Bordeaux isn’t just a wine region but is a city as well. Of course, there are many vineyards to visit in Bordeaux area but there is so much more than that. Bordeaux is a beautiful city which is easy to visit because the Mayor of Bordeaux invested a lot of money on transport. As a French native, I know Bordeaux well and I think the city is worth a visit. Below you will find out why.
Where is Bordeaux
Bordeaux is situated in the Aquitaine area of France. The Aquitaine is in the southwest of France above the Pays Basque. Bordeaux is close to the Atlantic Ocean and is divided in two by the Garonne river. The left bank to the west and right bank to the east.
What to Do in Bordeaux?
1 – La Cité du Vin
For most people Bordeaux means wine, so why not start by visiting the Cité du Vin museum and exhibition. La Cité du Vin is new in Bordeaux and is very impressive. The building has an original shape and inside you will learn about wine from plenty of interactive activities. You will exercise your sense of smell by trying to recognise different flavours. There is a massive cave with all kinds of wine and a big library about wine. Included in the price of the ticket, you also have access to the Belvedere where you will get a free tasting session. From the Belvedere, you will can enjoy beautiful views of Bordeaux. Relaxing here with a glass of wine is very pleasant.
2 – Take the BatCub Ferry
Why pay for a boat cruise on the Garonne when you can use public transport? The BatCub is a public transport system on the Garonne and is a very good opportunity for tourists to enjoy a cruise and discover the city from the river.
3 – Walk Along the Riverbank
It’s very nice to walk along the river Garonne and enjoy watching the activities on the water, but the discount shops are also a good reason to walk along the riverbank. These shops are outlets from big brands, and you can visit them and grab a bargain.
4 – Place des Quinconces
This square is one of the largest in Europe. A castle called Château Trompette used to be located on the site of this square.
5 – Shopping
La Rue Sainte-Catherine is the main place in Bordeaux to shop and is the largest pedestrianised street in Europe. The area hasn’t stop expanding! In 2015, the Promenade Sainte-Catherine (a new shopping mall) opened and added plenty of new shops and restaurants to the existing retail experience.
6 – La Tour Pey-Berland
If you need some exercise after a good meal, you could climb the 230 steps of the Tour Pey-Berland. This is the bell tower of the Saint-André Cathedral. If you want one of the best views of Bordeaux, this is just the place. At the bottom of the tower, you will find the Hôtel de Ville and La Cathédrale Saint-André. If you are thirsty after the climb, why not find a bar with a lovely terrace, sit back and relax?
7 – La Rue Saint-Rémi
This street is the best street in Bordeaux if you want to taste local specialities. The street is full of restaurants and you will find the perfect restaurant for you. There are many types of restaurants at different prices.
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8 – Relax on a Bar Terrace
Whilst you are exploring Bordeaux, don’t be afraid to stop and have a rest. The best way to do this is to sit outside on a bar terrace. Enjoy the sun on your face and watch people go by. There are plenty of places to sit and relax in Bordeaux, but Place Camille Jullian is very good. Check out the cinema in front of the bar – it’s inside an old church. Alternatively, you could head to the Place du Parlement where you can enjoy typical Bordeaux architecture with windows divided into small squares and iron balconies.
9 – Place de La Bourse
10 – Quartier Saint-Pierre
If you want to find a quieter area in Bordeaux, you could visit the Quartier Saint-Pierre where cars aren’t allowed. In this area, there are still lovely independent small shops and you will also find some restaurants if you get hungry. The Quartier Saint-Pierre is a good place to wander and discover.
11 – Quartier Saint-Michel
This area is less known by tourists and here you will find antique shops and hidden passages. This area is situated around the gothic Saint-Michel Basilica and the free-standing bell tower (La Flèche Saint-Michel). The buildings in this area are medieval in style. Don’t forget to go inside the Marché des Capucins where you will discover plenty of lovely food. Why not try oysters from nearby Arcachon?
12 – La Base Sous-Marine
This submarine base has now been converted into an underground modern contemporary art exhibition. Originally, the submarine base was built by the Germans during World War II for the U-Boats. Today, the venue offers different activities like exhibitions, concerts, opera, jazz and theatre … If you are interested in war buildings, make sure you add the submarine base to your list. It’s a mixture of concrete, steel and water. There is also an interesting story about this submarine base. During the war, the French workforce tried to revolt against the Germans, but they failed. To punish them, the Germans put 20 bodies inside the concrete wall of the base. I’m not sure whether this story is true, but it was told to me by people living in Bordeaux.
13 – Darwin Ecosystem
This is an alternative place where you will find a farm next to skate park, alongside a free expression area for Street Art, organic shops, restaurants and bike-polo field … This place is all about being responsible and green. The organic restaurant is the largest in France with delicious vegetarian burgers. If you want to have a drink and put your feet on the sand, it is possible at the Chantiers de la Garonne which you will find in front of the Darwin Ecosystem.
14 – The Grosse Cloche
In the heart of Bordeaux, you will find charming paved streets and the Grosse Cloche (a bell tower). Walking around the area around the Grosse Cloche is very peaceful. It’s a charming area with chic boutiques and bars. The masterpiece is the gate with the big bell in the middle. The Grosse Cloche gate was used as a gateway to the city and, for a short time, as a prison. Now the Grosse Cloche gate is one of the most famous symbols of Bordeaux. This area is one of the most popular for the locals who like to come here to enjoy a café or to do some shopping.
