As well as a reputation as the world’s wine capital, Bordeaux in south west France is also its largest urban UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its old town is jam-packed with 18th and 19th-century treasures such as palaces, cathedrals and an opera house. The city's a foodie’s delight: think traditional bistros serving confit du canard (duck confit) with accompanying fine wines. Cross the Garonne River to get a taste of the burgeoning startup culture, street art and outdoor drinking and music venues.
You’ll find hostels in Bordeaux in 18th-century buildings combining character-filled design with modern amenities such as free Wi-Fi. Choose from mixed or female-only dorms, or private rooms with en-suite bathrooms. Bordeaux hostels show off the local pastries and breads, while on-site restaurants serve fruit-laden sharing platters washed down with organic wine or craft beers. You can chat with the friendly Bordeaux hostel staff for help booking day trips to nearby surfing destinations like Lacanau or advice on the best local wine bar.
In the city, Chartrons is home to the Rue Notre Dame, a quaint little street lined with ivy-covered houses, antique dealers and traditional bistros. Up along the river towards wine museum La Cité du Vin, you’ll find converted warehouses at Quai Des Marques, now housing designer boutiques and homeware stores. On the other side of the water, Darwin on Quai des Queyries is a former military barracks transformed into a cultural hub with an urban farm, skatepark and cafés.
The Water Mirror, across from Place de la Bourse, is a pool that reflects the image of the surrounding 18th-century buildings before releasing an artificial mist. La Cité du Vin was designed to resemble the swirl that wine makes as its poured into a glass and inside you can discover the history of the various vintages. If you want to see the grapes close up, book a tour out to a nearby vineyard in Saint-Émilion or Médoc.
Bordeaux is considered one of the most bike-friendly cities in Europe and has an impressive network of dedicated pathways. There's also an urban tram and bus service to get you around, including to La Cité du Vin. Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport is 10km from the city centre and you can get a bus into town that will take around 40 minutes. Gare de Bordeaux St-Jean train station has high-speed connections to Paris and Tours in the Loire Valley.