The Cité du Vin is one of the most popular attractions on the tourist trail in Bordeaux. In the last couple of years, it has become one of Bordeaux’s most iconic institutions even though it’s quite new. The Cité du Vin was inaugurated in 2016 with the goal of celebrating wine and educating people about its production and history. The spectacular building can be seen from afar and uplifts the grungy port of Bassin a Flot, where the museum is located. Its shape is inspired by the movement of wine swirling in a glass. What’s inside the 55m giant and why do so many people rush to visit it? In this article, I’ll offer you a glimpse into what is considered to be the best wine center in the world. I’ll explain what you’ll experience in the main exhibition, what other attractions are offered and why it’s worth visiting even if you’re not a wine lover. Step with me into Bordeaux’s fascinating wine world.
What will you find in Cité du Vin in Bordeaux
My good friend Julie calls the Cite du Vin an amusement park for wine lovers, and that in my opinion, describes it the best. It’s an interactive journey into the wine world offering anything from videos, touch screens, sensory tables and more. On your journey you will discover all the important wine regions in the world, learn about the different types of grapes, the fermentation process and on the history of wine in different areas across the globe.
The permanent exhibition includes 19 sections divided into six areas. The first area is dedicated to the wine regions of the world and welcomes you with huge screens portraying breathtaking images from the world’s most famous wine regions. It’s a beautiful video getting you into the mood to learn everything you can about wine.
The second part is much more technical and will teach you about the whole process of how grapes turn into wine. Although there are quite a lot of technical explanations involved, the Cité du Vin made it interactive and entertaining enough to intrigue even those not obsessed with wine. One of the best sections in this area is the wine portraits. Flat touch screens, surrounded by gigantic wooden bottle shaped statues, help you explore the major wine types, from red to sweet whites and onto the sparkling ones.
The third area is about wine and civilization. Here you’ll learn the history of wine routes and how the sea voyages of wine transportation used to look like. The fourth part is dedicated to imagination and has a magnificent space where you can lay down, listen to music, close your eyes and think of wine.
The fifth area is called “wine and you”, and includes my favorite part in the museum, the “buffet of the five senses”. Plenty of different food items from fruits to honey and cookies are presented in front of you on two big tables, allowing you to explore different wine aromas. The sixth and last area is dedicated to the hosting city, Bordeaux. Here you will learn about the wine history of the biggest wine region in France and the tale of the city itself.
When you finish exploring the exhibition, you will move to one of the best parts of the visit – the wine tasting. For that, you need to go back to the ground floor and take another elevator to the 8th and last floor of Bordeaux’s wine museum. The floor is called the Belvedere and offers a breathtaking panoramic view of Bordeaux. You can choose one wine from one of the regions the exhibition is currently focusing on and take your glass to the balcony to admire the view. A perfect ending to this enriching experience.
How to explore Bordeaux’s wine museum?
The permanent exhibition is so big that you need at least half a day to cover it all and let’s face it, some people don’t have the time nor the patience for that. If you have only two-three hours to visit the cite du vin you have four trails you can follow. The museum offers four self-guided theme tours that focus on different aspects of the wine world.
The Essentials tour
This tour is supposed to take up to an hour and a half (If you follow their recommendations) and will get you familiar with some of the most famous wine regions in the world. You will meet winegrowers (virtually of course) that will tell you about their traditions, the grapes they use and the volumes of their production. Just touch the screen on one of the tables dedicated to Argentina, Georgia, Italy, France and more. You will then explore the design aspect of wine with videos of beautiful wine cellars and trendy wine bars. The trail also includes the senses table and wine portraits that allow you to acquire a lot of new knowledge about the different types of wines. Their guide instructs you on how much time to spend on every station so you can actually end the tour on time.
The Making wine tour
Besides the “wine of the world” area, this trail includes the “E-Vigne” section that is dedicated to the grapes and their selection by winegrowers. This is a very interactive station with some kids’ trivia questions about winemaking. Most of this route focuses on the “metamorphoses of wine” section, which will teach you all about the vats, fermentation and aging in barrels. The tour takes about an hour.
