When you think of Bordeaux, first and foremost – it’s wine that comes to mind. And no wonder, with 60 appellations and 7000 winemakers, the city is the capital of a region which is home to some of the oldest vineyards and finest wines in the world. When you visit Bordeaux, it’s not just about wine though – water is important too. A stroll along the banks of the River Garonne and the estuary of the Gironde reveals culture, nature, wine tourism and enchanting chateaux. Head south to experience the glorious coastline, savour fresh oysters and feel the silky sand of the Arcachon basin. Take the time to just be - and enjoy the joie de vivre.
When you visit Bordeaux, its watery arteries serve as your guide. The lavish buildings that are a legacy of the 18th century former port spread along the banks of the Garonne and its UNESCO classified quays, around the imposing Place de la Bourse and to the rim of the famous water sculpture the Miroir d’eau (mirror of water).
Cité du Vin - discover the greatest wines
The riverside is a perfect frame for the Cité du Vin wine museum, the silhouette of its spectacular architecture is mirrored in the water, reflecting the extraordinary design of this iconic building, which looks like the swirl of wine in a glass, a true marriage of water and wine. The museum of wine is perfect for discovering the culture of wine, its wooden vault is evocative of the hold of a ship, the method of transport for wine in the past. Nearby, the Musée Mer et Marine (Marine Museum) seems to almost float in the heart of the historic 19th century port of Bordeaux known as the bassins à flot district. This 13,000 m₂ (139,930 ft₂) museum is dedicated to the immense history of Bordeaux’s maritime past, its importance to the fortunes of the city - and its link to the Atlantic.
River trip to the Atlantic Ocean
To explore Bordeaux’s connection to the Atlantic, journey up the Garonne in the shadow of ships long gone. On the way, stop off in the Gironde estuary, the largest in Europe with its 635 square kilometres (245 square miles) of wild landscape where the waters of the Garonne and the Dordogne meet. In Blaye discover the citadel perched on a rocky outcrop. Designed by Vauban, Louis XIV’s engineer, this UNESCO classified defensive fortification now provides workshops for artisans and artists and there’s even a 15-acre organic micro-vineyard.
Discover the Bay of Arcachon – a protected landscape
After your visit to the city, go south to the Bay of Arcachon and take a dip in the ocean. Shaped by the tides, this wild landscape of sandy beaches and small oyster-farming ports is a sensational playground for seaside and nature lovers. Take in the fresh air with a pedal through pine forests or climb Mont Pilat: a 109 meters (357 feet) sand dune from the top of which you can’t fail to be awed by the panoramic views over the turquoise waters of the Bay of Arcachon and the nature reserve of Pointe de l'Arguin.
Wine tourism in the Bordeaux vineyards
Although surrounded by water, you’re also in the heart of the vineyards. There’s loads to do - not just relishing Bordeaux wines but also the AOC brandy which is produced nearby. But before you head off to Cognac, cross over the natural border formed by the Gironde between Blaye on the right bank and the vineyards of Médoc on the left bank. From Margaux to Saint Estèphe via Pauillac, the Médoc wine-growing area boasts 18 grand cru classified vineyards. When you take the Médoc wine route you’ll also discover some of the best known and most beautiful castles in the world.
Cruises and well-being in Bordeaux
Whether you want to take it easy on the river or relax in the vineyards there are plenty of water- inspired breaks from Bordeaux to Blaye or Pauillac. In the Gironde estuary, sail between Margaux Island where the vineyards touch the water's edge to the island of Patiras whose lighthouse overlooks the Médoc castles. And to unwind, you could try wine therapy. The Sources de Caudalie is a unique spa set in vineyards which combines the virtues of hot springs with the benefits of vines and grapes – good for your health and seriously relaxing…