Once affectionately known as the ‘Sleeping Beauty’, the dawn of the new millennium has seen the city transformed. Far from simply being the home of one of the world’s most beloved wines, Bordeaux has undergone an extensive renovation project, with luxurious neo-classical buildings and local facilities restored to their former glory and earning the enviable rank of a world heritage site. As you would expect from one of the finest French cities, the selection of hotels and culinary delights can in places attain near perfection, while the spirited student population of the local university ensure that there is always a buzz of entertainment in the air.
The largest urban World Heritage Site and a magnet for gastronomists and culture buffs alike, Bordeaux has emerged after extensive renovations as one of the most beautiful cities in France. The hotel scene has evolved at the same pace, with chic, contemporary offerings such as riverside Seeko’o (54 quai de Bacalan) joining the likes of traditional five-star Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux (2-5 place de la Comédie) among the ranks of luxury accommodation. Big names dominate the mid-range scene, and both Ibis Bordeaux Le Lac (Rue du Petit Barail) and Best Western Royal Saint Jean (15 rue Charles Domercq) offer comfortable rooms at reasonable prices. Aquitain Hôtel (47 rue Eugène Le Roy) is a good budget option.
The Triangle d’Or, a historic intersection of architecturally magnificent streets, is at the centre of Bordeaux’s luxury retail scene. Designer stores cluster around the Cours de l’Intendance, Allées de Tourny and Cours Clémenceau, with the surprisingly reasonable Grands Hommes shopping arcade (Place des Grands Hommes) in the centre. Get your fashion fix at Lily Blake (68 rue Notre Dame), a fantastic little boutique that stocks wearable high fashion. The Sunday market at Quai des Chartrons sells everything from oysters and wine to books and crafts, while world-class wine shop Cave Arts & Vins (2 place du Palais) showcases the region’s famous vintages.
The biggest problem confronting food-orientated visitors to Bordeaux is an overload of choice. In the constellation of Michelin-starred restaurants, a few stand head and shoulders above the rest: Le Chapon Fin (5 rue Montesquieu), a byword for gourmet excellence since it was established in 1825, and centrally located La Cape (9 allée de la Morlette). For something a little more understated, try La Tupiña (6 rue Porte de la Monnaie), a rustic, farmhouse-style restaurant that woos locals with its stomach-lining peasant food and regional specialities. Bustling Café Populaire (1 rue Kléber) is just as popular as its name suggests, thanks to the generous proportions of well-priced grub and the consistently lively atmosphere.
Brocante de Printemps
Browse a mouth-watering range of French antiques and vintage pieces, stock up on rare garden plants and sample the gourmet grub on offer from an array of food stalls at this diverse spring fair. Held annually in the Place des Quinconces, it’s one of the biggest markets Bordeaux has to offer.
Foire de Bordeaux
A lively annual trade show takes over the Parc des Expositions at the end of May, attracting crowds of up to 300,000 people. It showcases the latest and greatest products from the worlds of decoration, design, agriculture and the environment.
Bordeaux Fête le Fleuve / Bordeaux Fête le Vin
These two big festivals (one celebrating the river, the other celebrating wine) take place on alternate years, and both are highlights of the city’s summer calendar. In 2014, fans of fine wine and gastronomy will gather in the centre of Bordeaux to celebrate four days of tastings, lectures and live entertainment.
Celebrated across France, this day of festivities includes live music, dancing and a spectacular firework display over the Garonne River.
Journées du Patrimoine
This popular heritage weekend sees some of Bordeaux’s most famous historic buildings open their doors to visitors. From stunning examples of art deco to the beautiful Roman Amphitheatre, this is your chance to see the city for free.