Bordeaux has everything a cosmopolitan city needs to offer: beautiful sightings, gorgeous architectural styles, a vibrant shopping area, delicious gastronomy and the wine which is undeniably associated with the French city. But with the difference that the locals are incredibly friendly which is rare to find in a city like this. After two days I kind of forgot my love for Paris as I fell madly in love with BORDEAUX!
Paris VS Bordeaux
Paris to France is like London to the UK or Amsterdam to Holland, the capital and therefore probably the only French city most people know. But if you’re willing to explore the south west of France you’ll discover why Bordeaux ranked in second as the best city to live in in France after Paris (according to Internaute). My first impressions after arriving is that the city exudes French elegance but where people take time to enjoy life, have a drink and indulge on life’s pleasures.
Bordeaux is not a huge city which makes it easy to explore it during a weekend. If you would want to you could easily discover it by foot in a day but I suggest taking the time to get lost in the different neighborhoods the city has to offer.
Neighborhoods To Visit in Bordeaux
1. Places des Quinconces
The Place des Quinconces is one of the largest city squares in Europe and well utilized during the whole year. When I was there no events were hosted but I’m sure when you visit you will stumble upon music performances, festivals, fairs, Fête de la Musique (21st of June) and much more. If you’re visiting Bordeaux in November – December make sure you visit as the Places des Quinconces will host an Antiques Fair, open every day from 10:00 to 18:00.
2. Place de la Comédie
The Place de la Comédie is the heart of this old city and the perfect starting point to start exploring Bordeaux. It’s also a popular meeting point for locals and you’ll recognize it as here you’ll find the imposing Grand Theatre, Régent hotel and Café Opéra to name a few. You wouldn’t tell by looking at it but a couple of years ago Bordeaux was very dark and not as impressive as now. Thanks to a makeover the stones on the building have been cleaned making the historical buildings one of the most noted features of this beautiful city.
3. Place de la Bourse
The Place de la Bourse is another square you cannot miss out on. On a hot day you’ll see locals refresh themselves by the fountain Trois Grâces or alongside the ‘Miroir d’Eau’ (Water mirror) across the square. The Place de la Bourse also highlights the Baroque style, one of the many architectural styles you’ll find in Bordeaux.
4. Saint Michel
Let’s be honest, most multicultural neighborhoods in cities are not the safest or most pleasant places to be but that’s definitely not the case in Bordeaux. Something that surprised me is how incredibly relaxed every neighborhood felt and there were no massive differences other than a different vibe and identity which depicts every neighborhood you visit.
Why visit Saint Michel?
You can shop and eat here on a budget but one noted feature that makes all locals visit this neighborhood is the Saint-Michel market on Sunday (from 6:00 to 13:30) where you can find everything from second-hand clothes to saucepans.
Where To Shop in Bordeaux
1. Rue St Catherine
If you start at the Place de la Comédie make sure to walk towards the shopping street Sainte Catherine. This street is very long and features popular shops such as Fnac (books, dvd, cd’s etc) Pimkie (fashion), Maison du Monde (home decor) at the beginning and center while you’ll find smaller, cheap shops by the end of the street. You’ll stumble upon some bars where you can have a drink but I wouldn’t suggest having a drink here as it’s expensive!
2. La Boutique a Chapeaux
I’m a total hats girl even though now that my hair is getting bigger it will be hard to find the right fit Wether you like small, big, colored or feather hats you’ll find an amazing and large hat collection at the Boutique a Chapeaux. You can find hats starting from 30 euros to more.
3. The biggest bookstore in France: Librairie Mollat Bordeaux
At 15 Rue Vital Carles/ Rue Porte Dijeaux you’ll find the biggest independent bookstore in France. If you like bookstores you’ll enjoy looking around in this enormous shop. Compared to bookstores in London it has less of a cozy atmosphere but I did like their local editions such as the ‘The children from the … ‘ books (Nous, les enfants de …)
4. Rue Saint James
You’ll find local designers and upcoming brands such as ‘Collectif Createurs’, ‘Ballroom Blitz’, ‘La Comete Rose’ at the Rue Saint James. Take your time to look around as you’ll unique items here for sure.
Where To Eat & Drink in Bordeaux
The nice thing about Bordeaux is that you will find places, streets and locations where (wine) bars and restaurants are clustered which makes it easier to choose from. When you don’t want to plan too much ahead and let the ambiance and aromas influence your choices for the day and night that’s a nice thing to have.
What makes Bordeaux pretty unique is that all restaurants, even the more expensive ones with a Michelin star, offer dishes at a budget friendly price. Or a ‘menu du jour’ which most of the times is less than 20 euros. At regular restaurants you’ll easily find 3 course meals for 13 to 15 euros.
So if you want to eat, drink or taste the (local) cuisine, where do you go? Take a look!
1. L’Orangerie du Jardin Public: on Sundays this restaurant becomes the hotspot in town for brunch. A peaceful getaway from the centre as you’ll be treated to tasty food and a relaxing view of the ‘Jardin Public’ (public garden).
2. Canelés Baillardran: The canelé is a pastry with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust. The dessert is a specialty of the Bordeaux region and is served at most restaurants and bakeries. The Canelés Baillardran however sells what they consider authentic Bordeaux canelés and even have shops in Paris!
