Situated on the banks of the glistening Garonne, Bordeaux, la belle endormie of southwestern France, has woken up! In recent years this formerly half-forgotten city has been transformed into a lively, modern metropolis, but one which hasn’t lost its traditions or identity. Modern coffee shops and chic bars spill onto the winding cobbled streets of the medieval town centre and bustling markets simmer beneath the city’s many towering, gold-leafed cathedral spires. Equally, if it’s the good life you seek, Bordeaux offers this as only the French-est of French cities can with delicious food, great wine, and perfect summer weather.
Located in the centre of the city is the Jardin Public, a leafy park with botanical gardens. On a hot day, pack a picnic and nestle yourself beneath one of the trees in the arboretum with a book. In summer the park also hosts Bordeaux Open Air, showcasing international electronic music in a series of massive, free raves.
During WW2, Bordeaux was used by the Germans as a strategic position for their naval operations in the Atlantic. Base sous-marine, originally built to house Nazi U-boats, has now been repurposed as a modern art gallery and event space. It is not one to be missed!
Le Miroir D’Eau
Found on the Garonne’s banks, the miroir d’eau is the world’s biggest reflective water pool. In summer, the ‘mirror’ slowly fills and drains, firing a cloud of vapour out of the ground at the end of every cycle. A perfect evening spot for enjoying a bottle of local wine, alfresco, in the chaleur of the southern French sun.
Cross to the east bank and visit Darwin. This disused railway depot transformed into a modern cultural hub with a fantastic restaurant, a coffee shop serving locally roasted coffees, an organic supermarket, frequent flea-markets, street art exhibitions and even a skatepark! An perfect industrial antidote to the medieval metropole back across the waters.
The Best of Bordeaux
At night, everything behind Marché de Capucins (Coming from the Basilika Saint Michel). It is where most beggers and dodgy people are."
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If you’re in France for an extended period of time, you need a Carte Avantage Jeune from SNCF (national railway) in your wallet. It costs 49€ for the year, but you’ll make this back with rapid speed for it gets you 30% off every train journey across the country and 25% off international tickets, meaning you can hop across the border into Spain or Italy on your travels. All you need is a passport-style photo at the ready, and you’re good to go. If you have a habit of losing things, fear not: the card is available to add to your phone wallet, so you can never leave it at home.
Public transport in Bordeaux is broadly pretty good. The tram system, while not that huge, is very efficient and not too expensive. You can buy tickets for a specific number of journeys (1, 2 and 10), or valid for a specific time period (24hrs, 7 days, a year). Either way, they’re all pretty reasonably priced. An ‘annuel + V3’ card for those aged 11-27 is €266,80 a year, which frankly puts London to shame. This card also gives you access to the city’s public bike network which is fabulous.
That said, one way to go is to buy a bike on a site like leboncoin.fr. You should find something pretty cheap there. Bordeaux is one of the most cycle friendly cities in Europe with cycle lanes everywhere, and everywhere is super quick on two wheels!
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