That Bordeaux has a staggering number of bars give the size of its population. Every establishment bustles with people inside and outside, drinking, smoking, laughing, talking. There’s something for everyone, from picky cocktail aficionado to homesick expat. To help you find that perfect spot, here’s our guide to the top 10 bars in Bordeaux.
L’Alchimiste styles itself as a ‘cocktail restaurant’, but it works perfectly well as a good old cocktail bar too, even if it would be a shame to miss out on such an amazing assortment of antipasti. Instead of the same old classic cocktails, visitors will find brand new variations with names like Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil or L’Espritz des Lois (a pun on Montaigne’s L’Esprit des Lois), made with high-quality ingredients by the extraordinarily welcoming staff. Add a retro interior and the music playlist to go with it and it’s no wonder L’Alchimiste is such a hit.
Just as a trip to Bordeaux isn’t complete without trying wine, a list of bars in Bordeaux wouldn’t be complete without a wine bar. Le Verre Ô Vin, in the charming Chartrons neighborhood, is just that. Based in an old wine cellar, complete with old stones and vaulted ceilings, but the modern decoration makes it less intimidating than it could be. The staff is knowledgeable but approachable, more intent on helping and educating than on showing off. They’re not afraid to feature lesser known wines, and not just from Bordeaux.
The Houses of Parliament is doubtlessly the best of the many British-style pubs in Bordeaux. Located in the picturesque Saint-Pierre neighborhood, famous for its medieval architecture, it’s also surrounded by restaurants and some of the city’s best sights. But for those who can’t bear to leave the place to get food, lest their hard-earned seat be stolen, management has conveniently arranged a partnership with a local pizzeria to make pizza deliveries possible. Draught beers include classics like Guinness, but also Ghost Ship, less common in France. With a friendly atmosphere and too many events to name, Houses of Parliament deserves the incredible success it’s getting. Come early to find a seat.
La Comtesse has built its reputation on its cocktails and we’re happy to say it deserves it. The mojitos are to die for, but it’s worth trying this bar’s original offerings too. ‘Madeleine’, for example, manages to recreate the taste of the eponymous traditional French cake. There’s real flair in its mix of vintage furniture and baroque decoration, shamelessly pairing chandeliers and gold frames with plastic dolls and kitsch religious imagery, giving the whole place an offbeat, slightly otherworldly feel, as if the countess in the bar’s name were a fairy tale figure whose estate customers are entering.
Just because Bordeaux is the city of wine doesn’t mean it’s not a good place to discover beer. Despite its slightly awkward name for English speakers, Titi Twister is a friendly bar specializing in Belgian beer in the vibrant Saint-Michel neighborhood, conveniently not too far from the Victoire and Porte de Bourgogne tram stops. Customers will find a constantly rotating selection of six to eight beers on tap, from Saint Feuillien Triple to strong ale Moinette, and a very, very long list of bottled ales.
Not to be confused with the boutique hotel of the same name, L’Avant-Scène is the ideal place to spend a quiet night among friends. Everything about it feels authentic, the friendly owner and staff, the pool table, the dimmed lighting, the cozy fireplace in the winter, even the slightly decrepit and unassuming entrance. Music lovers will be delighted by the piano doubling as a beer pump and of course by the very frequent jazz concerts.
For a more eventful night, head to Calle Ocho, a three-floor Cuban bar with a busy dance floor, good mojitos, and free peanuts. After a certain hour, everyone is just dancing everywhere, carried away by the Latin and Caribbean tunes and the moderately priced cocktails. Although perhaps not an everyday place, sometimes diving headlong into festive chaos is the best way to have an unforgettable experience. Note that in the early evening it’ll be a lot quieter and even a pleasant setting for an apéritif.
Formerly known as La Cale Sèche, L’Excale offers great cocktails, particularly rum-based ones, at affordable prices. Being able to feel like a pirate as you do so is a welcome extra. Indeed, with its barrels and hammocks, L’Excale looks more like a pirate hideout than a bar—it’s easy to imagine running into Jack Sparrow in a corner. It’s too easy to sip on a rum cocktail, and another, and yet another one. The ‘Zombie’ (white rum, brown rum, apricot brandy, pineapple juice, lime juice, sugarcane juice, and grenadine) is a must-try.
If L’Avant-Scène isn’t enough, Club House also offers jazz and blues, but also reggae, swing, and ‘world music’ in a decidedly jazzy and casual atmosphere. Indeed, the interior, with its comfy leather armchairs, dim lights, and numerous photos of great musicians, takes its cue from classic jazz clubs. Having opened in 1977, it has had time to really develop and acquire a following—so much that it sometimes feels like it’s always been here. There are also regular concerts, often free, and social dancing (salsa, tango…)
Located in Darwin, a green alternative ‘space for creation’ shared by about 100 companies and associations, the Magasin Général is a grocery store, restaurant, and bistro focused on local, eco-friendly products. It’s also the place to have a late afternoon or early evening apéritif in one of the city’s trendiest locales, in the company of ‘bystanders, Rastafarians, stars hiding from paparazzi, teenagers, young people, old people, good-looking or not-so-good-looking people…’ whatever the season or the mood. There’s wine of course, but don’t forget to try Darwin Beer, brewed on site.