Susan Gough Henly discovers how Bordeaux, the world’s largest UNESCO world heritage site, is also one of Europe’s most innovative cities for sustainable tourism.
Renowned as one of the world’s great wine capitals and surrounded by some of the most famous vineyards on earth, the beautiful and walkable city of Bordeaux has long been a sustainability trailblazer: with its city-wide grid of whisper-quiet electric trams, its car-free Old Quarter expansive green spaces and extensive network of cycle and walking paths. With the 2023 opening of a tram line linking Bordeaux airport to the city, there has never been a better time to sustainably explore the city and its environs. Here are some itinerary suggestions.
Day 1. Explore the city centre
Starting in the heart of the prestigious 18th century quarter, marvel at the exquisite architecture of the __Bordeaux
National Opera House and browse the boutiques of the Golden Triangle before taking rue Sainte-Catherine, Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street, into the Old medieval quarter, to lunch in one of its many alfresco cafes and restaurants. Admire the reflections of the Place de la Bourse__ in the Miroir d’Eau and then walk, cycle or take a tram (a City Pass offers the best value) along the Garonne River to visit La Cité du Vin, a veritable totem to the world of wine. Nearby, marvel at the immersive light and sound installations at Les Bassins des Lumières and enjoy an afternoon snack at Les Halles de Bacalan covered market. Finally, take the time to relax during a cruise or explore the 600m long botanic gardens on the Right Bank before enjoying a glass of affordable Bordeaux wine at the Wine Bar of the Maison du Vin de Bordeaux and dinner at the excellent Cent 33 restaurant.
Aquitaine Museum and Grosse Cloche are a short walk away from Place du Palais. It is named after the Palais de l’Ombrière (photo © Nicolas Duffaure)
Day 2. Vineya and the art of living well
Enjoy a self-guided audio tour of the city to understand how wine production and distribution have shaped the city; from la Maison du Vin de Bordeaux to the Cité du Vin crossing the Chartrons wine merchant district from where Bordeaux wine was once shipped all over the world. Take public transport to the urban vineyards of Bordeaux where you can enjoy tastings, wine blending classes and food and wine experiences at Château Pape Clément, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, du Taillan, Saint-Ahon and Sainte-Barbe. Wine tours by bicycle around Saint-Émilion – where vineyards have existed since Roman times – are another option. There are wine bars aplenty to explore of an evening, including Les Trois Pinardiers and Max Bordeaux. Or enjoy a rooftop bar cocktail at the new Renaissance Bordeaux Hotel, Mama Shelter and the Yacht Club at the InterContinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hotel.
The cobblestone street of Rue Notre Dame (photo ©Nicolas Duffaure)
Day 3. Exploring the Bassin d’Arcachon
Take the train from Bordeaux to the 19th century seaside resort of Arcachon and stroll through the beautiful Ville d’Hiver district, dotted with houses of different and surprising architectural styles. You can also discover and climb the nearby Dune du Pilat (the tallest sand dune in Europe). Next, take a 15-minute ferry across the expansive Bassin d’Arcachon to rustic-chic Cap Ferret, home to a lovely food and crafts market, beautiful boutiques and oodles of oyster bars and seaside restaurants. You can swim in the bay or rent bikes to cycle through the pine forests to wild Atlantic Ocean beaches.