I knew I was going to enjoy Bordeaux when I landed and saw vineyards at the airport!
Bordeaux is reasonably often referred to as a mini Paris. It is just as beautiful, easier to navigate and the locals are definitely friendlier. It is home to 362 historic monuments and after Paris, it has the largest number of protected buildings in France.
Since 2007 almost all of Bordeaux’s beautiful city centre has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. This is a city that is best explored on foot – and by using the city’s fantastic tram system.
Normally articles about the best things to do in a city are all about museums and buildings. Well, this article has a museum and some buildings – but it also has a lot of foodie things to do. Trying the local cuisine is one of my favourite things to do so get ready to get hungry while you’re reading this article.
Here are 35 fantastic things to do in Bordeaux
35 Things to do in Bordeaux
Table of Contents
- 35 Things to do in Bordeaux
- 1. Enjoy Cite du Vin
- 2. Visit Bordeaux Cathedral
- 3. Watch the sunset over the Garonne river
- 4. Admire Bordeaux Cathedral with a Glass of Local Wine
- 5. Shop like a local on Rue des Remparts
- 6. Enjoy the Street Art
- 7. Explore around Place Fernand-Lafargue
- 8. Place du Parlement
- 9. Sample the Chocolate Shops
- 10. Try a Dunes Blanches
- 11. Bring home some of the many local delicacies
- 12. Walk the longest pedestrian street in France.
- 13. Visit the Marche des Capucins
- 14. And also visit Les Halles de Bacalan
- 15. Visit Places des Quinconces
- 16. Explore Quartiers Saint Pierre and Saint Paul
- 17. Decide which Caneles is your favourite
- 18. Enjoy the World’s Largest Reflecting Pool and Place de la Bourse
- 19. Promenade the Garonne River
- 20. Visit the longest vertical lift bridge in Europe
- 21. Enjoy the Darwin Ecosystem
- 22. Visit the Jardin Botanique
- 23. Enjoy Ox Cheeks and more at Brasserie Bordelaise
- 24. Experience Bordeaux from above
- 25. Enjoy street food style restaurant La Gigi
- 26. Check out the specialty coffee scene
- 27. Visit the Only Winery with a Postal Address in the city of Bordeaux
- 28. Relax in the Jardin Public
- 29. Have a meal at La Tupina
- 30. Cross Pont de Pierre
- 31. Explore Les Chartrons
- 32. Visit the largest independent bookshop in France
- 33. Enjoy all things Caudalie
- 34. Drink the local wine
- 35. Try Bordeaux caviar
- The Bordeaux Boutique Hotel Choice
- How to Get to Bordeaux and How to Get around
1. Enjoy Cite du Vin
I’ve visited many museums in my time as a travel blogger so it takes quite a bit to get me excited about one. And I got very excited about the Cite du Vin. Yes, it is all about one of my favourite things in the world, wine, but it is also an extremely engaging museum housed in a jaw-dropping modern building.
Cite du Vin opened in 2016 so it is still relatively new. It is located in the new part of Bordeaux near Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas. The extraordinary building was created by architects Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières.
The building’s unusual shape was created by a desire to evoke the soul of wine between the river and the city. It is also meant to evoke gnarled vine stock, wine swirling in a glass and the eddies of the Garonne River.
The exhibits within Cite du Vin have been designed to please everyone from those who know little about wine to connoisseurs. I am probably somewhere in the middle and I learned a huge amount during my visit. In particular, it was able to close my knowledge gaps in several areas.
The museum is broken up into many different ways to learn about wine. Wine can be explored by geography, by colour, by soil, by food pairing and virtually every way you could possibly think about wine.
The exhibits are cleverly interactive. One amazing room has plain tables onto which different meal setups are projected. White shapes take on multiple meanings through the different videos.
I also really enjoyed the vineyards of the world exhibit. It uses multi-screen video displays to bring to life wine regions from across the world. Once you’ve sailed over the vineyards hear from the experts who work in the various regions directly via more video screens.
I spent over two hours exploring the exhibits at the Cite du Vin and could have easily stayed for longer. However, it was time to head up to the 8th floor for a tasting. Every entrance ticket to the Cite du Vin includes a tasting.
