Exploring the Top 23 Things to Do in Bordeaux France

Last Updated on June 17, 2024 by April Nicole

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I remember my first visit – a spontaneous day trip from Paris, which blossomed into an unexpected love affair with this charming city.

With each visit, I uncover something new – a hidden bistro, a charming alley, or a piece of history tucked away in plain sight.

Bordeaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is not just about its world-class wines; it’s a city where 18th-century elegance seamlessly blends with contemporary culture.

As I stroll through the bustling streets or along the serene Garonne River, I am constantly captivated by the city’s ability to balance its rich heritage with modern dynamism.

From the vibrant local markets to the serene vineyards that dot its outskirts, Bordeaux never ceases to enchant and surprise me.

It’s a city that beckons with an array of experiences, whether you’re a first-time visitor or, like me, find yourself returning to its charm time and again.

So, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a returning admirer, get ready to discover the myriad of joys that make Bordeaux a must-visit destination.

🍇 Best Things to Do in Bordeaux: Quick Info Box 🍇

Best Time to Visit: Spring (April to June) or Fall (September to November) for pleasant weather and fewer crowds.

TOP EXPERIENCES & TOURS IN BORDEAUX

BEST HOTELS IN BORDEAUX

PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR BORDEAUX, FRANCE

If you are in a hurry, here’s a summary of things to do in Bordeaux:

Things to Do in Bordeaux City Center

Visit Grosse Cloche

Pedestrians wander towards the iconic Porte Cailhau in Bordeaux, an impressive medieval gate with twin conical towers and a clock, its historical grandeur a stark contrast to the surrounding modern streets, a must-see landmark that is steeped in the city's rich heritage.

In the midst of Bordeaux’s bustling streets stands the Grosse Cloche, an iconic symbol of the city’s medieval history.

This historic bell tower, part of the old city gate, resonated with me as a striking blend of architectural beauty and historical significance.

Its twin conical towers, topped with a golden leopard weathervane, frame the bell famously known as “La Grosse Cloche.”

Walking under its archway, I was struck by the sense of history that emanates from its ancient stones.

The bell, once used to signal important moments in the city’s life, still holds a place of pride in the hearts of Bordelais.

Place de la Bourse and The Water Mirror

One of the most photographed spots in Bordeaux, the Place de la Bourse, epitomizes the city’s 18th-century grandeur.

Flanked by symmetrically designed buildings, this square faces the Garonne River, presenting a stunning example of classical French architecture.

A must-visit attraction here is the Miroir d’eau, or the Water Mirror.

This large shallow pool reflects the splendid facades of the Place de la Bourse, creating a mesmerizing effect.

It’s especially enchanting during the evening when the illuminated buildings dance on the water’s surface.

Visit Saint-André Cathedral and Climb up to the Tour Pey Berland

Visitors bask in the sun at the expansive esplanade of the Saint-André Cathedral and Pey Berland Bell Tower, iconic Gothic structures in Bordeaux France. This tranquil yet magnificent landmark is a must-visit for those exploring the rich history and architectural wonders that are quintessential things to do in Bordeaux France.

The Saint-André Cathedral, a Gothic architectural marvel, dominates the Bordeaux skyline.

This cathedral, with its intricate façades and impressive history, is a testament to the city’s religious and cultural significance.

Adjacent to it stands the Pey Berland Bell Tower, offering a challenging but rewarding climb.

Once at the top, you’re treated to a panoramic view of Bordeaux’s city center, a breathtaking sight that spans the old and new parts of the city.

Bordeaux Wine Tasting Experiences

An elegant wine tasting experience at Le Bar à Vin du CIVB in Bordeaux, France, showcasing a flight of local wines with a backdrop of patrons and stained glass art. Enjoying the region's famed viniculture is one of the sophisticated things to do in Bordeaux France.

During one of my day visits to Bordeaux, I had the pleasure of spending an evening at “Le Bar à Vin.”

This experience stands out in my memory, not just for the exquisite wines I tasted but for the exceptional knowledge of the servers.

Nestled near the Tourist Office, this chic and cozy bar turned out to be a treasure trove of Bordeaux wines.

What impressed me the most was the depth of understanding the staff had about each wine.

They didn’t just serve; they guided me through a journey across the Bordeaux wine region, explaining the nuances of each variety.

I remember sipping on a robust red, its flavors eloquently explained by the server, making the experience not only delicious but also educational.

For anyone visiting Bordeaux, I wholeheartedly recommend stopping by “Le Bar à Vin.”

