Are you already familiar with an apéro concept? I personally love this idea. Dinner starts quite late in France, typically around 7-8 pm. People get hungry before then, so they would take a glass of wine with friends or colleagues, and may or may not go elsewhere for a sit-down dinner afterward.
Bordeaux has a lively bar scene which you have to experience at least once. Preferably, choose a day between Tuesday and Saturday as many bars are closed on Sunday and Monday nights.
Go for apero around 6 pm to 7 pm.
In my opinion, the main criteria in choosing a venue for an apero is the place where you mix with the local crowd, so you want a really crowded and noisy place for that.
Place Camille Jullian
This isn’t a place with the high-end bars, but a nice square to take some evening sun and enjoy people-watching in a happy student atmosphere. Choose any crowded bar and order a pint or a glass of wine. Wine choices are somewhat limited. It is typically from Bordeaux or from southwest of France, just a house red or white. Beer might be a better choice at these places. Check out the Happy Hour offers on a blackboard. What surprises me is that Happy Hour is the same word in English and in French! Another thing I noticed is that in these crowded bars there is no requirement to order food with your drink, and that is why they are always full.
Place du Palais
Beautiful square with the 15th-century gate, Porte Cailhau. This place is up and coming. There are a new artisanal beer bar and a new wine bar popular with young crowds. Bars here offer a good selection of drinks. You may have to order appetizers which typically is a meat platter or a cheese platter to share.
Rue Parlement Saint-Pierre
Not strictly a square but a street connecting two squares in quartier Saint-Pierre and my favorite street to go out. A few nice wine and cocktail bars and a great city atmosphere. Check out bars with oenomatic machines dispensing high-quality wines (Le Vertige or the neighboring Au 4 Coins du Vin).
Finally, I don’t recommend Place du Parliament or the square near the Grand Theatre for a drink as I find them to be quite tourist-oriented.
The apero etiquette is that you grab a table without waiting to be seated and sip a pint of beer or a bottle of wine all night. Beware of many smokers on the terraces. While English and Irish pubs tend to only offer service at a counter, French bars still offer table service, however, you still need to pay inside.
Have fun in Bordeaux!
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