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The best of Bordeaux and Dordogne’s highlights

Saint Emilion at dusk

Bordeaux is the capital of the Gironde department which borders the Dordogne department in the southwest of France. Both areas are very different from each other though they are so close that it’s easy to visit the best of each of them. Bordeaux city is vibrant, bustling, history and arty. Famous for its fabulous restaurants, museums, galleries and wine bars. UNESCO-listed for its architecture and surrounded by vineyards. One of the most beautiful cities of France.

The Dordogne Valley is known for its gastronomy and for the the authentic beauty of its countryside and ancient villages, like Sarlat and Rocamadour.

Julia Girard-Gervois of TripUSAFrance who run tours that combine both areas, shares some of her favourite places in Bordeaux and Dordogne.

Incredible art in a WW2 U-boat base in Bordeaux

Experience a unique art display inside a former WW2 U-boat base in Bordeaux… Les Bassins des Lumières is an art center in a former U-boat base. Explore massive digital displays dedicated to the most influential artists of all time, as well as contemporary art.

The Germans built the former military facility during WW2 from 1941 onwards. It was only ever used as a training base for German submarines and never saw active combat action. It’s one of the few U-boat bases constructed on land rather than floating, like most others were.

Connected to Garonne River in Bordeaux, France, this unique, immersive experience has become one of the city’s most in-demand attractions.

Get lost in Sarlat on Market Day

Sarlat is a stunning little medieval town in the Dordogne region of France. Make sure to visit Sarlat on Saturday, market day. The large market is considered one of the most captivating markets in France. The architecture, colourful market stalls, friendly people, and mouth-watering food make it a unique experience.

Sarlat market is the perfect place to buy your lunch, with delicious local specialties like truffles, foie gras, and local wines. You’ll find a wide variety of local produce, fresh vegetables, and delicious cheeses.

A guided tour reveals the town’s history, which adds charm to its cobblestone streets and old buildings. We’re pretty sure you’ll like Sarlat so much that you’ll want to come back again and again.

Feel like royalty at the summit of Beynac’s Castle

A visit to Beynac Castle, also in the Dordogne valley, is an absolute must. Sitting atop a rocky outcrop, it’s an impressive sight which offers breath-taking views of the surrounding countryside.

The 12th century castle has grand halls, chambers and inner courtyards. The architecture is beautifully preserved and offers a unique glimpse into medieval life. Climb the winding staircase up to the summit and take in the magnificent views from the battlements.

Dordogne is famed for the sheer number of castles that grace the region, earning it the nickname: “Land of 1001 Castles.” It’s heaven for history buffs and architecture lovers. Take a journey back in time and explore hundreds of unique castles, each with a remarkable story and captivating charm such as the Chatea de Castelnaud, and Château des Milandes.

Taste amazing wine – in the wine capital of the world

View over Bordeaux from the Cite du Vin wine museum

Bordeaux has earned an international reputation as the premier destination for wine, with the most sumptuous varieties found within its borders. It’s a fantastic destination for those interested in discovering more about wine. There are numerous wineries and vineyards offer tours, tastings, and educational experiences. Wine regions like Medoc and Saint Emilion offer plenty of opportunities to learn about the region’s winemaking history.

And if you don’t wish to make a trip to the countryside wineries there are countless wine bars in town serving quality wine by the glass such. Try Le Bar a Vin, Le Vertige, Aux 4 Coins du Vin or Le Métropolitain – just a few of the amazing wine bars available.

Not to be missed in Bordeaux is La Cité du Vin. In 2017 National Geographic ranked it 7th best museum in the world! La Cité du Vin is a unique facility dedicated to wine as a living heritage. An interactive and sensory experience that will take you on a journey around the world, through the ages, in all cultures.

The architecture of the 30,000 sq feet museum is a journey in itself. With a belvedere bar on the 8th floor (a glass of wine is included in your ticket!) with 360 views of Bordeaux and the Garonne river. And there’s a panoramic restaurant on site you could easily spend all day at La Cite du Vin.

Explore sensational Saint-Emilion

Discover the mysterious underground galleries, catacombs and monolithic church of St Emilion…

While in Bordeaux, make time to visit nearby St Emilion. This is the perfect village for a meal out or a glass of wine at one of the many welcoming bars and restaurants in town.

The entire town and its surroundings has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its rich history. As you wander the cobblestoned village, you’ll see beautiful stone arches and houses with wooden shutters and flower boxes in the windows. Every turn brings something new to explore.