Unusual Things to Do in Bordeaux

See the remains of Gallo-Roman Bordeaux

One of the highlights of my time in Bordeaux was visiting the remains of Palais Gallien.

As the only surviving remnant of ancient Roman Bordeaux, the amphitheater presents a striking contrast to the city’s modern streetscape.

While biking through the city, the sudden appearance of these ancient ruins amidst urban surroundings was a surreal experience.

Standing before Palais Gallien, I was transported back in time.

My guide shared fascinating stories about its past, painting a vivid picture of gladiatorial combats and public spectacles that once enthralled thousands of spectators.

It’s incredible to think that what now stands as a quiet ruin was once the heart of Roman entertainment in the city.

Discover the Submarine Base

Visitors immerse themselves in the captivating digital art exhibition at the Bordeaux Submarine Base, where vast murals with historical and cultural imagery are projected on towering cylindrical screens, a fusion of technology and artistry that's a unique things to do in Bordeaux.

A visit to the Bordeaux Submarine Base is an excursion into a different era.

This former WWII submarine base has been repurposed into a unique cultural space, hosting art exhibitions and concerts.

Its stark, monumental architecture serves as a poignant reminder of history, while its current use reflects Bordeaux’s innovative spirit.

💡 Tip – Get the Bordeaux City Pass for free access to several museums and attractions and free use of public transport

Explore the Darwin Ecosystem

Visitors stroll under a colorful abstract entrance sculpture at the Darwin Ecosystem in Bordeaux, an alternative cultural space known for its vibrant street art and community events, a creative hub that adds a splash of modern artistic flair to the historic city.

A hub for ecological and social innovation, the Darwin Ecosystem is a unique place where businesses, associations, and artists collaborate.

Housed in a former military barracks, this alternative space is dedicated to sustainable development.

It’s a great place to experience the city’s innovative community projects, organic food market, and vibrant street art.

Try the Bordelais dessert, Canelé

A hand presents a traditional Bordeaux canelé, a small French pastry with a caramelized crust and soft custard center, against the blurred backdrop of the Grand Théâtre in Bordeaux, evoking the city's culinary heritage as part of the things to do in Bordeaux.

During my explorations in Bordeaux, I couldn’t resist trying a Canelé, the city’s famous pastry.

These small, caramelized treats are as much a symbol of Bordeaux as its wine.

With a soft, custardy interior encased in a dark, thick caramelized crust, Canelés are a unique blend of textures and flavors.

Honestly, and this is just between us, they didn’t quite win me over.

Perhaps it was the unexpected contrast between the crisp exterior and the almost pudding-like center.

But as I watched locals and tourists alike savoring them with delight, I realized that sometimes the joy of travel lies in tasting the essence of a place, even if it doesn’t align with your palate.

So, let’s keep this little secret between us – the people of Bordeaux are incredibly proud of their Canelés, and rightly so!

Free Things to Do in Bordeaux

See the Grandeur of the Girondins Monument

The Monument aux Girondins stands tall against the blue sky in the Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux, with its impressive column and fountain sculptures, a testament to the city's rich history and a prominent feature that draws visitors exploring the things to do in Bordeaux.

Among Bordeaux’s many historical landmarks, the Girondins Monument stands out for its grandiosity and deep historical significance.

Situated at the center of the Place des Quinconces, one of the largest city squares in Europe.

This towering monument is a tribute to the Girondins, a group of political moderates from the Gironde department who were victims of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.

My first visit to this monument was a mix of awe and reflection.

The impressive column, crowned with a statue of Liberty breaking free from her shackles, is surrounded by dramatic bronze sculptures representing the Republic and Concord.

The fountain at its base, adorned with horses and intricate figures, adds to the monument’s grandeur.

Stroll Along the Garonne River and Moon Harbour

Things to Do in Bordeaux.

One of the best free activities in Bordeaux is simply taking a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Garonne River.

The riverfront, with its historical buildings and vibrant street scenes, offers a picturesque glimpse into the city’s soul.

A walk towards the Moon Harbour reveals an evolving part of the city, where old warehouses have transformed into trendy spots, yet the historical essence remains intact.

Walk Down Rue Sainte-Catherine

A woman smiles radiantly in a light blue summer dress adorned with a floral pattern, standing before a festive backdrop of multicolored balloons suspended in the air, capturing a moment of joy and celebration.

Rue Sainte-Catherine, the bustling heart of Bordeaux’s shopping scene, offers an experience that I fondly remember spending half a day indulging in.

