Visiting Bordeaux and the ‘Cité du Vin’
Bordeaux is a magical city. Lanes in the old town have been closed to cars. It’s picturesque and great for walking. Many of the sights are within an easy self guided walking route you can follow with a map provided by the Tourist Office. Given the size of the city itself (about 800,000 people in greater Bordeaux) and its traffic staying in Bordeaux city centre so you can walk everywhere is ideal. This post focuses on wine related places to visit on a one or two day stopover – ideal to tag onto a wine or walking tour with us in the region. Or if you are already in the area consider a one day wine tour or walking tour with us – an easy train ride from Bordeaux city.
Architecture and must sees
Must sees include the magnificent 18th century architecture around the place de la Bourse and the 21st century water mirror in front of it and le grand Theatre at the top end of Rue Ste Catherine. Other breathtaking historic places include la Grosse Cloche, la Porte Cailhau, many churches and cathedral St André. For shoppers Rue Ste Catherine is the longest pedestrianised shopping street in Europe and the golden triangle offers luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Maxmara, Hermes and many more.
A winelover’s destination
The city hosts many cavistes (wine shops) including Max Bordeaux where you can buy tasting samples of top Bordeaux wines, les Tonneaux de St Jean for organic wine and an active Maison des Vins (opposite the main Bordeaux tourist office).
For winelovers les Chartrons and its wine museum (Musée du Vin et du Négoce) are worth a visit as is the magnificent new Cité du Vin Wine Museum (details below) where you can lose yourself for many hours.
All are walking distance for keen walkers or an easy hop on a tram. If you are interested in ecological developments viti the Darwin Eco-System Centre where many new urban eco projects are taking root and you can find the largest organic restaurant in France .
The Cité du Vin: the wine museum in Bordeaux
La Cité du Vin opened its doors in 2016 and already feels like a key part of Bordeaux city’s wine and tourism scene. You can buy your ticket online .
The cité du vin is a full on visual and sound experience with high tech and interactive displays.
The experience starts with an engaging 10 minute film ‘The World Wine Tour’ – a feast for the eyes flying over vineyard and winery landscapes across the globe. Then a section of wine regions of the world followed by ‘Table des Terroirs’ – winegrowers from 10 regions giving their perspective on what makes their area special. Given wine growing is about farming I found the interviews were with big names and there was little appreciation for the real winegrowers on the ground. A few infographics about the world of wine not related to selecting a display would have helped this section too.
The ‘Galerie of Civilisations’ is a superb interactive display that gives a great sense of wine history and is followed by ‘The Trend Wall’, a total contrast to the history section, offering information on latest trends in the modern world of wine.
The buffet of 5 senses is mostly about aromas and visuals beautifully presented like the photo above (lemon) and below (pencil shavings). The art of living shows wine service and pairing through the ages. Wine portraits shows how different wine styles are produced and their history. There was a tucked away section that I found very interesting covering the negative effects of wine and a section in the centre about wine and love including eroticism in films, art, music, poetry and literature. I wanted to note all the films referenced in this section but by this point I was pretty exhausted having been there for 2h30 (despite skipping a fair bit). I suggest taking a break part way through for a cup of tea and a snack and then going back. Check the internet for when it is less busy too as I was there early and it wasnt too crowded but I hear it can be unpleasantly busy.
The museum experience ends with an 8 minute film ‘The Epic Tale of Bordeaux’ and you are invited to go upstairs to a tasting area to taste 1 wine from the selection available that day. There was one organic available in the large range of international and local wines. I tasted that, an estate I knew already but hadn’t tasted in years.
For me three aspects could be improved:
1. More about about organic and biodynamic viticulture and a section of real vines.
2. A fuller tasting experience.
3. Some human interaction.
I highly recommend the visit – be sure to give yourself enough time to appreciate it – at least half a day.
Bordeaux is a fabulous city break. Walk it to discover it well. Give yourself enough time to really appreciate the Cité du Vin. Extend your city break with a couple of days in the magnificant vineyard villages of St Emilion and Saussignac by booking onto French Wine Adventures two day wine tour or our five day wine tour or a vineyard walking tour for a full experience of the region’s natural beauty, food and wine and vineyards have to offer.