What destination you’ve been to has surprised you the most?

This is a question I only think about once I am already on the trip thinking: Wow! How did I never come here before? In the case of Bordeaux I had exactly that experience.

Some backstory first. In 2017 I was offered a job helping Bordeaux wines with their social media on the German market and since I love all things wine and France I was quick to jump at the opportunity. After all I figured I couldn’t go wrong working for a product I already loved. Plus, the prospect of drinking amazing wine and occasionally traveling to Bordeaux was a win in my book. Fast forward two years and I’ve been able to go to Bordeaux 4 times already and every time seems better than the last. I am slowly beginning to feel like an expert and I think it’s time I wrote down my favorite things to do in Bordeaux, for you guys. Get ready, here come my top 10 favorite experiences in the Bordeaux region!

1. Have a wine tasting at a vineyard

The obvious first. You can’t come to Bordeaux and not try any of the wine. That’s like going to Japan and not having sushi. Wine-tastings in Bordeaux are usually quite special experiences because they happen where the wine is actually produced, often as part of a stunning vineyard. More often then not visitors have the possibility of getting a tour of the property, learning about wine-making and storing in the process. I guarantee you that incredible smell of a cellar filled with red wine ageing in oak barrels will become your favorite for life.

The choice is yours when it comes to picking the right vineyard for a tasting, after all there are over 6000 of them in the Bordeaux region. Some of my personal favorites include, but aren’t limited to Château de Cérons, Château Angludet, Château Tour Ambe Pourret and Château Guiraud. I pick these because besides amazing wines they also have incredibly beautiful properties once can’t help but adore. Calling all instagrammers!

2. Attend a wine festival

Every summer the city of Bordeaux throws a huge party along the Garonne, its river running right through the center of town. In 2018 that was Bordeaux Fête le Vin (transl: Bordeaux celebrates the wine), a very popular festival surrounding all things Bordeaux wine attracting millions of visitors from around the world. Here winemakers from across the region gather to share their craft with the people of Bordeaux and it’s beautiful to see how people come together and enjoy both good wine and a great time. Bordeaux Fête le Vin happens every other year, taking turns with Bordeaux Fête le Fleuve (transl: Bordeaux celebrates the river), a similar event in the same location with focus on beautiful large boats, amazing food, music and – you guessed it – more wine.

3. Spend a day in Sauternes

Sauternes has gained notoriety for being home of Bordeaux famous sweet wine and many estates in the area pride themselves on the production of this delicate dessert wine. If you’ve never tried I strongly recommend you use your Bordeaux trip as an excuse to do so for the first time. Especially paired with cheese it has become of my favorite things to have after a nice meal. But it doesn’t stop there. Sauternes, albeit very small, is a truly adorable and extremely walkable little village and the type of place you plan on visiting for a day which then turn into a week.

I highly recommend checking into Hotel Le 23, an adorable little hotel with extremely comfortable beds, beautiful design and free rental bikes. Only a 10 minute walk up the road you’ll find Château Guirard, which will have you marvel at the beautiful château, the stunning garden and the Michelin listed restaurant La Chapelle which is looking forward to spoiling your taste buds with unique and innovative food and wine combinations.

End your evening in Sauternes with a drink at La Guinguette, a charming outdoor bar with fairy lights and wooden furniture, just down the road from the Le 23 hotel.

4. Have a wine-tasting in a tree

Since we are in Sauternes, don’t even think about missing out on one of the most unique wine-tasting experiences in the world, available at Château Rayne Vigneau: tasting wine in a tree! The best part? You will be climbing up same tree all by yourself! It’s true that it’s quite the challenge on your biceps but once you made it up to the top, you will be rewarded by not only some delicious wine but also some truly incredible views.

5. Rent a boat in Arcachon

You though Bordeaux was all vineyards? Think again! Just an hour drive from Bordeaux airport lies the stunning seaside town of Arcachon, a popular destination for both Bordeaux locals on a weekend escape and international visitors who love the unusual combination of wine country and beaches. There are various boat rentals here, including options of getting one with your own captain. Bring your own wine and cheers to the good life while enjoying the gentle sway of the waves.

6. Enjoy a seafood lunch at Cap Ferret

Got your boat? Then head straight to the beautiful peninsula of Cap Ferret, separating the Bassin d’Arcachon from the Atlantic Ocean. Swap water for beach and find Le Monte à  bord, in incredibly charming seafood restaurant serving only Shrimp, Oysters and Paté, a menu after my liking! Ask the waiter for a wine recommendation and you can’t go wrong.

7. Sign up for a cooking class

French cuisine is world famous and in Bordeaux you will never not eat well! It’s a perfect place to take part in a cooking class and Château Ambe Pourret offers just that. Alongside the Urban Chef you get to have an inside peak into fine diying DIY-style and you get to eat it too! Make sure to pick your wine from the shop at Château Ambe Tour Pourret for the full experience.

8. Stroll around Saint Émilion

Another highlight in the Bordeaux region is a visit to Saint Émilion, a tiny village with a big history. These days Saint Émilion along with its surrounding vinyards was declared UNESCO world cultural heritage in 1999. Just seeing the beautiful buildings, wandering the cobbled stones and marveling at the views is time well worth spent but don’t miss out on an opportunity to learn some more about the history as well. You could explore the caves of the Clos des Cordeliers monastery or sign up for a walking tour through town.

9. Spend the night at a Château

It’s easy to feel like a princess in a place that has a castle at nearly every corner but nothing beats actually living in one! OK, technically you might just be spending a couple of nights, but that’s close enough to the read deal, if you ask me. While I haven’t tried all the châteaux which let visitors spend the night, I can certainly recommend one I loved and that was Château de Môle in Puisseguin. It has it all – stunning views, spectacular interior and the best chocolate croissants I’ve ever had at a hotel breakfast.

10. Explore Bordeaux by bike

Finally, no trip to Bordeaux is quite complete without some time spent in the actual city of Bordeaux. The entire city is very bike friendly and many places rent them out at very reasonable rates. Tour the town and make sure you cross the river to see what’s on the other side. I recommend you have a visit at Darwin, a former military base which was turned into unique hub for artists, skaters, restaurants and shops.

Just a few minutes from Darwin is La Belle Saison – a gorgeous and secluded restaurant surrounded by a large lawn and some beautiful river views where one can easily waste away a good chunk of the day.

I’m hoping you got a first taster of what Bordeaux has to offer and see for yourself why Lonely Planet has listed Europe’s wine capitol as 2018’s hottest destination to travel to.

*Disclaimer: As mentioned in the text I work for Bordeaux Wines and was invited on these trips. This post was however written purely out of personal desire and all opinions are natural my own.