Last Updated on January 2, 2024 by April Verge
Looking for fun things to do in Bordeaux? Look no further!
Bordeaux, is a magnificent city in southwest France that is renowned for its beautiful architecture, extensive history, and excellent wine. The city has something to offer everyone, whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just looking for for a nice getaway.
Bordeaux, is known for its exquisite architecture, excellent seafood, bustling city center, and some of the world’s best wine. Even better, the entire city has welcoming squares and pedestrian-only zones, making it very walkable. You can also travel to a chateaux that make excellent wine in fantastical surroundings in less than an hour.
You may discover a ton of excellent articles on Bordeaux’s top sights and landmarks online. But I believe they leave out some of the hidden beauties and wonders this city has to offer. To truly grasp why people like Bordeaux, you must visit it. I’ve compiled my list of the top things to do in Bordeaux in this article.
The list covers a wide range of topics, such as dining, shopping, lively district, galleries, day excursions, and more. I do hope you’ll like it! And if reading this post has made you fall in love with Bordeaux, please spread the word!
Psst! This blog post contains affiliate links in it which sends me a bit of extra money if you use them… at no extra cost to you. Merci!
If you are in a hurry, here’s a summary of things to do in Bordeaux:
Best things to do in Bordeaux
Visit Port Cailhau
Located on the Place du Palais and the Bordeaux waterfront, Porte Cailhau is a gatehouse from the 15th century.
The fortress walls of Bordeaux are opened with a colossal gate facing the river after nearly three centuries of British rule. In order to demonstrate fidelity to the French state following the Battle of Fournoue, the Porte Cailhau was constructed between 1493 and 1496 as an arc of triumph dedicated to King Charles VIII.
Porte Cailhau is still a visible reminder of Bordeaux’s medieval heritage. Its likeness to a fantasy structure has led to many people suggesting that it looks like a “Disney” edifice.
Explore La Cité Du Vin
For wine lovers, a visit to La Cité du Vin is a must. The interactive experience at France’s greatest wine museum engages all of your senses and culminates in a wine tasting on the top floor with a panoramic view of Bordeaux.
The permanent exhibition takes you on a sensory trip through the world’s best wine areas, wine production procedures and techniques throughout the years, and everything other than wine drinking. But don’t worry, you’ll get a chance to sample on the top floor at the end of your tour.
There are also wine seminars, events, and temporary exhibitions. The Ciné Gourmand, which mixes a movie with a delectable movie-themed tasting feast with wine pairings, is one of my favorite events.
Visit Girondins Monument
With the renowned Girondins monument, this is one of the most photographed landmarks in the city… and the most emblematic of the French Revolution in Bordeaux!
This 12-hectare area, located on the river, is Europe’s largest. The phrase quinconces alludes to the staggered rows in which the trees are planted.
The Place des Quinconces hosts fairs, circuses, sporting events, and artistic events throughout the year. Quinconces station is a multimodal transportation hub with a regular flow of visitors (trams B and C, bus terminals, and Vcub share bikes).
Two rostral columns topped with statues dedicated to Bordeaux’s nautical and economic operations are located directly across from and close to the river. Large statues of the Bordeaux philosophers Montaigne and Montesquieu can be located on the side of the Quinconces nearest to the city center.
The Monument des Girondins, which faces west, comprises of bronze fountains and a column with a statue of liberty breaking its bonds atop it. During the French Revolution, this provides testament to the Girondin political faction. Of course, this has nothing to do with the Girondins football team… despite a persistent urban legend to the contrary!
Enjoy Musée D’Aquitaine
Visit the Musée d’Aquitaine if you enjoy learning about the history of the regions you go to. The history of Bordeaux and the surrounding area is shown in this museum from prehistory to the 20th century.
The museum displays a wide variety of historical items, works of art, and sculptures. In fact, the museum has almost 1.3 million items.
One of the best historical activities in Bordeaux, you can learn about anything from the development of the wine business to the harrowing narratives of the slave trade.
Tip – Get the Bordeaux City Pass for free access to several museums and attractions and free use of public transport
Visit Rue Sainte-Catherine
It measures around 1,200 meters in length and 10 meters in width. That’s approximately 3 kilometers of storefronts to look through!
Since 1984, the street has been almost totally pedestrianized. It runs north-south from Place de la Comédie, where the Grand Théâtre is located, to Place de la Victoire, where the Theimer Column is located.
The northern portion of street Sainte-Catherine is devoted to large French businesses, while the southern part is devoted to student-oriented stores, restaurants, and other establishments. Bordelais take pride in the fact that this is Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street. Every day is busy, but Saturday especially.
Stroll through the Port de la Lune
Bordeaux’s quais, once an unattractive, industrialized portion of town, have been converted into the ideal spot for a promenade. You’ll see the Garonne River on one side and gorgeous 18th century buildings on the other as you travel along the quais. Parts of the walkway are lined by little parks and gardens, and you’ll see a lot of people walking, riding bikes, and even shopping at the quais’s far end.
