Let's cut to the chase; Bordeaux is probably best recognized for its production of internationally lauded red wines. After all, we're talking about an industry that rakes in nearly 15 billion euros annually. Impressive numbers for sure, but is it the only interesting facet of living or traveling here? Nope. Rich in UNESCO-listed 18th century architecture, this is a city proudly holding onto heritage while simultaneously polishing up its 21st century appeal. Just grab a coffee at the recently renovated Wet Docks district or take a drive over the ultra-modern Chaban-Delmas Bridge to see what we mean. And with a healthy university student population and an array of notable (if slightly unconventional) outdoor adventures to tackle, it's safe to say that the opportunities for excitement here just might surpass your expectations.
One of the first things you'll notice about Bordeaux is its vast area - relatively small buildings sprawled out over a wide swath of western France. Don't worry if you find yourself having to ask for directions; residents here pride themselves on being warm and easy going. You'll also detect a culture-rich bent to the city, evident in magnificent structures like the Grand Theater, La porte Cailhau (an incredible sight in Palace Square) and the Girondins Memorial. This atmosphere is even more palpable in the city's bevy of celebrations, including the world-famous Wine Festival and the biennial River Festival; not to mention its fervor for FC Girondins football matches. Sounds enticing, right? Then when you factor in some big-named eating, drinking and shopping destinations (Marche des Quais, Place de la Victoire and Rue St. Catherine respectively), you begin to understand why Bordeaux is often referred to as the "Little Paris."
Prefer things a bit more adventurous? Despite its near-coastal location, traditional hiking/biking/diving options are somewhat limited for those itching to see what's outside the city. Don't throw in the towel yet, though; this just means you'll have to get a little creative. Why not try your hand at sandboarding or paragliding down the Great Dune of Pyla, or surfing/body boarding some choice waves at Lacanau Beach? It's a far cry from the Alps or the Mediterranean, we grant you, just like kayaking the Garonne isn't quite as stunning as paddling beneath Ardeche's Pont d'Arc. Still, resourcefulness wins the day, so why not make the most of what's available during your visit to one of France's cultural capitals, hmm? We'll do our best not to feel too bad for you.