City Guides Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Best Things to Do in Bordeaux, France

10/13/2022

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Visit Bordeaux

Whether you are visiting as part of a road trip or on a city break, Bordeaux is an incredible French city. Located in Southwestern France, the capital of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region is one of the most beautiful cities in France and full of things to see and do.

Many attracted to Bordeaux are heading there for the wine. While it’s true that Bordeaux is one of the most incredible wine regions, it’s not all the city has to offer.

Bordeaux is a highly walkable city, making it easy to move around and see as much as possible. From the Cathedral to the Musée d’Aquitaine, Bordeaux is also a cultural hub, with more protected buildings than any other French city except Paris. Of course, you can’t head to Bordeaux without checking out the Wine and Trade Museum or a wine tour and tasting.

With so many things to do in Bordeaux, you will want to book your trip after reading this list.

Bordeaux - France

Are you planning a Bordeaux trip last minute?

Below are some of the best Bordeaux tours, hotels, and more!

Top Experiences and Tours in Bordeaux

Top Bordeaux Accommodation and Lodging

Palais Gallien Hotel & Spa (top suggestion), Yndo Hotel (luxury), Hotel La Cour Carrée Bordeaux Centre (mid-range), La Maison du Lierre Bordeaux (mid-range), L’ Apparthotel Particulier Bordeaux (apartments), Meininger Hotel Bordeaux Gare Saint-Jean (budget).

Don’t leave for Bordeaux without travel insurance!

  • SafetyWing, our trusted travel insurance policy for long and short trips (starting with a minimum of 5 days), covers COVID-19 for new policies purchased, and since April 2021, unplanned quarantine is covered, too. 

What to Do in Bordeaux

What to do in Bordeaux? Here’s the list of the best things to do in Bordeaux, France – places to visit and activities in Bordeaux – with something for every traveler.

1. Cité du Vin

Cité du Vin - Bordeaux

This intriguingly shaped museum is one of the most iconic buildings in Bordeaux and sits near the River Garonne. La Cité du Vin is one of the newest Bordeaux attractions and celebrates all things wine.

Step inside, and you’ll learn about the history of wine as well as where and how it is made. The museum is suitable for a couple of hours’ visit or, if there are any oenophiles in your group, you can probably leave them here all day. For the record, I spent four hours, and it was hard to leave!

La Cité du Vin also offers a bunch of workshops on wine, tasting experiences, a restaurant, and a brasserie. Its wine shop is incredibly well-provided and contains labels from all around the world – Click here to buy your tickets to La Cité du Vin

2. Explore Old Bordeaux

The Old Center is one of the top places to visit in Bordeaux and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. The listed area is a perimeter representing more than half of the city’s surface, and it is a place steeped in history that brings together more than 300 listed monuments.

Strolling through the streets of Old Bordeaux means discovering a superb collection of perfectly renovated classical and neoclassical buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, grand squares, and elegant avenues.

You can start your Bordeaux visit from Place de la Comédie, one of the city’s main squares, which perfectly embodies Bordeaux’s elegance. This square hosts the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux and the Grand Hotel de Bordeaux, both designed in a Neo-classical style. Then, get lost in the historical neighborhoods of Bordeaux, each one with its own character.

3. Taste Bordeaux’s Local Specialties

You may be surprised to hear that Bordeaux has the highest rate of restaurants per capita in France. Yes, there are more restaurants per person than there are in Paris!

There are some scrumptious Bordeaux delicacies that you absolutely must try during your Bordeaux visit. Calling all seafood lovers, you must taste Arcachon Bay oysters. These oysters are extremely fresh and are in continual supply all year round. Another seafood delight is Bordeaux lamprey, a fish without a vertebra or a jaw. You can enjoy lamprey with traditionally prepared leeks, Bordeaux red wine, and cured ham that’s left to simmer for hours.

Meat lovers will love the entrecôte à la bordelaise with beef from the Bazas region and Bordelaise sauce with red wine and shallots.

The canelés and puits d’amour are two unmissable sweet delicacies of Bordeaux and are easy to find in local bakeries or pastry shops. Canelés are made of egg yolk and flavored with rum and vanilla, while the puits d’amour is a pastry with a hollow center, usually stuffed with redcurrant jelly or raspberry jam.

