When to fly
Peak seasons in Bordeaux include the Christmas and New Year period, the months of February and March and mid-July to the end of August. During the school holidays the city also sees an influx of people on their family holidays. If you do wish to book your flights within these periods, make sure you do so well in advance and bear in mind prices will be higher. If you prefer fewer crowds then visiting during the low seasons may be better and you will also be able to enjoy all that the city has to offer.
Bordeaux is the ideal holiday destination for wine enthusiasts who want to explore vineyards, wine chateaux and meet the people who actually make the wine. Mid-May to mid-June is one of the best times to visit as the vines are flowering. Some chateaux may be closed during the first week in August as many locals go on holiday. Visiting during September will allow you to experience the exciting period when producers start to prepare for the harvest. If you have the opportunity to visit during the harvest, in October, then this can be an interesting time to get an insight into the harvest process, although many properties will not be open to visitors. As the colder weather starts to set in during November, visiting vineyards and cold wine cellars becomes less popular, although it is still do-able. It is best to check opening and tour times with specific chateaux before you book your flight, in order to avoid disappointment. Sticking to the wine theme, there is also the Bordeaux Wine Festival, which takes place in June.
If you would prefer to spend your holiday discovering the city’s cultural side and rich heritage then May can be a great time to book flights. The Nuit des Musees event, held once a year, sees the city open some of its many museums to the public after-dark for free.
The centre of one of France’s most famous wine regions, the city of Bordeaux is situated in the southwest of France in the Aquitaine region. At its heart the 18th-century old town is a stunning collection of imposing buildings on the quayside, combined with rejuvenated warehouses, now home to clubs and bars rather than goods and trade. Along with the recent restoration of the old city, a new electric tram system has been installed and some beautifully-landscaped parks have sprung up. Travellers book flights to Bordeaux to taste its famous red wines but also to sightsee and explore this lively city. Home to a large university, the city has a young feel and there is plenty to do and see, especially at night time.
The town is also an excellent starting point from which to explore the surrounding Aquitaine region. Visit the vineyards where the famous wine is produced or head to the pristine beaches along on the Atlantic.
A lot of Bordeaux’s town centre is pedestrianised which is ideal for those who like to explore. Walking along Sainte-Catherine Street you’ll see monuments and statues among the cobbled streets, and grand buildings like the Saint-André Cathedral. Followers of fashion should head to Cours de L’Intendence, home to all the top designer boutiques, and the converted ancient market of Grand Hommes at nearby Triangle d’Or.
The Water Mirror is a beguiling attraction that you’ll want to see on a hot day. Set between the river and the grand old civic buildings of the Place de la Bourse, this large flat space is filled with about 1/2 inch of water and mist to create a magical atmosphere.
Take a stroll through Vieux Bordeaux (old town) to visit some of Bordeaux’s best sights. Quartier St. Pierre lies at the centre of the town, with narrow streets, old churches and great mansions surrounding it. Some of the streets can be a little rundown, even with the restoration of recent years. Visit the sparkling Grand Theatre to catch a glimpse of Bordeaux’s glory days. The theatre was built in the late 18th century on the site of a Roman temple. Operas and ballets are still performed here if you want to get a peek inside. Saunter over to the Esplanade des Quinconces, a large square laid out between 1818 and 1828. Place de la Bourse is a smaller, but prettier, square with the fountain of the Three Graces at its centre. It’s bordered by quays that open onto the river. The Pont de Pierre crosses the river with 17 arches marking Napoleon’s victories in his Spanish campaigns. The bridge is a great way to catch some beautiful views of the river and quays, especially at night. The Basilique St. Michel is an important church in the area, and it’s right across from the Fleche St. Michel. If you’re visiting in the summer months, you can climb 228 steps to the top of the Fleche St. Michel’s tower, one of the tallest stone towers in France. To the west you can visit the most impressive church in Bordeaux – the Cathédrale St. André, which was built in the 13th century. If you’re not exhausted from all the sight-seeing, head to one the museums surrounding the cathedral. The Musée des Beaux-Arts has a great collection of European art, including Rubens, Matisse, Titian and Bordeaux’s own Marquet.
Summers in Bordeaux (June to August) tend to be warm, while the winters are often milder. Spring (April and May) temperatures are very comfortable, usually ranging from the mid-teens to the 20s. Daily temperatures in summer increase slightly and can even reach the upper 20s. The hottest months are July and August. Autumn days are pleasantly warm but short, while winters are mild with temperatures occasionally dropping to the low single digits.
Getting around Bordeaux
Most landmarks are in the town’s centre, so sightseeing can be a great way to stretch your legs after taking flights to Bordeaux. The city has an efficient public transport system as well. So when your feet start aching, hop on a tram, bus or ferry.
Getting from the City to the Airport
Bordeaux-Merignac Airport (BOD) (website: www.bordeaux-airport.com) is located in Merignac, 6 miles (10 km) west of Bordeaux. From the airport there are regular bus services to the city centre taking about 30-45 minutes. Trains from the Arrivals halls transport passengers to the city centre. Taxis are available outside the airport.
Bordeaux insider information
- Bordeaux is the capital city of the one of the world’s biggest producers of wine, so it is no surprise that it is also home to Vinexpo – the largest exhibition on wine and spirits in the world. The annual event takes place in the Bordeaux-Lac exhibition centre.
- North of the city is the Pair-non-Pair cave, discovered in 1881 by Francois Daleau. He found the remains of an 80,000-year-old Neolithic man here. The cave is open for appointments only and you can also see some of the oldest cave paintings in the world.
- As you’d expect from France, the food in Bordeaux is second-to-none. Be sure to try the fois-gras and canard (duck) – both are specialities of the region.
- The stunning Pont-de-Pierre spans the Garonne river. Beautiful in the day time, it is even better at night, when its magnificent arches are lit up, and reflected in the water.
- La Grosse Cloche is an unexpected sight in the middle of the Bordeaux streets. The remains of one of the gates of the Medieval walls, it was the belfry of the town hall. The two circular towers are 131 ft (40 m) high and surround a bell tower and clock dating from 1759.
- Wine-tasting tours can be booked from the tourist information bureau in the town or, often, from your hotel. They take place daily and visit the chateaux of the surrounding region, with ample chances to taste the wines.