The tasting wines are changed daily and are a mix of local and vineyards from all over the world. The tastings room is quite stunning and there is an outdoor area with excellent views over Bordeaux. The 8th floor is also home to a restaurant.
Cite du Vin is located in the new area of Bordeaux. Just hop on one of the city’s fab trams and Cite du Vin has its own stop so you can’t miss it.
2. Visit Bordeaux Cathedral
Bordeaux Cathedrals’ official name is Cathedrale Saint-Andre. This gothic-style cathedral was consecrated in 1096 by the Pope. It hosted two royal marriages. The first was between local girl Eleanor of Aquitaine and the future Louis VII. Eleanor and Louis’ marriage didn’t last and she went on to marry Henry, the future King of England.
The second wedding was between Anne of Austria and Louis the VIII in 1615.
Today there is no charge to enter Cathedrale Saint-Andre. Don’t miss going inside and in particular, don’t miss its stunning stained glass windows.
3. Watch the sunset over the Garonne river
As the day winds to a close, head to the Gina Bar at the Hotel Renaissance. This relatively new hotel in Bordeaux features a great mix of old Bordeaux (grain silos have been incorporated into the design) and modern interior design.
The highlight of the Hotel Renaissance is its top floor. Gina is their wonderful Italian restaurant where you can have a fantastic brunch or lunch. Or head to Gina bar for cocktails and one of the best views of the sun setting over the Garonne River in Bordeaux.
4. Admire Bordeaux Cathedral with a Glass of Local Wine
Le Cafe Francais has been serving wine and local food opposite the Bordeaux Cathedral since 1899. It’s not the cheapest option in town but there aren’t many times you can relax in a classic French cafe chair and sip a local wine (when local means Bordeaux) and be looking directly at one of the world’s major landmarks.
5. Shop like a local on Rue des Remparts
In a city filled with charming streets, Rue des Remparts has to be one of the nicest. This is the street where locals go to shop and it is filled with some of the best stores in the city.
The locals line up for the cookie shop, Be My Cookie. Chez Delphine is the place to go for cheese and they do tastings. L’autre salon de the is where locals eat cake – try the banoffee.
6. Enjoy the Street Art
Street art is everywhere these days and Bordeaux is no exception. Local street artist Amo specialises in animals such as the toucan and his work can be seen around the city. But if you really like your street art then head to the popular Darwin area across the river (more on the Darwin later in this article)
7. Explore around Place Fernand-Lafargue
This former market place was first established in 1155. Today this is the hippest area in Bordeaux with the lovely Rue Saint James at its heart. This is a great area for exploring, particularly the charming cafes and boutiques along Rue Saint James.
8. Place du Parlement
This Italian-style square was created in 1754. A fountain by Louis Garros sits at its centre. Like many of the lovely squares in Bordeaux, it is lined with grand buildings from the 18th century. It is lined with restaurants with terraces and this is a wonderful place to eat, drink or just sit and soak up the atmosphere of Bordeaux.
9. Sample the Chocolate Shops
Bordeaux is also famous for its outstanding chocolate shops. Try Le Maison Darricau which was established in 1915 or La Guinette. But don’t miss Saunion which is famous for its amazing chocolate-covered cherries that have been bathed in booze. They are unforgettable.
10. Try a Dunes Blanches
The largest sand dune in the world, Dune du Pilat, is a one-hour drive from Bordeaux. Dune du Pilat is 106 metres high and runs along the Atlantic for 2.7 kilometres. As Bordeaux does, this dune is paid tribute to through food and the Dunes Blanches.
The Dune Blanches is a puff pastry that is made with two types of cream in honour of Dune du Pilat. Head to Chez Pascal Dunes Blanches to get the best version of this frothy treat.
11. Bring home some of the many local delicacies
Bordeaux has an insane number of foodie delights. Without question, the best gift you could bring anyone from Bordeaux would involve food and/or wine. The perfect place for the best local products to take home is Echoppe de la Lune.
This family-run store stocks the best local products of the region. It is possible to buy a box of caneles here that will keep for a month. I froze mine when I got home and they were delicious once thawed and heated.