Stretching approximately 1.2 kilometers, this pedestrian-only street is reputed to be the longest shopping street in Europe, and it certainly lives up to its fame.

From the moment I stepped onto Rue Sainte-Catherine, I was swept up in a lively atmosphere that’s quintessentially Bordeaux.

The street is lined with a diverse array of shops, from popular international brands to unique local boutiques, ensuring there’s something for every taste and budget.

Whether I was browsing through fashionable clothing, exploring quaint bookshops, or admiring artisanal craftwork, the variety was astounding.

Explore Public Parks and Gardens

A serene autumn day at the Public Garden of Bordeaux, where a wrought-iron bridge arches over a reflective pond surrounded by a tapestry of orange and yellow foliage, offering a peaceful retreat and a stunning visual experience among the things to do in Bordeaux.

Bordeaux is dotted with lush parks and gardens, perfect for a relaxing day out.

The Jardin Public, a beautiful green space in the heart of the city, is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

With its wide paths, classic French garden design, and a serene lake, it’s an ideal spot for picnics, leisurely walks, or simply watching the world go by.

Visit the Marché des Capucins

Shoppers explore the vibrant Marché des Capucins, the largest public market in Bordeaux, with colorful stalls offering fresh produce and local goods under a glass roof, a must-visit for an authentic taste of the region's culinary delights and a top thing to do in Bordeaux.

For a truly local experience, head to the Marché des Capucins, the largest public market in Bordeaux.

This vibrant marketplace is where locals shop for fresh produce, cheese, meat, and other regional specialties.

Browsing through the stalls, sampling local treats, and soaking in the lively atmosphere is an experience in itself, and it’s completely free – unless you’re tempted to buy some of the delicious offerings!

Explore Bordeaux by Bicycle

Things to Do in Bordeaux. Scenic view of Pont de Pierre Bridge with cyclists a rainy day of summer.

Exploring Bordeaux by bike is not just an adventure; it’s one of the best free activities this city has to offer.

The joy of pedaling through Bordeaux’s charming streets and along its scenic riverfront is a delightfully unfettered way to experience the city.

With numerous bike paths and a flat urban landscape, Bordeaux is wonderfully bike-friendly, allowing visitors to easily navigate its historic sites, vibrant squares, and lush parks at their own pace.

Though exploring Bordeaux by bike can be a fulfilling free activity, I opted for a guided bike tour, which I highly recommend.

The tour provided insights into the city’s hidden gems and stories that I would have likely missed on my own.

🚲 Book the same incredible tour I experienced and see Bordeaux in a way you’ll always remember!

Things to Do in Bordeaux with Family

Journey to Arcachon and the Majestic Dune du Pilat

Things to Do in Bordeaux.

A day trip from Bordeaux to Arcachon, culminating at the awe-inspiring Dune du Pilat, Europe’s highest sand dune, is an excursion not to be missed.

This trip offers a striking contrast to the urban elegance of Bordeaux, presenting nature in its most spectacular form.

The coastal town of Arcachon is a serene escape, famous for its oyster farming and serene beaches.

The real highlight, however, is the Dune du Pilat.

As I approached this colossal sand dune, the sheer scale of it took my breath away.

Climbing to the top was a gentle yet invigorating trek, with each step sinking slightly into the soft sand.

From the summit, the panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the lush pine forest on the other were simply mesmerizing.

It’s a perfect day trip for anyone looking to experience the diverse landscapes that make the region around Bordeaux so unique.

Cap Sciences

For families with curious kids, Cap Sciences is an absolute delight.

This interactive science museum, located at the edge of the Garonne River, makes learning fun and engaging.

With its hands-on exhibits, children can explore various scientific concepts, from physics to ecology, in an entertaining environment.

It’s a great way to inspire young minds while enjoying quality family time.

Enjoy the Bordeaux Puppet Theatre

Bordeaux’s Puppet Theatre, or Théâtre Guignol, is a charming place to introduce children to the arts.

These traditional puppet shows, often based on fairy tales and classic stories, are not just entertaining but also a beautiful part of French cultural heritage.

It’s a delightful experience for both kids and adults.

Take a Family-friendly Vineyard Tour

A family enjoys a warm moment amidst the vineyards of Bordeaux, with the mother holding a glass of red wine, reflecting the region's rich wine culture, which is a family-friendly and picturesque activity to add to the list of things to do in Bordeaux.

Exploring the wine region of Bordeaux can also be a family affair.

Several vineyards around the city offer family-friendly tours, where parents can enjoy wine tasting while children engage in grape juice tastings and fun educational activities.