Because it is built around a Garonne River arm that resembles a crescent moon, Port de la Lune—which translates to “Port of the Moon”—gets its name. The neighborhood’s extraordinary level of preservation led to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Don’t miss the beautiful market along the quais if you happen to be in Bordeaux on a Sunday. This market features over 60 vendors, many of which specialize in local Bordeaux cuisine. Make sure to attend early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid missing out on the food (it closes about 3 p.m.) — it’s so wonderful that it’ll sell out!
See Place De La Bourse & Miroir D’eau
The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington D.C., is the most well-known of its kind, yet it is far from the largest (or most fascinating). The Miroir d’eau in Bordeaux is the recipient of the largest reflecting pool.
The Miroir d’eau, which occupies a large square in front of Bordeaux’s Place de la Bourse, is a one-of-a-kind reflecting pool that visitors can walk across. The so-called pool, also known as the “Quay Mirror,” was constructed in 2006 and consists of a field of granite slabs that are covered in two inches of water, forming a large mirror (Miroir d’eau translates to “Water Mirror”). The massive public feature spans over 37,000 square feet, making it more of a small lake than a pool.
A mechanism hidden beneath the slabs can change the shallow skin of water into a fog of mist throughout the summer months. In some ways, it’s never deeper than when the plaza is shrouded in mist. Aside from this feature, the pool is a calm, albeit massive, puddle.
Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas
This vertical lift bridge, which opened in 2013, is visible if you look downstream from the quays on the left bank of the Garonne. It is the tallest vertical lift bridge in Europe, spanning about 600 meters, and it rises 77 meters above the ground. The bridge has immediately become a beloved landmark for the city.
It is both a technological and aesthetic achievement that, despite being completely new, it manages to blend in with the old cityscape.
Visit the quay at night for mesmerizing light shows on the bridge’s four soaring columns.
Take a day trip to Saint-Émilion
The Saint Emilion wine region is a interesting town to visit. Due to its history and tradition, this wine-producing region has the distinction of being the first to be inscribed as a UNESCO World tradition site. Saint-Emilion, the primary wine town in the area, is a picturesque medieval village where renowned vineyards, exquisite wine, stunning architecture, and historical landmarks are the perfect fit.
Saint Emilion is one of the most well-liked day trips from Bordeaux and is simple to get to by train. However, if you also want to appreciate Saint Emilion from a wine perspective, I suggest taking a half-day guided wine tour with tastings. Discover the area’s history, see a few local châteaux, and take advantage of wine tastings and knowledgeable expert advice when buying Bordeaux wine.
Eat a Canelé at La Toque Cuivrée
By visiting a Toque Cuivrée boutique, you can get your hands on Bordeaux’s delectable little pastry specialty, the canelé! But what is a canelé, exactly?
The canelé is a sponge-like pastry with rum and vanilla flavors. They feature a soft, spongy center that is encased in a dark, caramelized exterior. They are only made in Bordeaux and have been for over 300 years.
With their delectable canelés, produced fresh every day in their bakeries, La Toque Cuivrée maintains this tradition alive!
This regional specialty is available in three sizes, and they also sell other patisserie items! You can see everything they have to offer right here.
If you haven’t already, you simply must try one of these delicious snacks or desserts!
See Digital Art at Bassin des Lumières
I also suggest the Bassin des Lumières, sometimes known as the Ponds of Light in English, as a must-see Bordeaux attraction. It is housed in a former submarine base and is one of the biggest museums of digital art in the entire world.
The display illuminates the deep-water basin, walls, and ceilings. Creative projections of works by painters like Renoir, Chagall, and Monet let you see art from a different perspective.
The undersea base has 11 compartments where you may walk around and see various exhibitions. Better yet, as the exhibitions change frequently, there will always be something fresh to see if you visit Bordeaux again.
Visit St. Michel Brocante & Marche Capucins on Sunday
Saint Michel is one of Bordeaux’s most cosmopolitan and active neighborhoods, with a diverse population of students, immigrants, artists, and others drawn to the area’s modern ambiance. While it isn’t frequently included in traditional Bordeaux sightseeing trips, the Basilica of Saint Michel and its tower are well worth the trip. Saint Michel is close to some of Bordeaux’s most affluent neighborhoods, but it has a completely distinct vibe; at times, it feels as if Victor Hugo split Bordeaux into two cities.
Some of Bordeaux’s best markets are located here, as are various locations to shop for antique clothing and furniture, as well as an infinite number of bustling restaurants and cafes.
On the adjoining twin set of squares surrounding Basilica St-Michel, Sunday morning is the best time to shop market booths for antiques, vintage curiosities, and a mind-boggling array of unexpected bric-a-brac. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, a smaller Marché Brocante (Flea Market) fills the same squares. The markets located 700 meters downstream of the city center.
Take a break in the Jardin Public
It’s simple to picture a location like this in the countryside rather than the city. The Jardin Public mixes the distinctive honey-colored stone of majestic 18th century buildings with a relaxing setting that includes a pond and centuries-old trees. People who prefer a leisurely stroll, joggers, toddlers, and grandparents all love the garden, which coexists peacefully with swans and ducks.
