Bordeaux city is the central hub of the wine region of Bordeaux and France’s sixth largest city. The region is packed with thousands of vineyards of all different sizes and production levels. The city itself offers a chance to dive into the wine culture and sample selections from wineries throughout the region in one of the many wine bars. The city is centered around wine, but there are still plenty of non-wine related activities. I didn’t do any of them, but I’m sure they’re great.
Here’s how to spend two days in Bordeaux (if you like wine):
Day One: See the City
Learn about wine at La Cité du Vin
In 2016, Bordeaux opened up a museum dedicated to wine. It’s extensive exhibition details the history of wine, wine culture, and the winemaking process. The exhibits are very interactive and engage every sense. After visiting the exhibition, taste wine from around the world in the bar on the top floor of the museum. This glass-walled bar offers an excellent 360 degree view of the city.
See your reflection in the city
One of the most popular sites in Bordeaux is the water mirror. This large, shallow pool is the worlds largest reflecting pool and mirrors the Place de la Bourse. After you visit the mirror, take a stroll along the quay and enjoy the riverside views.
Try some local specialties at the Central Market
Like markets around the world, the Bordeaux Central Market is a great place to discover local specialties. Bordeaux’s close proximity to the coast means it has excellent seafood, particularly oysters. Try a platter of oysters and some fresh seafood while you watch people go by. Another specialty from Bordeaux is the canelé. Before the advent of modern filtering techniques, wineries would filter wine using egg whites. Nuns would go around to the wineries and collect the unused egg yolks. They mixed the yolks with sugar and rum to create cakes for the poor. The cakes are light and not overly sweet, but a bit chewy.
Eat your weight in cheese
For any cheese lover, Baud et Milet is a must see in Bordeaux. The basement of Baud et Milet contains a special aging cellar with over 100 different kinds of cheese. At lunch, the menu is limited to three options. For 15 euro, the chef and owner will prepare a cheese board with 10 different kinds of cheese. For 24 euro, you can get warm, gooey, melted Mount D’Or with potatoes and meats. I opted for the most expensive on the menu, unlimited access to the cheese cellar for 32 euro. The owner gave me some bread, salad, a knife and a plate and allowed me access to all the cheese I could eat. It was a great experience and worth the money. There is an excellent selection of not only French cheese, but international cheese as well. At dinner, the menu is more broad, but cheese is the main component of every menu. I went by myself at noon right when it opened and was able to get right in, but if you have a large group or want to get in on a busy night for dinner, try to make a reservation.
Day Two: Take a Wine Tour
I am by no means an expert on wine. I can hold my own when discussing beer and spirits, but wine is another planet, especially French wine. I can wrap my head around the different flavors of single grape wine. I can taste the difference between a Malbec and Merlot. However a lot of French wine is blended, and named based on the region. To further complicate matters, each region is broken down into even smaller regions. In the Bordeaux wine region, there are multiple smaller regions including Saint Emillion and Medoc. Within each mini region are even small areas called terroir. People spend years learning about Bordeaux wine. Unfortunately, I don’t have years. I had one day. I spent that day on a wine tour through Saint Emillion.
La Cité du Vin has a section on its website featuring different wine tours for every interest and price point. Tours range anywhere from a few hours to a few days and start at around 50 euro. I took the half day tour to Saint Emillion which stopped at 2 wineries and the medieval village of Saint Emillion. It included two tastings, some light snacks, transportation, and a very knowledgeable tour guide. It cost 86 euro and it was worth it.
On the way to the first winery, the guide gave us an overview of French wine and explained the terroir, regions, and other basics. She dove further into Bordeaux wine, which is all blended, and predominately red. Our first winery was very modern. Our tour guide gave us some history of the winery then told us about the wine making and aging process. To avoid overlap, our second winery told us about the growing process. We tried three different types of wine at both wineries. For French wine specifically, it was great to compare how different terroirs affect the taste of wines from the same winery.
It is worth the money to take a tour for the relationship the tour company has with wineries, the knowledge of the guide, and the transportation. Depending on the time of year and how busy a winery is, it can be difficult to set up private visits without going through a guide or a company. It was also great to have an overview of French wine from the guide before we got to the first winery. Finally, there is almost no public transportation that will take you directly to a winery. They are quite spread out and therefore a car is necessary.