Sitting on the banks of the mighty Garonne River in southwest France and surrounded by vineyards, is the lovely city of Bordeaux which has the local nickname Port of the Moon.
The city’s name has been linked with fine wine for generations – not just in France, but worldwide. In this article, you can check out the most exciting things to do in Bordeaux and lots of tips to enjoy the local wine!
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Top Things to Do in Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a fun city to explore with great coffee shops and wine bars for relaxing moments and some great restaurants and several local delicacies to discover.
A fun way to explore the city is on the hop-on-hop-off tourist bus – the last one starts its route at 9.00 pm. If you prefer, there are also buses, trams, and electric bicycles for getting around. But let’s start with some basics…
Basic Things to Know About Bordeaux
Get Ready for France
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>> When in Bordeaux…
Consider purchasing the Bordeaux Metropole City Pass (available for 48 or 72 Hours) to enjoy free access to numerous monuments and cultural attractions, discounts, and free access to the TBM public transportation network (tramway, bus, river shuttle). Click here to check out all monuments, museums, and exhibitions you can visit and the extra discounts offered.
Where is Bordeaux
Located in Southwest France, Bordeaux is an important city on the banks of the Garonne River. Bordeaux is also the capital of the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
Nearby regions and famous areas include the city of Toulouse, La Rochelle, and the Landes of Gascogne Regional Natural Park.
Why You Should Visit Bordeaux
Known as the world capital of wine, Bordeaux is a delightful city in the Gironde department surrounded by impressive vineyards and breathtaking castles.
Famous for its wine expo as well as its delicious gastronomy, spending a few days in Bordeaux can offer the opportunity to discover a more relaxing side to France.
The historic sights of Bordeaux designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO are nothing but a remarkable ensemble of architectural wonders such as impressive theaters, town squares, charming private mansions, parks, and fountains.
Neoclassical neighborhoods contrast with the narrow and picturesque lanes of the Saint-Pierre neighborhood, a perfect example of Bordeaux’s diverse heritage.
Bordeaux is also a popular university center, which makes it a lively destination with plenty to do also at night!
How to Get to Bordeaux
Bordeaux is 585 kilometers from the capital of the country, Paris, and high-speed SNCF TGV trains are the most convenient way to travel from Paris to Bordeaux, although it is also possible to drive there or to travel by plane, the flying time is a bit more than one hour.
Bordeaux has an international airport (Bordeaux–Mérignac) receiving flights from French cities (Nice, Lyon, Marseille) and other countries, including Italy, the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Greece, Morocco, and more. You can visit the official airport site (BOD) for more information.
When is the Best Time to Visit Bordeaux
Since Bordeaux is a wine destination, harvest time is the best time to visit (between September and October), especially if you’re interested in visiting wineries as some of them do not open to the public after the harvest season is over.
During this period the weather is pleasant, not very hot or rainy. Harvest time is an exciting period with a lot of things going on. The weather remains mild until the arrival of November when the rainy season begins.
Winters can be very cold but they can be a good time to visit Bordeaux if wine is not your main interest. You can explore the city also in the fall, and enjoy more affordable fees than the ones you’ll find in summer (June to August) and during the harvest.
Where to Stay in Bordeaux
There are several places to stay in the sixth most populated city in France, offering homes to rent as well as comfy hotels with every comfort you need.
If you’re visiting Bordeaux in the peak of summer or during the harvest season, it is always a good idea to book early to avoid high fees and risking not finding the right place in a convenient area.
We stayed at the gorgeous (and very convenient) MEININGER Hotel Bordeaux Gare Saint-Jean, a hotel chain that we love, modern, not super expensive, and with every comfort, often close to the main city train station, something we prefer because we enjoy traveling around France by train. You can click here for further details and the latest prices.
These are some other places that I suggest checking out:
Convenient: Central Hostel Bordeaux Centre
Perfect for budget travelers, this modern hostel includes a restaurant and a bar as well as family rooms and a terrace. Located near the Museum of Aquitaine, and Saint-André Cathedral, Bordeaux airport is less than 11 kilometers from the property.
Click here for more information and to get the latest prices.
Mid-range: La Maison du Lierre Bordeaux Centre ville
Located in the city center, this boutique hotel is set in an eighteenth-century mansion with a picturesque ivy-covered terrace, just a 10-minute walk from the Opera National de Bordeaux. The hotel is in a convenient area with stores, bars, and restaurants nearby. There is also a nearby tram stop which gives easy access to the rest of the city.
