Balade fluviale sur la Garonne

Balade fluviale sur la Garonne © Maitet xu et Cheverria

Come to colourful Bordeaux

Bordeaux: the very name conjures up claret hues. Come to world-famous vineyards to appreciate the fine details, from Médoc to Saint-Émilion.

Wine-tasting calls on your sense of vision and smell, with taste only coming in third. White wines also get a look-in, starting with Sauternes. Its blonde robe recalls stone buildings bathed in the blazing sun for which the South-West of France is so famous.

You seek it out or hide from it, depending on the season. Sun-seekers will love the many city squares lined with pavement cafés. Those who fly in will be amazed to see the meandering ochre river bordering on yellow, reminiscent of greater waterways in Africa. Both the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers mingle with the tide that mounts the Gironde estuary.

The blue of the Atlantic ocean adds a final touch, barely an hour from the city centre.

Balade estuaire en Gironde

Balade estuaire en Gironde © Alban Gilbert CRTA

The port de la lune

You’ll no doubt feel the urging call of the open sea as you stroll along the seafront, along the Eiffel walkway then over the brand-new Chaban bridge.

The Garonne arches into a crescent shape, hence the name of the port. Port activity in Bordeaux is nowadays mostly recreational, with cruise liners or smaller boats on short excursions.

The stone bridge affords unique view of the 18th-century facades, the square with the Stock Exchange, the Esplanade des Quinconces and the quirky Chartrons quays. These quays are increasingly popular with the locals, who go there to exercise, dance or simply enjoy the fresh air. Worth seeing by day and by night!

Please note: Bordeaux’s river celebration in May-June every odd year. In 2017, for the 10th anniversary of this festival, visit from 25 May to 4 June!


Les cabanes tchanquées © Laurent REIZ CRTA

From the estuary to the Arcachon basin

All aboard! Downstream from Bordeaux, the Garonne and Dordogne join up to form the Gironde estuary, which just happens to be the largest in Europe.

There’s a whole world waiting to be explored, with a protected nature reserve, islands and banks lined with vineyards:

Médoc on one side and Côtes de Bordeaux, Blaye and Bourg on the other. In Blaye you can visit the Vauban citadel, a key feature to control the estuary and defend the second most important port in France. It’s also an ideal spot for great sunset photography.

When the estuary becomes the Atlantic at Pointe de Grave, you can wave at the Cordouan lighthouse, a watery Versailles, then head south, past beaches of fine sand. Travel through Soulac, Hourtin, Lacanau for animated resorts and immense lakes. A whiff of pine forest fragrance lets you know you’ve reached the Cap Ferret peninsula, lining the Arcachon basin.

This is a paradise for both sailing and cycling. It can also be reached by train from Bordeaux. Taste some oysters at an oyster farm: they’re truly scrumptious!

Place palais ombrières vieux Bordeaux

Place Palais Ombrières © OT Bordeaux

A square for all districts

Back in town. Bordeaux squares!

You get to tour the entire city going from one square to another. Each district revolves around its own square. Start at cosmopolitan Saint-Michel, with its unmistakeable arrow and the underground scene, to the Place du Marché des Chartrons,

the former wine-traders district, now that of antique dealers, designers and art galleries, and pass through the squares in the old town, each vying for the most beautiful architecture, with trendy boutiques and wine bars.

You can tour the lot on foot – many streets are for pedestrians only – some guides offer bicycle tours – in fact the self-service bicycles are very handy, as is the tramway which goes right across Bordeaux and into the suburbs.


Vignoble Bordelais © OT Bordeaux

Gateway to the vineyards

Bordeaux is the world capital for fine wines. Margaux, Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes, Pomerol, Saint-Émilion: they’re all right here!

Taste them right where they are produced, check out what goes on behind the scenes: it’s sheer delight. It’s a world that’s opening up, no longer the preserve of connoisseurs, and tasting sessions are an opportunity to meet people with a passion for wine-growing.

You can also work on the farm, go on singing rambles, a bicycle tour and pre-dinner drinks by the river. Many châteaux have child-friendly tour circuits, their doors are open and there are all sorts of festivals with each season. Due to open in 2016, the Cité du Vin (Wine Centre) will provide an entertaining experience, taking you on a journey through time to find out about wine-growing on all five continents, in a 7-storey swirl on the banks of the Garonne.

NB: Bordeaux holds a 4-day wine festival on even-numbered years in late June.  You’ll find more information on the subject in our wine tourism pages.

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