These tours provide a wholesome experience of the region’s wine culture, accommodating the interests of all ages.

Things to Do in Bordeaux at Night

Night-time Walk through the Quartier Saint-Michel

A bustling evening scene at a street café in Bordeaux, with patrons enjoying meals under the ambient glow of streetlights, beside an ornate church and a 'no entry except bicycles' traffic sign, encapsulating the vibrant nightlife and architectural beauty as one of the things to do in Bordeaux.

Exploring the Quartier Saint-Michel at night is an experience that unveils the eclectic and multicultural facets of Bordeaux.

This neighborhood, known for its flea market, historic basilica, and diverse food scene, comes alive in the evenings.

It’s a different side of Bordeaux, away from the traditional tourist trails.

Rooftop Bars and Local Bistros

Things to Do in Bordeaux.

Bordeaux’s nightlife is beautifully encapsulated at the rooftop bar of the InterContinental Bordeaux Le Grand Hotel.

This luxurious spot offers a stunning aerial view of the city, especially mesmerizing as the sun sets and the city lights begin to twinkle.

It’s an ideal location for sipping on a glass of fine Bordeaux wine or enjoying a signature cocktail, all while soaking in the breathtaking panorama of the historic city.

For a culinary delight, a visit to “Bistro du Sommelier” is a must.

Situated in the heart of Bordeaux, this bistro is renowned for its authentic ambiance and exquisite menu that celebrates local flavors.

With an extensive selection of wines perfectly paired with dishes like their famous duck confit or fresh seafood, Bistro du Sommelier provides a gastronomic experience that tantalizes the taste buds and offers a true taste of Bordeaux.

Evening Cruises on the Garonne

Twilight descends on the Garonne River in Bordeaux, with the city's lights and the majestic spires of the Saint-André Cathedral reflecting on the tranquil water, showcasing the city's historic grandeur and romantic ambiance, an essential experience when considering things to do in Bordeaux.

An evening cruise on the Garonne River is an enchanting way to experience Bordeaux.

As you glide along the water, iconic landmarks like the Place de la Bourse and the Pont de Pierre unfold in a spectacular night-time display.

These cruises often feature dinner and a selection of fine Bordeaux wines, making for a memorable evening.

🚢 Book Your Enchanting Evening Cruise Now!

Attend a Show at the Grand Théâtre

Night falls on Bordeaux as visitors and locals stroll in front of the illuminated Grand Théâtre, a premier cultural venue and architectural masterpiece, its facade warmly lit and statues standing guard above, a lively and elegant sight amongst the things to do in Bordeaux at night.

The Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, a jewel of 18th-century architecture, is more than a venue; it’s a living piece of the city’s artistic soul.

Its neoclassical façade, adorned with Corinthian columns and statues representing the nine muses and three goddesses, sets the stage for the opulence inside.

As you step into its lavish auditorium, you’re transported into an era of exquisite artistry.

The intricate frescoes, golden ornaments, and plush velvet seats create an atmosphere of timeless elegance.

The theatre hosts a variety of shows, ranging from classical operas and dramatic ballets to contemporary performances.

Walk Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas

The Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas is a vertical lift bridge over the Garonne river in Bordeaux. France.

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.

Final Thoughts on What to Do in Bordeaux

Bordeaux offers a wealth of experiences for every traveler.

From strolling along the scenic Garonne River and exploring the historic Place de la Bourse, to savoring world-renowned wines in picturesque vineyards, this city captivates with its blend of beauty and culture.

Indulge in the rich culinary scene, discover architectural marvels like the Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, and immerse yourself in the vibrant arts at CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art.

Whether it’s the tranquility of Jardin Public or the bustling energy of Les Quais, Bordeaux is a delightful fusion of history, gastronomy, and natural charm, making it an unforgettable destination.

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8 Comments

  1. yes!!! you’ve enticed me to visit Bordeaux. Can’t wait for my slow travel to Europe this coming 2022.

  2. Thank you for this post, April! I’ve heard great things about the city of Bordeaux (even though I was one of those people who didn’t know it existed a few months ago) and it’s definitely on my travel list for 2023. Great photos and post, thanks for sharing! Happy travels

  3. I visited Bordeux about 18 years ago now. We were surprised there wasn’t more said about it, but thought it was a great French secret. Love your photos. Gorgeous.

  4. Such an interesting view of Bordeaux! Can’t believe that people haven’t heard of it! It looks gorgeous and I would much rather visit it and some of the other smaller French towns rather than Paris where everyone goes. I would love to try the caramelized cake, looks delicious!

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