Whether you’re a travel wanderlust in search of new experiences or a seasoned wine lover planning your dream wine vacation, a trip to the Bordeaux wine region offers so much more than just winery hopping and sipping (though that’s not too shabby either). Just like our wines, there are a range of diverse sights and activities hosted throughout the year. From old world to new school, here are a few highlights to add to your travel bucket list.
1. City of Bordeaux
The L.A. Times recently made the claim that Paris got its good looks from Bordeaux. They’re right. A UNESCO World Heritage City, Bordeaux was first settled in 300 BCE and passed through the hands of the Romans and boasts over 5000 unique buildings in the gothic-baroque style. Walk through the small, undiscovered streets of the city and be transported in time, cool off by the Miroir de Quais by the Place de la Bourse or people watch as you sip a glass of Bordeaux’s finest across the Grand Theater Opera House.
This eclectic jazz festival in the historic town of Saint-Émilion brings music and wine lovers together for two days in July. This year’s festival happens July 19th and 20th. If you’re passionate about either, plan your trip around this great event.
If beach vibes are what you’re looking for, the Bordeaux wine region has got you covered. Take a quick day trip (or a few) to Arcachon Bay, just a 45 minute drive or train ride away. You’ll find your necessary ocean respite along with fresh farmed oysters that famously pair with white Bordeaux. A must see along the way is the Dune de Pilat, Europe’s largest natural sand dune which stands at a height of 107m. Though there’s a bit of a trek to get to the top, you’ll have unparalleled 360 degree views of the ocean, bay and pine forests.
When it comes to marathons, the Medoc Marathon beats any other race on fun factor by a few miles (pun intended!). Set against the country roads of the gorgeous Medoc wine region, this marathon boasts wine and cheese stations for runners to fuel up. Running doesn’t sound so bad any more, right? This year’s marathon takes place on September 13, 2014.
It’s so nice we counted it twice. Saint-Émilion, named after the 8th century monk who first settled the region, is also a UNESCO World Heritage site with majestic limestone buildings that pulse with history. Dating back to prehistoric times, it’s hard not to leave this city without a lasting sense of wonder and amazement for the people who first settled it.
Built in the 1600′s, the Citadelle de Blaye is a large military complex along the Gironde River in the Blaye region of Bordeaux that still stands today. No surprise, it’s also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. King Louis XIV is responsible for the massive fort, meant to serve as the first line of defense for the city of Bordeaux. Today, you can spend an afternoon touring the 38 hectare fort which includes a castle, barracks and other ruins.
7. Harvest in Bordeaux
Harvest is the most important time of the year for the Bordeais and the energy is palpable. While many Chateaux will halt visits to focus on the grapes, you can also contact individual chateaux and see if you might be able to lend a hand. Chateau Paloumey, for instance, offers tours that include a day of harvesting. The harvest touches the old city as well. When grape picking begins, the Three Graces fountain in Place de Bourse runs red.
Every two years, Bordeaux hosts the biggest wine party in the world. With over 2km of tasting booths along the Garrone River, the festival features wines from over 80 appellations including Bordeaux and the neighboring Aquitaine in addition to culinary delights from around the world. Other surrounding events include the Bordeaux Music Festival and wine country tours. You might have missed this year’s Fête but mark your calendars now for 2016!