Echoppe de la Lune is located in the new part of Bordeaux on the river. It’s an easy walk from the Cite du Vin.
12. Walk the longest pedestrian street in France.
Rue Sainte Catherine is the longest pedestrian street in France at nearly one mile long. It was pedestrianised in 1984 and runs through the city from north to south. It is home to some of the most well-known boutiques in Bordeaux, both local and global, including Galeries Lafayette.
13. Visit the Marche des Capucins
Marche des Capucins is located where the market in Bordeaux has been held since the 18th century. Major renovations were undertaken in the market area in the early 2000s and this covered market is now surrounded by lots of bars and restaurants. The market is held daily in the mornings but Sunday is the big day.
14. And also visit Les Halles de Bacalan
Bordeaux is also home to second market, Les Halles de Bacalan . Les Halles de Bacalan is located across the road from the Cite du Vin. This is a modern market meaning that whilst it sells some products it is mostly interesting restaurant-style concepts in a modern building.
Les Halles de Bacalan opened in 2017 and is home to about 20 artisans and producers from the South West of France.
15. Visit Places des Quinconces
One of the largest squares in Europe, Places Des Quinconces covers 63 acres. It was constructed between 1810 and 1828. Its name comes from the “quincone” arrangement of the trees on either side. It is filled with monuments including statues of local philosophers, a bronze fountain and bordered by a range of cafes, bars and restaurants.
16. Explore Quartiers Saint Pierre and Saint Paul
This is where you put down the map and just wander these lovely little streets. The area is also home to a few key Bordeaux landmarks. Grosse Cloche or the big bell was built in the 15th century and its bell weighs nearly 8 tonnes.
Porte de Bourgogne is one of the many gates that were constructed in Bordeaux in the 18th century. And Eglise Saint-Pierre has elements that date back to the 14th and 15th centuries.
17. Decide which Caneles is your favourite
Don’t leave Bordeaux without trying at least one (ideally more) caneles. It amazes me that these delicious little moist treats are not a worldwide phenomenon. It is believed that caneles were first made in the convents around Bordeaux in the 15th century.
The canele is essentially a little caramelised cake with a soft center flavoured with rum and vanilla. It starts with an egg yolk and is baked in a copper mold. They are available in a range of sizes and even flavours. The traditional version is flavoured with vanilla and rum.
Bordeaux is home to two chains that battle each other for the title of supreme caneles. La Toque Cuivree looks like a local bakery. Caneles Baillardran is a much more upmarket proposition with fancy packaging to match. Both chains have stores throughout Bordeaux.
Locals tend to favor one of the chains over the other. It is absolutely critical when you visit Bordeaux to try both options (and you may need to do so more than once to be thorough) and come up with your own verdict as to which one makes the best caneles in Bordeaux.
NB: Macarons were actually first made in Emilion in 1620. The Emilion macaron is the classic macaron made with almonds, egg, white and sugar. They were white and made by the nuns – who still make macarons from the same recipe today.
18. Enjoy the World’s Largest Reflecting Pool and Place de la Bourse
Bordeaux is home to the world’s largest reflecting pool. Miroir d’Eau covers 3,450 square metres and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Its one-inch deep water also provides a fantastic reflection of the beautiful Place de la Bourse that is opposite.
Miroir d’eau was installed in 2006 and has an 800 metre square underground reserve. It allows locals and visitors to walk on water and kids in particular love it and its constantly moving water level.
Place de la Bourse was a product of the age of enlightenment and is the most comparable city square in France to Versailles. It was called the royal square and this is where trade prices were set in the 18th century.
19. Promenade the Garonne River
The promenade along the River Garonne is 4.5 km long and a very popular spot with both locals and tourists. It is always busy with runners, walkers and cyclists. The promenade is also home to a year-round garden which is a mix of annuals and vegetables. Locals and tourists are welcome to help themselves if they spot something particularly tasty ready to pick.
20. Visit the longest vertical lift bridge in Europe
Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas reaches a height of 77 metres when it is open. This magnificent bridge is lit up at night and referred to as the Port of the Moon. The pylons are lit in blue light at high tide and green at low tide.
