If you've never been to the city of Bordeaux, start packing your bags. Now is the time to go.
This charming, walkable city has gone through a major urban renewal during the past fifteen years. Most of the historical monuments and buildings have been scrubbed clean and, with the installation of a quiet, modern tram system, cars are banned from many of the grand avenues. It's no wonder that this UNESCO World Heritage Site is frequently listed at the top of the "European Best Destinations" list.
All around Bordeaux you will find beautifully designed parks and gardens that invite you to step in, take a stroll and relax. The two-mile long promenade alongside the Garonne river is the perfect place to go for a walk, a run or a bike ride. Stop along the way for a glass of wine at one of the riverside cafés or head to the Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux's most splendid square, with its 'Water Mirror' that offers a place to cool off.
Interested in shopping or art? There are many quaint neighborhoods — a favorite is Saint-Pierre — with winding streets dotted with all kinds of boutiques (Pablo, Zoë Des Allées and A Coté come to mind), art galleries and museums like the Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a fabulous old charming warehouse and the Musée d'Aquitaine with many relics dating back 25,000 years displayed in a bright and well-curated space.
Bordeaux is famous for its distinctive red wine blends that are made at beautiful and historic chateaux. You can rent a car or hire a driver, and within an hour's time, you will be hobnobbing with Bordelais winemakers, touring vineyards and tasting delicious wines. After a day spent in the countryside, the city's thriving restaurant scene awaits you. Casual wine bars, cafés and bistros, elegant tasting-menu restaurants, you'll find them all in the city of Bordeaux.
The Wine Chef Top Bordeaux City Dining Picks:
Lunch hours in Bordeaux are usually only from 12:00 - 2:00 p.m and dinner doesn't start until 7:00 or 7:30 p.m.
La Brasserie Bordelaise - 50 Rue Saint-Rémi. This charming restaurant on one of the oldest, busiest streets in the historic heart of Bordeaux caters to both tourists and locals with its convivial atmosphere and nice selection of meats and seafood.
Le Carreau - 30 Rue du Pas-Saint-Georges. This French brasserie has a bustling, energetic atmosphere and offers many dishes inspired from the cuisine of southwest France: Duck, blood sausage, foie gras. The menu is handwritten on large blackboards and includes lighter fare like soups and salads.
Le Carré - 1 Place du Marché. Located in the hip Chartrons neighborhood, this is the brother restaurant to Le Carreau. The food is a modern take on French Brasserie dishes and the place is always busy with its friendly and attentive service. The waitress brought over a large blackboard with its French menu and went over each dish with me, making sure I understood how the dish was prepared.
El Nacional - 23 Rue Rode. Also in the Chartrons area, this lively, casual Argentinian restaurant, popular for both business and family dinners, is known for its high-quality meats and extensive list of Argentinian wines.
Bistrot du Fromager - 73 Quai des Chartrons. The aromas of pungent cheeses waft your way the moment you you walk into this modern-looking, casual and fun restaurant overlooking the river in the Chartrons district. The cheeses are lined up on display along the left and on the right are several tables full of people drinking wine and eating cheese. During the warmer months, there are tables outside to enjoy people-watching along the Quai des Chartrons.
A few places recommended by others:
La Tupina - 6 Rue Porte de la Monnaie. A casually elegant spot and one of my Bordeaux winemaker friend's favorite restaurants. Try the black pig dish and the octopus.
Le Hangar Darwin - 87 Quai des Queyries. Recommended by Pauline from Chateau Haut-Rian, "An interesting part of Bordeaux, on the other bank. Hip vibe and a great place for Brunch."
L'Univerre - 40 Rue Lecocq. Damien, another Bordeaux winemaker, says it has "One of the best wine lists in all of Bordeaux with a well-done menu of tapas that doesn't out-do the wine"
Point Rouge - 1 Quai De Paludate. Also from Damien, "Similar to L'Univerre with a great wine list. It has an excellent cocktail list which is hard to find in Bordeaux."
Vins Urbains - 27 Rue des Bahutiers. From my friend Marcus, another Bordelais, "Very nice wine spot in old Bordeaux city center for sipping and snacking."