Bordeaux rhymes with wine in France, but this wine capital has more to offer visitors than a few delicious sips. There are plenty of things to do in Bordeaux that will transport you through history up to the present. You will experience vibrant and buzzing streets full of unmissable restaurants, bars, and bakeries to explore.
It is a compact city where history can be found at every corner. With monuments and distinctive architecture, the city has earned its place as a designated Unesco world heritage site. If you want to discover the city’s unmissable places and activities, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of the best things to do in Bordeaux – some of which are local secrets!
Bordeaux Card – City Pass
There are many things to do in Bordeaux, and one of the most cost-efficient ways to maximize the number of experiences is via its city pass.
The Bordeaux Metropole City Pass offers free access to a large variety of famous monuments and cultural attractions in Bordeaux. It also includes discounts for specific experiences and unlimited free public transportation within the city. So if you’re planning on visiting many Bordeaux must-see sights, this is an excellent option to consider.
Most Popular Thing To Do In Bordeaux
Explore the World’s Biggest Wine Museum at La Cité Du Vin
La Cité du Vin tops the list of the best places to visit in Bordeaux. It is ranked among the world’s best museums for valid reasons: it is the only facility to offer an all-encompassing approach to the world of wine.
Here, you’ll learn of the cultural heritage and the civilization impacts of the wine industry throughout history, as well as discover a variety of wine types and vineyards. Get your ticket in advance as it can get crowded during tourist seasons.
Check out The Spaceship sculpture in the Bassin à Flot facing this Bordeaux must-see. This public artwork is a site to behold as it comically seems to emerge from the depths of the surrounding waters.
And before you leave, try to stick around near the Jacques Chaban-Delmas lifting bridge until a boat passes. It is the tallest lifting bridge in Europe and is a notable modern architectural feat.
Most Obvious Thing To Do In Bordeaux
Take Part in a Bordeaux Wine Tour
When people ask themselves, ‘What to do in Bordeaux?’ the obvious answer is wine tasting. While the city is home to various establishments offering different tastes and variety, nothing will come close to an actual wine tour.
Whether you’re a beginner or a connoisseur, there are diverse possibilities for wine tastings and tours in Bordeaux. They cater to various price point, wine type, or chateaux size. Most of these tours will take you to the St Emilion vineyard region on a half or full-day tour.
If you are of legal age to drink, this should be one of the top things to do in Bordeaux.
Local Things To Do In Bordeaux
Plan a Picnic at the Jardin Public
The city is home to many public parks, the most famous of which is the Jardin Public. This area is often designated as the city’s green lung, constituting 11 hectares of 18th-century buildings, grass, flowers, and trees.
If you’re wondering what to do in Bordeaux on a relaxing day, consider joining locals on this park’s soft grass and bring a picnic basket. You will also find many of Bordeaux’s must-see attractions onsite: a library, a museum of natural history, a botanical garden, a bar-restaurant (L’Orangerie), and many attractions and playgrounds for children.
Eat Your Way Through Marché Des Capucins, Marché Des Quais and Les Halles De Bacalan
If you want to eat your way through Bordeaux the way the locals do, we recommend checking out one of the city’s many markets, where you’ll find a sea of caterers, bakers, oyster growers, wine merchants, and fishmongers.
The largest and most famous market in Bordeaux is Marché des Capucins. But, if you’re looking for an open-air market with a festive atmosphere, head over to Marché des Quais. Alternatively, we recommend checking out Les Halles de Bacalan, famous for its fresh oysters and wine specialists.
These markets are the best places to visit in Bordeaux for those with a penchant for good food. You can sink your teeth into plenty of local produces and traditional French food.
Taste Bordeaux’s Canelés and Dunes Blanches
Canelés are said to have originated in Bordeaux between the 15th and 18th centuries. Today, the pastry is one of the city’s emblems. These caramelized confections come in various flavors, but the most popular ones are vanilla and rum with a soft custard center.
There are several bakeries offering them near many places to visit in Bordeaux. However, check out those from Canelés Baillardran or La Toque Cuivrée if you get the chance.
While Canelés are famous, another delicious concoction that shouldn’t be missed in Bordeaux is the Dunes Blanches. This is a choux pastry typically filled with a mixture of regular and whipped cream dusted with powdered and crystal sugar.
These pastries were created by pastry chef Pascal Luca in 2007 and have taken the city by storm ever since. We recommend eating them from the source at the ‘Chez Pascal Dunes Blanches’ bakery, a Bordeaux must-see (and taste!) establishment.
These pastries are great options for breakfast in France as well.
Best Indoor Things To Do In Bordeaux
Take a History Tour at the Musée d’Aquitaine
Lovers of history looking for what to do in Bordeaux should not miss the chance to visit the Aquitaine museum, which traces the history of Bordeaux and its surrounding Aquitaine region from prehistoric to contemporary times. Its collection includes more than 70,000 objects, from sculptures and paintings to artifacts and models of all kinds.
Stare in Awe at the Digital Artworks of the Bassins De Lumières
The Bassins de Lumières is one of the largest digital art centers in the world. It is located on a former Nazi submarine base in a space that could fill nearly 240 Olympic swimming pools.
