top things you must do in Bordeaux
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10 Things You Must Do In Bordeaux And Where To Stay

From vineyards to bike tours, top attractions to rooftop bars, my travel guide to Bordeaux my travel guide to Bordeaux has the best things you must do in Bordeaux, as well as where to stay.

From world-class vineyards to architectural gems, there are so many things you must do in Bordeaux. I’ve got some the best wine tasting experiences, along with top attractions for non-wine drinkers, top tips to make the most of your visit, as well as restaurant and hotel recommendations in Bordeaux.

It’s no secret that Bordeaux is famous for producing world-renowned wines. With over 7,000 vineyards and 65 appellations of wine, Bordeaux is known as one of the world’s wine capitals. But while wine makes up a big part of Bordeaux’s character, the city offers so much more. A visit will provide a perfect blend of cuisine, culture, shopping, entertainment and more.

Travel writer and podcast host Kevin Flanagan, has visited Bordeaux on many occasions and he shares his top things to do in Bordeaux below as well as insider tips and recommendations in this Bordeaux travel guide.

Travel Writer visiting Bordeaux

My first trip to Bordeaux was one I will never forget – after becoming editor of the Irish Independent Fine Wine and Food Guide, I embarked on a press trip there with fellow wine enthusiasts and travel journalists. And believe it or not, I had no previous knowledge or experience with wine! I was nervous, to say the least.

But on arriving in Bordeaux, I soon realised you don’t need to be a wine aficionado to visit. Because a visit to Bordeaux brings with it a journey of discovery. As I explored the region’s wine heritage, I discovered a newfound love for wine. But beyond that, Bordeaux – also known as the ‘City of Art and History’ – offers a mix of rich historical heritage and modernity. There are many opportunities to immerse yourself in the wonders of the city.

About Bordeaux

Situated in south-western France on the Garonne River, the UNESCO world heritage site listed city of Bordeaux has a history dating back to 300 BC. It then came under Roman rule in 60 BC and over the years, flourished as the centre of maritime trade, supplying the English market and eventually the world with Bordeaux wines, coffee and cotton.

Fast forward to 2024 and Bordeaux is now the sixth-most populated city in France. It is an international tourist destination, and with the exception of Paris, it is the city with the most monuments in France, as well as being a world capital of wine and one of France’s centres of gastronomy.

wine tasting near Bordeaux

Bordeaux is also a highly walkable city, with many of its breathtaking sights based in and around the city, but there’s also a great tram line with single fares starting at €1.70. Several wine-growing areas are also easily reachable by bicycle, while vineyards and chateaus outside the city centre are just a short train, bus or car journey away.

Top wine experiences in Bordeaux

1. Learn about the history of wine at La Cité du Vin ( City of Wine)

There’s no better way to start your wine adventure than at La Cité du Vin. Located on the outskirts of Bordeaux city centre, in my opinion, La Cité du Vin is a must do in Bordeaux if you want to discover more about winemaking in an interesting, fun and interactive way.

The Cité du Vin is one of the top things to do in Bordeaux

Opened in 2016, this is an exhibition venue related to all things wine. It has seen more than two million people pass through its doors since opening. The striking architectural structure and its gorgeous location along the river has added to the tourism and promoted the city of Bordeaux.

There are 18 sections at the museum. For example, in one section, you’ll learn about different grape varieties and the winemaking process, and in another, you’ll explore wine aromas. Then there’s wine-tasting at the end, on the eighth floor called Belvedere – not only do you get to sip on wine here, but you’ll take in gorgeous views of Bordeaux.

There’s a lot to explore at La Cité du Vin, and you could easily spend a whole day here, but approximately three hours should do it. But it’s important to note that the exhibition isn’t solely dedicated to Bordeaux wines. It is more focused on world winemaking, however, La Cité du Vin is rich in information and is a perfect introduction to the world of wine. 

You can even bring kids along, as they’ll get to smell, touch, learn and relish a fascinating part of history. Many of the displays are very interactive and for example, you get to smell the various bouquets that come with the crops used in creating wine, as well as touch them. 

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Top Tip for wine lovers: For a deeper insight into Bordeaux’s wine trading industry, check out Musée du Vin et du Négoce (Wine and Trade Museum), which is a hidden gem located in the Chartrons neighbourhood. In fact, the building has a link to Ireland, having been an Irish merchant’s house dating to 1720.

You can visit its vaulted cellar and discover three centuries of wine history in Bordeaux. You can see why Bordeaux is one of the best cities in the world for wine lovers!