You can also enjoy this top-rated gourmet city tour when visiting Bordeaux. Let yourself guide through the city’s culinary flavors and taste Bordeaux’s wines, cheeses, and sweet treats.

The Marché des Capucins is another of the best places to visit in Bordeaux for food lovers. Nicknamed the “belly of Bordeaux,” this local market is a great place to buy fresh produce and taste local specialties. On its colorful stalls, you can find a jumble of flowers, fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, and sweets.

4. Play with the Water Mirror at Place de la Bourse

The Place de la Bourse is another of the best things to see in Bordeaux. It was built between 1730 and 1775 in the Neo-classical style and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Bordeaux. Facing the Port de la Lune and the Garonne River, the square was the center of the city’s trading activity in Bordeaux and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2007. Now, the square is home to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux and the Customs Museum.

This rectangular square has great similarities with Place Vendôme in Paris. Indeed, the architect would have been inspired by the plans of the famous Parisian square.

A veritable architectural showcase of the 18th century, we find all the decorative elements characteristic of Bordeaux facades: sculpted mascarons on the keystones of the windows, wrought iron balustrades, gilding, cornices, partition lines, semi-circular arches, and Corinthian columns.

The square’s surrounding architecture is enhanced by the Water Mirror on the other side of the road. Bordeaux’s Water Mirror is believed to be the world’s largest reflective pool at a whopping 3,450 square meters.

Photographers will love this attraction as they experiment with the reflections. Visit at night when the surrounding buildings are lit up, and you won’t be disappointed.

5. Visit Saint-André Cathedral and Climb up to the Tour Pey Berland

The Saint André Cathedral is one of the most iconic religious buildings in the city. The Cathedral was built back in the 11th century and has a long history with well-known visitors. King Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine were married in Saint-André.

Saint André is another Bordeaux must-see. Its heterogeneous style is nevertheless unexpected and endearing. If the nave was originally Romanesque, the choir, for its part, is resolutely Gothic (XIVth century). If you are lucky, you may be able to hear the organ practice of the symphony orchestra while you’re there.

If you are searching for a place to get great views of Bordeaux, you’ve got to head up the Tour Pey Berland, the Cathedral’s separate bell tower.

This 66-meter bell tower was constructed from 1440 to 1500 and has remained isolated from the rest of the Cathedral to protect the Cathedral from the vibrations of the bells. After climbing its 229 steps, you’ll undoubtedly be rewarded for your efforts as you look out across this beautiful city.

6. Musée d’Aquitaine

If you are into discovering the history of the places you visit, check out Musée d’Aquitaine. This museum showcases the history of Bordeaux and the local region from prehistory up to the 20th century.

There are tons of historical artifacts, art pieces, and sculptures on display at the museum. In fact, there are more than 1.3 million pieces inside the museum.

One of the top Bordeaux things to do for history lovers, here you will learn about everything from the growth of the wine industry to the harrowing tales of the slave trade.

7. Visit the Chartrons Neighborhood and the Wine and Trade Museum

The Chartrons is one of our favorite places to visit in Bordeaux. This bohemian neighborhood is not very central, but it is worth the detour as it is full of antique shops, casual eateries and wine bars, and hidden gems.

The Chartrons was originally a swamp that gradually turned into a village out of the big city limits. Its name comes from the Carthusian order, which founded a monastery around which the suburb developed.

Around the 17th century, many foreign wine merchants settled here, and warehouses were built to store the wine they brought. Today, these wine houses and their cellars have been rehabilitated into museums, art galleries, or quite simply into homes.

While visiting the Chartrons, don’t miss the Musée de Vin et du Négoce (Wine and Trade Museum), which is another of the top things to do in Bordeaux. This wine and trade museum is amazingly located in King Louis XV’s wine merchant, and it is an ode to the old-school museums that we like so much. Stop off at the museum to learn more about wine trading in Bordeaux and, of course, partake in a little wine tasting.

If you are unable to venture out to one of the vineyards, then checking out this museum is a good bet – Click here to buy your tickets to the Musée du Vin et du Négoce

TIP: Book once and enhance your experience with this convenient combination Cité du Vin + Musée du Vin et du Négoce, 2 of the Bordeaux must-see.

