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Quick Weekend Guide to Bordeaux and St.Emilion
If you are looking for an itinerary on how to spend a weekend away from Paris in Bordeaux and Saint-Émilion plus a quick trip to the sea, read on. Because I did exactly this trip, absolutely loved it, and I am writing it down for you to copy.
Day 1 – Bordeaux
Even though Bordeaux is almost 600 km away from Paris, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region, the TGV train that connects both cities takes only 2:40h. The train station that serves Bordeaux is the Gare Montparnasse in Paris.
Train from Paris to Bordeaux
If you are planning to take a train from Paris and looking for not overly expensive tickets, book as much in advance as you can. The closer the travel date, as higher the prices. I booked our tickets 8 weeks in advance and paid €96 Euro for 2 people. Check here for prices on your travel dates.
Taking a trip by train from Paris is pretty much straightforward. After purchasing your tickets, you receive an email with a QR code that you are required to have on you when boarding the train. The QR code is your ticket.
Where to stay in Bordeaux?
As we only could leave Paris after lunch, we arrived in Bordeaux during the afternoon. I booked the Hotel Life Bordeaux Gare because it was more or less midway between the center and the train station, where we had to pick up our rental car the next morning.
The Hôtel Life Bordeaux Gare is a no-frills but clean and convenient accommodation with friendly (English speaking) staff, a fitness room, and a bar. Our room had a private bathroom with a shower, air-conditioning, and TV. We paid around €100 for 1 night, but depending on your travel dates, it can be low as €70.
If you are looking for something less basic, I’d recommend taking a look at the Hôtel Singulier Bordeaux. It’s in a great location with excellent reviews (9.4 on booking.com!). A special treat is the rooftop with stellar views over Bordeaux.
What to do in Bordeaux?
After checking in, we started our tour of Bordeaux. Admittedly, we arrived too late in Bordeaux to really check out all the sights. Still, as we are anyway more the kind of people that would stroll around cities rather than visit museums, it was perfect for us: We had drinks, did some shopping and I saw enough to say that we really liked the flair of Bordeaux.
The center resembled a massive street café in the evening, every bar and restaurant had its chairs and tables outside and the mood was great.
However, if you have a bit more time than us, there are many things to do in Bordeaux, but the highlights of Bordeaux are these:
Where to eat in Bordeaux?
One thing that really surprised me in Bordeaux was the insane number of bars and restaurants. But not only this: the food of every restaurant we walked by looked delicious! Hence, if you are a foodie, you clearly won’t be disappointed by Bordeaux.
Anyway, my husband ate once at a restaurant in Bordeaux that left a long-lasting impression, and so he planned ahead and reserved a table at Symbiose.
What should I say else than that it left an impression on me as well? Foremost, the cocktails were outstanding. I had a sort of Aperol Spritz with Champagne and Cucumber that was a bit strong (in effect, not in taste) but heavenly good.
However, I had a starter with artichokes, mushrooms, and black garlic cream that really stuck out. I rarely ate anything that delicious.
My problem with gourmet or fancy food is, often, that it’s interesting, technically impeccable, and well-assorted, but rarely really yummy. However, I could have eaten a kilo of these artichokes!
For 2 Cocktails, 1 Glass of Wine, 2 Starters, 2 Mains, and 1 Dessert, we paid €100.
How to get around in Bordeaux?
What’s the Metro for Paris, is the Tram for Bordeaux. The city is very well-connected, and the tram brings you everywhere without issues. However, we walked. That’s just our thing. But the Hotel had a Tram station just in front, so if you are not too keen on exploring everything on foot, you don’t need to.
Day 2 – Saint-Émillion
Even though the Hôtel Life Bordeaux Gare serves breakfast, we didn’t book it. I found it a bit expensive, and it only looked average. So, we walked 5 minutes to the train station and had a coffee in one of the cafés just in front of the station.
Renting a car in Bordeaux
To be independent, we rented a car to drive to Saint-Émilion. If you are planning to copy this itinerary and rent a car as well, driving in Europe is nothing you should be worried about.
As for the train tickets, we booked our rental car in advance and paid roughly €200 for 2 days with Europcar. It was surprisingly the cheapest offer. Renting a car in Bordeaux is very straightforward and the agent at the Europcar desk will explain to you everything.
Just know that you need to go through Halle 3 of the train station to get to the car rental desks. We had a bit of trouble finding it because it wasn’t indicated well.
Lunch in Pomerol
We have a couple of friends living around Saint-Émilion and one recommended La Table de Catusseau as a great place to have lunch. It was a bit surprising, but the village of Pomerol was absolutely dead. There was nothing, except a newspaper shop and said restaurant. But nevertheless, it was fully booked at lunch. Their lunch menu was (from) €29.
A few of the guests arrived at the restaurant by bike, and we saw many cyclists on the way. Renting a bike and exploring the wine yards cycling is a popular thing to do in the area and something I’d certainly have done if we hadn’t arrived by car.
I have to admit that I had not really an idea of Saint-Émilion except that there is a lot of wine. And well, there was a lot of wine and every other store if not more was, in fact, a wine store.
But other than that, the village of Saint-Émilion is stunningly beautiful. It reminded me very much of the cute cobblestone villages you find in Provence, and I still can’t wrap my mind around that it’s such an easy weekend trip from Paris to visit something pretty like that.
