Dubbed “the very essence of elegance” by none other than Queen Elizabeth II on her 1992 visit, Bordeaux city shines bright with a grandiose 18th-century harmony epitomised in the beautifully restored neoclassical architecture of its port. In 2007 half of the city, some 1,810 hectares, was certified by UNESCO making it the world’s largest Urban UNESCO heritage site.
But it’s more likely for its viticulture that you’ll be familiar with Bordeaux. The south-western region has been producing wine since the Romans arrived in the 1st century AD and is today without doubt the world’s major wine industry capital. The countryside surrounding the city is covered in vineyards and dotted with rambling, picturesque chateaux – more than 3000 estates in the greater Bordeaux area, according to some estimates – that produce some of the best known grapes in the world.
Intersected by the graceful Garonne River, Bordeaux is the largest city by area in France and after some serious renovation, has emerged to become a European contender in its own right. Public transportation has been improved with new tramways, new landmarks (such as the Miroir des Quais) and much-needed restoration of old monuments. New cafés, restaurants and museums are also frequently popping up all over this ancient, château-driven city.
When to go
May and June see pleasant temperatures before summer arrives, as well as fields blanketed in beautiful wildflowers. August is the hottest month of the year and often unbearably humid, so best avoided. The temperatures start to get cooler into September and October when it's time for the wine harvest, making for the ideal time to visit the region and enjoy the sights and flavours.
What to do
- Visit famous wineries for wine tastings
- Discover the Garonne River by boat
- See prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux caves