Beginner’s Guide To Bordeaux: Exploring The Wine Capital Of The World (+Photos)

As someone who fell in love with wine at a disappointingly old age, I’ve always felt like there is much to make up for. So when Bordeaux called my name, I had to hastily answer! Little did I know that this medieval city would bring me much more joy than solely in the liquid form…

In actual fact, wine turned out to be the least important part of my adventure! Shocking, I know. So regardless if you are a wine connoisseur or a francophile looking to explore more, Bordeaux has something to offer. So, grab a glass and join me on this journey through one of my favorite destinations in France!

A Stroll Through History


One of the things I love most about Bordeaux is its rich history. Start your adventure in the heart of the city at Place de la Bourse. This stunning square is a perfect example of the city’s elegant 18th-century architecture. If you’re a fan of reflections (and who isn’t?), make sure to check out the Miroir d’Eau, the world’s largest reflecting pool.

It’s a magical spot, especially at night when the buildings light up and the water creates a mirror-like surface. Sadly, I visited in the cold months when the pool was drained so I only had my imagination to work with.


From there, take a leisurely walk to the Bordeaux Cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece that dates back to the 11th century. The climb to the top of the bell tower is well worth it for the panoramic views of the city. Trust me, you’ll want your camera for this one!

The old city walls and clock towers are an iconic part of the location. It is wrongfully called “Little Paris” and the architecture was actually the inspiration behind Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s modernization of the capital. Just walk down any street in the city center and you will be surprised around every corner!

PRO TIP: Free walking tours are a must in any European city. In 2 hours, you cover all of the major attractions and get super useful info on where to go and what to do.

Getting To Know Wine In Bordeaux

Wine In Bordeaux

Now, let’s get to the main event: wine! The region is home to some of the world’s most renowned vineyards and wineries. If you’re a wine newbie, don’t worry – Bordeaux is the perfect place to start your wine education.

For a deep dive into the world of Bordeaux wine, visiting the local wine museums is a must. Musée du Vin et du Négoce de Bordeaux is a lesser-known treasure that I stumbled upon by accident. This museum is set in a former wine merchant’s house from the 18th century.

vaulted cellars

As you walk through the vaulted cellars and exhibits, you’ll get a fascinating glimpse into the history of Bordeaux’s wine trade and the lives of the merchants who made it thrive. The experience ends with a tasting session where you can sample a selection of wines and get expert tips on how to appreciate their flavors and aromas as well as understand the different regions of Bordeaux.

La Cité du Vin
La Cité du Vin

The most iconic is obviously La Cité du Vin, a decanter-shaped building that is impossible to miss. La Cité du Vin boasts over 20 themed areas where you can engage with multimedia exhibits, sensory workshops, and interactive displays. One of my favorite parts is the Belvedere on the eighth floor, which offers panoramic views of Bordeaux while you enjoy a glass of wine from their extensive selection.

After soaking up all that knowledge, head over to Le Bar À Vin, located just a stone’s throw from the Grand Théâtre. This stylish wine bar is run by the Bordeaux Wine Council and is the perfect spot to put your new-found wine knowledge to the test. The bar offers an extensive list of Bordeaux wines by the glass, so you can sample a wide variety of wines that would otherwise be unaffordable by the bottle.

ferry ride
ferry ride

PRO TIP: Get yourself an unlimited transport ticket if you are staying for a week. That also includes the ferry which is a fun ride to La Cité du Vin.

The Gastronomic Delights of Bordeaux

Gastronomic Delights

Unlike most French cities, Bordeaux doesn’t have much of a rich culinary tradition. One of the best things to do for a true taste of Bordeaux is to head to the Marché des Capucins, the city’s bustling food market. Here, you’ll find everything from fresh seafood to local cheeses and pastries, giving you a feel for what old-timey Bordeaux might have felt like in the time of merchants and traders. Grab a few goodies and have a picnic by the Garonne River – it’s a simple pleasure that captures the essence of Bordeaux.

One thing that they are particularly proud of is the humble canelé, the city’s iconic pastry. These small, fluted cakes have a rich, custardy center flavored with vanilla and rum, surrounded by a caramelized, crunchy crust. I love grabbing a warm canelé from one of the local bakeries, like Baillardran or La Toque Cuivrée, and enjoying it with a cup of coffee. It’s the perfect sweet treat to savor while strolling through the historic streets of Bordeaux or relaxing by the Garonne River.


PRO TIP: Get your hands on the original macarons in the area. They are far less colorful and less sweet than their Parisian cousins but, in my opinion, much better.

Discovering Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion

If there is only one reason for you to visit Bordeaux, it should be to take a trip to Saint Emilion. Just a short train ride away, this charming medieval village is a wine lover’s paradise. Saint Emilion is renowned for its red wines, and the vineyards here produce some of the finest Merlots and Cabernet Francs you’ll ever taste.

Saint Emilion

The village itself is like something out of a fairy tale. Narrow cobblestone streets wind their way through ancient buildings, leading you to hidden squares and breathtaking viewpoints. Be sure to visit the Monolithic Church, a remarkable underground church carved out of limestone. It’s a testament to the town’s rich history and architectural ingenuity.

Saint Emilion

The whole city has a crazy underground tunnel network and I also entered it through Les Cordeliers. This winery is built in a historic monastery and is the only one in the region that produces sparkling wine in the style of champagne.

The beauty of the town is that you can visit the wineries on foot between historic exploration. Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc are two of the most prestigious, but there are plenty of smaller, family-owned wineries that offer intimate and memorable tasting experiences.

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