This art center is one of the best places to visit in Bordeaux and presents immersive digital exhibitions from various artists. Its french name translates to ‘pond of light,’ and the experience is as mesmerizing as its sounds.
Get your Adrenaline Pumping at the Ice Karting Rink
If you find yourself in Bordeaux during the months of September to May, we recommend heading over to the Patinoire Mérideck.
The ice skating rink turns into an ice-karting race track every Wednesday, on which real-life Mario karts are added with studded tires, and people of all ages enjoy a 7-minute thrilling race around the course. This is one of the best things to do in Bordeaux with teenagers.
Forget About Wine at the Moon Harbour Distillery
What to do in Bordeaux if wine isn’t your thing or you end up yearning for a different taste? Check out the Moon Harbour Distillery: the first to produce 100% Bordeaux whiskey.
This distillery produces whiskies and gin in a German-built bunker that dates back to World War II and sits on the banks of the Garonne. Since this is still Bordeaux, and the art of winemaking is never far, there is one particularity that you’ll find here: the whiskeys are aged in barrels of great wines.
Outdoor Things To Do In Bordeaux
Stroll Through Rue Sainte-Catherine
Sainte-Catherine is Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street and is referred to as the spine of the city, connecting many of the best places to visit in Bordeaux.
The northern end of this street is home to major French brands and chains like Galeries Lafayette, while the southern end houses restaurants, cafes, and other shops. Here, shopping truly is a sport as the street stretches over more than a kilometer.
Splash Around the World’s Largest Reflecting Pool at Place De La Bourse
Place de La Bourse was built in 1720 by Jacques Gabriel, Louis XV’s favorite architect. Today this three-centuries-old city symbol beautifully contrasts with one of Bordeaux’s most popular attractions, which is less than 20 years old: The Water Mirroir.
This contemporary UNESCO World Heritage Site has become one of the best places to visit in Bordeaux and is the largest reflecting pool in the world.
Children like to splash around it since it’s only 2cm deep. And teenagers and adults alike appreciate the mesmerizing effects of mirror and fog: it alternates between ‘filling’ (3mins), ‘mirror effect’ (15min), ‘emptying’ (5mins), and ‘fog’(3min) from 10 am to 10 pm every day. The water play is stopped in winter to avoid frost problems.
Inspect La Grosse Cloche
The Grosse Cloche is one of the rare 15th-century buildings of the city, reminiscent of Bordeaux’s medieval period. Back then, the bell would signal harvest time or alert residents of danger from fire or attacks.
Today, the bell is only rung six times a year (New Year’s Day, January 1, Labor day, May 1; Victory in Europe, May 8, Bastille Day, July 14, Liberation of Bordeaux, August 28 and on the Armistice of November 11) and the first Sunday of each month at noon.
This iconic Bordeaux must see landmark is featured on the city’s coat of arms, and its roof is topped by a golden lion: a reminder of Bordeaux’s occupation by Britain.
If you climb the tower and observe its 8.6-ton bell, you’ll come close to the following Latin inscription engraved in its interior face: ‘My blows mark time, I sing for happy events, and weep for the dead”. Strangely enough, the gate of this monument also served as a prison for young offenders.
Enter Medieval Bordeaux Through Porte Cailhau
Porte Cailhau serves as the main entrance into the medieval city and is one of the best places to visit in Bordeaux. This monument was built in 1494 to commemorate the victory of King Charles VIII of France during the Battle of Fornovo (Italy). It is said that this military campaign in Italy gave the French a taste for Renaissance Architecture and that Porte Cailhau resembles a miniature renaissance chateau.
Combining defensive and decorated elements of the period, this elegant structure with gothic archways offers a high panoramic view of the river and is one of Bordeaux’s most popular attractions.
Cheap and Free Things To Do In Bordeaux
Take a Stroll Through Roman Ruins at Palais Gallien
The remains of Palais Gallien’s amphitheater are the oldest Gallo-Roman ruins in Bordeaux. While you won’t hear the cheers of an energetic crowd and the shouts of gladiators fighting lions, the relics of this impressive structure evoke a fascinating history.
It was built during the 3rd century AD when Bordeaux was known as Burdigala and served as the capital of Roman Aquitaine. The ruins are surrounded by 18th-century houses, creating a charming contrasting effect that makes them popular with visitors looking for unique things to do in Bordeaux.
Explore the Various Facades of the Bordeaux Cathedral (Cathedrale Saint-Andre)
The Cathedral of Saint-André, or ‘Bordeaux Cathedral,’ was erected in 1096 and consecrated by Pope Urban II. But not much has survived of its original edifice due to a tumultuous history of fires and partial destruction.
Louis VII and Louis XIII both got married in it, and the cathedral also served as fodder storage during the French revolution. Although the building consists of walls and structures that belong to various different eras, it has managed to preserve a splendid interior and design and is one of the top places to visit in Bordeaux.
Make sure to climb the bell tower if you get the chance: the views from the top are worth it!
