Wine lovers unite: regions around Bordeaux in the Southwest of France produce some of the best wine in the world! However, there’s more to this area than delicious vino. Stretching from Bordeaux to Toulouse and the Spanish border, Southwest France features bustling cities, challenging mountains, peaceful beaches, and much more!
Starting to the Southwest of Bordeaux, the beaches of the Côte d'Argent are less well-known than their counterparts on the south coast, but they’re still well worth visiting! Arcachon, for example, is most famous for being home to Europe’s highest sand dunes, Dune du Pilat, and features seven kilometers of coastline.
|Arcachon is home to Europe's highest sand dunes.
Mimizan Plage has plenty of fantastic surfing opportunities for all abilities, while the small town of Mimizan itself offers incredible seafood and great ice-cream parlors to refuel after taking to the waves.
|Mimizan Plage is great for surfing.|
Oven overlooked in favor of the Alps, the French Pyrenees offer brilliant skiing opportunities. The small spa town of Bareges is one of the best areas to stay, as you can easily access the Pic du Midi, the highest Pyrenees peak (2,877m). If skiing isn’t for you, simply enjoy the park’s many lakes, waterfalls, forests, and cliffs.
|The French Pyrenees are great for skiing and hiking.
There are also several challenging hiking routes, such as the Pyrenean Haute Route, which stretches from one side of the park to the other across wild and tough terrain.
The city of Bordeaux offers fantastic daytime and evening entertainment. The Rue Saint-Catherine is one of Europe’s longest pedestrianized shopping streets, lined with both luxury stores and big chains. There are also plenty of restaurants and bars in which to enjoy French delicacies before heading to the Grand Theatre, which is home to the National Opera.
|Toulouse is the capital of France’s southern Occitanie region.
Toulouse’s Theatre du Capitole is equally as impressive, with great acoustics and impressive ballet and opera performances.
Both Bordeaux and Toulouse are home to beautiful city parks, which are perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of the cities’ busy streets. Bordeaux’s Jardin Public is inspired by the gardens of the Palace of Versailles with its large lake, statues, and artificial waterfall. Toulouse’s Jardin Japonais, meanwhile, offers an array of colorful flowers, a stone garden, a tea pavilion, and a mix of smaller wildlife, including turtles and frogs.
|Toulouse’s Jardin Japonaisis home to colorful flowers, a stone garden, a tea pavilion, and a mix of smaller wildlife.
If you’re looking for natural beauty further out of the main cities, head to the Gascon Landes Regional National Park. It boasts over 3,000 square kilometers of forests and mountainous hiking and biking routes. Alternatively, check out Lake Cazaux, France’s second-largest freshwater lake. Cazaux and its surrounding areas are great for sports enthusiasts, with plenty of sailing, ziplining, and cycling opportunities.
The best vineyards in the Bordeaux vicinity can be found along the banks of the Garonne, including the prestigious regions of Médoc and Saint-Emilion. If you don’t fancy venturing outside of the city, there are plenty of rooftop bars and cafés in Bordeaux itself, where you can enjoy a glass or two.
|Bordeaux is well-known for its wine.
While Bordeaux wine is delicious, the first French vineyards were actually established around Cahors (east of Bordeaux) by the Ancient Romans. This area is famous for its black wine, which dates back to the Middle Ages. It’s also adored for its Malbec, which doesn’t actually originate from Argentina despite popular belief, but from Cahors itself!
|Be sure to taste some wine while visiting southwestern France.
There are plenty of smaller towns and villages in the Southwest that make for great day trips from the larger cities. Montauban, for example, is located just 50 kilometers from Toulouse. It’s home to Ancient Roman fortifications, winding streets, and impressive architecture, such as its 13th-century cathedral.
|Montauban is located just 50 kilometers from Toulouse.
Cordes-sur-Ciel, meanwhile, is a great day trip for art enthusiasts, with plenty of galleries, ateliers, and local markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays, at which you can pick up paintings, pottery, and carvings.
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|France - Southeast||Andorra|
|Paris||Italy - North|
|Spain - Balearic Islands|
|Spain - Catalonia|
Great for wine and outdoor lovers!