Christmas in Bordeaux: Sightseeing with the Bordeaux City Pass
*I was provided with a complimentary City Pass for the purposes of this trip but was not contractually obligated to write this post
When you imagine Bordeaux which images do you conjure up? No doubt wine and wine tasting, as it is the renowned city of wine after all, and probably also good weather given its location in south-west France. However, were you aware of its museum dedicated to wine, for example? The Cité du Vin museum is one of the many attractions in Bordeaux that can be visited with the Bordeaux City Pass.
So, what are the other Bordeaux attractions included within the City Pass, you may ask. I used a 48 hour City Pass and will reference in this article the sights that I visited during such time as well as providing some other bits of useful information that I gleaned along the way.
The City Pass can be obtained from the tourist office in Bordeaux or if you are like me and prefer to make certain purchases in advance then the pass can be bought online via the tourist office’s website. A voucher is furnished at the time of purchase which can be exchanged for the City Pass at the tourist office. Alternatively, there is also the possibility of arranging for the City Pass to be posted to your home address for an additional fee. However, you should be careful not to misplace the pass as there are no refunds available in such instances!
The City Pass is available to be used on public transport for the specific time allocated after validation and whilst it may not be utilised on the express airport train service, it could be utilised on the buses serving the airport. The validity period is quite precise and as such with a 48 hour City Pass, when I validated it around 12.30pm on a Monday its expiration time was that of 12.30pm on the Wednesday of that week. Depending on your length of stay, the City Pass is available in 24, 48 or 72 hour versions.
Not only does the City Pass include free entry into certain museums and galleries but it also includes, discounts on wine tasting tours as well as a city tour that can be taken to provide that orientation of Bordeaux. There are various options for the city tour, which must be booked in advance at the tourist office, including a walking tour, a tour on an open tour bus or one on a little train throughout the historical centre.
As it was Christmas, can you guess which tour I opted for? That’s right, I went on the model train through the historical centre! It might sound rather touristy but it was delightful as it passed through the winding streets within the pedestrianised zone which the bus would not have been capable of entering.
The majority of the sights can be ticked off as the train passes alongside the river banks of the Garonne, the place de la Bourse, the big bell (grosse cloche), in the St James area, and some of the various ports/ gates to the city, such as Cailhau gate. The architectural design in Bordeaux is primarily that of the Neo-classical style, with some Gothic style churches, which is fascinating to observe whilst en route with the train.
The train journey lasts for approximately 45 minutes to an hour and there is also an audio guide on board which is available in a multitude of languages. Unlike the open top buses there is not the possibility to disembark before the end of the journey, however, if you wished to stay longer in a particular district. It is certainly a worthwhile journey at the start of the trip to Bordeaux.
Furthermore, the train returns to an area near the tourist office and so it was ideal for a visit to the Christmas market.
Musée des Beaux Arts
The fine arts museum (Musée des Beaux Arts) is another attraction included within the City Pass. It is located within the vicinity of Cathédrale Saint-André and is also close to the Mériadeck shopping complex making it an ideal destination should you have more time to spare in the afternoon.There are two buildings to visit as the collection is divided into the modern and historical pieces.
There are some Renoir paintings to be seen as well as some lesser known artists and it is a manageable size to peruse within 1.5 hours plus there are some very comfortable sofas from which to admire the paintings! It is certainly a worthwhile visit. Unfortunately, in December, the museum’s surrounding gardens, Jardin de la Mairie, were closed but they certainly looked as though they would be an idyllic destination for a springtime stroll.
Cité du Vin
As the Cité du Vin is located outside of the historical centre, it is likely that a tram journey will be necessary for the visit. The Cité is one of the stops on tram line B and the City Pass can be tapped on the readers inside the tram for the journey.
Apparently, Bordeaux’s dedicated museum to wine is one of its must see sights. You might prefer to visit the museum before attending one of the wine tasting tours although I opted to visit after the wine tasting. From the moment of disembarking from the tram, the museum’s innovatively designed building can be seen in the distance. Its architecture is all the more impressive at closer sight and was designed to resemble a decanter. The building has been designed by Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières.
Provided that your entry into the Cité du Vin is prior to midday then the City Pass can be exchanged for a complimentary ticket. Entries that occur after 12pm will be subject to a supplementary charge for City Pass holders. The entry ticket to the Cité du Vin also includes a separate ticket for a complimentary glass of wine, or organic grape juice for children, at the Belvedere restaurant upstairs and so don’t forget to claim this, as the restaurant is accessible from a separate lift!
Well, I must admit that it would be quite easy to spend all day at the Cité du Vin! Not only is its interior very impressive with innovative technologically advanced exhibits but it is very interactive! I was certainly tempted to try every exhibit which encourage you to listen, touch and smell. It is a very spacious museum with exhibits for children as well and theatres to watch short films about the wine making process worldwide and the history of wine production.
One of my favourite exhibits at the museum, Buffet of the Five Senses, provided the opportunity to attempt to recognise the smells of the variety of ingredients used within wines. Another provides the opportunity to test your wine knowledge and there is even an exhibit, Wine and the Imagination, examining the manner in which wine is portrayed in feature films! There is truly something for everyone!
The pièce de résistance of the visit is having that opportunity to sample wines in its rooftop restaurant. As it was Christmas Eve, I, of course opted for crémant!
Unfortunately, as it was rather cloudy the panoramic views on the rooftop were obscured. It was still spectacular nonetheless and there is even a specific photography section to capture the optimum views. As for the crémant, it was light, effervescent and sufficiently brut and so would be perfect for most occasions as an aperitif.
The Cité du Vin is a delightful destination for all!
Some of the attractions included within the City Pass, such as access to Saint Michel’s spire, were not open during the wintertime which therefore provides the perfect excuse for a return visit to Bordeaux!
For a full list of the sightseeing events and destinations featuring within the City Pass further details are available here:
Have you ever used the City Pass to visit Bordeaux or if you are still to visit Bordeaux, which sights would you visit using your City Pass? Let me know in the comments below.