People Watch at Esplanade Des Quinconces and Place De La Victoire
Esplanade des Quinconces is one of Europe’s largest squares and a bustling spot in Bordeaux. It covers an area of 12-hectare which used to house a now destroyed medieval castle. The site serves as a venue for diverse events such as fairs, sporting competitions, art exhibitions, and circuses.
There, you’ll find large statues of Montaigne and Montesquieu that commemorate the famous philosophers whose lives are intricately linked to the city.
Place de la Victoire is another famous city square in Bordeaux. This one provides a more intimate atmosphere as it is frequented by students from the nearby University of Bordeaux, who spend their afternoons at its many cafe terraces. You’ll find a large red marble column in its middle, which is another Bordeaux must see designed to honor winemaking.
Cycle Along the Quays of Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a flat city, and this, combined with its many cycling paths, has made it one of the best cities in the world for bike riding. In particular, cycling tours are a great way to discover many of the architectural and historical items on this list.
But if you’re looking for what to do in Bordeaux that could be more casual, we recommend renting a bike to ride along the Quays. The waterfront contains all of Bordeaux’s postcard views, from the 18th-century facades to Pont de Pierre and Place de La Bourse.
Best Things To Do In Bordeaux At Night
Take a Boat Ride on the Garonne
The large Garonne River crosses Bordeaux and separates the city into two opposite stretches of riverside streets full of historical buildings and modern installations. Taking a boat ride is a fun way to discover it, especially at night when the town twinkles its thousand lights.
Tour companies offer different experiences, most of which involve treating yourself to a glass of wine as your eyes take in the sights of the best places to visit in Bordeaux.
Watch a Film in a Church at Cinéma Utopia
Architecture meets Film at the Utopia movie theatre. This independent cinema has a particularity: it is housed inside a 15th-century church. If this wasn’t enough to pique your curiosity, the church was bought by Charles Teyssonneau in 1863, who turned it into a vegetable and sardines canning plant.
Today, the establishment is no longer a place of religious devotion or sardine consumption, but watching a movie in such a place of history possesses a particularity of its own – making it one of the most unique things to do in Bordeaux.
Delight Your Senses at the Grand Théâtre De Bordeaux
Inaugurated in 1780, the Grand-Théâtre de Bordeaux is an 18th-century architectural masterpiece and is regarded as one of the most beautiful theatres in the world. Its grand staircase even inspired the design of one of the Paris Opera.
Today, the Bordeaux National Opera still puts in lyrical and choreographic performances from many famous and talented artists. The best way to fully take in the grandeur of this Bordeaux must see establishment is to enjoy a performance within its walls.
Where To Stay In Bordeaux
Bordeaux is the capital of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, the largest administrative region in France. Consequently, you’ll find various accommodations there, each within the range of different budget options.
Whether you’re a backpacker or a luxury traveler, the city offers a wide range of fantastic hotels and hostels. Many of them are centrally located next to the main places to visit in Bordeaux.
Budget Accommodation In Bordeaux
Central Hostel: This hostel is located in the center of Bordeaux, giving travelers the perfect starting point to begin their journey. Its modern and clean interior contrasts with the historic buildings surrounding it.
On-site, you’ll find a restaurant, bar, and rooftop area. This accommodation is known for its laid-back and cheerful atmosphere.
JOST: This hostel is known for providing luxury-level comfort at affordable prices. The amenities are tailored to your needs: ultra-soft mattresses, personal plugs and lamps, curtains for privacy, and secured lockers.
You’ll also find a restaurant providing delicious food and a shared kitchen area; but our favorite part is probably their rooftop swimming pool – you won’t run out of things to do in Bordeaux here!
Mid Range Accommodation In Bordeaux
Hôtel Singulier Bordeaux: Located in travelers’ favorite and most accessible part of Bordeaux, this hotel features a distinctive interior decor with inviting green colors and modern accents.
Guests enjoy the highly personalized attention they are given by the concierge and staff. There are also breathtaking panoramas from the rooftop.
L’Apparthôtel Particulier Bordeaux: Located in a 19th-century building, this is a hotel that blends in with the essence and charm of the city. Its location is central: a short walk away from many of the best things to do in Bordeaux.
Guests enjoy the ambiance and intimate setting with its limestone facades and the design of its interior courtyard.
Luxury Accommodation In Bordeaux
Yndo Hôtel: Composed of tastefully curated interiors and individually decorated rooms, this is a hotel whose outward charm and elegance demonstrate its white glove service. I
t is set in a 19th-century mansion in Bordeaux’s historic center and a short walk away from the Saint-André Cathedral and various popular points of interest. Guests enjoy strolling through its fragrant garden and relaxing on its shaded terrace.
Hôtel Cardinal Bordeaux Centre: Known for offering a discreet and luxurious service, this hotel is located in an elegant area of the city center, near many top things to do in Bordeaux.
Staff offer daily personal touches during your stay and will make your time in the city as convenient as possible.
Discovering Things To Do In Bordeaux
There are many things to do in Bordeaux. Historical sights and architectural monuments will transport you to different time points in the city’s history. And the multitude of confections and delicacies will reward your stomach, palate, and spirit. The best things to do in Bordeaux offer visitors distinctive ways to see the city, be sure to factor in enough time to truly experience the city.