Bordeaux is well-known for its exquisite wines, stunning architecture, and incredible food. This city in the south of France offers visitors an immense amount of things to do, from boutique shopping to incredible museums and top-notch cuisine. Whether you are visiting for a few days or a few weeks, you want to make sure you know the best things to do in Bordeaux. That’s where we here at Road Affair come in! We have done all the heavy lifting for you by carefully curating a list of the top things to see and do in the area. This way, you can spend more time packing and less time planning.
Visit La Cité du Vin
Since Bordeaux is a wine region, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first thing to do on our list is wine related.
La Cité du Vin is a wine-themed museum, offering tourists a unique way to learn about its production and history and much more through interactive exhibits that use all of your senses. Visitors receive an interactive audio guide where they can wander through multiple exhibit spaces and scan the buttons with their audio guide to learn more about what they are seeing. Learn about the six wine families, how soil and climate affect grapes and wine production, and embark on a journey to see how wine has held a special part in society for thousands of years. This is an absolute must-see in Bordeaux for anyone interested even slightly in wine.
Visitors are encouraged to book their tickets in advance to visit the museum. After strolling through the exhibits, head to the wine sample room to receive your free glass of wine and take in 360° panoramic views of the city, or head to the Brasserie Wine and Snack Bar to grab a bite to eat. Visitors can also book a reservation at the fine-dining restaurant and indulge in a delicious meal paired perfectly with a glass of wine.
Lounge in the Sun at Jardin Public
Are you wondering what to do in Bordeaux on a nice sunny day? Well, why not head to one of the most beautiful parks in the city, Jardin Public?
This stunning vibrant green space is the perfect spot to park with a picnic or a good book for a few hours. Tall trees and short palms offering ample shade dot the park, and there are lots of open grassy areas for little ones to run around. Visitors can take a romantic stroll around the lake or head over to the Le Jardin Botanical Gardens to wander through the vegetation. Afterward, head over to the on-site bar for a bite to eat or head next door to the Muséum de Bordeaux Sciences et Nature. The park is a great spot for families to visit as well, as there is a puppet theater, a carousel, and a kids’ playground where the little ones can get their energy out.
Do a Wine Tasting or Tour
Again, is it really a surprise that in a wine region one of the top tourist attractions in Bordeaux has to do with wine? Of course, many people come to Bordeaux specifically to taste and tour the famous wineries.
There are many wine tours out of the city you can take but also several places in the city center where you can enjoy a wine tasting. Wine tastings in the city tend to be cheaper than a full-day wine tour, so keep that in mind when you’re planning your budget.
One of the top places to enjoy sampling regional wines is Tchin Tchin Wine Bar, located centrally in Saint-Pierre. This unique wine bar offers a relaxed setting for visitors to enjoy tastings, tasty bites, and pairings. The service staff is extremely knowledgeable about all wines and will present each one to you with some facts about the winery it comes from and what you will taste. Other great places to check out are the Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery and Cellars and Consonance. If you’re a beginner to wine tasting, we recommend checking out this five-star rated tour from GetYourGuide, during which you will learn how to sample wines from the region and create the perfect food pairings.
There are many, many wineries outside the city that tourists can venture to on their own, and let’s be honest, listing the best ones is a whole other list for another day. What we can recommend is that you book a full-day or half-day tour through a tour company. This way, you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving or navigating the roads with signs in French. There are several fantastic tours from GetYourGuide, like this half-day tour of Médoc or this full-day tour of both Médoc and Saint-Emilion.
Take a Picture at Place de la Bourse
One of the most recognizable Bordeaux attractions is the Place de la Bourse, located along the riverfront in the Saint-Pierre district.
The iconic building that features stunning 18th-century architecture took 20 years to create. Bordeaux enlisted King Louis XV’s first architect, Jacques Gabriel, to create a royal square that opened up the fortress town. Today, tourists can snap a picture in front of this famous building. In the middle of the square, there is a large fountain called the Fountain of the Three Graces, which represents the Greek god Zeus’s three daughters Aglaé, Euphrosyne, and Thalia. On the other side of the road, across from the Place de la Bourse, there is a large shallow reflection pool that many tourists like to stand in to get an iconic photo in the city.
Stroll Along the River
Running through the middle of Bordeaux is the murky Garonne River. While the river runs mostly brown, it is actually very clean. The brownness of the water comes from the mixture of saltwater coming from the Bay of Biscay and fresh water flowing in from Spain.
All along the river, there is a lovely riverwalk lined with park benches, cafés, and parks. Visitors can enjoy a lovely stroll along the riverfront or opt to rent an electric scooter or a bike. As you make your way along the water, you might spot river cruise boats or old sailboats parked along the side. This is a great free thing to do in Bordeaux to start or end your day.
