The Bordeaux Guide

Bordeaux is one of those places that has always been on my travel bucket list! After spending some time in Tuscany, Napa, Santa Barbara, and Santa Ynez, I knew I wanted to hit this French wine region while living in London! To be honest I knew very little about Bordeaux ahead of time, but after 3 days in this beautiful part of France, I learned it’s the PERFECT easy getaway, to drink some wine, be outside, and get a taste of French Chateau life!

I’ve been very very lucky to do quite a bit of traveling in my lifetime, and can confidently say this trip was one of my all time favorites. Going in mid-April, it felt quite local, and offered an easy balance of tourist activities paired with just living a French life! It’s a really relaxing getaway to do with girlfriends! (I went with my friend Marissa who was in town visiting from LA!)  but also great to do with your husband or boyfriend, or added to an extended euro-trip if you’re planning a long getaway to France! I’m no pro by any means, but this truly was one of the best weekends of my life! From where we stayed, to everything we did, here’s my Bordeaux guide to live your best French life! xx

1. BOOK A CHEAP FLIGHT / GET TO THE CITY 

One of the best parts of traveling to Bordeaux from London is how cheap the flights are! I booked mine via Ryan Air for just $25, and if you book even further ahead of time, I’ve seen them for even cheaper. When it comes to budget-friendly airlines, Ryan Air and Easy Jet are my go-to’s, but if you have miles, British Airways is another Bordeaux-serviced airline. The flight time is only 1 hour and 20 minutes — all the more reason to book a little weekend here!

Upon arrival, transportation to the city is super easy. I took a taxi for 45 euros, but uber is also available and travel time to the city is about 30 minutes.

2. STAY IN BORDEAUX

While a big part of Bordeaux’s selling point is the stunning French Chateaus, it’s worth staying in the actual medieval city, at least for a night or two. This way you can fully experience everything that Bordeaux has to offer and break up the trip between tourism & relaxing!

For a 3 night trip, we did 2 nights in the actual city of Bordeaux then one night in a country Chateau, which was not only great for pacing out our activities, but also added more $ to our travel budget!

We stayed in an AIR BNB on Rue Saint-Remi  right near Place De La Bourse- while I wouldn’t recommend the exact air BNB we stayed at, I definitely advise staying in this area. It’s right near tons of local restaurants and shops, offering a good balance between Bordeaux’s main landmarks and taste of local life.

During my research I also came across these hotels:

Hotel De Tourney | Mama Shelter | YNDO Hotel (5 Star / $270) | Villa Reale Bordeaux

I haven’t scoped out any of them personally, but worth looking into during the research process!

3. EXPLORE THE CITY

Once you get your bearings straight, definitely head out and roam around. Thankfully the city isn’t too overbearing so it’s not like there’s this long laundry list of landmarks you need to stress out over to see. Once you get to walking, you’ll naturally stumble upon a lot, but a few main things to see are:

Pont De Pierre Bridge | Miroir D’Eau | Porte Cailhau (The beautiful medieval gate to the city) | La Grosse Cloche  

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon, and saw all the main sites upon arrival during our half day. Had we had more time it would have been nice to have seen the Wine Museum further down the Garonne River and the beautiful parks, but one of my favorite parts was just roaming around the streets leisurely, soaking in the French style of the city & flower shops.

4. EAT A GOOD MEAL & START DRINKING!

Bordeaux is known as a wine region, so drinking here is a no brainer. But I was surprised to learn there are also a lot of really good restaurants. The first night hanger got to the best of us and we at at kind of a tourtisy stop, EDOUARD that had great value but wasn’t Michelin by any means. The second night after taking advice from our French wine guide, we had LE CHIEN DE PAVLOV, and it was one of the best meals of my life. Tasting menus are a big thing here, so definitely come hungry! Otherwise most restaurants also offer the option of a la carte menus.

DRINKS

La Comtesse: Our favorite find! Definitely recommend a drink here before or after dinner. The decor is really fun and french and the mojitos + aperol spritz were delicious!

L’Alchimiste: We didn’t have a chance to pop in this cool spot, but it comes highly recommended from our guide whi knows all the coolest locals spots.

FOOD

Le Chien De Pavlov: One of the most delicious meal I’ve had in my life! The service was great, the interior cozy/ french-chic. Make a reservation ahead just in case, but definitely come here if you want a delicious place to eat!

Bistro Réno

Heureux Comme Alexandre

Miles – Tasting Menu

La Cagette – Brunch

SPECIALTY

PAUL – Chain but easy if you need a quick to-go bite in the morning before a wine tour

L’atelier des Pastels

5. GO WINE TASTING

When in Bordeaux it’s essential to go wine tasting! There are over 9,000 Chateaus and over (61 different appellations) so deciding where to go can get a little intimidating. Unless you’re an intense wino and already know the exact regions and vineyards you want to hit ahead of time, I 100% recommend booking a tour with Rustic Vines. We weighed our options with every decision – private tours, bus tours, car hire etc. and could not stop saying how happy we were with our decision to do a bike tour with Rustic Vines — it was easily the best part of our whole Bordeaux Experience. I was smiling and laughing the entire day I was so happy — even before our 12th tasting of wine 🙂

The entire tour was on electric bikes which are seriously SO much fun! (We kept saying you feel like you’re in Mario Cart). We booked the tour from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion, but there’s also the option of a Bordeaux bike tour, Monk Bike Tour, or Private tour if you have a specific agenda in mind. The entire day lasted about 8 hours, included over 12 tastings, a picnic for lunch, visit to 2-5 chateaus, and time to explore UNESCO site, Saint Emilion. It’s $120 per person- very comparable/ cheaper than other wine tour prices and truly one of the best experiences of my life!