15 – Porte Cailhau
The Porte Cailhau was built in the Middle Ages. Despite its age, this beautiful piece of architecture never ages or changes. You can climb it and, from the top, you will see a panoramic view of the dock of the Garonne, the stone bridge and the roofs of the city. Port Cailhau is very old (1494) but is still beautiful, tall and stylish like a young lady. At 35-metres tall, the Porte Cailhau was part of the city’s defence. Inside, there is an exhibition about how the city was built.
16 – Grand Théatre de Bordeaux
If you like buildings, you should visit the Grand Théatre which is located on the Place de la Comédie. The theatre was built in 1780 and was the masterpiece of the architect Victor Louis. Inside, the theatre is decorated in gold and blue (the colours of the French Monarchy). The façade of the theatre is revealed in all its splendour at night with ingenious lighting. The best way to visit the theatre is to buy ticket for a performance. Believe me, you wouldn’t be disappointed by the quality and the beauty.
17 – Food Specialities
Of course, you will find great wine in Bordeaux, but the city has its own food specialities like many other French towns. Bordeaux is known for the Canelé.
The famous Canelé: The Canelé is linked to wine production. The wine makers used egg white in the process to make wine and they gave the yolks to the wives, who invented the Canelé. These are small cakes which are crispy on the outside and soft inside with a touch of vanilla and sometimes Rum.
The Oyster: The oysters don’t come direct from Bordeaux but from Arcachon which is located a few miles away. In Bordeaux, you will find the finest oysters in France. Of course, if you are travelling in the South of France and visit Meze, they will say the same thing! In any case, Bordeaux is one of the best places to try oysters cold or oven cooked.
Caviar: Yes, I mean Caviar. In Bordeaux we have excellent Caviar. The Perlita Caviar comes from a Siberian Sturgeon which now lives in French territory. I’m not a specialist in Caviar but, according to others, the Caviar from Bordeaux is very good, so why not try for yourself?
18 – Jardin Public
If you want to reconnect with old trees and spend time in green areas, the Jardin Public is perfect for you. The locals like to visit these gardens because they are next to the city centre and provide green places where they can walk, jog or get out with the kids. There is plenty of space with 11 hectares of grass, trees, flowers, fountains and a kids’ play area. It is a special place where you are in the middle of green but with a view of nearby buildings.
19 – Bordeaux Nearby Places
There are plenty of interesting places to visit near Bordeaux. Bordeaux isn’t far from the Atlantic Ocean where you can enjoy all kind of water sports. Le Bassin d’Arcachon is a great place if you want to learn more about oysters and, of course, taste them. The Dune du Pilat is the tallest sand dune in Europe and it’s also worth a visit. It is challenging to climb to the top of the dune, but you will benefit from a very nice panoramic view. If your taste is for wine, I would recommend you go to Saint-Émilion for two reasons. First, the village of Saint-Émilion is beautiful and worth the visit alone. Secondly, Saint-Émilion is my preferred wine. You can visit the château where they produce the best wine and you will easily find plenty of wine tours.
20 – Free Things to Do in Bordeaux
- Museums and Exhibitions:
If you visit Bordeaux on the first Sunday of the month, you can enjoy free entrance to museums and exhibitions. There are plenty of museums to visit like Le Musée d’Aquitaine, Le Musée des Beaux Arts or La Base Sous-Marine and many others are also free.
- Art Galleries:
Many local galleries are free to go in, so visit and enjoy the art on display.
- City Bikes:
Use the city bike because this is the best way to navigate Bordeaux. Although you need to pay for the bikes, the prices are very low, and the bikes will gave you the freedom to go where you want.
- Historic Monuments:
There are plenty of old buildings to visit in Bordeaux, but did you know that outside the city there are also very well-preserved monuments. For instance, the Palais Gallien (Gallo-Roman ruins) is just a few minutes’ walk from the Jardin public and it is free.
Don’t forget that you can also visit all the churches in Bordeaux for free.
Cool Things to Do with Kids in Bordeaux
If you travel with kids, you know that it’s sometime hard to keep them interested. Here are my ideas for family-friendly activities.
- If the weather is hot, you could take your children to the Miroir d’Eau. Here they can play with the water and you will have time to enjoy the nice surroundings.
- If you want to introduce some learning activities, I advise you to go to the Science Museum. Here there are plenty of interactive exhibitions where your kids will learn and have fun at the same time.
- Depending on the age of your kids, you could also take a scooter or bike and travel along the Quai of the Garonne.
- To entertain smaller children, you could go and see a puppet show inside the Jardin Public (only open during the summer months in July and August).
- Why not organise a picnic inside the park? All kids like to eat outside instead of sitting at a table and waiting in a restaurant!
- Take the little train tour. Kids love train and it is fun. You can board the train in front of the Tourist Office. The tour lasts 45 minutes and you will pass the major Bordeaux tourist attractions.
Is Bordeaux worth visiting?
From my point of view, yes because this city is beautiful with plenty of history. The food is great, and the wine is famous. So why not to plan a visit to Bordeaux as part of your next trip to France?