Feast your eyes tour
Another shorter visit can be done with the “Feast your eyes” trail which leads you through some of the more colorful sections with screens and music. This one is particularly recommended to those who are not very interested in wine and just came for the flashy experience.
Did you know that a visit to the Cité du Vin can be kids friendly?
Last but not least is the Juniors tour for kids ages 7-12 years old. This trail will help your kids discover the wine world. It includes all the sections where they can touch, smell, look, feel and play. They will smell the aromas on the senses table, answer trivia questions about grapes, watch an amazing cartoon about the wine journey in the sea and discover the history of Bordeaux through an interactive game.
What else is there to do at the wine museum?
When you finish the permanent exhibition don’t be in a rush to leave the Cité du Vin, you still have a lot of things to do there. First of all the ticket includes access to the temporary exhibition as well. The Museum regularly hosts great exhibitions that focus on different aspects of the wine world. At the time of writing this article, the temporary exhibition was dedicated to the wine of Argentina while previously there was a beautiful exhibition that portrayed the relationship of wine and glass. The temporary exhibition is located on the first floor where you will also find a beautiful library of wine-related books.
The first floor is also where the wine tasting workshops are taking place. Several modern rooms dedicated to daily wine workshops in French, English and Spanish (mostly during the high season). The English workshop is mainly dedicated to Bordeaux wines while those in French are varied. You can choose workshops about specific wine regions or learn how to match wine with cheese or chocolate.
If you’re looking for other places in Bordeaux to taste and learn about the wines of the region, you should check my article about wine tasting in Bordeaux.
On the first floor, you will also find the amazing wine shop that includes around 800 bottles, with 600 of them representing non-French wines. The seventh floor is the fancy Le 7 Restaurant that offers a beautiful view of Bordeaux.
All the practical details you need to know before going to Cite du Vin
Tickets and prices
The ticket are a bit pricey but definitely worth the one-time experience. A regular ticket that includes the permanent and temporary exhibition and one glass of wine costs 20 euros for an adult, 9 euros for kids and free for kids under 6 years old (you have to present something to prove it). A family pack is 50 euros and worth buying if you are two adults and two kids.
The museum is very popular and sometimes the lines to buy tickets can be quite long. To avoid that you can purchase the tickets online in advance and head straight to the entrance door when you arrive. Click here to reserve your tickets in advance.
The opening hours of Cité du Vin are Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm and Saturday – Sunday and bank and school holidays from 10am to 7pm. The hours change in the high season so check them out on the site of the museum before going.
How to get to the wine museum
The easiest way to get to Cité du Vin is by tram B that passes through the center of Bordeaux. The station is called “Cité du Vin” and it’s located just next to the museum. If you come from the other side of the Garonne river you can also take the public transport boat (BAT 3). It accepts the same ticket as a tram but you get there in a more stylish way 🙂 For more information about the hours and stations of the BAT3 – click here.
Another option is taking the city bikes from one of the V3 stations that are spread all over the city. The ride from the city center to the wine museum is one of the best things to do when visiting Bordeaux. I’ve even included it in my article about the best things to do in Bordeaux in one day.
What else is there to do next to the wine museum
If you don’t have anything planned after your visit to the museum don’t rush to leave this cool neighborhood. As you will see, Bassin a Flot, the port of Bordeaux has a totally different feel and look than the elegant center of Bordeaux. This is one of the rising districts of Bordeaux with plenty of street art, bars, music venues and even a chic market. If you want to learn more about the neighborhood around the museum check out my article about the north district of Bordeaux.
If it’s your first time in Bordeaux check out my ultimate guide to Bordeaux to get familiar with all the must-see places in the city. To help you choose a place to stay I’ve gathered a list of the best hotels in the center of Bordeaux as well as a guide to the districts of Bordeaux to help you find your preferred AirBnB location.
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