Destinations

Everything You Need to Know About Bordeaux

Insider tips on the wine-growing region, including the best places to stay, eat, and explore.
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Rolling vineyards stretching to the horizon, bistros, and bakeries lining pedestrian alleyways, Michelin-starred cuisine and hotels with fine furnishings: here is the very best of what Bordeaux has to offer.

VISIT THE UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE OF SAINT ÉMILION


This ancient town, just a 45-minute drive from Bordeaux’s center, has the largest underground church in Europe. The 12th-century monolithic structure is dramatically stamped into a jutting cliff, with time-weathered angels and saints carved around the arch of its doors. Take a tour with a local guide, who can also show you the cave in which the town’s founding saint is said to have lived as a hermit for 17 years.

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ENJOY A LUXURY PICNIC LUNCH ON THE TERRACE OF THE HOSTELLERIE DE PLAISANCE

Sitting atop Saint Émilion’s astonishing church is the elegant Hostellerie de Plaisance, which offers a breath-taking panorama across the mosaic rooftops and romantic cobblestone alleyways of this charming town, with rows of grapevines as far as the eye can see.

The hotel’s terrace is directly adjacent to an ancient clock tower, and here you can enjoy a picnic-style lunch courtesy of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant, La Table de Plaisance. Indulge in prawns served with pumpkin, grapefruit and a perfectly tart pineapple chutney, delicately seasoned with sage flower.

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TAKE A BOAT TRIP TO CAP FERRET


Travel to the beaches of Cap Ferret on board a long wooden pinasse from the Bay of Arcachon, where you can dine at the Pinasse Café on fresh langoustine and oysters while you watch gently lapping waves.

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CYCLE TO THE GIRONDE ESTUARY TO SEE THE FISHING CARRELETS


Rent a bicycle in the charming hamlet of Bages and ride through pea-green vines to the Gironde estuary. There you’ll find a row of traditional fishing huts called ‘carrelets’, where fresh shrimp are caught when the tide is high. Château Cordeillan-Bages hosts barbecues for small groups with the local fishermen when the weather is temperate, pairing the day’s catches with the finest Bordeaux wines.

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DINE AT LA GRANDE MAISON DE BERNARD MAGREZ

The cuisine at La Grande Maison is overseen by Pierre Gagnaire (who is also the head chef at Sketch, the artistic gastro-brasserie in Mayfair) and is astonishingly intricate. Just a short stroll away from the center of Bordeaux, the restaurant serves dishes such as grilled red shrimp marinated in sherry and olive oil and garnished with baby carrots and corn ice-cream, followed by a corolla of haddock from Arcachon and roasted cauliflower. Dessert is equally delicate: try a quince macaronade biscuit with coffee cream, Paris button-mushrooms, and raspberry sauce, or a velvety pumpkin soup with coconut milk and heather honey, accompanied by caramelized royal-gala apple ice-cream.

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TASTE EXQUISITE SAUTERNES FROM A LALIQUE WINE BOTTLE

Sauternes lovers can explore Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey’s four cellars, which hold 350,000 bottles, including historic vintages of Sauternes Crus Classés. Since 2014 the hotel has belonged to the chairman of the Lalique Group Silvio Denz, and as such the interiors are replete with exquisite glass details, from chandeliers to decorated armrests. Even the château’s wine bottles have been designed to incorporate a relief of René Lalique’s 1928 carving Femme et Raisins.

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STAY AT LE HOTEL SAINT-JAMES BOULIAC

At Le Hotel Saint-James Bouliac, each of the 18 guest-rooms is embellished in its own way (one even features a Harley Davidson) and looks out over the city. While the canelé cakes, baked to perfection by the resident chef Nicolas Magie, would be enough to keep any guest coming back, the views over Bordeaux will remain with you long after you’ve checked out.

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For more information on these Relais & Châteaux hotels, visit www.relaischateaux.com.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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