Bordeaux

Things to do in Bordeaux

It wouldn't be a trip to Bordeaux without, well, a bottle of Bordeaux. Oenophiles and amateur tasters alike will find something to love at the Maison du Vin de Bordeaux.

The former archbishop's residence houses a vast collection that includes two wings full of paintings from 17th-century masters, another wing with 19th-century French painters, as well as 20th-century luminaries, such as Matisse, Kokoschka, and Picasso.

Just off the D2 highway—known as the Route des Châteaux—this 128-acre winery is easily recognizable by its two conical turrets rising behind a wrought-iron railing.

Architect Victor Louis' neo-classical theater has a monumental façade with 12 Corinthian columns and a sweeping staircase that was the inspiration for the Palais Garnier in Paris. This and the Trianon at Versailles are the only original wooden theaters in France.

Located northwest of Bordeaux proper, the Château Giscours winery is set on a hilltop in the commune of Labarde. The domaine started producing Margaux appellation wines in the 1500’s and today grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot grapes.

A rotating roster of guest DJs sets the tone at the tiny zinc bar with a loyal following. The festivities often spill into the street. Late night, intrepid partiers move on to the dockland discos at the eastern fringe of the port.

Château Cos d'Estournel is one of the top Haut-Médoc wine producers in Bordeaux’s St.-Estèphe region. The property sits on 200 acres with an impressive, yet somewhat quirky 19th century château (hand-carved doors imported from Zanzibar and Asian-style pagodas).

The wine bar is run by three friends, one of whom is an expert on the local estates, from which he handpicks wines for the menu. Chartrons also hosts frequent tastings.

More than just a winery, Château Smith Haut Lafitte is a family home, a hotel with a natural mineral springs spa, and one of the most praised winemakers in Bordeaux.

The former 17th-century church has been transformed into a bar/cinema/art complex. On sunny days in the late afternoon, the outdoor terrace is bathed in sunlight, and the crowds descend to bask in the warmth.

La Musée National des Douanes is France’s National Customs Museum. Located along the waterfront in an 18th-century palace at Place de la Bourse, the museum explores the wide-ranging arm of the customs service.

The best way to buy wine is to visit the small vineyards in the area. But if you just want to hit a shop with a varied inventory, try this huge warehouse, which carries nearly 1,000 selections from all over the region.

The city-sponsored program offers wine-country weekend tours and onsite two-hour tasting courses at a posh-looking but bargain-priced wine bar.

A group of 49 merchants stock everything from Renaissance art to mid-20th-century treasures. Don't expect to find a great bargain; for that, hunters will have better luck at the weekly flea market outside the neighboring Saint Michel Church.

Château Grand Callamand is both a winery and a bed-and-breakfast. Located near the town of Pertuis in Luberon National Park, the château is owned by the Souzan-Delagrave family, who tend to both the vines and the inn.