But what you might not know about St Emilion is that it has some very mysterious underground constructions. Accessible only with a guide, you can explore four historical monuments. The hermitage of Émilion is said to have been carved out by monk Emilion in 8AD. The 13th century Trinity Chapel and its medieval paintings. The catacombs and the underground monolith church. This is one of the largest monolithic churches of Europe. Carved out of a single rock it is an amazing feat of engineering and architecture.

The village also hides an intensive network of over 100 miles of tunnels and caves besides the surface. Since the 9th century man has extracted the precious limestone used to build St Emilion itself as well as nearby towns like Libourne or Bordeaux. Over-extraction through galleries built over four levels below the vineyards, resulted an order to end mining in the 19th century.

Once used by the French resistance or local kids riding their bikes, today, most of these dark and humid tunnels are gated and locked. Now they protect the valuable wine stored by winemakers. A few wineries include a visit down in the galleries, along with the wine tour. A must do!

Indulge in heavenly French food

France is known worldwide for its gastronomy, and Bordeaux does a fantastic job at confirming this fact.

You’ll find every type of eaterie from high end restaurants such as La Tour d’Argent or Le Quatrième Mur to hole-in-the-wall restaurants offering local specialties and regional delicacies. You’ll also find plenty of bakeries, patisseries, and chocolateries to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Neighbouring Dordogne – also called Perigord – is famous for its hearty cuisine. Périgord’s gastronomic delights have long been associated with peasant cuisine. It typically features simple regional ingredients: Périgord truffles, wild mushrooms, strawberries, walnuts, and chestnuts. Recipes are traditional, rustic and authentic. Add duck, cheese and wine for a perfect traditional Perigord meal!

Gaze at prehistoric drawings in Lascaux IV

Lascaux IV is an amazing archaeological site in the Vézère Valley, home to some of the most famous prehistoric drawings in the world. The original site, Lascaux I, was discovered in 1940. It is now closed to the public due to the rapid deterioration of the art. Multiple replicas have been created since, but the final and most complete version of the reproduction, Lascaux IV, which opened in 2016, is undoubtedly a work of art in itself.

The Vezere valley, which stretches from Montignac to Les Eyzies, is filled with over 200 Paleolithic sites. It’s a beautiful and peaceful area with many outdoors activities such as hiking, biking, and canoeing.

Shop at Rue Sainte-Catherine, the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe

Located in the center of Bordeaux, Rue Sainte-Catherine is said to be the longest pedestrianised street in the whole of Europe! Spanning over two kilometers, it hosts some 500 shops and boutiques. You can find everything from designer clothing stores to souvenir shops on this lively street.

Another spot not to be missed in Bordeaux is Le Passage Sargent, a 19th-century covered passage filled with small shops and cafés. It’s an excellent spot to get away from the bustling streets and to discover some one-of-a-kind products.

Rue Notre Dame, in the Chartron district, steps away from downtown, is also great for shopping. Independent boutiques and vintage stores abound alongside cafés and restaurants. The perfect little French village neighborhood inside the big metropole.

Bordeaux, with its ‘small Paris’ vibes, is the perfect place to enjoy the city life for a few days after relaxing in the magical countryside.

Bird’s eye view of the Dordogne Valley from a hot air balloon

There is no better way to explore Dordogne than from a hot air balloon. Soar high above the lush green landscape, taking in the stunning views of the chateaux, villages, and rivers.

Gently glide across the valley and enjoy the peace and tranquillity. The pilots will point out interesting sights and share stories about the area as you take in the breath-taking views.
At the end of your flight, enjoy a Champagne toast to celebrate your adventure, an unforgettable experience.

Go on a romantic sunset walk in Bordeaux at night

The quays of Bordeaux are the perfect place to go on a romantic walk at night. As the sun sets, the city takes on a different atmosphere. Its cobblestone streets and old buildings take on a golden hue. Stroll along the riverbank and admire the stunning views of the illuminated bridges and boats gliding past.

Stop for a glass of wine or a bite at one of the many cafes and restaurants dotted along the quayside. The atmosphere is magical and the perfect place to spend quality time.

Bonus: Walk in the steps of pilgrims in Rocamadour

The small village of Rocamadour, perched high on a cliff in the Dordogne Valley attracts many pilgrims. As you walk through the cobblestone streets and pass the ancient churches, you can feel the history and spiritual atmosphere preserved here for centuries.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the 3rd most visited place in France after the Eiffel Tower and Le Mont St Michel.

Neighbours Bordeaux and Dordogne offer thrilling, unique, historic, gastronomic and experiences – simply irresistible.

Find out more about TripUSAFrance’s small group, week-long, fabulous Bordeaux-Dordogne tours

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