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Place de Bourse, Bordeaux

There is So Much More than the World’s Best Wines to Savor Here

But we’ll start with the wine.
It’s the world’s epicenter of wine, the largest winegrowing region in France, an oenophile’s dream destination. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and many other varietals dot the winding vineyards that have been synonymous with Bordeaux for hundreds of years. By the time the city truly came into its own after the French Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, the vines had long since taken root, having begun to flourish between the 12th and 15th centuries. More than 10,000 estates produce roughly 960 million bottles annually, ranging from innovative newcomers to storied wineries that started it all.

While day trips to Pomerol, Chateau St-Emilion, Sauternes and Margaux top any wine lover’s list, the distinctly new-world shimmer of the Cité du Vin wine museum is also a must. Towering and shining in reflective glass, the modern structure houses a deep history of wine in Bordeaux and beyond, as well as a wine shop boasting more than 800 vintages.

Bordeaux, Saint Emilion town
Saint Emilion in Bordeaux’s wine region comprises sprawling vineyards and a charming historic town.

Old, Meet New
This contemporary homage to the Old World is typical of Bordeaux, actually, as the city excels at juxtaposing old and new. As the world’s largest UNESCO urban World Heritage Site, it has everything today’s travelers seek. The heartbeat of Bordeaux comes from the Garonne River, which is at arm’s reach virtually anywhere you roam in the city. Left or Right Bank, this waterfront is an ideal spot for sipping (wine, of course) and snacking (French pastries are at their best here) while taking in the sights.

Strolling Bordeaux’s city center allows your inner history buff to walk through time in squares like the Place de la Bourse – a prominent 18th-century spot of elegance and vision. The Miroir d’Eau reflecting pool adjacent from its main buildings is a modern granite structure that plays with water effects to “mirror” the historic buildings in new ways. It’s completely enchanting and will instantly fill your camera roll. Wander further to the Bordeaux Cathedral, the Place de Quinconces (the stunning main city square), the Grand Theatre and other masterpieces of baroque, Romanesque and gothic vision. Among these lovely monuments of time past, you’ll also find testaments to Bordeaux vision of the future, with modern building of glass and stone, shaped like wine decanters or smooth, white pebbles have emerged on the cityscape.

Architecture celebrated as art here is par for the course, as Bordeaux’s passion of expression remains true to French sensibility. Numerous museums showcase works from all periods of art history. The Musée de Beaux Arts features the the old masters of romanticism, realism, cubism and before, while modern interpretations are on display at the CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain, set along the Garonne’s banks. For a peek into the region’s substantial maritime history, head to the Musée Mer Marine in the city center, containing an impressive fleet of model ships and artifacts, as well as ocean photography by National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen and models of Da Vinci’s own creations.

Food for the Soul
Unsurprisingly, the cuisine found in Bordeaux is arguably as exquisite as the wines with which it’s paired. Outside the city, lush agricultural and forest land (also a must to explore during a day’s outings) provide an array of beautiful produce, while the Bay of Arcachon’s oysters are a signature here. Milk-fed Pauillac lamb and other traditional rich dishes are worth every calorie, but, true to old-meets-new form in Bordeaux, you’ll also find a wave of new gastronomical options from trendy cafés and fusion cuisine to food trucks for bites on the go. There is perhaps no better place to fuel your sense of creativity and curiosity than in France, and Bordeaux is the epitome of such exploration.

Bordeaux is a highlight of Crystal Cruises and Crystal Expedition Cruises in 2021, 2022 and beyond, with itineraries spending three days in the city. Plan to fully immerse yourself in all facets of Bordeaux during your Crystal voyage.

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