While Bordeaux is certainly worthy of a longer stay, two days in ‘La perle d’Aquitaine’ offer the chance to explore some of the city’s most impressive attractions, including the Basilica of Saint Michel and Place de la Bourse, and to delve into Bordeaux’s renowned gastronomy and wine culture.
Devour coffee and croissants at the Capucins Market
Start your day the right way – with coffee and French breakfast pastries at the Capucins Market. Head to Oven Heaven or Café Laiton, which will both hit the spot with quality coffee and soft, flaky pastries. Aided by the coffee, awake your senses with the colourful surrounding market, which sells the best local produce: from delicious seafood and cheeses to fresh flowers and fruit and vegetable stalls galore. Saturday and Sunday are the best days to visit the Capucins Market, as this is when local residents tend to come and stock up on their weekly groceries – an authentic slice of French culture.
Explore Bordeaux’s beautiful churches
First on the list is the Basilica of Saint Michel, which is just 20 minutes on foot from the Capucins Market. Pass through the vibrant Saint-Michel quarter and reach the Gothic Basilica, built between the 14th and 16th centuries and dedicated to the Archangel. The 114-metre (374-foot) bell tower is open to visitors from April to October.
Less than a 20-minute walk away is the Cathedral of St André, also known as Bordeaux Cathedral. This Roman Catholic church, also built in the Gothic style, boasts the Marcadé Collection – an important collection of liturgical art (paintings, vestments and sculptures).
Break up sightseeing with a bite to eat, à la Bordelaise
Lunchtime has come around, and Bordeaux is, thankfully, brimming with delicious food spots. For a quintessentially French experience, why not try a crêpe? The savoury version of a crêpe is known as a galette, and is traditionally made from buckwheat flour. La Parenthèse Crêperie comes highly recommended, though the city is home to many crêperies offering an extensive menu of galettes filled with eggs, meat, vegetables and, crucially, cheese. If you have managed to work up a bigger appetite, La Brasserie Bordelaise – located very close to Place de la Bourse – serves hearty French dishes in very generous portions. The steak is not to be missed.
Stroll through Place de la Bourse
After refuelling at lunch, continue your walking tour in the direction of Place de la Bourse. Set beside the Garonne River (next to the Chartrons district), this majestic square was built during the reign of King Louis XV in the 18th century. As night falls, snap a photo of the majestic Miroir d’Eau in front of the square, which is the world’s largest reflecting pool at 3,450 square metres (37,000 square feet).
Explore the Chartrons district of Bordeaux
Wander around the cobbled streets of Chartrons – a district with a village-like atmosphere and rustic charm. Known as the home of the ‘Bo-bos’ (bourgeois bohemians), the cobbled streets of Chartrons are packed with quaint antique shops, boutiques and galleries.
Indulge in fine French gastronomy at Symbiose
For a delectable dinner near Chartrons, Symbiose is a go-to. Quality is of the essence, so the menu changes seasonally, with locally sourced products a constant throughout. Smaller tapas plates are also available for a light bite to eat. After a feast of fine gastronomy and indulgence, step through a grandfather clock and into Symboise’s hidden (yet very popular) speakeasy bar for cocktails.
Party at IBOAT
Anchored in the Bassin à Flot n°1 district, IBOAT was once a ferry and has been transformed into a nightclub, concert venue and restaurant (including an outdoor terrace area). For a night (quite literally) worth raving about, dance on the deck and enjoy the range of different music events and concerts that are hosted each week. Events include anything from all-night electronic DJ sets to hip-hop and indie-rock concerts, so be sure to check out the line-up. Booking may be required.
To wind down in a more relaxed and sophisticated manner, sip on fine (but well-priced) wine at Bar à Vin. Choose from more than 30 Bordeaux wines, which are available by the glass or as smaller samples for a wine tasting session. Here reasonable prices (as low as €3 (£2.50) a glass), come together with stunning Neoclassical architecture and knowledgeable service.
Brunch at Café Eriu
Start the day with a blissful late breakfast at one of Bordeaux’s best brunch spots, Café Eriu. Follow an indulgent full English breakfast or eggs benedict with one of their delicately made cakes for the ultimate breakfast of champions. “Café Eriu is a friendly neighbourhood café with an international feel, where you’re just as likely to hear people chatting in English as in French while sipping on their flat whites,” owner Grace Lohan tells Culture Trip. Besides serving delicious coffee and brunches, the fabulous location of this spot, next to the Jardin Public, also makes it well worth visiting. “I love this area, as it feels like a village within the city, with lots of small independent businesses, where there is a real sense of community between the people living and working in the area. And of course the Jardin Public is my favourite place to hang out on a warm summer day,” Lohan says.
Take in the beauty of Jardin Public
Located in the heart of the city and just next to Café Eriu is one of the most popular and picturesque public parks in Bordeaux. The Jardin Public is a peaceful garden with towering trees and a large lake, making it the perfect spot to walk off a substantial breakfast. Don’t miss the equally sublime botanical garden, tucked away at the back of the park and well worth exploring.
While walking is feasible, consider hiring bikes to cover the afternoon itinerary.
Immerse yourself in the wine culture of Bordeaux – and beyond – at Cité du Vin
A trip to Bordeaux is simply incomplete without visiting the city’s famous wine museum, which takes visitors on a journey of discovery into the world’s diverse wine cultures. The permanent exhibition at Cité du Vin guides visitors on an interactive journey through wine history with the help of an innovative audio guide. A ticket to the permanent exhibition also permits access to the Belvedere wine-tasting space. Located on the eighth floor, the Belvedere allows visitors to sample an array of world wines (and grape juices) while enjoying a spectacular 360-degree view of Bordeaux.
Make your way down the River Garonne to Darwin: a sustainable ‘ecosystem’ that has seen former barracks transformed into one of Bordeaux’s coolest hangout spots. With its laid-back ambience and chilled-out vibe, Darwin is the ideal spot to relax after a busy day in the city. Snag a table outside on the large terrace and order a beer (with a light bite to eat, if you’re feeling peckish) from Magasin Général, a hip restaurant and dining hall in the heart of the Darwin complex. Soak up the street art in the open air graffiti gallery and admire the creative expression that is so strongly encouraged here. One of the best things about Darwin is that, for the most part, it has been built around the use of recycled materials. This includes empty crates, old pallets and mismatched furniture that have been reworked to create urban seating areas, artistic sculptures and, coolest of all, an extensive skatepark.
Dine on dim sum and cocktails at Madame Pang
Combining traditional Cantonese culinary influences with modern inspiration from Hong Kong, Madame Pang serves the best dim sum in Bordeaux. Food is served until late (after midnight), and the drinks don’t stop flowing either, making this a superb spot to stop by after a busy day exploring Bordeaux. “Madame Pang is a unique dim sum joint, proposing refined cocktails and wines in a trendy environment with a great playlist and friendly service, too,” says owner Harmony Pang. Here, the expertly made food and drink, stylish decor and relaxed atmosphere guarantee an unforgettable end to the perfect two days in Bordeaux.