Six (very good) reasons to visit Bordeaux

Watch the reflections in the Water Mirror

Water MirrorSo simple but oh-so-effective! To me, the Water Mirror between the banks of the Garonne and the elegant sweep of the old Stock Exchange buildings is one of the most imaginative attractions anywhere. And not just for tourists. Locals love it too. A thin film of water over paving stones is refreshed every few minutes with a fine mist to create a mirror effect. Stand on the edge or walk through it to experience the changing reflections of clouds and buildings and expect to find yourself drawn back throughout the day to enjoy it in different lights.

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Learn all about world wines at Cite du Vin

Bordeaux’s latest tourist attraction, opened in June 2016, is the extraordinary Cite du Vin beside the broad sweep of the Garonne. Extraordinary because of its curvaceous shape – designed to resemble a drop of wine swirling round a glass and the twisting stem of a vine – Cite du Vinbut also because of the breadth of its interactive exhibits. You can easily spend a few hours here discovering not just the wines of Bordeaux but the history of wines across the world from ancient times to the present day. This is education through entertainment, visitors given a neat device which – when held against various touch-points – activates all kinds of wizardry. There’s even a version adapted for children. Visits finish with a glass of wine at the top floor bar and viewing gallery but there’s a restaurant too for those who want to linger longer.

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Discover Bordeaux’s world-famous vintages

Vineyards in the Gironde department - by Michael Clarke CC BY-SA 2.0The surrounding department of Gironde is France’s number 1 area for fine wine production with 65 appellations. Motorists can follow six marked wine trails but Bordeaux has its own suburban vineyards with 20 chateaux located within the metropolitan area. And if you like a bit of golf to go with your wine, there are 15 courses around Bordeaux. Silver Travellers can enjoy the vineyards and fairways through Greens & Grapes who create tailor-made wine and golf breaks with high levels of service. They’ll book flights and hotels to restaurants, tee times, tastings and tours. All you have to do is swing the club and lift the glass.

Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town

Cathedral from Pey Berland TowerMany of Bordeaux’s most iconic buildings and thoroughfares date from the 18th century when the city was at the forefront of The Age of Enlightenment, but an equally big impact was made by the installation of the 21st century tramway. With traffic and pollution dramatically cut, many blonde stone facades have been painstakingly cleaned and restored and in 2007, the historic city centre was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Discover the highlights of its 347 listed monuments by picking up the free map from the Tourist Office and following the UNESCO Heritage Tour. I’d recommend taking time out en route to enjoy a bird’s eye view from one of the high level viewpoints such as the Pey-Berland Tower (231 steps, no lift!) and spending an hour or more in the excellent Musee d’Aquitaine which charts the development of the city and its port.

Indulge in some retail therapy

Place du PalaisRue Sainte Catherine is the longest shopping street in Europe, running parallel with the Garonne and slicing through the Old Town. There are more than 250 boutiques to choose from, plus a branch of Galeries Lafayette department store. If designer labels are your thing, head for Le Triangle with its smart streets, Grand Cru wine merchants and luxury brands. Outlet bargains more your style? Then walk beside the Garonne – or hop on a tram – to the Quai des Marques factory shopping centre on Quai des Chartrons.

Treat your tastebuds

Cite du Vin rooftopAs you might expect, Bordeaux has restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets from cosy bistros and wine bars to Michelin-starred chefs, including our own Gordon Ramsay. At the opposite end of the scale, I had a delicious lunch at Ha Restaurant, a small contemporary eaterie tucked in a quiet street behind the cathedral). And if you stop for a between-meal coffee, you’ll almost certainly be given a tiny canele on the saucer. Bordeaux’s signature cake, it’s caramelised and flavoured with rum. Wine bars abound too where you can sample those world-famous Bordeaux vintages. I really liked Max Bordeaux where customers create their own bespoke wine tasting by choosing small samples from a range of optics or even book a short session with an expert.

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Gillian Thornton

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