A UNESCO World Heritage site for its eighteenth century city-scape that still looks as it did hundreds of years ago, Bordeaux presents many experiences for finding romance within the city and others within an hours drive of the city.
Just 2 hours by train outside Paris (the city of love), the capital city of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region of France, Bordeaux is most noted for its association to the highest quality French wines. One of the most important wine producers and exporters in the world with the largest number of AOC “controlled designation of origin” classification vineyards in France. She is often referred to as “la perle d’Aquitaine” (pearl of the Aquitaine) and “Petit (mini) Paris”. This port city along the Garonne river offers as much as other urban cultural centers provide, but also leaves a small village impression in her old city. A gorgeous well maintained medieval city is perfect for couples looking for or celebrating romance to indulge and lose themselves within her boundaries.
Here are 15 opportunities to find romance in Bordeaux and the Bordeaux region:
1. Fairytale Romance at Porte Cailhau
A must see stop when visiting Bordeaux, Porte Calihau will give you the best views of the city. The impressive castle-like architecture was built in Gothic-renaissance cross over styles with both decorative and defensive features in 1494. The building has not changed in its many hundreds of years in existence when it was re-created as the entrance to the city from the Garonne river. The triumphal arch stands at almost 115 feet, climbing the stairs to the top floor of this beautiful building is where you will find an exhibition of her existence and most importantly where you can enjoy the romantic river views with sightings of the oldest bridge in Bordeaux, the Pont de Pierre.
2. Cross the Pont de Pierre Bridge
Connecting the left and right banks of the Garonne river, Pont de Pierre means “mason bridge” which is the French translation for stone bridge. The 1600 foot bridge was designed by Napoleon so his troops could easily cross the Garonne. Not surprisingly, the bridge has 17 arches for the number of letters in the name Napoleon Bonaparte. To maintain the structure of the bridge, it is closed to automobiles and only accessible by foot, bicycle or tram. The perfect opportunity to take a romantic walk or bike ride along the footpath of the bridge to enjoy the scenery. Depending on the time of day and the tides the day that you cross the bridge, you will have different views of the river.
3. Have a Secular Experience at Bordeaux Cathedral
Even if you are not religious, a stop at the Cathedral Saint Andre is worth the visit especially the Tour Pey-Berland bell-tower. A UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of the old city, the Notre Dame d’Aquitaine started as a Romanesque church originally built in 1096 AD and then modified in the Gothic style between the 12th and 16th centuries. Some highlights of the church are the exterior spires and the bell-tower that was built in the early 15th century. Separated from the rest of the cathedral, the bell-tower is a historic French monument. Tour Pey-Berland named after the archbishop who commissioned it, features three monumental bells, named Marie, Clémence and Marguerite that ring next to a larger 8 ton tenor bell named Ferdinand-André. A climb up the 231 step spiral staircase to the second terrace at the top offers romantic picture-worthy panoramic city views.
4. Journey into Wine together at La Cite du Vin
Before embarking into Bordeaux’s wines and local vineyards, immerse yourself in the fun and educational wine experience of Bordeaux’s Wine museum. The highly sensory experience starts as you enter the contemporary design of the building and continues with a one of a kind complete wine experience. Taking you into the world of wines from their creation in 6000BC to the modern day mechanics and innovation that makes up the wine industry with exhibitions, wine tasting workshops and pairings, seminars and events held throughout the year. Located on the West bank of Bordeaux between the historic districts for local vintage production and wine manufacturing, the museum was designed to focus on the worldwide wine culture instead of the local wine experience. On the romance side, there is a fantastic wine bar called Belvedere on the top floor, with a wide selection of wines from around the world to be enjoyed with a panoramic view of Bordeaux.
5. Visit one of the Most Romantic Restaurants in Bordeaux
Centrally located in the old town of Bordeaux, La Tupina is a small country inn style restaurant that will offer you a romantic and intimate dining experience. Centered around the fireplace within the dining establishment, in the fireplace sits a cauldron (La Tupina in French) that is used daily to create their signature soups, roasted meats and other traditional hearty dishes from the region. Offering both Prix Fixe menus including wine and mineral waters or a la carte options, the farm to table experience is traditional South-West French cuisine at its best. Michelin rated, reservations are highly recommended.
6. Shop the Marche des Chartrons
A highlight of a French experience is the local markets. Happening each Sunday The quay Market is located along the Garonne river. An outdoor market has sixty+ stands with a variety of local specialties, meats, cheeses, olives, breads, pastries, plates of local seafood’s in addition to crafts, flowers and other products that are not found anywhere else. If you are not in Bordeaux for the popular Sunday market, head to Marché des Capucins which is Bordeaux’s main market hall noted as one of the largest halls in the southwest region of France.
7. Relax at the Bordeaux Public Garden
If you have visited France before you know the parks and gardens offer an experience unlike any other. Providing your usual park amenities like walking paths and playgrounds, it’s the additional amenities that make this experience the perfect venue for a romantic outing. Located in the center of the city of Bordeaux and made up of 2700 acres with a central pond and many open spaces with trees and beautiful landscaping. Here is where you can take cue from the locals and stop to enjoy a bottle of wine and plate of local cheese from the market while relaxing on a romantic Bordelais kind of day. You can also find within the park a botanical garden, 19th century carousel, cafe/bar terrace and the Museum of Natural History.
