.
Travel to the City of Bordeaux, France.
If traveling from the city of Paris, the best way to go is to catch the TGV train from Paris Gare Montparnasse (High-speed train) that will get you there in two hours. It takes as long to drive to Charles de Gaulle airport to take a flight to Bordeaux Merignac, and the train is a more convenient option, (Less red tape) Flying from Charles de Gaulle has become quite a process over recent years, mainly because it is so very busy.
The fast train has Wi-Fi, so it is a good chance to catch up on emails and watch the countryside rush by. Sometimes we may want to take the slow train that can take up to 4-5 hours, but is a scenic option that many of us enjoy.
Take a Day Trip.
Visit the Medieval city of Saint-Emilion, and to get the best out of the day, a guided tour is recommended. It is about 20 miles from Bordeaux by coach, and on arrival, you can walk the cobbled streets and hear about the history of the village with its modest stone houses. Vineyards make up more than 60% of the surrounding country, and our tour includes a visit to a vineyard with lunch.
The pretty French countryside is relaxing and interesting. You will hear how monks started commercial wine production almost from the Middle Ages. The whole area is now a part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Roman ruins line the streets.
Bordeaux Night Life.
The city offers visitors a vibrant nightlife scene. Several nightclubs specialize in the Latin American dance scene, and the cocktails and colorful vibe attract tourists from all over the world. We found a great place for Jazz Lovers at Comptoir du Jazz on Quai de Paludate, and entry is free when you purchase a drink.
There are lots of amazing places to dine, and as they change regularly, it is better to ask for a list when arriving at your hotel. When out walking, the restaurants around your accommodation will be a good option, the Hotel Concierge can provide you with a local map listing places to eat and drink.
Such a beautiful city with so much to see and do, like most European cities we can now hire an e-bike and go on a guided tour of the highlights.
When we feel like exercising, this is a great option, as there are bike lanes everywhere, and it is quite safe to ride with the guide. Half-day tours encompass most of the central sights, and as long as it is not raining, a bike is a perfect way to see it all and take in the history.
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