Try Classic French Foods
Of course, when visiting France, you should try some of the cuisine! The French are known around the world for many dishes and treats, like croissants, macaroons, and escargot (snails), but there are certain foods specific to the Bordeaux region that you should not miss out on.
The first Bordeaux treat to try are canelés. These delicious sweet baked goods have a caramelized crust and are infused with rum and vanilla with a soft custard center. They were originally made by the nuns of Bordeaux, and you can find them in many of the bakeries and shops around town. The second must-try treat is Puits d’amour. This sweet pastry originates from the Seguin family in Bordeaux and has a caramelized outside with a tasty chiboust cream filling. You can find them in one of the Maison Seguin bakeries in the city.
Now, if you’re wondering which dishes to try when out for dinner, you can’t go wrong with a Bordeaux-style steak (l’entrecôte bordelaise). This is a cut of boneless steak meat from the rib area, and it’s served with a rich and flavorful sauce made of Bordeaux wine, shallots, butter, bone marrow, and herbs. It is the perfect dish to enjoy with a glass of Bordeaux red wine. If you find yourself out in the afternoon and feeling peckish, then try a glass of white wine paired with gratton de Lormont. This is a mixture of ham, shoulder, and spices served as charcuterie and is perfect for patio drinking in the sun or as a starter before your meal.
These are just a few of the delicious dishes and treats found in the city. If you are feeling like eating an afternoon snack, though, be aware that kitchens close in the afternoon for about an hour, normally from around 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. You can still find some tapas around the city at some bars or grab a sandwich on the go.
Become Mesmerized at Les Bassins des Lumières
One of the city’s recent additions to the museum scene has become one of the most popular Les Bassins des Lumières.
This incredible museum is the world’s largest digital arts center and features an incredible interactive experience for visitors. Les Bassins des Lumières is located in an old submarine basin, meaning there are reflective water pools everywhere. As visitors enter the dark building, they will see massive projections of famous paintings moving and transforming with music. The changing pictures reflect off of the water, creating a dazzling and beautiful effect. The rotating pictures and music last 45 minutes before starting over again, so it’s easy to spend an hour here. Since the building was a submarine basin during World War II, visitors will also learn about the history of the building as well as enjoy a special experience.
There are two other areas of interest in the museum. Visitors can enter the Cube, which is a room with reflective flooring and four walls with synchronized projected images, creating a truly immersive space. The Cube is a dedicated space to highlight artists who specialize in immersive art. Also located in the museum is a Cistern area, which is a semi-open round room that will make you feel as if you are inside the paintings themselves.
This is a must-see attraction in Bordeaux whether you are an art lover or not!
Go Shopping on Rue Sainte-Catherine
France is known for its fashion, and Bordeaux is no exception. If you’re looking to browse through some shops and find a new jacket or statement piece, then you should head to Rue Sainte-Catherine.
Rue Sainte-Catherine in French is Bordeaux’s largest shopping street and the longest shopping street in Europe, stretching about 1,200 meters long. The street is completely pedestrianized and has been that way since 1984. Classic French chains and boutiques can be found on the north end of the street, while the south end has more restaurants and shops popular with students. This is a great street to grab a coffee and window shop. However, if you’re looking for high-end luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, you’ll have to make your way to Cr de l’Intendance.
Discover Roman Ruins at Palais Gallien
Did you know you don’t have to visit Italy to see Roman ruins? In Bordeaux, you can explore the ruins of a third-century Roman amphitheater!
This Bordeaux attraction will take you back in time to when the city had the Roman name Burdigala. Burdigala was the capital of the Roman province of Aquitaine. At Palais Gallien, thousands of spectators would have gathered on wooden benches to watch events like gladiator fights. It is said that in the third century, nearly 20,000 people would gather here for these events; that’s twice the population of the town at that time! In the 17th century, it was transformed into a seedier area, where prostitutes, pickpockets, and other criminals would gather. It is even rumored that witches used to gather on this site as well.
Today, visitors won’t find any witches or gladiators, but they will find stunning Roman architecture, archways, and a museum. Upon entering, visitors can see a 3D reconstruction of the site and get a better idea of what it looked like back in the day.
Visit the Bordeaux Cathedral
The Bordeaux Cathedral, also known as the Cathédrale Saint-André, is a 12th-century cathedral that features stunning Romanesque architecture and an iconic freestanding bell tower. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is by far the best religious structure in the city, and it has a lot of interesting history.
Significant weddings took place here, like that of the future king of France, Louis VII, and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, in 1187. Louis XIII and Anne of Austria were also wed in the cathedral. During the French revolutionary war, the cathedral housed animal fodder. Unfortunately, the building suffered a fire in the 19th century, but much of the cathedral was rebuilt in other styles, such as the royal entrance on the north side, which was redone in French Gothic style.
