Guide to Bordeaux 2024

Belle Bordeaux. 

Could Bordeaux be the most romantic destination in France?.


Bordeaux is enjoying a renaissance. Thanks to some civic funding, it's had a glossy facelift, and the many decretive18th-century buildings, which had been blackened from traffic over the decades, are now gleaming again, ready to welcome more visitors. All the buildings’ facades, from Hotel de Ville to the impressive Port de la Lune, now show their original stunning stone finish. The eco-conscious tram system is simple and hassle-free; it runs overground like clockwork; the hotels are plentiful; and the city dining options are world-class. It's no wonder the residents of this city might be the most relaxed and content in France, because hey have it all! Sun, sea, and a stunning city that’s not too big (just a tad smaller than Dublin) or too crowded—and this year, more Michelin-starred chefs to brag about. 

Gordon Ramsey already has an established restaurant in Bordeaux in the five-star Inter Continental Hotel, but this year the city increased its star-power by appointing UK super-chef Oli Williamson, formally of Heston Blumenthal’s triple Michelin star The Fat Duck. Williamson recently moved to Bordeaux with his French wife and La Table de Montaigne restaurant, set in the stylish Hotel Le Palais Gallien snapped him up in March this year. For anyone lucky enough to have eaten at The Fat Duck, you know the prices already.(£399 for dinner per person) Here in Bordeaux, you can experience nine flavoursome, stylish plates created by Williamson for approx €100. It might be lacking some of the fanfare of The Fat Duck, but none of the flavour. La Table de Montaigne is only open a few months, but by the summer, Williamson will have his stamp on the decor and lighting which will elevate this dining experience even further. (

There are many tourist sites to see, like the Cathedrale Sant-Andre de Bordeaux and Place des Quinconces, which is the largest city square in Europe. The square hosts the magnificent Monument aux Girondis water fountain with spectacular stone and bronze horses. It celebrates the bravery of the local Girondins (citizens who were guillotined during the French Revolution). The best advice anyone gave me was to buy a Bordeaux City Pass. This gives you unlimited tram rides, entry to all the main museums and a wide variety of tours. (48 hours €45

La Cité du Vin is a tourist site everyone recommends. Built at a cost of £72 million, the unique building resembles wine swirling around a glass. The interactive tour covers every aspect of wine, from history to production to culture. Expect interactive areas and giant screens, but this involves a lot of walking and many steps, so certainly not for anyone with impaired mobility. A free tasting in the top-floor Belvedere room is included in your ticket, where you get panoramic views of the city. (£18

Accommodation is plentiful and varied. There are obvious stylish options like The Inter Continental and Le Palais Gallien, but if you want a five-star hotel with more personality than floor space, then Maison Pavlov is ideal. A few tram stops from the centre, its seclusion and flair are worth the few extra minutes of commute. The 17th-century building mixes well with the unique eclectic decor and although it’s small by most nice star hotel standards, the eight-room boutique has a restaurant, pool, and mini spa on the grounds. What makes it stand out from the others for me is the vibrant young couple behind it. Mary and Maxime come from culinary and hospitality backgrounds and started out with their acclaimed Le Chien de Pavlov restaurant in 2014. Maison Pavlov followed and they have created a welcoming haven full of personal touches, stylish interiors and that homely touch of being in direct communication with the owners. 


Having lunch at Le Chien de Pavlov on Rue de la Devise is a treat. You can opt for indoor or outdoor seating, and try their blind set menu which includes four courses (€49 . If less glamorous surroundings will do and you just want the vibrancy of a big, bustling market place, Bordeaux’s version of London’s Borough market, Marche des Capucins, is worth a look. Expect vibrant fish, meat, and vegetable stalls, and some cheap and tasty restaurants dotted around the market. Try Bistro Chez Jean-Mi if, like me, you fancy six oysters for €10 and a €5 glass of Chablis. (

If you crave something sweet after, you will see a couple of Hasnaa Artisan chocolate shops in the city. Owned by a local Hasnaa Ferreira, her brand is best known for its wine ganaches, which use flavours from some of Bordeaux’s most prestigious wines. This year one of her chocolate bars won the French, European, and world chocolate awards so it’s put her small brand firmly on the global map. The shop offers free samples, so it's well worth popping in! (

Vintage and second-hand designer shops are thriving in Bordeaux, and you can track down plenty of small ‘Aladdin’s cave’ type shops stocked with hidden gems. A five min tram ride from Maison Pavlov is Les Tiroirs d’Isabelle on Rue Fondaudege (@lestiroirsdisabelle), which has plenty of Sandro, Soeur, and Sonia Rykiel. So Authentic is a more upmarket store with lots of pristine second-hand Chanel and Louis Vuitton. ( Fifty Luxe is a slightly overwhelmingly packed treasure trove, with Lacroix scarves piled high and rows of Hermes, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton bags. If you know about designer vintage, you may find some investment piece here, but be prepared to rummage. (

If you're interested in buying or simply ogling stylish French antiques, then try Village Notre Dame in the historic Chartrons district. It’s a large consortium of vendors under one roof, with everything from glassware to pocket watches to incredibly stylish furniture. It doesn’t have a website, but the whole area is nice to stroll around in, with lots of antique doorways and picturesque cobbled streets, and you are only about a five-minute walk to the Museum D’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, which is a recently renovated impressive 18th-century dockland building. ( If you would rather shop for unique, new designer clothing, visit Azsum on Rue de Grassi. Labels like Uma Wang, Suzusan, and Yohji Yamamoto give it a distinctive flare. For a high street packed with well known brands and many french independent brands go to Rue Sainte-Catherine. 

If you have an extra night to spare, visit the famous Hotel and spa Les Sources de Caudalie on the outskirts of the city. After a 30-minute taxi, you’ll feel like you are deep in the French countryside. Surrounded by vineyards and the neighbouring chateau, Smith Haut Lafitte, also owned by the same company, it is known for its thermal waters and unique range of treatments using vineotherapy - beauty treatments based on grape seeds containing polyphenols, which help combat ageing. The spa has 20 treatment rooms, an indoor pool and a steam room. Outside there’s a heated pool and a barrel-shaped hot tub. The brand has grown a lot since my first visit almost fifteen years ago, with their products available in almost every major department store. New buildings have been built in theme with the original chateau, adding many more bedrooms and suites and a new gym and indoor pool area. One of the three on-site restaurants, La Grand'Vigne, has also gained a second Michelin star since my last visit. ( )  

With Bordeaux’s timeless beauty, venerable architecture and Michelin star power, it might just be enough to make it France's new romantic capital!

For more essential information on Bordeaux see