The Bordeaux region, famous for its complex but delicious Grand Crus, has been France’s destination-du-jour for the past couple of years, even being recognized by Lonely Planet as 2017’s City of the Year.
And once you arrive, it’s easy to see why. What was once a lower-class port city has been transformed from extensive restoration projects into a bustling, vibrant university town. Bordeaux’s location, surrounded by stunning vineyards and located just an hour drive from the coast and two hours from the Basque region, makes it a perfect place for a cultural, but low-key holiday. Plan your trip here in late May or late September to enjoy nice temperatures without the crowds.
The cozy Hôtel La Maison du Lierre is a great option in the center of Bordeaux. The elegant decorations and friendly staff will make you feel right at home. At prices ranging from $140/night to $250/night even in the high season, the price really can’t be beat.
If you’re looking for something a little more upscale and romantic, La Grande Maison de Bernard Magrez will do the trick. Located in the north end of the city in an old mansion, this hotel oozes old-school French luxury. From the on-site Michelin restaurant to the wine making workshop with the owner himself, staying here is an experience in itself. One night will set you back around $500 in the high season, but it’s definitely worth it.
Start your morning with a stroll through Bordeaux’s old town with a local guide. Once considered part of England, Bordeaux has a fascinating history that can best be described by a local. Make sure to check out the impressive Place de la Bourse, Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux and Esplanade des Quinconces fountain. After the tour, head to Rue des Remparts for a look at some of the city’s cutest shops. (Don’t miss Petrusse, which sells beautiful scarves made locally.)
For lunch, grab a seat inside at vintage-chic Cafe Napoleon and order their Chevre Chaud Salad and a bottle of rosé. After lunch, head to the picturesque rue Notre Dame to check out more quaint shops and antique stores.
By now, you’ve probably made your daily step goal so reward yourself with a glass or two at the aptly named Le Bar à Vin (which translates to “The Wine Bar”). Their menu is dedicated to local vintages and their young sommeliers from the resident wine college enthusiastically introduce you to each glass.
For dinner, head to the famous Brasserie Bordelaise in the old town (note: advance reservations are recommended) for a lively atmosphere and regional French fare. Walk off your dinner with an evening stroll back to the Place de la Bourse. Cross the street for a double vision view when the lights of the building reflect in the massive reflection pool.
Wake up and head to the St. Emilion countryside. Reserve a spot on Chateau Soutard’s 11am tour to learn about their wine production before enjoying a taste in their subterranean tasting room. Carry on to the beautiful little town of Saint Emilion, which was declared an UNESCO in 1999. From there, make your way to Les Cordeliers for a picnic and bottle of their house bubbly to enjoy in the yard of their historic abbey.
After lunch, spend a couple hours wandering around, admiring the monolithic church and the views from the top of La Tour du Chateau du Roy. For a treat, stop by Macarons Ferlion to try the local pastry, canelés (a rum and vanilla flavored delight).
From Saint Emilion head over to your reserved table on the terrace of nearby Chateau La Dominique for a phenomenal meal and sunset view to match… true French style!
Tara Cappel is the founder of For the Love of Travel, a boutique travel company that takes young professionals/millennials on curated group trips around the world.