The city that is the hub of wine-growing in southwest France has more jewels in its crown, writes Xenia Taliotis

Lonely Planet named Bordeaux the best city to visit in 2017. Although the city is arguably the wine capital of the world, it has much more to offer. Here are 10 non-wine related things to see and do while you're there:

Bordeaux's Miroir d'Eau, the largest mirror pool in the world, is a joy: whether you're young or old, happy or sad, you'll find it impossible to resist having a splash around in it. Opened in 2006 and designed by landscape artist Michel Corajoud, the 3450sq m pool reflects the magnificent historic buildings in the the city's signature square, Place de la Bourse. It's spectacular at any time, but at night it's magic. Who says Paris is the most romantic city in the world? People who've not seen this, that's who.

The longest, highest lift bridge in Europe is here. The staggering, multi-award winning Jacques Chaban-Delmas Bridge has a 117m-long central section that is raised 53m to let tall ships through. You may not see it lifting but you can still admire its elegance, its modernity and the way its pylons change from blue to green, according to the tide.


If time or budget don't allow for tickets to a performance, take a guided tour of the Grand Theatre, which is, in any case, the real star of any show. Now home to Opera National de Bordeaux and Ballet National de Bordeaux, Victor Louis' masterpiece was inaugurated in 1780 and is one of Europe's oldest wooden-frame theatres. Its honey-coloured neoclassical facade, with 12 Corinthian columns and 12 statues, is lovely, but inside there's a soaring cupola with a painted ceiling and a sumptuous blue and gold jewel box of an auditorium that will take your breath away. For tickets and schedules, go to

The city has numerous parks, with two of them - Le Jardin Public and Le Parc Bordelais - designated "jardins remarquables" by the French Ministry of Culture. The Bordelais, a vast expanse created in the 19th century, has a 12,000sq m lake, an oak forest and an animal farm. Le Jardin Public, landscaped in 1746 and one of the city's best-loved spots, has a natural history museum, botanical garden and restaurant. Both parks host performances of Guignol Guerin - the French equivalent of Punch and Judy - which has been doing the rounds since 1853. Also worth a day of anyone's time is the Parc de Jales, a nature reserve that's home to around 15 protected species.

Michelin stars are shooting all over the place in Bordeaux but if you want to learn to cook like the pros, take a cookery course. You'll find one of the best at the Michelin-starred restaurant of Le Saint James hotel. Cote Cours, led by super-patient Celia Girard, offers numerous packages, including world cooking and The Saint James Style, where you'll cook a three-course lunch. Groups are small so you'll get one-to-one attention. My group made cream of ceps with parmesan and hazelnut crumble and hake in fig leaves, plus two special-request classics - pommes mousseline - the world's poshest mash - and rum and vanilla caneles, a Bordeaux speciality.

Celia Girard, of the Cote Cours cookery school.
Celia Girard, of the Cote Cours cookery school.


In 2007,

Unesco listed much of the city

, making it the most expansive urban heritage site in the world. Covering 18sq km and including 347 monuments from the Age of Enlightenment to the 20th century, the listed area was commended for being an "outstanding example of innovative classical and neoclassical trends", and for having "exceptional urban and architectural unity and coherence". Explore on foot, on a bike or, most fun of all, on a Segway.

Bordeaux is a port so it's not surprising that some of the best views are to be had are from the river. Croisieres Burdigala runs some great trips, but navigating the Garonne's waterways in a canoe or kayak is terrific fun; you can explore the river's estuary and islands at your own pace. The riverfront has been transformed over the past 15 years and its warehouses are now full of trendy shops, bars and cafes, which are well worth checking out.


Only 19 visitors at a time are allowed up the flamboyant, 50m-high, gargoyled belfry, so you could be waiting a while before you can scale its 231 steps. However, the spectacular panoramic views will more than compensate for your patience and the steep climb. The freestanding tower, kept separate from Cathedrale Saint-Andre to protect the cathedral from the vibrations of the bells, was built between 1440 and 1500: its bell, an 11-tonne monster, is the largest in France.

So, so, many of them, but you mustn't miss the Musee des Beaux Arts, one of the largest art galleries outside Paris, with a rich collection that includes works by Brueghel, Corot, Delacroix, Matisse and local boy Odilon Redon; the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, a beautifully preserved 18th-century mansion housing furniture, paintings, engravings, glass and ceramics; and APC Museum of Contemporary Art. Housed in a former colonial warehouse and focusing on emerging art forms, its permanent collection includes Gilbert & George, Nan Goldin, Keith Haring and Anish Kapoor.

Marche des Quais brings the riverside at Chartrons to life every Sunday with 60 or so stalls, dozens of which are dedicated to food. Two other foodie places to check out are cheese specialist Jean d'Alos and chocolatier Chocolaterie Saunion, founded in 1892 and still owned by the same family.

Getting there
Singapore Airlines flies daily from Auckland to Paris, via their hub in Singapore. Return Economy Class fares start from $1870.