The 14 Best Things to Do in Bordeaux: A Local’s 2023 Guide

A person riding a bicycle on a city street

It’s hard to even say the name “Bordeaux” without conjuring images of rolling vineyards and luscious red wine pouring into a tasting glass. But this city in the Southwest of France has a lot more going for it than just viticulture (though wine lovers will not be disappointed by their options). Long a bastion of France’s wealthy elite, the Bordelais know how to live well, as exemplified by their gastronomy, architecture, and cultural destinations. So if you’re thinking about taking a trip down by the Garonne River, there are plenty of things to do in Bordeaux for every kind of trip, and every kind of traveler, from upscale shopping along the Rue Sainte Catherine, to wine nerd explorations at La Cité du Vin, to photo ops at the Place de la Bourse. You might even be tempted by day trips from Bordeaux to the nearby village of Saint Emilion.

The 14 Best Things to do in Bordeaux

1. Sample Bordeaux wines

Out of all the things to do in Bordeaux, there’s no better place to start your Bordeaux experience than a detour to taste wine at Le Bar à Vin. Located in the same building as the Bordeaux Wine Council, this glamorous bar, centered around an enormous stained glass window depicting Bacchus, is devoted to teaching visitors about local wines in one of the world’s greatest wine regions. A glass of red, white, rosé, or sparkling Bordeaux wine will cost you between €3 and €5, and there are plenty of cheese and charcuterie plates to pair with your selection (and even a chocolate sampler!).

Le Bar à Vin, 3 Cr du 30 Juillet, 33000 Bordeaux

Time to Spend: 1 hour

Price: €3-5 per glass of wine

2. Explore Bordeaux’s 18th Century City Center

Spend the morning wandering around Bordeaux’s city center, which might remind you a little of Paris. This is because, in the 18th century, the modernization of this French city inspired the famous Parisian Haussmannian style of architecture. The main difference is Bordeaux’s limestone, which may appear black or streaky, because it absorbs car exhaust and pollution. Major efforts, including the pedestrianization of the center city, have been taken to restore these buildings to their original splendor. For this reason, nearly the entirety of Bordeaux’s city center is part of a collective UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We would highly recommend taking a Bordeaux center city walking tour in order to check out as many Bordeaux attractions as possible. The Place de la Bourse, Place des Quinconces, Grand Théâtre, Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux, and Grosse Cloche are just a few of the architectural marvels worth passing by. You’ll also inevitably walk down Rue Sainte-Catherine, the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe, and a destination for high end Bordeaux shopping.

3. Saint André Cathedral

The most important Bordeaux cathedral is the Saint André Cathedral in the city’s center. Built during the Middle Ages, it was the site of many a royal wedding, including those between Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII, and Anne of Austria and Louis XIII. It experienced a fall from grace later on, turned into storage for cattle feed during the French Revolution, and its precious religious artworks were largely looted. But it has been restored over the years to its former glory, and is located just steps from Bordeaux’s Musée des Beaux Arts and the Bordeaux Town Hall.

Cathédrale Saint-André, Pl. Pey Berland, 33000 Bordeaux

4. Place de la Bourse

The Place de la Bourse, one of the most-photographed Bordeaux sights, is a crucial part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition, and impossible to miss on your Bordeaux trip. Bordeaux’s crescent-shaped harbor, the Port de la Lune, hugs the Garonne River, with the Place de la Bourse glowing against the backdrop of the river at night, a classic example of 18th century French architecture.

Place de la Bourse, 33000 Bordeaux

5. Porte Cailhau and Grosse Cloche

In the Middle Ages, visitors to Bordeaux had to pass through the city walls at the Porte Cailhau, which today looks like a real life Disney castle in miniature. Today, it’s one of the city’s hidden gems, ready to pop up at you in a moment of delightful surprise as you walk along the Garonne River. Similar in appearance but a short walk away is the Grosse Cloche, and 18th century bell tower above a former dungeon for juveniles around the time of the French Revolution. (The site is marked as “Great for kids” on Google Maps. Looks like someone has a strong sense of irony.)

Port Cailhau, Pl. du Palais, 33000 Bordeaux

Grosse Cloche, Rue Saint-James, 33000 Bordeaux

6. Place de la Comédie

Farther into the city you’ll find the Place de la Comédie, home to the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux (aka the Opéra Nationalde Bordeaux). If you’re looking for a fabulous night out, splurge on tickets for the opera or ballet. They even offer a deal for first time visitors where you can view three shows for only €60.

