Coast and City living in Gironde
Originally posted on & updated on 10th February, 2024
The Gironde brings together everything that expats love about France in one beautiful and diverse department. With the vibrant city of Bordeaux at its heart and home to some of the world’s most famous vineyards, this is where good food and drink, a joie-de-vivre lifestyle and a thriving economy merge to form a highly desirable location.
For those keen to be part of a buzzing urban environment with a buoyant tech and engineering industry, Bordeaux ticks all the boxes. If medieval villages, traditional markets and scenic coastlines are more your thing, the Gironde has these in abundance. For the best of both worlds, take your pick from a whole range of towns and villages in this distinctive part of Nouvelle-Aquitaine which give easy access to city and coast.
City Living in the Gironde
Bordeaux manages to offer its residents and visitors a contemporary sense of fun and sophistication without turning its back on its unique heritage as a wine trading capital of Europe. The region has been producing wine since the 8th century and many of its properties have huge architectural significance.
Thankfully, the beauty of its buildings has not gone unnoticed and Bordeaux has more preserved historical buildings than any other French city, many of them making it onto the UNESCO World Heritage List because of their 18th century architecture. A good place to see Bordeaux’s maritime heritage is in the Left Bank Quays area overlooking the Garonne river.
These days, lots of Bordeaux’s character buildings have been tastefully converted into lofts and apartments which are now highly sought after by investors and those looking for a place to live in the heart of this cultural hotspot. Thanks to a high speed TGV rail link to Paris with a journey time of just over two hours and an international airport that is expanding rapidly, Bordeaux is one of the country’s best-connected cities. This accessibility has helped boost its economy and create jobs in the creative industries, engineering, finance and technology. Check out the trendy Saint-Pierre neighbourhood, the cultural Bassin à Flot district, Quartier Chartons by the docks and Saint-Michel, which is a favourite with foodies.
Life by the Big Ocean
The pine-scented coastline of Gironde with its sandy, dune-lined beaches and chic resorts is blessed with long summers and a mild climate all year round. If you enjoy spending time in the great outdoors, this is an ideal place to live. As well as watersports, the coast is lined with footpaths and cycle routes for sports enthusiasts and leisure hikers and bikers. Some of the best trekking routes are those that weave through the Landes woodland, the biggest maritime forest in Europe.
The Cap-Ferret headland has miles of beautiful beaches and is an upmarket place to live. The headland shelters the Bay of Arcachon and the elegant town of the same name which has been welcoming Europe’s rich and famous since it was developed as a new town 150 years ago.
In and around Arcachon are some of the most exclusive luxury properties in France, including beach front villas and architect-designed cabin style wood houses that are a nod to the traditional homes of the region before it was developed into a chic resort. Arcachon Bay is home to Europe’s largest sand dune, the Dune du Pilat, which attracts more than a million visitors a year.
The quarters of Arcachon town are enchantingly named after the seasons and each has its own character. Winter town, or ville d’hiver, with its grand Victorian villas contrasts with the more developed ville d’été which is by the beach and has an abundance of restaurants, bars and shops. Spring town is close to the lovely beach of Pereire and autumn town is the marina and port area which is the best place to watch the sailing that takes place almost all year round. Historically, Arcachon was famous for its oyster beds and it is still the place to come for fresh seafood and high-class dining.
Away from the beachside villas of Arcachon and the renovated lofts of Bordeaux, inland Gironde enjoys a slower pace of life. Amidst the world-famous vineyards of Médoc, Saint-Emilion, Sauternes and Pomerol you will find peaceful backwaters, ancient chateaux, bastide towns and medieval villages. For those who prefer to live the quiet life but like the idea of having the city and coast close by, rural Gironde is an excellent choice.
There is a good range of propert ies from village houses and rustic barns to impressive Maisons de Maître and chateaux. Thanks to its proximity to Bordeaux, it is easy to get to from other parts of Europe and even in the depths of winter the weather is relatively mild with snow and frost being a rare occurrence. For families looking to move to the Gironde, the local schools have an excellent reputation and there is an international school in Bordeaux for children aged 3 to 18.