2017 will see the tenth Bordeaux River Festival in action. Between 25th May and 4th June, the Garonne river will be the focus of events that celebrate the history and vitality of this much-loved waterway. Residents and visitors promenade along the banks, quays and bridges. Join in and you’ll get a real sense of Bordeaux’s long and fascinating aquatic past and enjoy one of France’s finest festivals.

Festival highlights

The Bordeaux River Festival opens with the Parade of Heroes, a spectacular affair that blends pyrotechnics, lights and music into an impressive display that dazzles first-time viewers. The Grand Depart’ of the Solitaire du Figaro (one of the most famous boat races on earth) is a highlight, leaving from the city’s main waterway with a flurry of excitement.

The Belem, a three-masted trading ship dating from 1896, will be on hand for visitors to explore – you’ll find yourself day-dreaming of derring-do on the high seas. Our personal highlight, however, is the Bordeaux River Crossing. Here, 500 swimmers will don their finest goggles and trunks to race between the two banks of the Garonne – before celebrating with a glass of local Merlot, of course.

Feeling peckish?

After all that excitement you’ll surely feel a little peckish. Simply pop along to the Gourmet Village, which has an abundance of local specialities on offer. It’s an easy way to sample some of the region’s finest dishes. We particularly recommend the succulent, local oysters or the lamproie à la Bordelaise (eel cooked in red wine). More portable options, such as wines and artisanal products are great souvenirs.

Getting on the water

Don’t let the professionals of the Solitaire du Figaro have all the fun. River cruises and water rides are available on the Garonne year-round, so that you too can explore the wonders of its waterways from the heart of the action.

River Cruise Bordeaux offers gourmet expeditions on their vessel Sicambre, passing under the city’s iconic bridges while serving a tempting taste of Bordelaise cuisine. Two hours in duration, the tour includes three courses and costs from €55 per person.

Bordeaux Fête le Fleuve

Opening night of Bordeaux River Festival 2015 © Bordeaux Fête le Fleuve

On the docks

River celebrations stretch along the city’s waterfront, studded by picturesque mini-villages rife with shopping opportunities. The outdoor scenic area by the Stone Bridge offers a space for calm contemplation, and a variety of music and dance events are held each night. Before you leave, enjoy the twinkling lights of Bordeaux’s beautiful buildings from a comfortable viewpoint on the city’s 40m-high Ferris wheel in the Place des Quinconces.

What to do in Bordeaux

Away from the festival fun, Bordeaux has plenty of other entertainments. The St Pierre district is lively and popular with students – its winding lanes hold numerous hideaway bars, clubs and cafés for a spot of late-night debauchery. Le Petit Commerce on rue du Parlement St Pierre has excellent seafood options, and nearby L’Alchimiste serves some awfully tempting cocktails.

If you require some nourishment for the soul – or the ear – head to the Sainte Croix abbatial church. At 6.30pm on Wednesdays in July and August, it holds free organ concerts. The church offers a truly atmospheric setting.

Place de la Bourse

Place de la Bourse © Sebastien Boyer

Finally, no trip to Bordeaux is complete without a stroll through Place de la Bourse, located in the city’s historical centre. Its 18th-century palace is reflected in the world’s largest reflective pool, creating different arresting light effects at different times of the day. In summer the pool is wreathed in fog every 15 minutes – a hazy, optical delight.

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