Why Bordeaux should be your next city break

Sitting elegantly on the crescent-shaped Garonne river in south-west France, Bordeaux boasts a beautiful blend of classical charm and modern innovation. Emma Lahiffe recently spent 48 hours in the wine capital of the world…

GETTING THERE: Dublin to Bordeaux is a quick 90-minute flight. When you land, take the 30-minute direct shuttle bus to Saint-Jean train station. With three connecting tramlines running throughout Bordeaux, getting around the city couldn’t be easier. The whir and the beeps of the trams will ring familiar to Dubliners – the Luas is operated by the same French company.


CUISINE DE FRANCE: One of the great pleasures about a visit to France is, of course, indulging in the heavenly local food. Start your trip with a classic petit déjeuner in the ornate Café Napoléon 3, right in the heart of Bordeaux. Sitting down for a crispy golden croissant and frothy café au lait is sure to inspire some of that famous joie de vivre.

Freshly-baked croissant
Freshly-baked croissant

SMART TIP: After breakfast, head to the nearby tourism office to pick up a Bordeaux city pass (€29 per day). This includes free transport and entry to many of the city’s best attractions.

MORNING AT THE WINE MUSEUM: Opened in 2016, the spectacular 10-storey Cité du Vin is the must-visit attraction in Bordeaux. Perched on the riverfront, the museum makes a bold architectural statement. When you arrive at the Cité du Vin tram stop, take some time to admire the dazzling gold and silver structure as it changes colour and shimmers in the light.

The unique shape of the building represents a swirling glass of wine and the continuous flow of the Garonne river. The design beautifully captures the ‘spirit of wine’ and its special connection to Bordeaux.

Cité du Vin | Sophie Duboscq
Cité du Vin | Sophie Duboscq: 

LEARN AND EXPLORE: The huge permanent exhibition is a truly multi-sensory experience. Have fun with the interactive exhibits and watch huge screens showcasing vineyards from around the world. Test your sense of smell at the ‘buffet of the five senses,’ listen to leading wine experts offer practical wine tips, and so much more.

WINE WITH A VIEW: Round off your visit with well-earned glass of wine (or two) in the gorgeous eighth-floor bar. Put your newly-acquired tasting skills to the test and enjoy sweeping views the historic port below.

SMART TIP: Arrive early in the day to get the most out of your experience – Cité du Vin fills up rapidly after lunch. As I ended my three-hour visit just after 3pm, the crowds were beginning to descend.

Pont de Pierre, Bordeaux
Pont de Pierre, Bordeaux

DINNER: Bordeaux is brimming with incredible bistros, but tables do book up quickly in the city centre. Make reservations in advance, especially if you’re visiting over a weekend.

Try the chic and cosy Restaurant Loulou for fantastic French cuisine with a twist. Daily specials will be presented by the charming owner Lou Lou. The melt-in-the-mouth monkfish and chorizo on a bed of butternut squash purée is a must-try.


STYLISH BREAKFAST: La Plume is a great choice for a different French breakfast. Fresh fruit platters, fabulous brioche and excellent coffee awaits. Take a table near the window and enjoy a front row seat as brides-to-be search for the perfect dress in the glass-front wedding boutique across the cobbled street.

MORNING WALKING TOUR: Bordeaux is home to grand stretches of beautifully restored neoclassical buildings. More than 1,800 hectares of the city was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Take a walking tour of Bordeaux (daily tours can be booked in the tourism office) and get to know the city’s rich history.

Bordeaux city centre
Bordeaux city centre

Affectionately known as the ‘Sleeping Beauty (La Belle Endormie) of France,’ Bordeaux has undergone an incredible transformation over the past two decades. In a 1995 decision by former mayor Alain Juppé, all property owners within the city centre were required to wash their buildings to bring back to life the warm limestone facades.

Look out for the still-dirty buildings sitting between the pristine properties – these property owners chose to pay a hefty fine rather than getting their facades restored!

PHOTO OPP: Don’t miss a visit to Miroir d’Eau, the most Instagrammable spot in Bordeaux. Located across from the beautiful Place de la Bourse, the spectacular pool switches between a mirror effect and artificial mist in the most captivating way.

Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux
Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux

LUNCH: After your walking tour, pop into Nom D’Une Crepe for a delicious galette. These savoury Breton pancakes are best enjoyed with a local cider.

TAKE A WINE TOUR: No trip to Bordeaux is complete without a visit to nearby Saint-Émilion, the medieval village right in the heart of the world’s leading vineyards. Take a step back in time in this beautiful World Heritage Site and stop into some of the incredible local wine vendors to sample the latest Grand Cru from the area.

Round off your trip to Saint-Émilion with a visit to one of the nearby chateaux for some wine tasting. Get to know your Cabernet Sauvignon from your Merlot, and learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about your favourite tipple from leading wine experts.

Daily tours (€45) leave from the tourism office at 1pm.

Saint-Émilion vineyard
Saint-Émilion vineyard

BON APPETIT: Round off your flying trip to Bordeaux with a first-rate dinner in La Brasserie Bordelais. Choose from 700 wines and a fabulous menu of traditional French fare. The chocolate fudge is one of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted.

SLEEP: The 4-star Hotel Vatel, just around the corner from Cours de Medoc tram stop, is a cosy place to stay on a short mini-break.

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Planning your next short break? Read our guide to 48 Hours in Lisbon guide or take a look at these 18 incredible trip ideas for 2018