8. Take Selfies at the Place de la Bourse et Miroir d’Eau
Bordeaux’s most iconic symbol is the Place Royale and Water Mirror reflecting pool. Built over 20 years in the mid 1700’s, facing the Garonne river, the classical French architecture of the Place Royal was built as a town square. She played a major role in the city’s development, trade, and reputation throughout its years of existence. Originally built as hotels, the buildings today are used as government offices and event venues. Across from the palace along the quay of the river is the iconic Water Mirror the world’s largest reflecting pool. Built in the early 2000’s locals will tell you that the pool with the Place Royal in the background at dusk is the perfect photo spot to commemorate your romantic visit to Bordeaux.
9. Enjoy a Concert at the Bordeaux Grand Theatre
The Bordeaux Opera House was built by wooden-frame in the 1780’s as a opera house but also became the home to the origin of the ballet in the region. One of the oldest opera houses in Europe, she was designed in the neoclassical style. The building exterior features Corinthian columns and statues representing the nine muses and three Greek goddesses, Juno, Venus and Minerva. A highlight of the interior is the grand staircase and fresco painted on the ceiling of the auditorium that pays tribute to the city of Bordeaux in a neoclassical style. Still in use today you too can enjoy a sophisticated and romantic adult evening of opera, ballet, symphony or musical concert while visiting. With a tram stop just out front, you can easily get to/from other parts of the city for an early dinner, late bite or a night cap.
10. Cycle the Vineyard Countryside
Bordeaux is famous for the dry red wines and sparkling whites grown here. Grab an e bike and head out on your own at your own pace or jump onto a half day or full day tour and cycle through Bordeaux’s famous wine region with an English speaking guide. Did you know 22 bottles of wine from Bordeaux are sold every second all over the world? A must do Bordeaux tour will have you riding romantic country roads, enjoying tasting wines from the vineyards and visiting some of the historic chateaus along the way. Purchase a bottle of wine and find an intimate spot to enjoy it before riding back to Bordeaux.
11. Pamper your Senses at Chateau Margaux
Located on the left bank of the Garonne river in the Medoc region, Chateau Margaux holds the highest classification of Bordeaux wine classifications as a Premier Cru vineyard for its historic wine-making and growth innovations. Sampling the wines themselves is a real treat since the Premier vintages grown and sold are some of the most expensive in the industry. A highlight of a visit is walking the romantic property which is one of the most beautiful chateaux in the Bordeaux region. If you decide you would like to purchase wine, there are other lower cost vintages, note they don’t adhere to the high appellation directives as the Premier Cru but are still highly respectable and enjoyable.
12. Get Lost in Saint-Emilion
A medieval town 45 minutes from Bordeaux in the wine hills is the center of wine making in the region. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town offers romantically picturesque “cultural landscape” and equally romantic experiences. Saint-Emilion is made up of 8 villages each notable for its vineyards but also offering impressive historical sites and local gastronomy from recipes passed down from generation to generation. Here is the perfect location to explore and sneak into a small local restaurant or cafe for a romantic meal with some local vin.
13. Launch your Relationship to New Heights in the Arcachon Basin
Just under an hours drive southwest from Bordeaux is the Dune of Pilat. A popular attraction for visitors as the tallest sand dune in Europe, it sits along the Arcachon Bay. The dune runs parallel to the shoreline behind the beach and blue Atlantic waters. Add some adventure into your vacation, due to the steepness of the dune, paragliding is a popular activity here and a way for you both to check it off of your bucket lists.
After gliding high above the dunes or taking a dip in the bay, head on to some of the local towns along the bay to enjoy sampling the amazing Arcachon Oysters. The bay has almost 30 oyster farms and produces upwards of 8,000 tons of oysters annually. There are four growing regions and each region produces its own oyster to sample the various local flavors and enjoy a romantic aphrodisiac with some local wine.
14. Take a Personal Spa Day
The Vinothérapie Spa at the Les Sources de Caudalie hotel offers unique spa rituals in a beautiful and rustic setting. Featuring a natural hot spring, the same minerals that help create the best wines in France are the ones that offer properties for an invigorating spa experience. Featuring treatments that include grape and vine extracts for relaxing baths and purifying wraps, scrubs, facial, hand and foot treatments and grape seed massages to indulge in every moment. Located just 20 minutes outside of Bordeaux’s city center, the hotel offers a perfect and romantic balance of exploration and relaxation for a day or as your base for your Bordeaux experience.
15. Cruise the Rivers around Bordeaux
The best way to experience the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and admire Bordeaux’s waterfront is during a seven night scenic river cruise round-trip from Bordeaux. A romantic cruise tour offers boutique accommodations with the opportunity to explore the sights, enjoy the tastes and immerse in the culture of the region while traveling. Inclusive in your experience are many of the experiences and others that have been mentioned above.