2. Take a day trip to a vineyard / winery

There’s a wide selection of vineyards surrounding Bordeaux (over 7,000 in fact!) that are accessible via train, bus or car rental, so it can be overwhelming to try to choose which to visit, especially if you’re only visiting for a weekend.

a visit to a winery is one of the top things to do in Bordeaux

Bordeaux is divided by the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers into two main parts, the Left Bank and the Right Bank and there are a variety of wine sub-regions – including Médoc and Pauillac (Left Bank) and Pomerol and Saint Émilion (Right Bank). Each region has its own distinct characteristics and it’s really down to personal preference, but one of the most popular is perhaps Saint-Émilion.

Just a little over a 40-minute drive from Bordeaux city center, Saint-Émilion is one of the most prestigious wine regions in the world. The history of this wine-growing region stretches over 2,000 years, and it’s famous for producing high-quality red wines including the Merlot and Cabernet France.

I recommend visiting the beautiful Château Soutard in Saint-Émilion, where you can enjoy sipping on red or white wine by the glass, rent a bicycle to explore the surrounding vineyards and try a variety of wine activities. Or, the family-run Château Cantenac, which is both charming and welcoming.

I’d also highly recommend Château Lynch-Bages, a winery in the Pauillac region, just under an hour’s drive from Bordeaux city centre. This scenic winery is a pleasure to visit and was actually founded by an Irishman, John Lynch, who emigrated to Bordeaux from Galway in 1691. The 90ha estate remained in the Lynch family for 75 years and is today owned by the Cazes family. A new state-of-the-art winery opened there in 2020 and you can book guided tours and tasting sessions.        

Top Tip: One of the best times to go wine tasting in Bordeaux is between May and November to explore the vineyards, but Bordeaux wineries usually start harvesting grapes in September, and the sun is usually still beaming down during this time.

I’ve picked two top-rated wine tours to Saint-Emillion below, a half day option, and a full day trip taking in Medoc too.

3. Enjoy food and wine tasting in Bordeaux

If you don’t have time to leave the city, but want to discover the art of wine-tasting, along with what food best pairs with which wine, then consider booking a workshop in the city center.

wine tasting tour in Bordeaux

Olala Bordeaux, located near the Grand Theatre, has a range of workshops with wine experts including an introduction to Bordeaux wine and a masterclass where you’ll learn all the wine terms and get to taste fine wines paired with local charcuterie and cheeses.

You could even combine wine-tasting with a gourmet walking guided tour, learning all about Bordeaux’s wine history, exploring its neighbourhoods while enjoying food and wine along the way. I have selected three top-rated wine tours in Bordeaux below.

Other things to do in Bordeaux

4. See Bordeaux by bicycle

One way to really appreciate the beauty of Bordeaux and see as much as possible, is to take a bike ride through its districts. Bordeaux is a very bike-friendly city, with great amenities for cyclists.

Bordeaux Cathedral

I‘d recommend cycling through the lively Saint-Michel district, which is home to the Basilica of Saint Michel and its spire – a remarkable example of Gothic architecture.

Another great place to see in Bordeaux that can easily be reached by bike, include Bordeaux Cathedral (Cathédrale St. André), Grosse Cloche (one of the oldest belfries in France) and Place de la Bourse (a classical 18th-century French square which has a spectacular water feature creating a reflection effect).

Consider joining in on a guided bike tour, where an expert can show you the top bike spots and share local knowledge. I have selected two bike tours in Bordeaux below:

Top Tip: There are plenty of top places to hire bikes in Bordeaux, but if you prefer to set off on your own cycling adventure, Bike Hire Direct can deliver bikes directly to your accommodation.

5. Take a picture at Porte Cailhau

This impressive 35-metre tall gate, which dates back to the 1490s, was once used as a defensive means and commemorates the victory of Fornovo in Italy by King Charles VIII of France. It’s one of just a few remaining gates to the Old City.

The magnificent structure looks like something from a fairytale with its conical towers and it is one of the top instagram locations in Bordeaux.

Top Tip: You can also climb up inside Porte Cailhau for a small fee and get an incredible view of the Pont de Pierre, the oldest bridge in Bordeaux.

6. Take in an opera

Even if you’re not an opera lover, the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux is one of the most beautiful places you’ll see in Bordeaux, perhaps even in Europe!

the opera house in Bordeaux has regular opera and ballet performances

With Greek-style columns fronting the building, and lavish chandeliers and a grand staircase inside, the theatre is a fabulous date night setting, showing a range of French plays, ballets and operas. 