Since its inception in 1746, the Bordelais have held a special place in their hearts for the Jardin Public. The 11 hectares of grass, trees, flowers, and plants in the city center also include a children’s playground and the famed Guignol Guérin puppet performance.
The Jardin Public, which is surrounded by gorgeous townhouses and has a Natural History Museum, a small botanical garden, and a bar-restaurant (L’Orangerie), has been designated as a Jardin Remarkable de France.
Visit Saint-André Cathedral and Climb up to the Tour Pey Berland
The Saint André Cathedral is one of the city’s most recognizable cathedrals. The Cathedral has a lengthy history of famous visitors dating back to its construction in the 11th century. Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Louis VII were wed in Saint-André.
Its eclectic aesthetic is charming and surprising. While the choir is firmly Gothic (XIVth century), the nave was originally Romanesque. If you’re lucky, you might catch the symphony orchestra’s organ practice while you’re there.
The Pey Berland Tower, the Cathedral’s distinct bell tower, is the best spot to go if you want to see a wonderful perspective of Bordeaux.
To shield the Cathedral from the vibrations of the bells, this 66-meter bell tower was built between 1440 and 1500 and has remained separate from the rest of the building. You’ll surely be rewarded for your efforts as you gaze out over this lovely city after ascending its 229 stairs.
Glimpse the remains of Gallo-Roman Bordeaux
It is a historic monument that was designated in 1840. Its destruction was halted on Lucien Bonaparte’s orders. The amphitheater would have been constructed to commemorate Emperor Caracalla’s entrance in Aquitaine. Since the 19th century, many archaeological excavations have taken place at the Palais Gallien.
This is the earliest Gallo-Roman relic that may still be seen in the city. During the first barbarian incursions in 276AD, it was most likely destroyed by fire. The roar of the beasts and the shouts of gladiators could be heard in this amphitheater when Bordeaux was still known as “Burdigala.”
At the time, these stadiums were 132 meters long and 115 meters broad, with a capacity of more than 15,000 people. The Gallien Palace, on the other hand, was never a palace but an amphitheater where the Romans’ beloved circus games were held.
Its remains were afterwards used as a haven for thieves and outlaws, as well as women of liberal morality, because they were located outside the guarded city. Before a mayor changed it into a public quarry during the Revolution, it was rumored to be a meeting place for witches!
Enjoy a bike tour of Bordeaux
Bordeaux is the fourth-most bicycle-friendly city in the world, with more than 200 kilometers of riding routes. Trust me when I say to forgo the open-top bus trip and instead bicycle around Bordeaux. If you’re short on time or want to see a lot of Bordeaux’s attractions, taking one of the many group bike tours is a terrific option.
Bike to some of Bordeaux’s most stunning structures, such as the Grosse Cloche, one of the country’s oldest belfries, and discover the Bordeaux Tribunal’s distinctive architecture, which was created by Richard Rogers, the same builder of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. After crossing the Stone Bridge to reach La Bastide (Bordeaux’s Right Bank), explore some of the “new” Bordeaux and take in some of the most breathtaking vistas of Place de la Bourse.
If biking isn’t your thing, take a self-guided walking tour, and tour Bordeaux in just 45 minutes!
Check out the Grosse Cloche
A 7800kg iron bell housed in a mediaeval belfry is known as La Grosse Cloche, or the Big Bell. It stands on the St. Eloi route, with a pedestrian passage through the monument through an entrance in the bell tower. In the Middle Ages, this was the Porte St. Eloi, a gateway into the city center. It was frequented by pilgrims on their way to the tomb of St. Jacques, which was interred in a church in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Very central and mostly surrounded by the most charming alleys in the historic district, with some of the greatest terraces for a drink just a few blocks ahead.
Above all, it’s a fantastic photo opportunity, with perspectives from both sides.
Take a Day Tour to Arcachon and Europe’s Highest Sand Dune
I always received the same response from locals when I mentioned my plans to visit Arcachon: “You’ll love Arcachon…and you must visit the dune!” accompanied by a big smile. They were accurate.
Arcachon, a paradise on the Atlantic Ocean, is about one hour from Bordeaux. Swim, shop, unwind, and eat oysters in this seaside city’s gorgeous, golden ocean and fine sand. And if you love the sun, you should check out the 6 cool beaches in Arcachon that will take your breath away.
Small producers, the 350 oyster farms in Arcachon Bay sell nearly exclusively to residents and surrounding restaurants. The oysters are among the freshest you’ll ever eat since they aren’t exported or handled by middlemen. Finding a coastal location where you may have a platter and a glass of bubbly or white Bordeaux is one of the primary pastimes here.
You might not associate Bordeaux with gorgeous beaches, yet the southwest of France is home to one of the best beaches in the world. The largest sand dune in Europe, Dune du Pilat rises more than 100 meters above the Atlantic.
Visitors can ascend the Dune with the use of a staircase for a breathtaking perspective of the Arcachon Bassin. Additionally, those who are daring can paraglide off the top of the Dune in the summer. Just keep in mind that you must haul yourself, your chute, and back up the Dune.