Dramatic contrasts between old and new confront visitors in this fascinating, at times off-beat, part of the city where Bordeaux's wine-trading history comes to life. Artist studios, antique galleries and small independent boutiques pepper village-like Chartrons, a fashionably bohemian quarter named after Carthusian monks who lived here from 1383 until the 15th century when wine merchants moved in. Wine depots in enormous riverside hangars and elegant residences soon followed. Across the water, north of the Bassins à Flot (wet docks), cranes lace the skyline in the increasingly regenerated port district of Bacalan.
The neighbourhood divides neatly into two. Devote a day to the ancient wine-trading district of Chartrons, neatly hemmed in by cours Xavier Arnozan with its grand 18th-century mansions (south), bd Godard and bd Alfred Daney (west), riverside quai des Chartrons (east) and rue Lucien Faure (north). Exploring this mellow, fashionably laid-back part of town is a chance to take your foot off the gas and go slow. Book-end a well-spent hour discovering the quaint but insightful Musée du Vin et du Négoce with the bijou boutiques, antique malls such as Village Notre Dame and casual eateries on main street rue Notre Dame.
Moving north, the visual wham-bam of industrial Bacalan kicks in at the Bassins à Flot – wet docks cut off from the River Garonne by a lock. This area was marshland until the 19th century when the port, shipyards and docks were built and development continues. Allow a half-day for Bordeaux's sensational flagship museum, La Cité du Vin, followed by an alfresco lunch across the street at Familia and, assuming an exhibition is on, La Base Sous-Marine.
- La Cité du Vin Immersing yourself in the world of wine at the city's premier museum.
- La Base Sous-Marine Catching a contemporary art exhibition or happening inside an old WWII submarine base.
- Musée du Vin et du Négoce Learning about Bordeaux's historic wine trade in an 18th-century wine merchant's house in backstreet Chartrons.
- I.Boat Dancing the night away with Bordelais hipsters on a ferry boat in the industrial Bassins à Flot district.
- Artisan shopping Watching local artists at work in studio-boutiques such as Le 101 or Atelier Ex-Anima on main street rue Notre Dame.
One of the most festive moments to rub shoulders with the soul of this 'hood is during its Fête du Vin Nouveau et de la Brocante, a two-day street festival in October thrown to celebrate the first post-harvest wine. The vin nouveau (new wine) is solemnly blessed in church before the real party breaks out on rue Notre Dame and surrounding streets: think drinking, dancing, street food and dozens of stalls selling antiques and secondhand jumble.