Pl. de la Comédie, 33000 Bordeaux

7. Visit the Marché des Capucins

Bordeaux is another of France’s gastronomy capitals, and it’s easy to eat well there. After all, where else can you go that specializes in both foie gras and oysters? For lunch, head to the  Marché des Capucins, a covered market full of stands selling fresh produce and fabulous places for a quick bite. In particular, go for the €15 seafood platter at Chez Jean-Mi, or maybe just oysters and a glass of white wine.

Marché des Capucins, Pl. des Capucins, 33800 Bordeaux

Time to Spend: One hour

Price: Free to enter

8. Learn About Wine at La Cité du Vin

Bordeaux has always had money, and recently they’ve been pouring it into state of the art museums. The most famous, by now, is La Cité du Vin, an eight-story wine museum at the edge of the Chartrons district and right on the River Garonne. The museum was built in the shape of a decanter, a temple to Bordeaux’s wine tourism industry. It’s full of interactive exhibits, even some smell-o-vision, that explain the history of the wine trade, the logistics of wine production, and explorations of wine tasting, wine smelling, and even wine pairings. You could easily spend the entire day at La Cité du Vin, and your ticket comes with a glass of wine on the museum’s Belvedere terrace bar when you’re done, so don’t feel badly about skipping over the temporary exhibitions and going straight for a rooftop wine tasting.

La Cité du Vin, 134 Quai de Bacalan, 33300 Bordeaux

Time to Spend: 3 hours

Price: €22

9. Learn even more about wine at the Musée du Vin et du Négoce

Bordeaux actually has two wine museums. (Why stop at one?) If La Cité du Vin feels intimidating, check out the Musée du Vin et du Négoce de Bordeaux (the Wine and Trade Museum). This Bordeaux museum, located in an 18th century wine merchant’s house in the Chartrons district, is dedicated to the nuts and bolts of the Bordeaux wine region. The wine museum offers either a self-guided tour or a guided tour through the building, along with oenology workshops and wine tastings, and even a Bordeaux wine tasting with chocolate pairings.

Musée du Vin et du Négoce de Bordeaux, 41 Rue Borie, 33300 Bordeaux

Time to Spend: 1.5 hours

Price: €10

10. Check out some art at a Bordeaux Museum

If you’re not a huge oenophile, no problem. One of Bordeaux’s other fantastic museums is the Bassins des Lumières. This immersive digital arts space is one of the largest in the world, set in a converted wartime submarine base. Its current and upcoming exhibitions include ones focused on Gaudí, Dalí, and Klimt, whose works have been adapted for the space. This museum is an absolute must-visit, an incredible testament to immersive art and its full potential.

Bassins des Lumières, Imp. Brown de Colstoun, 33300 Bordeaux

Time to Spend: One hour

Price: €15

If you prefer contemporary art, try Bordeaux’s CAPC Contemporary Art museum, which is housed in a 19th century building and includes a permanent collection of site-specific works by artists such as Christian Boltanski, Keith Haring, Richard Long, Max Neuhaus, and Niele Toroni. This contemporary art museum celebrates 50 years this year, and continues to showcase rotating exhibitions of some of the most striking and important works being made today.

CAPC Musée d’art Contemporain de Bordeaux, 7 Rue Ferrere, 33000 Bordeaux

Time to Spend: One hour

Price: €8

11. Listen to some Live Music

Looking for a little music? Enjoy a low key night of gypsy jazz or swing at Thélonious, where the music starts at 8:30pm and runs past 11.

Thélonious Café Jazz Club, 18 Rue Bourbon, 33300 Bordeaux

Time to Spend: 3 hours

Price: €5-10 cover charge

Want something a little more lively? Try La Guinguette Chez Alriq on an open air terrace along the Garonne River for styles ranging from African music to Flamenco to Neo Folk, and enjoy some pizza and tapas while you’re there. (Keep in mind it is only open from the beginning of May through the end of September.)