Click here for more information and to get the latest prices.
Luxury: Hotel des Quinconces Bordeaux Centre
One of the top places to stay in Bordeaux, this lavish 5-star hotel in the historic district offers comfortable rooms with elegant decor, coffee makers, parking, and an airport shuttle. It is located less than 100 meters from the Musee d’Art Contemporain, only steps from the Esplanade des Quinconce and Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, while Mérignac Airport is 10 kilometers away.
Click here for more information and to get the latest prices.
Activities in Bordeaux that you Don’t Want to Miss
If Bordeaux is one of the places you want to visit during your trip to France, then you might probably be wondering what is there to do in Bordeaux.
There is much to see and enjoy in Bordeaux for all ages. In recent years it has become a popular weekend destination as its international airport, Merignac lies on the edge of the city and is linked with many regional airports across Europe and there are also regular buses into the city center.
In this list of the best things to do in Bordeaux, you will probably find what sights and attractions are worth visiting, as well as some remarkable day trips to explore the area.
Pont de Pierre: Cross the City’s Most Famous Bridge
The river Garonne winds its way through the city before heading to meet the Atlantic Ocean and is the focus of all entertainment and city life.
Pont de Pierre (which means stone bridge) is an attractive bridge that was built in 1821 and features some gorgeous iron lamps and 17 identical archways which, according to the legend, it is the number of letters in the name Napoleon Bonaparte.
It was the first bridge built to span the river and it connects the left bank of the Garonne (cours Victor Hugo) to the right bank at the quartier de la Bastide (Avenue Thiers).
Today, the bridge is only open to pedestrians, cyclists, trams, buses, and taxis, but not to regular traffic.
It is fun to take a stroll over the bridge at any time of day but if you are a born romantic, nothing beats a walk at dusk or in the evening, when the bridge is lit by numerous pretty lanterns.
A boat tour or guided cruise on the Garonne River is a great, alternative way to enjoy the views of the river and the city from a completely different perspective.
Admire Medieval Bordeaux at La Grosse Cloche
Dating back to the fifteenth century, the ancient belfry of Bordeaux Town Hall features these distinctive twin towers topped with conically shaped slate roofs.
This medieval construction was built on parts of the gate of Porte Saint Éloy at the old ramparts to the city. Back in the past, the gate used to house a small prison that kept offenders behind a ten-centimeter-thick door.
The impressive bell, dating from the eighteenth century, can be clearly seen. It weighs 7750 tons and it chimes only once a year, on July 14, Bastille Day.
See your Reflection at Place de la Bourse and Le Miroir d’Eau
The Place de la Bourse is the city’s most famous square made of majestic buildings. It was built on the banks of the Garonne in the early eighteenth century and it offers great photo opportunities, especially at its famous fountain of the Three Graces
Back in 2006, the Miroir d’Eau (meaning water mirror) was built just in front of the square and caused a sensation as it is the largest reflecting pool in the world.
Le Miroir d’Eau covers an area of 3,450 meters and is a three-centimeter film of water that sits on huge granite slabs.
The water reflects the image of the beautiful buildings that stand behind it. Every 15 minutes the water turns to mist which delights visitors, especially children! The Miroir operates every year from April to October.
After visiting the Miroir it is well worth taking a stroll along the river bank flanked by beautiful neoclassical mansions. This guided walking tour of the city, offered by the Office de Tourisme de Bordeaux, is a great way to check out the Place de la Bourse and other city highlights.
Explore Porte Cailhau
Only seven minutes on foot from La Grosse Cloche, this is another part of the old walls of Bordeaux that still stands as a memory of the city’s past.
This access to the city was built back in 1495 and it was not only part of the city’s defensive system, but it was also a sort of triumphal arch that celebrated one of King Charles VIII victories, the king is also referenced and portrayed on the gate.
This magnificent gate known as Porte Cailhau features a curious architectural style, featuring a transitional design between the Gothic and Renaissance. It is possible to climb the gate to admire the city’s skyline and the Garonne.
Learn About the City’s Wine Heritage at La Cité du Vin
The city’s new and exciting museum La Cité du Vin opened in 2016. The museum celebrates the region’s wine history and provides a great insight into its production.
This hi-tech, futuristic museum and cultural center details the different red wine varieties and explains the different winemaking techniques using audiovisual displays.