7. Shop till you drop

Firstly, I never go to Bordeaux without doing some wine shopping. L’intendant is a stunning world-famous wine merchant owned by DUCLOT, trading since 1886. As well as stocking a range of essential Bordeaux wines, the store also has an impressive, Instagrammable winding staircase.

Aside from wine shopping, check out Bordeaux’s markets for local cuisine, antiques and more. There’s Marché Royal (Royal Market) in Saint Michel, an open-air market on Saturdays, and Le Marché des Capucins in the Noailles, which is one of the oldest and most popular markets in France. Opened from Tuesday-Sunday (closed Mondays), this indoor market offers cheeses and wine, coffee oysters!

For all your other shopping needs, Rue St Catherine is the main shopping street in Bordeaux, stretching 1.2km and lined with French chain stores, cafés and restaurants.

Top Tip: Try Canelé at a market or one of Bordeaux’s many bakeries. This traditional French pastry is the delicacy of Bordeaux and has a soft custard centre, flavoured with vanilla and rum, and a crispy caramelised crust. Yum!

8. Check out Bordeaux’s art scene

For art lovers, Bordeaux has a fantastic art scene. A must-visit is the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux (Museum of Fine Arts), which is an impressive building that houses collections from the 16th century to the present day, including works from Picasso and Rubens. The museum currently closes on Saturdays and entry is €8, or free with the Bordeaux Métropole City Pass (more on this below).   

Bordeaux street art

As you wander the streets, you’ll also come across some very cool Bordeaux street art and murals – there are about 218 urban pieces on walls and buildings around the city.

Château du Bois Fleuri, sitting in the heart of Lormont, is a fascinating fairy-tale-like building from the 1800s which is now permanently closed, but has been given to artist Muriel Rodoloss. Muriel has created paintings within the doors and windows of the mansion. You can also choose to book a street art guided tour from just €15!

9. Visit the world’s largest reflecting pool

The Miroir d’eau or Water Mirror, is the biggest reflecting pool in the world and is in Bordeaux. Located on the quay of the Garonne in front of the Place de la Bourse, it was built in 2006 and is almost 3.5 square kilometres in size.

the Miroir d’eau is one of the top things to do in Bordeaux with kids

Made of granite stone, it has only been located at the Place de la Bourse for less than 20 years, but has become a very popular spot to visit, especially for families, it is one of the top things to do in Bordeaux with kids.

It was designed by the artist Michel Corajoud and built using an abandoned underground warehouse, which houses the machinery needed to make it operational. With just 2cm of water on the ground, it makes for a magical reflecting pool, and then every 15 minutes it creates artificial misting in an extraordinary way.

10. Take in the views from Mama Shelter’s rooftop bar

If you’re looking for a trendy rooftop bar, then head to Mama Shelter. Dine at the hotel’s restaurant and pizzeria, which has a reasonably-priced menu featuring Italian and French influences, before sitting back and taking in stunning city views with a glass of wine or one of their popular cocktails.

Top Tip: Visit at sunset for a romantic moment.

Where to eat in Bordeaux 

If you just want to sit back and sip and savour a glass of wine alongside delectable cuisine, there are many wine bars and restaurants to choose from in the city. Bordeaux wines are often amongst the most expensive in the world thanks to the famous terroir – a bottle of Château Lafite, for example, could set you back up to €2,000 at a top-tier restaurant! But in Bordeaux’s bars and restaurants you can find great wines for as little as €3 a glass to go with good food.

 

Whether it’s fine dining or budget-friendly options you’re looking for, here are just some of my favourite restaurants in Bordeaux. 

Le Pressoir d’Argent Gordon Ramsay

michelin-starred restaurants in Bordeaux

Did you know Gordon Ramsay owns a two Michelin-starred restaurant in Bordeaux? Well, now you do! I once interviewed the celebrity chef and his opulent Le Pressoir d’Argent restaurant, based in the InterContinental hotel, is a divine taste experience!

There are over 550 wine options to choose from, as well as creative French-inspired menus, with stand-out dishes including the exquisite lobster and the scallops. Dining here is quite pricey, with the Héritage pairing food and wine menu starting at €190, but it’s the perfect place for a special occasion.

Les Trois Pinardiers

This bar on Rue des Carmes near the Garonne River has gained a reputation for its superb wines, friendly staff and laid-back atmosphere in a nautical-themed setting. If you’re looking for light bites such as a charcuterie board alongside wine or local cider and beers, then check out Les Trois Pinardiers

Le Bar à Vin

€2 glasses of wine – need I say any more? Located on the ground floor of the beautiful 18th century Maison du Vin de Bordeaux, at Le Bar à Vin, you can get a taste of the entire palette of Bordeaux, from reds and roses to sweet whites. All are accompanied by local delicacies including cheese, cold meat and chocolate.

