The warren of narrow one-way streets in the centre is largely pedestrianised, but it's useful to have a car to visit the beach or follow the wine trails.
Bordeaux-Mérignac airport is six miles from the city centre. There is a shuttle bus service to the centre every 45 minutes, taking half an hour.
TGV links Bordeaux to the Eurostar terminals in Paris (3hrs) and Lille (5hrs). The main station is about ten minutes outside the centre.
Country code for France: 33. Bordeaux: 05. Drop the zero when dialling locally.
Wines of Bordeaux by David Peppercorn; French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle.
Do go / Don't Go
The summer is pleasantly warm, but August can be humid and the city crowded with tourists. Book in advance if you want to visit the vineyards at this time of year. Many châteaux are closed to visitors during the grape harvest in October. Winter is mild.
The cuisine of Bordeaux blends Atlantic seafood with the rich produce of the neighbouring Dordogne and Périgord regions. Oysters, eel, lamprey and sturgeon are all local specialities, as are river fish grilled over vine twigs. This is also the place to enjoy purple and green asparagus, foie gras and delicious lamb from Pauillac. It goes without saying that Bordeaux wine is some of the finest in the world. The Bergerac region also has some excellent wines at reasonable prices.
There are taxi ranks throughout the city. If you need to order a taxi, try Allo Bordeaux Taxis 05 56 31 61 07.
Service charges are included automatically on all French restaurant bills but it's usual to leave a few euros for the waiter.
A map of the Bordeaux and Bergerac wine regions.
The riverfront was the source of Bordeaux's wealth and is lined with mansions from the city's heyday in the 18th century. La Place de la Bourse is the perfect choice for an evening stroll.
For boutiques brim-full with style, head to the streets around Place des Grands Hommes, particularly Cours de l'Intendance, Allées de Tourny and Cours Clemencau. Pick up gifts at Sequoia on Cours de Verdun and chic fabrics at Toiles de Mayenne on Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The former wine merchants' district of Chartrons has plenty of antique shops to explore along Rue Notre Dame. Gourmands should visit the Sunday morning market on the waterfront next to the battleship Colbert. There's also a fleamarket around St Michael's basilica on Saturday mornings.
The Hauterive Saint James hotel in the peaceful village of Bouliac, just outside Bordeaux, has wonderful views over the Garonne and the vineyards towards the city. The hotel was designed by cult modernist architect Jean Nouvel and has a fine gourmet restaurant serving excellent French cuisine.
The beautiful Jardins Public is an idyllic green space in the heart of the city, with ornamental lakes, landscaped gardens and secluded picnic spots.
First week of July The four-day Fête du Vin is held on the riverside on even years celebrating Bordeaux's most famous export with wine tasting, concerts and auctions (www.bordeaux-fete-le-vin.com). September The Médoc marathon winds its way through the vineyards and awards the winner their own bodyweight in claret. Third Sunday of September The town of St-Émilion announces the start of the wine harvest from the top of the Tour du Roi in the centre of town. November The Bordeaux Arts Festival sees a month-long programme of concerts, exhibitions and performances in venues around the city.