You will see vat rooms and wine cellars and learn how the wine is stored at different stages. Your visit will end in the Belvedere Bar with a glass of Bordeaux red wine to enjoy while you admire the great views of the city.
The impressive 3000 m2 building features a unique tower that’s more than 50 meters high. On the premises, a bar with unparalleled views of Bordeaux is nothing but the best place to unwind and enjoy a glass of local wine.
Go Wine Tasting at the Golden Triangle
The historic center of the city, known as The Golden Triangle, is made of three famous boulevards edged by magnificent eighteenth-century mansions.
These boulevards are Cours Clemenceau, Cours de L’Intendance, and Allées de Tourny. One of the area’s main attractions can be found in Cours de L’ Intendance where there is an impressive Wine Gallery.
This very modern and fun place stocks more than fifty of the region’s best wines. If you want to taste any of the labels features, you can buy them by the glass.
On arrival, you purchase a card of the value of your choice and you then pop the card in a dispensing machine for a glass of wine of your choice. Prices start at €1 for a 25 ml tester and the most expensive wine is about €35 per glass.
Wine in Bordeaux
Bordeaux is the world’s wine capital as well as the second-largest wine-growing region on the planet. You can find wine tours anywhere, and if you have no idea where to start, the Cité du Vin is a great place to begin.
During a wine tour, you will travel in a comfy van (avoid self-maid tours as drinking and driving can bring about a lot of problems) and visit different key winemaking regions, among the most beautiful places to visit are the Médoc, the gorgeous Saint-Émilion, Sauternes, and Canon Fronsac.
In a day, you will visit several wineries, explore the vat rooms, and the cellars, talk to the producers, learn about the winemaking process, and — of course — try some delicious Bordeaux wines!
Best wine-tasting tours in and around Bordeaux
- La Cité du Vin Skip-the-Line Entrance Ticket & Wine Tasting – Access to this unique cultural venue is open to all and dedicated to wine as a cultural, universal, and living heritage. Take in views from the 8th-floor belvedere and taste some fine wine. Click here for more information and to book this experience.
- St. Emilion Village Half-Day Wine Tour – Visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site, admire its outstanding landscape, explore the quaint village and surrounding vineyards, and taste magnificent Bordeaux wines. Click here for more information and to book this experience.
- Saint-Emilion and Medoc Full-Day Wine Experience – Spend a whole day indulging in Bordeaux wines! The experience includes a visit to the 2 most famous vineyards of Bordeaux, a guided walk of the UNESCO-listed village, wine tastings at 3 different wineries, and a picnic break in Bordeaux. Click here for more information and to book this experience.
Enjoy Esplanade des Quinconces
Place des Quinconces is among the largest city squares in Europe. Covering over twelve hectares, this gorgeous beautiful open space is a fun spot to relax and take in one of the many different events and exhibitions held in Bordeaux’s main gathering point throughout the year.
The Monument Aux Girondins is an impressive structure with its statue of Liberty and fountains with galloping bronze horses. The fountain marks the role of the Gironde political party during the French Revolution.
Spend Time at the Medieval Cathedral of Bordeaux
This beautiful cathedral is a wonderful example of medieval Gothic architecture. It has a long and colorful history and is where Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future King, Louis VI when she was just 13 years old.
During the years of the Revolution, Saint Pierre’s Cathedral was stripped of all its wealth. Today, most of the decorations have been loaned by other buildings.
Check out the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux
The Grand Théâtre, also known as the Opéra National de Bordeaux, first opened its doors back in 1780 and since then it has been considered an architectural masterpiece with spectacular acoustics.
The theater features a Neoclassical facade with twelve spectacular Corinthian columns holding the statues of the muses and goddesses.
Inside, the magnificent staircase was the model that also inspired the imposing grand staircase of Opéra Garnier in Paris. Besides, the auditorium features ceilings with impressive frescoes depicting the Arts, Greek gods, and the city of Bordeaux with its wine traditions.
And if you also want to enjoy a performance, it is a good idea to check their calendar of events on the official website.
See Three Churches on the Pilgrim’s Route
The famous pilgrim route of Camino de Santiago de Compostela, also known as The Way of St James, winds its way through the city for 8.4 kilometers, this is part of the Camino Francés or French Way. There are three interesting churches along the route that are well worth visiting.
The eleventh-century Saint Seurin Basilica is the first of them. Also from the same period, Saint André Cathedral is well known for its 66-meter belfry – Pey Berland – which offers great views over the city.