Where to stay in Bordeaux

From self-catering apartments and luxury hotels, I’ve got recommendations and some of the great places to stay in Bordeaux.

3-Star MEININGER Hotel Bordeaux Gare Saint-Jean

 MEININGER Hotel Bordeaux Gare Saint-Jean

If you’re planning on spending a lot of time exploring the streets of Bordeaux and are looking for something affordable, clean and modern, then MEININGER Hotel Bordeaux Gare Saint-Jean is ideal. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor and you will see how popular this hotel really is.

Located in the bustling neighbourhood of Bordeaux St Jean, it’s a little bit further away from main attractions but is close to the Bordeaux Saint-Jean train station, making it a great inexpensive base from which to discover the city.

3-Star Best Western Grand Hotel Francais

The Best Western is based on a quiet street in the Triangle d’Or central district, so is suitable if you really want to unwind, but it’s also not too far from many main attractions and there are a variety of cafés and restaurants closeby. The hotel has also many great reviews on TripAdvisor.

4-Star Hotel de S​èze

This stylish hotel in the heart of Bordeaux has a fantastic restaurant and spa, as well as friendly staff. It’s within walking distance of a variety of attractions including Place de la Bourse and Monument aux Girondins.

 

4-Star StayCity Aparthotel

If you like having hotel facilities but want the advantages of self-catering, then this is the accommodation for you. As well as having a fully equipped kitchenette, you can enjoy its 24 hour reception, bar and breakfast room. This is a popular family accommodation in Bordeaux. 

5-Star Intercontinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hotel

rooftop bar at Intercontinental Bordeaux

If it’s luxury you’re after, then set your sights on the 5-Star Intercontinental Le Grand Hotel. Along with being home to the Gordon Ramsay restaurant, this majestic hotel has a gorgeous rooftop lounge and a seriously opulent spa, the Guerlain Spa. The beds even feature Egyptian cotton sheets and pillows. You’ll be well-rested here – but perhaps too well-rested, you won’t want to leave!

How to get to Bordeaux

You can travel direct to Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport with Ryanair from Dublin and Cork and Aer Lingus from Dublin airport, with a flight time of about two hours.

If travelling via ferry, companies such as Irish Ferries and Brittany Ferries offer a service from Rosslare to Cherbourg in France, but the drive from Cherbourg to Bordeaux is approximately seven hours.

Travelling in Bordeaux 

There’s a great public transport system in Bordeaux, with four tram lines and a bus network, which are affordable. Walking and cycling around Bordeaux is a great option for those who want to explore the city at their own pace.

travelling in Bordeaux

If you plan on doing a day trip, then rental cars start at approximately €30 per day. To help save money on travel and attractions, consider the Bordeaux City Pass. This offers free or discounted access to various attractions and activities for a period of 24, 48 or 72 hours, as well as unlimited use of public transport, bike rides and discounts in restaurants and shops.  

We hear all about vineyard trips in Bordeaux, but if you are craving a beach holiday this year, did you know Bordeaux is close to many beaches? You can combine the city with the sea!

Arcachon Bay is a beautiful spot, just a little over an hour’s drive from Bordeaux. It has striking views of the Atlantic Ocean and is also known for its oyster farming, making it a famous destination for oyster eaters (like moi!).

The best time to visit Bordeaux

Traditionally, summer is the most popular time to visit the beautiful city of Bordeaux, with temperatures averaging around 24-27 degrees. There are also many events in summer and an abundance of river cruises can be seen sailing along the Garonne.

best time to visit Bordeaux

However, spring can also be warm and less busy, with cheaper hotel rates. And autumn is a great time to visit, being harvest season, but book any wine tour in advance, as harvest time can be busy.  

How long to spend in Bordeaux

I am often asked how long should I spend in Bordeaux, but this is really down to personal preferences. If you primarily want a city break, and plan one day trip to a wine area, then a weekend would be enough time. However, if you have the time to stay longer, I’d recommend a minimum of five days to really explore Bordeaux’s attractions, vineyards and stunning Atlantic coast.     

I hope my Bordeaux travel guide will help you make the most of this great city, whether you are a wine lover or not!

Kevin Flanagan

While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, prices and attractions are subject to change. Some of the links in this post contain affiliate links, where I receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional charge to you.

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