If you aren’t sold on the bike tour or want to stake out other options the Bordeaux Tourism Website offers a lot by bus.

* For reference, you leave at 9:30am from Bordeaux and return to the city center around 6/6:30 — just enough time to go for an evening stroll along the river, before grabbing a yummy dinner and another glass of wine if you still feel like drinking!

6. STAY IN A CHATEAU

After 2 nights in the city, we were SO excited to head into the country for a stay at a Chateau. As I mentioned before, there are countless places to stay, and loads of areas to choose from, but I couldn’t recommend Hotel Grattequina enough.

It really is one of my all time favorite places I’ve ever been – so much so I cried a few happy tears (pre-wine) because I was so grateful and happy! In a weird way it reminded me so much of the south, being right on the water, surrounded by nature and trees, and on a farm. It’s nothing overly opulent or stuffy which is actually why I loved it so much. An adorable French family owns the place so it has all of the character and touches of being French but family run.

One of the highlights was easily our balcony! We stayed in the Junior Suite ($230 per night!) which opened up to a beautiful view overlooking the river and back lawn. The chateau has a palm-tree lined pool to soak in some sunshine, on site bikes which we used multiple times, and a beautiful dock where I spent a good portion of the afternoon soaking in Vitamin D and reading like my days at the lake in Lake Tahoe and Texas.

It really is so special, not for the stuffy bunch, but any of my readers who appreciate nature, quaint peaceful escapes, and a family-run vibe… you will absolutely love it!

If you’re on the hunt for something just as beautiful but with perhaps a more of a King Louis vibe, I’ve also seen beautiful pictures from La Grande Maison de Bernard Magrez that look incredible as well. 

7. TAKE A BOAT RIDE ON THE GARONNE

One of the best parts of Hotel Grattequina was our Garonne River Boat Ride. After relaxing all day, we decided to book an evening cruise from Hotel Grattequina to Bordeaux and back! Because we had stayed in Bordeaux previously we decided to pass on docking in the city and returned back to the Chateau for dinner. But if you’re staying at the hotel, you can also use the hotel’s boat as your mode of transportation to enjoy dinner in Bordeaux, then take and uber or taxi back! Regardless, the trip comes with your choice of wine and costs $120 total for up to 12 passengers.

8. VISIT THE CASTLES

If you make it all the way to Bordeaux, it really is worth it to go find a few castles! We learned from our guide there are over 9,000 Chateaus so you won’t be able to scratch the surface of seeing them all. That said, there are quite a few worth seeing, whether you want to go to take photos or experience them with a tasting!

On our tour we learned the left bank is mostly known for its Cabernet Sauvignon. The right -Merlot. Middle regions – white wine. South – dessert wine or sweet wine as they call it. A fan of Cabernet, I set my sights on the Left Bank, which I learned is also home to some of the most expensive wines and stunning Chateaus!

I skipped out on wine tastings after our full day of drinking the day before, but here are some of my favorite places I found during a little private Chateau Tour!

CHATEAU D’ AGASSAC:

This was probably my favorite but because of the classic French architecture. As if is isn’t beautiful enough, the Chateau is surrounded by a beautiful moat, and unlike other chateaus in the Margaux region, you can walk right up to!

They offer tastings on site, and if you have a pretty penny to spare, it’s also worth considering visiting during the evening for a special tasting menu dinner!

CHATEAU MARGAUX:

If Nicholas Sparks wrote a novel set in France, this would be the Chateau he would base his book around. Photos don’t even begin to do it justice. Everything about it is completely breathtaking and serene. Nearby is a beautiful gothic-style church, matched with modern tasting room and quaint French-village.

(During closed hours the property is closed to the public so you can only take photos behind the gate)

CHATEAU PALMER:

Owned by three families, two French, one English, you will quickly spot the flags flying over head. With spires and stone, this Chateau too feels quintessentially French, worth stopping and seeing if you’re in the Margeaux region.

Had I had more time I would have loved to have ventured further north to visit Chateau Pichon Loungueville Baron. It’s about an hour further north of the Margeaux region and since my flight was departing at 12:20 the next day, I wanted to soak in more time at our own chateau. If anything I’d recommend booking a later flight out or add one more day… travel time permitting, if you’re really wanting to see more of the wine country and more of Bordeaux’s stunning chateaus!

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All in all I hope you enjoy Bordeaux as much as I did! If it isn’t on your bucket list, I definitely recommend adding it! What I thought would be a one and done, check-off-the-list destination, ended up being one of my all time favorite, heart-changing trips!

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