The third church on the list is the Gothic Eglise Saint Michel with an even more impressive belfry (114 meters) and a beautiful pilgrims’ chapel. All of the churches are floodlit at night which makes them look extra special.
Walk the Longest Pedestrian Shopping Street in Europe
Did you know that Bordeaux has the longest shopping street in Europe? So, what better excuse than a walk along Rue Sainte Catherine for your souvenir needs?
Rue Sainte Catherine stretches for twelve kilometers between Place de la Comedie and the Thermier Column in Place de la Victoire.
Today, this is one of the most important shopping areas in the city, with more than 250 shops but also dozens of wine bars and cafeterias. In the past, however, this road was the main Roman Road in the south of France.
Spend an Afternoon in the Musée d’Aquitaine
One of the largest regional history museums in the country, the place features amazing exhibitions in impressive galleries where you can learn and understand the history and the culture of the Aquitaine Region.
Ancient findings, as far as more than 25.000 years old, clearly portray the past and the advances of civilization through the ages.
Stroll along Quais de Bordeaux
Head to the left bank of the Garonne River to admire the spectacular Neoclassical mansions that line up along the impressive waterfront area.
Perfect spot for a relaxing stroll, you will meet joggers, bike riders, and families spending free time sitting under the trees.
Walk in the Jardin Public
The huge green space opened to the public in 1746 on what then was the edges of the city but, as Bordeaux expanded over the years, it became a central spot in town.
Opposite to what you might think, the park respects the style of English and not French gardens, thus lacking symmetry in the design. It features old statues and fountains, curated lawns, a picturesque orangery, and an odd pond crossed by iron bridges.
Although locals love to enjoy picnics in the garden, it is also possible to go for a refined lunch at the restaurant next to the old orange garden.
Taste a Delicious Canelé… or Two!
You will spot these local delicacies in bakeries and in specialist shops and they will also make a great souvenir of Bordeaux.
Canelés are small fluted sponge cakes that are flavored with rum, brown sugar, and vanilla. They are slightly crunchy when you take your first bite but soft and mouthwatering chewy on the inside.
A couple of canelés with a cup of French coffee is the ideal treat at any time of the day! And if you fall in love with this treat, worry not! There are gift boxes of varying sizes available everywhere.
Check out Modern Bordeaux at Place de la Victoire and Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas
Place de la Victoire is a square in Bordeaux featuring in its center a modern column about sixteen meters high, placed in the area back in 2005 to honor the local viticulture and Bordeaux’s wine traditions.
On the same square, there is a triumphal arch, but the most popular landmark in the place are the two huge turtles next to the column that kids love to pet when they visit!
Another modern sight in town not to miss is a vertical lift bridge, from 2013, about 600 meters in length and over 75 in height, with makes it the tallest vertical lift bridge in Europe.
Best Places to Visit Near Bordeaux
Day Trip to Sauternes and Loupiac
If you’re after excellent sweet wine, then these are the two regions you can check out in the area.
Sauternes is also a wine region within the area of Bordeaux known as Graves. Sauternes is known for the production of white dessert wines generally called Sauternes. Here, local winemakers also produce some excellent dry whites worth a trip.
A visit to Sauternes cannot be considered complete if you don’t also spend some time exploring Loupiac, another Bordeaux appellation for sweet wines. Loupiac, about 30 kilometers from Bordeaux, is on the opposite side of Sauternes and it is home to Bordeaux’s most distinguished sweets.
Visit Saint Emilion
Arguably the most picturesque village you can explore in the region, Saint-Émilion is located in the Gironde department in the heart of the Libournais country.
Saint Émilion is about 40 kilometers from the city of Bordeaux and it is known for its unique wine hills and medieval settlement.
Both the town and surrounding vineyards became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 for the long-living history of wine-making, but also for the churches and buildings stretching along the town’s steep and narrow alleys.
Medoc Wine Region
Another marvelous place to visit while in Bordeaux, the Médoc wine region is also in the Gironde area, located north of the city of Bordeaux, which hosts over 1500 vineyards that produce some of the country’s top red wines.
Are you planning to visit Bordeaux soon?
Let me know in the comments below!
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About the author of this blog:
Gabi has been living in Crete for the last five years. On the island, she juggles being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours in summer, translating, and freelance writing.
She’s written for Greek Reporter, published several travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person would be able to handle.