Bordeaux locals surely love a weekend gateway to the Arcachon Bay on the weekends, and the area is one of the most popular spots among French celebrities in the summer (don’t be surprised to run into Academy Award winners like Marion Cotillard or Jean Dujardin). Once the summer tourist rush has passed, the Arcachon Bay is a peaceful heaven to visit all year around. While there, make sure to taste some to-die-for oysters and mussels, the culinary specialties of the region. Climbing to the top of the Dune du Pilat, the tallest sand dune in Europe, is a must-do as well.
Saint-Émilion is definitely a must for wine lovers, but this town is the outside of Bordeaux is more than just the home of some of the best wines in the world. The city that takes its name from a monk, Émilion, who was looking for a place to retreat. This formidable city that remarkably preserved its medieval vestiges became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
The Périgord is laden with history, so don’t want to miss out on a fantastic day trip to this area very close to Bordeaux. Start with Lascaux and its famous caves that are considered the cradle of prehistoric art. After that, take a moment to stop by La Roque-Gageac, Beynac-et-Cazenac, or Saint-Amand-de-Coly, often cited in France’s most beautiful villages list. Spend some time in Sarlat and wander around the small streets and the Renaissance District before trying some delicious food at Sarlat’s gastronomy market.
La Rochelle and l’Île de Ré
Day trippers might want to stay for two days here in order to really appreciate the incredible scenery of l’Île de Ré and La Rochelle. Start off at l’Île de Ré and check out its breathtaking landscape. One smart way to see a lot in a shorter time is to rent bikes and ride through the cute streets and charming little squares.
The Estuaire de la Gironde (Gironde Estuary)
Embark on a unique journey around the Estuaire de la Gironde (Gironde Estuary) that will reveal some of the most beautiful sites and monuments of the region. The estuary is a blend of the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers and is Europe’s largest one. It hosts an archipelago of nine islands and cruises departing from Blaye are regularly organized to visit them. While there, opt for a stopover at the Phare de Cordouan, France’s oldest and still active lighthouse. The panoramic view over the Gironde and the coastal cities are breathtaking.
Phare de Cordouan, Le Verdon-sur-Mer, France, +33 05 57 42 28 76
After days of walking around and experiencing the tourist attractions in Bordeaux, take a day to get pampered. Jump on one of the frequent trains to Dax and spend a day in one of France’s top thermal destinations. Thanks to the hot water treatments, very well-known for their healing properties, come out feeling fresh and rejuvenated.
Lacanau and the Médoc
Lacanau is a perfect place for anyone who loves outdoor activities. Lacanau is a great alternative for surfers who might not have the time to go all the way to Biarritz but still want to ride the ocean while in Bordeaux. Those who’d rather stay on land should plan an excursion to visit the chateaus of some of the most emblematic Bordeaux wines such as Château Margaux, Saint Estèphe, and Pauillac to name a few.
Médoc Atlantic Lacanau Tourism Office Place de l’Europe, Lacanau Ocean, France, +33 05 56 03 21 01
Rent a car for a day and head to gorgeous Biarritz for a day. Leave early to surf in the wee hours of the day. After that, hang out by the sea and let the fragrant mix of fresh air and seawater work their magic. Grab a late breakfast in one of the numerous nice cafés in town and start walking around. Passing by many etxola, the typical Basque houses, be mesmerized by the city’s unwavering beauty. In the late afternoon, get lost in Les Halles, the most vibrant area in Biarritz, taste the best local products, and interact with the friendly locals. Go back to the beach and watch an incredible sunset before hitting the road back to Bordeaux.
Food and beverages certainly contribute to the Bordeaux region’s reputation. Since Cognac, a small town in Charente, is known worldwide for its and prestigious eau-de-vie, spend some time in the beautiful merchant houses and see all the cute villages around the area.
Cognac Tourist Office, 16 Rue du 14 Juillet, Cognac, France, +33 05 45 82 10 71