21. Enjoy the Darwin Ecosystem
This former military barracks on the east side of the Garonne river has everything from skater parks to street art to retail to restaurants. Head to Magasin General restaurant for the comfiest outdoor eating areas you may well have experienced. There are couches and even rugs. Or grab some new runners at Veja.
There are skater rinks/parks whatever there called but I’m not even going to pretend that I understand any of that or want to. But I did enjoy all of the street art in the area as mentioned earlier.
22. Visit the Jardin Botanique
Head over Pont du Pierre to the right bank and walk north towards Darwin and you will pass Bordeaux’s beautiful Botanic Gardens. They are a delightful mix of concrete modernism with asian style greenery including lots of water lilies in the Jardin Atlantique.
The gardens were designed by landscaper Mosbach and the architect Jourda and are divided into six different landscapes including an arboretum and greenhouse.
23. Enjoy Ox Cheeks and more at Brasserie Bordelaise
Brasserie Bordelaise first opened in 2008 and now has 10 restaurants throughout the south west of France. Their specialty is traditional dishes of the region sourced from local producers. Book ahead and come hungry.
I started with a small platter which included pork meats, ham, tapas and foie gras toast. If I’m honest this could have been a meal in itself but I am proud to say that it didn’t stop me from consuming the large majority of the slow-cooked ox cheek in red wine that is the house specialty.
The final course was a plate of mini-patisseries which included a caneles, macaroon, a small pot of lemon curd, blackberry sorbet, madeleine and a biscuit.
24. Experience Bordeaux from above
The Tower of Pey-Berland was constructed next to Bordeaux Cathedral in 1440. This gothic bell tower was built to provide the Cathedral with magnificent bells which would not threaten its structure with their vibrations. However, the bells weren’t added until 1853.
Pey Berland was one of the great archbishops of Bordeaux and the founder of the University of Bordeaux.
Today visitors can climb the 200 rather steep stairs to reach the two terraces which sit at 40 and 50 metres high. The views over Bordeaux and the Cathedral, in particular, are spectacular and well worth the climb.
25. Enjoy street food style restaurant La Gigi
Like street art, a big trend in tourism these days is markets, street food, and restaurants that have a street food-influenced menu. La Gigi opened in 2021 and serves “bistronomic street food” using local products.
I asked to be brought the specialties of the house. My meal began with a tasty crab roll followed by cannelloni with ratatouille. The cannelloni was spiced up with cumin, coriander, pine nuts, and feta. The highlight of the meal was the much-neglected chicken oysters which were served with a satay sauce and peanuts.
26. Check out the specialty coffee scene
At the risk of becoming repetitive, many of the world’s major cities these days have a specialty coffee scene. I am a complete coffee snob having been born and raised in Melbourne, Australia and struggle to get through the day without a specialty style flat white.
I was relieved to find that Bordeaux has a range of choices when it comes to specialty coffee. Sip coffee is located just one street away from the Bordeaux Cathedral and very close to my hotel. I visited twice during my stay and was very pleased with their flat white.
L’Alchimiste sits at the end of Rue des Rampards and also served an excellent flat white. The Black List Cafe also seemed like a great option but I didn’t have time to get there. Email me and let me know if you visit.
27. Visit the Only Winery with a Postal Address in the city of Bordeaux
Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion is the only winery with a postal address in Bordeaux. In addition to its red wines, it is also known for its extraordinary cellar which was designed by Philippe Starck and is in the shape of an upturned ship. Plus it has a beautiful chateau.
Start your visit to the winery with a tour of its lovely grounds including the photogenic chateaux. Then head into the wine cellar. The cellar is located in a stream and it has an underground level that is cooled by the water. The ground floor is home to barrels and tanks. Upstairs is a dining room and a rooftop with a view.
Tastings are held in a contemporary tasting room. The winery produces two wines each year, both red. Do make sure you book your wine tasting at Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion ahead of time. Take the A Tram from the centre of town. The winery is a 10-minute walk from the Francois Mitterand stop.