La Guinguette Chez Alriq, ZA Quai des Queyries, Port Bastide, 33100 Bordeaux

Time to Spend: 2 hours

Price: €6-8

12. Savor Bordeaux specialties at these Bordeaux restaurants

One of the greatest underrated things to do in Bordeaux is simply to eat at one of the city’s amazing restaurants. You can find our full guide to Bordeaux restaurant recommendations here, but let us offer you a small selection: At Tutiac, a bistro created by a winemaker, the menu changes every three weeks, and all wines are as local as it gets. They offer a €35 prix fixe for three courses. The pocket-sized Les Drôles offers a three-course dinner menu for €23, while local favorite, Mélodie, serves up traditional favorites in a three-course menu, also for €23. Be sure to make reservations in advance, as these places will fill up! Make sure to try some duck, a local specialty, or some Saint-Nectaire cheese.

Tutiac, 10 Pl. du Palais, 33000 Bordeaux

Les Drôles, 21 Rue Saint-Rémi, 33000 Bordeaux

Mélodie, 6 Rue des Faussets, 33000 Bordeaux

Price: €23-35 for three courses

13. Enjoy a wine tasting in Bordeaux or Saint Emilion

Even if you’re staying in Bordeaux for a short amount of time, you can still fit a vineyard trip into your itinerary. And you should–Bordeaux wines are some of the best in the world, and there’s a reason why it’s one of the most recognizable wine regions in France. Most of the vineyards in the area are located in the nearby town of Saint Emilion, which is just a half hour train ride away. Château Canon la Gaffelière is located right next to the train station, an easy trip if you time your reservation with the train schedule in mind. Enjoy a guided tour of the vineyard’s wine cellars, followed by a short tasting, over the course of 1 hour and 15 minutes. Tours start at €15, and the train will cost you between €5 and €10 each way.

Château Canon la Gaffelière, BP34, 33330 Saint Emilion

Time to Spend: Half a day (1hr15 for the tour, and an hour total travel time, plus additional time for exploring the village of Saint Emilion)

Price: €15+ for tours, €10-20 for roundtrip train fare

If you don’t want to leave the city, there are two vineyards in Bordeaux: Château Pape Clément (which is technically just across the border in Pessac), and Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion. Les Carmes Haut-Brion is the easiest to get to, right off the tram line, but as a result, the cost of a tour is far higher than the average, and they often book up far in advance. The cost of a 1.5 hour tour and wine tasting starts at €55.

Pape Clement is just a bit farther out, but accessible by a number of public buses, and a 1.5 hour tour will cost you as little as €20. Reservations for vineyard tours are non-negotiable, and should be booked at least a week or two in advance. Make sure to pick something up at the wine shop on your way out.

Château Pape Clément, 216 Av. Dr Nancel Penard, 33600 Pessac

Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, 20 Rue des Carmes, 33000 Bordeaux

Time to Spend: 3-4 hours including transportation

Price: €20-55

14. Nosh on a Canelé (Cannelé)

For a sweet snack, swing by La Toque Cuivrée for one of Bordeaux’s famous canelés–a pastry flavored with vanilla and rum. They have something of a love-it-or-hate-it reputation, so don’t be afraid to purchase a mini if you’re not sure whether you’ll like it or not. Canelés also make a great gift to bring home at the end of your trip, though we’d recommend not letting them sit for too long.

Address: La Toque Cuivrée, various locations

Time to Spend: 10 minutes

Price: Starting at €0.45 for a small canelé

Frequently Asked Questions – Bordeaux, France

Is Bordeaux worth visiting?

Visiting Bordeaux, France is an absolute must, thanks to the city’s beautiful architecture from the 18th century (including the Place de la Bourse and Grand Théâtre), incredible wines, and fantastic cuisine.

How many days do I need in Bordeaux?

To explore Bordeaux, France we would recommend at least a stay of three days for the city center, and at least five days if you wish to explore the Bordeaux region through day trips to places like Saint Émilion.

Is 1 day enough for Bordeaux?

There are so many things to do in Bordeaux, France that we wouldn’t recommend a day trip to the city, but rather a stay of a few days when visiting Bordeaux.

What is Bordeaux most known for?

Many people visit Bordeaux, France solely for its reputation as a wine region, but there are numerous Bordeaux attractions worth visiting, from La Cité du Vin to the Place de la Bourse, to the Port de la Lune and the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux.

Catherine Rickman is a writer, professional francophile, and host of the Expat Horror Stories podcast. She is currently somewhere in Brooklyn with a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman.

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