What to do in Saint-Émilion
As said, I was completely in awe when arriving at Saint-Émilion and I am sure you’ll be as well. The main thing to do in this village is of course to drink wine and to buy wine. If you are worried about driving, you don’t need to be. It is custom in France to just taste wine and spit it in a special bucket.
Most stores are offering an international shipping service if you want to buy more wine than you are allowed to bring in your luggage.
We did what we always do and mainly just walked around the city, checked out the stores and did not sample any wine because we had a wine tasting tour scheduled for later that day.
However, one thing we did and that I can only recommend is visiting the Bell Tower of Saint-Émilion. It’s kinda cute, you have to pick up the key in the tourist office and just let yourself in. It’s pretty high, and you need to walk many steps, but the view is absolutely worth it.
However, if you want to learn more about Saint-Émilion, there were quite a few walking tours happening when we’ve been there and the bits and pieces I eavesdropped on were interesting.
Winetasting at Château Croix Beausejour
The Château Croix Beausejour is just a few minutes’ drive away from St.Émilion. They are a winery that offers wine tastings, but has also a few rooms available to book.
As we wanted to avoid driving too much and take some time to relax instead, we booked one of their rooms with breakfast and a wine tasting. From what I understood, the wine tasting is usually charged €18 per person, but is free for hotel guests.
So, we got our wine tasting, but also a tour through the facilities and on top of it much interesting information about the region, life in Bordeaux, and winemaking in general. Our guide was very knowledgeable and spoke outstanding English by the way.
The Château Croix Beausejour is available for reservation on booking.com and you can arrange the wine tasting on-site. The guide told us that they do tastings during opening times of their shop, which was until 19h I believe.
The Bed & Breakfast had a big common room, and we could use the kitchen as well. When driving from St.Émilion to the Château, we stopped at a supermarket and bought bread, cheese, and some nibbles, that we had for dinner in the garden of the Bed & Breakfast. Paired with a bottle of wine that we bought after the wine tour.
Day 3 – Dune de Pilat and Arcachon
The breakfast at the Château Croix Beausejour was typical French: Croissants, bread, homemade jam, butter, coffee, tea but also yogurts, and fruits. It was a good start to the day as we had a bit of driving ahead of us.
I am a sucker for the ocean side, and so our last day started with quite some driving: from the St.Émilion wine region to the Atlantic Ocean. It was mostly a pleasant drive through miles and miles of pine forests.
After around 2h of driving, our first stop was Biscarosse where we bought seafood and had a picnic on the beach.
The city wasn’t really spectacular, just a modern beach town with tons of tourist shops and restaurants but a beautiful wide sandy beach. Parking was free, however.
If I were to take that trip again, I would without hesitation skip Biscarosse and spend more time in Arcachon.
Dune de Pilat
After lunch and the first hint of sunburn, we drove up the coast to see the Dune de Pilat. It’s the biggest dune in Europe and more than 100 m high. I have to admit that I couldn’t quite imagine what to expect, but it was pretty cool. Also, a bit surreal.
We got the tip not to drive until the official paid parking, but to park along the street for free. We got a place just at the entrance of a Holiday park, that we could cross by foot to arrive just in front of the impressive Dune de Pilat.
I can tell you, getting up the Dune de Pilat is sportive. They’ve installed stairs that help you get up, but they stop somewhere midway. When you arrive at the sand, it’s basically one step up and sliding down a half. I was more than once about to give up, but I am glad I didn’t in the end.
The view is spectacular, and already the fact that you’re standing on a Dune is worth the effort.
I saw, later, that the official parking place gives you access to stairs that reach almost the top of the Dune de Pilat. Maybe it’s worth it.
In any case, it is hot up there, and you really want to apply sunscreen. Don’t be like me.
From the Dune de Pilat to Arcachon it was just a short drive. Arcachon is a pretty seaside resort located on Arcachon bay with a beach promenade, piers to stroll, and many shops and restaurants.
We had not overly much time there thanks to our stop in Bicarosse, so we just walked around, enjoyed the beach, and ate a bit too much ice cream.
If we had arrived earlier, I would certainly have taken a cruise through the bay. The area is famed for its oyster farms and I would have loved to see them up close and also sail along the Dune de Pilat.
You can book the boat trips right by the piers, and they last between 1,5 and 2 hours.
Return to Bordeaux and Paris
From Arcachon, we drove around an hour back to Bordeaux. Returning the car was easy as pie. As the agreed drop-off time was after their office hours, we just parked in the garage, took a video of the car (you never know!), and placed the keys in the box.
How far is Bordeaux from Paris?
Bordeaux is 600 km southwest of Paris, but only 2.5h from Paris by TGV train.
Is Bordeaux good for a city break?
Yes, it is. Bordeaux is famous for wine, and architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Due to its southern location, the weather is milder and warmer than in Paris. You can also easily rent a car and explore the surrounding countryside and vineyards.
What is there to do in Bordeaux?
You can visit the old town, the Bourse and the cathedral of Bordeaux. You can also take a cruise on the river Garonne or visit the wine museum “Cité du Vin”.
How do you get to Saint-Émilion?
Saint-Émilion is located 47km east of Bordeaux and you can get there by car, train or as part of a day tour from Bordeaux.
What is Saint-Émilion known for?
Saint-Émilion is known for its beautiful countryside and as being the heart of the Bordeaux wine region. It is home to some of the most renowned wineries and full of history.
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