8. Take a Stroll through the Port de la Lune

If you are searching for lovely outdoor activities in Bordeaux, then check out the Port de la Lune, the harbor of Bordeaux, and the surrounding area, the origins of which date back to the Middle Ages. Port de la Lune means Port of the Moon, and it bears this name because it is organized around an arm of the Garonne river, which takes the shape of a crescent moon. The district was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its incredible state of conservation.

Port de la Lune is a place you can’t miss, even for just an afternoon. You can head along the promenade in the late evening for a romantic walk. Alternatively, you can rent a bike and cycle along the river or enjoy it from the water on a Garonne river cruise with a glass of wine.

The Church of Saint Michel and the tower of the same name are the most remarkable buildings in the district, part of which has experienced strong North African immigration. There are many museums here, including the Musée d’Aquitaine where you can learn about the history of the port.

9. Digital Art at Bassin des Lumières

The Bassin des Lumières or Ponds of Light in English is another of the Bordeaux attractions that we recommend. This is one of the world’s largest digital art museums and it is located in a former submarine base.

The exhibit projects lights onto the walls, ceilings, and a deep-water basin. Art by painters such as Renoir, Chagall, and Monet are creatively projected, allowing you to view art from a new perspective.

You can wander through 11 cells of the submarine base viewing a variety of exhibitions. What’s better is the exhibits rotate so if you find yourself in Bordeaux for the second time there will be something new to see – Click here to buy your tickets to the Bassin des Lumières

10. Take a Wine Tour with Tastings to the Wine Regions of Bordeaux

You will certainly know that Bordeaux is the epicenter for wine in France, if not Europe. And unless you have absolutely zero interest in wine, then a wine tour with tastings is a must of Bordeaux.

You can start training your nose and palate with this top-rated wine masterclass around Bordeaux wines. Learn about the Bordeaux wine vocabulary, and develop sensory evaluation skills in a relaxed and convivial atmosphere.

Then, the two most popular places to visit near Bordeaux for a wine tour are Médoc and Saint Emilion.

The Médoc wine region sits on the left bank of the Gironde estuary and is home to several popular wines. This appellation is famous for Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, and Saint-Estèphe wines.

Prior to the 17th century Médoc’s fields were only used for rye. It wasn’t until Dutch engineers drained the lowlands that wine production could commence around 1760. Now, the Médoc region is dotted with magnificent châteaux where you can find all the production phases of wine, from the grape harvest to the wine bottling.

The best way to explore this wine region is to take a Médoc half-day tour. On this tour, you’ll get to visit three different wineries whilst learning to distinguish between the different blends.

Saint Emilion - France

The Saint Emilion wine region is equally as interesting to visit. This wine-producing region holds the prestige of being the first to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site also for its history and heritage. The main wine town in the region is Saint-Emilion, a charming medieval village where world-famous wineries, fine wine, beautiful architecture, and historical monuments are a perfect match.

Saint Emilion is easy to reach from Bordeaux by train. But If you want to enjoy Saint Emilion also from a wine point of view, we recommend this half-day guided tour with tastings. Learn the history of the place, visit some châteaux in the area, and enjoy wine tastings and expert local guidance in your wine shopping.

TIP: combine the wine regions of Médoc and Saint-Emilion on a full-day wine experience!

11. Take a Day tour to the Bassin of Arcachon and Dune du Pilat

Dune du Pilat - France

Whilst many head straight to the wineries, remember that this area of France also has a lot of other beautiful sights to offer.

The Bassin of Arcachon and Dune du Pilat are situated on the Bay of Biscay facing the North Atlantic. Visiting these two places is one of the best day trips from Bordeaux.

Dune du Pilat is just 50 minute drive from Bordeaux and is the highest sand dune in Europe. Once you’ve climbed to the top, you will experience breathtakingly expansive views of the Bassin d’Arcachon, the sand Banc d’Arguin, the Cap-Ferret lighthouse, and the Landes forest.

If you want to sample some of the freshest oysters around, the Bassin of Arcachon is the place to be. Taking this fun tour from Bordeaux is one of the best ways to see these places. Enjoy an oyster tasting with a glass of regional wine (of course) and relax at this beautiful ocean location.

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