28. Relax in the Jardin Public
All of Bordeaux heads to these beautiful central gardens to jog, stroll and play. At the centre of the gardens are the Guignol Guerin puppet theatre and a beautiful carousel. Take a walk through the gardens and enjoy the swans and ducks.
29. Have a meal at La Tupina
This traditional country inn is a must-visit in Bordeaux – and make sure you book ahead. La Tupina first opened in 1968 in what was then a less attractive area of Bordeaux (it is a very cool neighborhood these days) and the name means cauldron in Basque.
The first thing that a visitor to La Tupina sees is a classic open kitchen complete with a fireplace. The chef actually cooks at this open kitchen (there is also a more standard kitchen in the back of the restaurant). This is where the amazing french fries in duck fat are made using iron saucepans.
The menu is filled with traditional southwest France recipes all built from local produce. My dinner started with egg potato foam with local caviar served in an eggshell. Soles with ceps mushrooms and vegetables sounded simple but oh my. The sole was perfectly light and flaky and filled with glistening ceps.
The chef was also good enough to bring me some of the famous duck-fat french fries. I was already full but I had to eat every single one of those delectable chips. I was so full but I couldn’t say no to La Tupina’s version of the classic canele that was topped with caramel ice cream and caramel sauce. I happily rolled back to the hotel.
I must also add that there is a wonderfully convivial atmosphere at La Tupina. It was so buzzy and friendly – I ended up talking to the table next door and everyone just seemed like they were in a fabulous mood.
30. Cross Pont de Pierre
Built by the order of Napoleon, this stone bridge is over 200 years old, making it the oldest bridge in Bordeaux. It is 487 metres long, has 17 arches, and is built on 16 columns. There are some great views over the Garonne river and Bordeaux from the bridge and it is car-free these days.
31. Explore Les Chartrons
Located close to the Garonne river, this district evokes the period during which trade in Bordeaux flourished. It is home to the beautiful CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art, the Saint-Louis Church, and the Halle des Chartrons market hall.
The Village Notre Dame was created in 1982 and is the first regional gallery of antiques in Aquitaine. The area is known for its antique shops and boutiques and one of the best ways to explore it is to take your time walking along Rue Notre Dame.
32. Visit the largest independent bookshop in France
The book store Mollat opened in 1896. It stocks more than 300,000 titles over its 2,700 metres squared store.
33. Enjoy all things Caudalie
I am a big fan of the French beauty brand Caudalie – particularly its 30 SPF for the face which contains frangipani. I didn’t realise until I saw a Caudalie store in Bordeaux that the brand was based in this area. Caudalie started in the vines at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte.
In 1993 Mathilde Thomas, daughter of the estate owners, discovered that grape seeds contain the most powerful antioxidants in the world. In conjunction with a laboratory director at the Pharmacy University of Bordeaux, they developed a range of products containing grape seed polyphenols that they sold to the pharmacies of France.
Caudalie is a wine term that refers to the unit of measurement for the time the flavours of a wine linger on the palate after tasting it.
In addition to its lovely store on Cours de L’Intendance, there is a spa on the family estate. A hot spring was discovered on the grounds of the winery. This became the base for Les Sources de Caudalie, a beautiful getaway and spa.
34. Drink the local wine
You’re in Bordeaux – of course, you are going to drink wine. But which wines should you drink and where should you drink them in the city of Bordeaux. Here is my extremely basic understanding of the wines of Bordeaux. Please just use this to help you get a sense of what’s on offer and do check with the experts!
When it comes to white wine, Bordeaux is best known for its sauvignon blanc and Semillon. They also make sauternes if you like your whites sweet. For those of you who like oaky whites look to the Graves region where they even oak age the sauvignon blanc. For lighter whites head to Entredemers.
Cremant or sparkling wine in Bordeaux is made from sauvignon or rose. A Bordeaux rose is much darker than the classic French rose from Provence and it tends to pack more of a punch (which personally I prefer).
For red wines, cabernet sauvignon is the King on the left side of the Garonne River. The right side belongs to merlot. However, the red wines of Bordeaux are much more about the blend than any one grape.
Irrigation is prohibited in Bordeaux so the entire region is quite dry and very much dependent upon nature. Blending gives winemakers far more options. In Bordeaux, it is the blend that differentiates a vineyard rather than the soil or regional characteristics.