Another reason to visit this incredible cathedral is for its religious-based art collection. As the cathedral served many purposes over the years, it lost many of its relics and artworks. That was until a young Bordeaux priest who studied in Paris came home during his final days and donated his entire collection of 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th statues, paintings, and other artworks to the church. The Bordeaux Cathedral is open every day to visitors, although times vary. Keep an eye on their official website for opening times.
Enjoy a Cocktail on a Rooftop Bar
Bordeaux has a suboceanic climate with a hint of Mediterranean influences, meaning that the weather is, for the most part, sunny and warm. Visitors should definitely take advantage of this by enjoying a rooftop cocktail!
While enjoying a glass of wine in one of the squares is a must, so is visiting a rooftop bar. Enjoy a light lunch and a cocktail at Night Beach, located in the InterContinental Bordeaux Le Grand Hotel, or visit at night when there is often a DJ. Either way, the panoramic views from this patio are fantastic, and visitors can see almost all of the city and the Garonne River. If you are looking to enjoy a meal with a view, then check out Siman Bordeaux. This beautiful restaurant offers a great menu for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, all the while offering great views of the Garonne River. For a meal or drink in a different setting, head to the converted ferry IBOAT. Here, visitors can enjoy lunch or dinner while looking out over the water from the terrace rooftop area. IBOAT also has a club and regularly holds concerts, so if you’re looking for a bumping place to go out at night, this is it.
Go on a River Boat Cruise
With the Garonne River right there, there are many cruises available to show visitors both the city and all the beautiful sights that come with it.
River cruises are a great way to relax and enjoy a fun thing to do in Bordeaux. There is a lot of history to the city, and the river has played a main part in a lot of it, from trading to invasions. Visitors looking to spend some time on the water with a short tour should check out this 1.5-hour tour from GetYourGuide, during which they can enjoy a glass of wine and a traditional canelé cake while hearing guided commentary on the attractions along the water. If you’re looking for something a little more romantic, consider booking a tour with Bordeaux River Cruises. The company offers a fantastic array of tours, including a wine-tasting tour during which visitors will get to pair wines with a light lunch and a dinner cruise with classic French cuisine. Private tours are also available.
Take a Day Trip
There are many day trip attractions for visitors looking to go sightseeing in Bordeaux and the surrounding region.
One of the most popular day trip areas is to the seaside resort town of Arcachon. This town is known for its delectable oysters, sandy beaches, and boutique shops. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even learn to surf at one of the surf schools or rent a Jet Ski for the day! For those looking to get into nature, Causses du Quercy Natural Regional Park is a stunning area located three hours from Bordeaux. The park offers plenty of hiking trails and caving through the hilly countryside with rivers, limestone plateaus, and little towns to explore.
If you would like to get out of the city to do some wine tasting, some of the most popular villages and areas include Saint Émilion and Médoc. There are many wine tours to these areas as well if you don’t feel like driving yourself. Saint Macaire, located on the Garonne River, is a quaint little town perfect for anyone looking to get a feel for the heritage of the region. It has charming houses and narrow streets that are less crowded than Bordeaux, offering a great day’s escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Saint Macaire is also known for its white wine, so make sure to sample some while visiting or make your way to one of the wineries.
Wander Through the Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts
There are many fabulous museums in Bordeaux, but one of the best to see classic European artworks is the Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts.
This elegant museum has a permanent collection that ranges from the 15th century to the 20th century, encompassing the Renaissance period to Romanticism and into the contemporary period. There are about 8,300 artworks to discover, from sculptures to paintings and graphic art. Visitors can also sign up for a guided tour of the museum and, if you’re fluent enough in French, you can take a drawing or sculpture course. The Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts is open every day except for Tuesday.
Take a Tour of the City
Bordeaux is a beautiful city filled with many architectural attractions, beautiful streets, and lovely parks. To get a true feel for Bordeaux and its neighborhoods, visitors should take a tour of the city.
There are many ways to wander about the city on a tour, the first being a self-guided walking tour. Self-guided walks are perfect for those who want to take breaks or pop into shops, museums, or restaurants.
Some of the top monuments and attractions to check out on your walking tour include the Porte Cailhau, which was the main gate into the city, the Porte de Bourgogne, another city gate, the Bordeaux Cathedral, the Place du Parlement, the Place Camille Jullian, and the Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez.
Another great way to see the city is on a bike with this guided bike tour of Bordeaux from GetYourGuide. This tour lasts 2.5 hours and takes you on both the north bank and south bank. You will hear stories and history from a local guide, as well as receive recommendations on where to eat and what foods to try while visiting Bordeaux. If you don’t fancy biking, you can opt for this private city walking tour or a two-hour public group walking tour of the city.
There you have them, the best places to visit in Bordeaux! A trip to the wine capital of the world is sure to be a memorable vacation. So bon voyage.