It’s France’s sixth-largest city, but Bordeaux is certainly not one to be missed.
Whether as a minibreak destination on its own, part of a sojourn through France or even a day trip from Paris, you’ll go to Bordeaux for the wine - and stay for so much more. Check out these 11 things to do in Bordeaux and you definitely won’t be disappointed.
I mean, it’s in the name, isn’t it? If you want to live the vin life, Bordeaux is the place to be.
La Cité du Vin is a museum dedicated to all things wine - and it’s not a museum full of dusty old specimens. It’s fun, it’s interactive and you’ll get some pretty good trivia about the history of wine - from 6,000 BC to now, and the city that loves to make it. There is, of course, a fantastic wine bar at the top of the museum where you can put your newfound knowledge to the test. It’s one of the top things to do in Bordeaux and the museum itself is architecturally stunning and très chic.
If that doesn’t quite fill your food and beverage void, you can take a trip through gastronomic Bordeaux with Miam Bordeaux, who offer fantastic walking tours of the city stopping at key food and drink locations along the way. Whether it’s their tour through the city’s fantastic markets where you’ll pick up the finest local produce, a cooking lesson from a Bordelais chef or a bread and brioche class for the foodie children, it’s a fantastic way to see and learn about the city while tasting the best it has to offer. Miam miam indeed.
...by which I mean, more wine. Bordeaux doesn’t get its reputation as a global wine powerhouse for nothing; the countryside surrounding the city is teeming with vineyards, local artisan producers and gorgeous picturesque villages that are well worth a day trip.
The village of Saint-Emilion is a fantastic example, just 45 minutes out of Bordeaux - but once you get there, you’ll probably never want to make the return journey. It’s a historic village that was built in a natural amphitheatre nestled in the hills, and it is the very definition of French picturesque-ness. You can do wine tasting and vineyard tours at the local chateaux, take an underground tour of the monolithic church, climb the clock tower for a bird’s eye view of the village, and of course dip in and out of the shops peppered around the village, picking up local soaps, macarons - and of course, more wine.
A stroll around Bordeaux is the best way to see its beautiful buildings and historic relics. After Paris, Bordeaux has the highest number of preserved historical buildings of any city in France - so there’s plenty to see.
The Miroir d’Eau is the world’s largest reflecting pool, shimmering the reflection of the Place de la Bourse onto its 3,450 square metres (and a good place to cool down in summer). The 11th-century cathedral is stunning, as is the Pey Berland freestanding bell tower next door, whose 229 steps you can climb for a breathtaking view over the city.
There are bridges, churches, chateaux and countless art galleries to explore, and the best way is to get on your feet (or hire a bike) and make your way around at leisure, perhaps stopping for a wine refuel at L’Intendant, which must be the most beautiful wine bar in the world. With a massive spiral staircase scaling its 5 floors, its shelves are home to more than 15,000 bottles of regional wine.
The city of Bordeaux on its own is really an artwork and history book in itself - but if you’re keen for more to look at and learn, there’s no shortage of museums and galleries to suit all tastes.
The Musée d’Aquitaine is more history than art - guiding you through the story of Bordeaux and the Aquitaine region through atmospheric displays. Not just another boring history museum by any means.
The Musée d’Art Contemporain is a celebration of all things new - the things that make Bordeaux still culturally significant, with work from its young writers, artists, musicians and architects, and interesting lectures, events and workshops through the year too. Don’t miss the great cafe and terrace at the top, too!
If they’re not enough to keep you going, there’s the Musée des Arts Decoratifs for beautiful antiques, the Musée des Beaux Arts for art ranging from the Renaissance to the 20th century, and for fans of Border Force, there’s even the Musée Nationale des Douanes, a museum dedicated to all things customs and border protection.
Don’t be so sure that Paris is the best place to spend all your hard-earned cash: Bordeaux’s shopping scene certainly stacks up, too.
If you’re craving some retail therapy the Promenade Sainte Catherine is certainly one of the best things to do in Bordeaux - and could be a full day’s activity. It’s Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street, so there’s well and truly something for everyone - from souvenirs to fashion, beautiful produce and health and beauty products.
For more upmarket French fashion (or just for window shopping if you’re like me, sadly!) you can’t go past the Golden Triangle. It’s bordered by three boulevards and is home to the best shops, restaurants and bars - think the classic French fashion houses nestled among impossibly chic eateries.
Of course, if it’s more of an edible type of shopping experience you’re after and the wineries haven’t filled your craving (or your suitcase) - the Marche des Capucins is a one-stop shop for fresh produce, endless local cheeses and - yep, you guessed it, a LOT of wine.
When it comes to the performing arts, Bordeaux has no shortage of entertainment. One of my favourite things to do in a new city, whether I speak the language or not, is to go and see a show of some sort.
You’ve got the beautiful 18th century Grand Théâtre, which shows recitals, operas, classical music and ballet, the hip and intimate Théâtre Victoire for comedy shows, or the Cabaret Le Grain De Folie in nearby Artigues for some can-can action, you’re guaranteed a good night out in Bordeaux.
The Chartrons district is choc-full of cute and interesting shops and boutiques selling everything from antiques to cutting-edge fashion and homeware. Leave a little empty space in your luggage if you’re planning a treasure hunt, you never know what you might find.
Bordeaux is one of the most bike friendly cities in Europe. You’ll find the city’s bike share scheme is a cheap and easy way to get around the city – cycle the scenic route along the Roger Lapébie bike path for a city tour with a difference.
For stunning birds-eye views of Bordeaux, tackle the Pey Berland bell tower, (you’ll find it close to the Saint- André cathedral). Brace yourself for the walk to the top - 229 steps await. The rewards are totally worth the effort though – don’t forget your selfie stick!
If you’re looking for more things to do in Bordeaux, France (of the outdoor variety), you’ll find there’s plenty of green space in the city where you can sprawl out with a picnic or go for a run. Jardin Public and Jardin des Lumieres are two of our favourite spots.
No matter how you arrive, Bordeaux is incredibly well-connected to the rest of Europe, and within France itself. It’s a short half-hour bus ride from Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport to the city centre - just 9km, so once you fly in you can hit the ground running.
It’s also worth noting that France’s TGV train system connects Bordeaux to all the country’s major cities and towns - so if you’re tacking Bordeaux onto another French adventure, it’s just 2.5 hours on a train from Paris.
Flights to Bordeaux
- Matilda Edwards