3. Café Opéra: French people are known for their excellent cuisine and they have managed to surprise me during my visit as I discovered the concept of a Cafe/The Gourmand for the first time! What is it? You get a coffee or tea with 5 small mini desserts! This concept is so great because if you don’t know what to choose you get 5 options plus you won’t have to feel guilty because those mini desserts hardly contain any calories right
I discovered this culinary concept at the Café Opéra at the Place de la Comédie which is perfectly located in the center but many more restaurants offer the Cafe/The Gourmand (throughout France) as well.
4. Fine Dining at Restaurant Jean Marie AMAT:Remember how I mentioned that even restaurants with a Michelin star offer budget friendly concepts? Restaurant Jean Marie AMAT is one of them and was recommended to me as they offer a 3 course menu for only 30 euros! The restaurant is located at a castle but with modern decorated rooms and a beautiful view of Bordeaux.
5. Place du Palais & Place Fernand Lafargue: If you’re not sure what to eat and need some inspiration these two spots will be perfect for you as you’ll have a large selection of restaurants and bars to choose from. At Place Fernand Lafargue locals love to go for a drink to L’Apollo and if you want tasty thai dishes on a budget (around 5 euros) go to Santosha. For a 360° panoramic view of the Place du Palais click here
Celebrity Chef: Jean-Pierre Xiradakis
Jean-Pierre is a local celebrity chef in Bordeaux. He opened his restaurant La Tupina at a young age and managed to build a culinary empire by opening other culinary hotspots such as Kuzina, spice shop Le Comestible and more. Jean-Pierre has many interests such as art, design, photography and much more and isn’t afraid to venture into a new area and explore his passion. Jean-Pierre aims for quality but with a heart and takes the time to talk to his clients. When you’re there you’ll notice how everybody in the restaurant and in the streets greet him Even though La Tupina is the most known I enjoyed having dinner at ‘Kuzina’
Kuzina: Fresh, tasty yet simple the dishes were delicious. I also loved the job Jean-Pierre did on the decoration of the restaurant as he managed to fuse a vintage touches with his Greek heritage in a modern way. The current chef is totally passionate about what he does and served every meal with a smile and nice introduction.
Besides this Jean-Pierre also launched the book “Le Piéton de Bordeaux” which highlights the nice places to visit in Bordeaux and also where to eat. During my 2 day visit in Bordeaux he was so kind to give me a culinary tour and show me which restaurants are worth while. These 2 restaurants were the most memorable in decoration (and taste)
“The classy, laid back ambience helps make your meal even more memorable. The quality of the food is first class- all locally sourced products are mixed with the magic touch of the owner/manager, who is a big part of the friendly atmosphere of the restaurant.”
Le Rince Doigts:
I don’t even like mussels but I absolutely loved the stuffed mussels at Le Rince Doigts! This restaurant is known for the seafood they serve from prawns, crab claws to oysters.
1. Grand Bar Castan
For a drink with a view visit the Grand Bar Castan located at the 2 Quai de la Douane. If the wether is bad you won’t mind hiding inside as the decor is quite eye-catching.
2. Bar a Vin
When I say Bordeaux I’m sure 90% of all people think of wine. Throughout the city you will find many wine bars where you can taste a large selection of the local wines. Centrally located the Bar a Vin is one of those wine bars you can stop by to have a sip.
PS: as I stated before I’m not a wine drinker so I asked locals for their recommendations
3. Cousin et Compagnie
Cousin et Compagnie is another wine bar worth visiting. Much smaller you will see that customers stand outside while enjoying their drink. If you feel hungry before or after you can easily hop into one of the restaurants in the area.
4. The Houses Of Parliament
Bordeaux’s English Pub serves beers, wines, cocktails and shooters. As any any English pub worth its name they also have live music and live sport on 5 screens. Good one to remember during the Euro or World Cup next year if you’re in town
Where to Go Out in Bordeaux
1. Calle Ocho
From Monday until Thursday locals go to Calle Ocho to dance on the beats of Latin music. On Friday and Saturday this place is packed as mostly tourists come here during the weekend.
2. Grand Hotel’s Roof Terrace
During Summer time the Grand Hotel opens its roof terrace to party people in town. On top you get an amazing view on the historical center of Bordeaux.
3. Dansons Sur Les Quais
Bordeaux loves to dance and from July 17 until August 18 (except Monday and Tuesday) you can enjoy many dance styles on the docks for FREE! From rock, salsa, country to swing you’ll get a taste of what’s out there. Here’s a little schedule of what you can expect every night:
19h – 20h : initiation to the dance of the day
20h – 24h : dance night organized by the association or school which is highlighted that day
22h : demonstration by the invited dancers
Where to Stay in Bordeaux
Such a productive day filled with sightseeing, eating and dancing can take a toll on you so where do you sleep once you’re tired?
La Maison Bord’eaux mixes cozy charm with a central location. From the moment I entered I felt very welcome as the staff was friendly and helpful. The Maison Bord’eaux also stands out with it’s unique and colorful design which is fused with personality. The Wifi connection is something they need to work on as it wasn’t stable.
Make sure you check out all the hotspots in Bordeaux mentioned above on Google Maps!
For more info visit www.tourisme-aquitaine.fr