Ah . . . Bordeaux!
We’re getting hints of perfect weekend getaway with a splash of historic sites and a generous dollop of gourmet food.
France’s sixth-largest city, on the banks of the Garonne, is more than just a gateway to the vineyards and beaches of the south-west, it’s a fascinating destination in its own right.
France’s sixth-largest city is more than just a gateway to the vineyards and beaches of the south-west. Pictured is Place de la Bourse at night
Places to stay
This Philippe Starck-designed hotel has a great location near shops and restaurants and its open-air rooftop bar attracts plenty of locals as well as guests. Friendly staff are happy to share tips on the area.
Entry-price rooms are small, but functional. Just one request s’il vous plait: the fashionable, buzzy restaurant is very hip with atmospherically dimmed lighting, but please turn it up for breakfast: we’d like to see our croissants. Room-only doubles from £92 (mamashelter.com).
Pullman Bordeaux Lac
This hotel is about a 15-minute tram ride from the centre, in Bordeaux’s business district. It’s a good bet for a summer visit when temperatures soar, not only because of its lakeside location, but because there’s a pool to cool off in.
There are 166 rooms and even the cheapest ones are a decent size. Staff are friendly and there’s an onsite restaurant. The buffet breakfast is good but costs £22 a head, so unless you’re really hungry, a cafe will be more economical. (Local breakfast tip: in Bordeaux, a pain au chocolat is called a chocolatine.) Room-only doubles from £89 (accor.com).
Prices may spike in high season, but outside busy periods — and with some advanced planning — you can find room-only doubles at this trendy spot from £74.
A lot of thought has gone into the design at this hotel, which is housed in an 18th-century mansion, and it’s in a central location with lots of places nearby to eat and shop (hotel-konti.com).
Mercure Centre Ville
This hotel won’t win any prizes for architecture. But if you just want a decent, clean, well-located spot in which to sleep and shower at a sensible price before hitting the sites, this hotel — about a ten-minute walk from the centre — will tick your boxes. Room-only doubles from £82 (accor.com).
Things to do
The Miroir d’Eau, at the Place de la Bourse, is the world’s largest reflecting pool, ensuring any amateur can take the ultimate holiday photo. Instagram slam!
La Cité du Vin
At this museum of viniculture, north of the centre, your admission ticket (£17) can be swapped at the end for a cheeky glass of red or white at the top-floor Belvedere bar (laciteduvin.com).
A taste of Bordeaux: Grape-picking at a vineyard
Get out into the gorgeous Medoc countryside and have a slurp or two at several vineyards with the opportunity to buy. Price: £35pp (visiter-bordeaux.com).
In World War II, the Germans forced prisoners to build an indestructible U-boat base here. Not always open, so check with tourist information (facebook.com/basesousmarinedebordeaux).
Places to eat
This restaurant celebrates the best cuisine from the south-west of France, with fish, meats and cheeses from the region. Start with some local oysters (£2.40), then perhaps trout from the Basque country (£12) or Gascon beef tartare (£16). Ask about lunchtime set menu specials, and there’s a long list of Bordeaux wines (brasseriebordelaise.fr).
Eat your way around the city’s restaurants enjoying oysters, cheese, bread, pastries and wine (stock image)
Halles Bacalan and La Boca
The great thing about food halls is that they give you lots of different choices under one roof, so you can pick a starter from one spot, a main from another and a dessert from a third.
If you’re heading to La Cité du Vin (see above), Les Halles Bacalan is just across the way. There are around 20 stalls with everything from seafood to carpaccio to pizza slices.
Further south, La Boca food court is a similarly impressive set up, with 15 restaurants that are open till midnight and 11pm on Sundays (biltoki.com/hallesbacalan; labocafoodcourt.eu)
If you’re in town on a Sunday, a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Garonne is made even more pleasant by the extensive Marché des Quais in the bohemian Chartrons neighbourhood that stretches for about a mile along the riverside. A fantastic spot to stock up on delicious oysters, cheese, bread, pastries and wine.
The trick to eating at a seemingly out-of-reach gourmet restaurant is to make lunch the main meal of the day and choosing the set menu. So, at this Michelin-starred bolthole, which seats only 20 people, you can eat the menu du jour from £33 (garopapilles.com).