A great way to try the wines of the region is to head to the Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux. Located opposite the tourism office, the wine school also has a bar. They only serve wines by the glass and the most expensive is 8 euros. It is also possible to order half-glasses at half the price – a great way to do some tasting.
I learned about the wines of Bordeaux as well as where the locals shopped and much more on a fantastic walking tour with Experiences by Chloe. I highly recommend having Chloe show you around Bordeaux!
35. Try Bordeaux caviar
Yes Bordeaux has caviar farms. The Garonne is one of the cleanest rivers in Europe – it is possible to fish there. This is why they have sturgeon for caviar lamproie which is a variant unique to Bordeaux. Caviar de Neuvic in the Passage Sarget is the place to go for caviar tastings.
The Bordeaux Boutique Hotel Choice
The French really know how to do a boutique hotel. I had the most wonderful stay at Hotel Particulier. This renovated 19th-century townhouse is classically decorated with contemporary touches. It has an elegant cast iron lift or you can take the beautifully designed staircase up to your room.
I stayed in the magnificent St Emilion suite which was huge. It had an entrance area, dining area, large bedroom with a period marble fireplace, free-standing bath, and shower.
Whilst the design was beautiful, it was also an extremely comfortable room that I looked forward to returning to each night! The bed was large and oh so comfortable with silky soft sheets. I happily had a lovely dip in the clawfoot tub.
Breakfast is served on the first floor. Enjoy fresh pastries and waffles with yogurt and fruit and order some bacon and eggs if you need something more. Whatever you ask for is unlikely to be a problem as the staff is so friendly and helpful at Hotel Particulier.
⇒ Do you like to visit wineries during your travels? I do. Check out my posts on the Best Places for Livermore Wine Tasting, 9 Best Wolfville Wineries, 12 Wineries in Montepulciano Not to Miss, 15 Vineyards in Portugal you’ll love, 14 Sensational Wineries of McLaren Vale and 7 Wine Tours Stellenbosch South Africa.
As if all of that wasn’t enough to convince you to stay, I can’t imagine staying in a better location in Bordeaux. The hotel is literally a stone’s throw from the Bordeaux Cathedral and it sits right on a tram line. And Sip coffee is about 100 metres walk for your morning flat white!
How to Get to Bordeaux and How to Get around
Bordeaux has an international airport just 12 kilometres from the city. Both Ryan Air and Easy Jet fly to Bordeaux or fly with Air France via Paris.
⇒ If you like beautiful European towns check out my posts on Saint Antonin Noble Val and Tarn et Garonne in France, 30 Famous Landmarks in France, 25 Famous Paris Monuments, 37 Fascinating Facts About Paris, 32 Most Beautiful Cities in France, What is France Famous For? 33 French Icons, Best Hotels in Paris with a View, 10 Beautiful Bridges in France, 35 Things to do in Bordeaux, 15 Highlights of the South West of France, 10 Beautiful Lakes in France and the 6 Best Places to Watch the Sunrise in Paris
The easiest way to get to Bordeaux is on a train. The TGV from Paris to Bordeaux takes just 2 hours and 15 minutes and is an extremely easy option.
Do NOT rent a car in Bordeaux. This is not a city for driving. There are loads of pedestrianized streets and driving anywhere will most likely take you three times longer than it would walk. This is absolutely a city to be explored on foot. Then use the fantastic and frequent trams once your feet tire. Or hire a bike.
I would highly recommend adding in some time to explore more of the beautiful Nouvelle Aquitaine region in France when you visit Bordeaux. The region is very diverse with everything from 750 kilometres of sandy coastline to more vibrant cities to the great outdoors to unique locations like Cognac.
Nouvelle Aquitaine contains the Dordogne VAlley, Biarritz, the Pyrenees, Pau, Ile de Re and La Rochelle and many more fantastic locations. I plan on returning and exploring more of this beautiful and delicious region!
I covered the cost of my flights to Bordeaux and Bordeaux Tourism covered all of my costs on the ground – thanks guys! As always my opinions are all my own. However, this things to do in Bordeaux post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.