Go where the locals go in France. Hire a modern travel agent with ViaHero.

26 Things to do in Bordeaux France

Updated September 7, 2023

If you’re thinking Bordeaux, you might be thinking wine, which there is plenty of in the region. But there is also plenty else going on, making it one of the best places to visit in France! Here are 26 great things to do in the city and the surrounding countryside – plenty of wine tips are included. After you’ve read through these ideas, ask a local trip planner to help you find even more hidden gems in Bordeaux!

Table of Contents

Enter Bordeaux through its gorgeous gates

Once upon a time, the Porte Cailhau was everyone’s introduction to Bordeaux. For safety (not something you have to worry about anymore, as traveling to France is really safe) and to ensure taxes could be collected it was the single entryway into the city. Now it still remains an important part of Bordeaux for its beauty, impressive architecture (a combination of Gothic and Renaissance), and the part it has played throughout history. And, amazingly, the gate you’ll see today is almost exactly as it was 500 years ago. You can climb to the top of its towers for great views across the city.

Indulge in a five-star experience

Bordeaux has a reputation for wealth. From its lush vineyards to its picture-perfect old town, it retains a feeling of that old-timey luxury. So why not embrace that vibe a bit while you’re in town? Villas Foch Boutique Hotel & Spa Bordeaux is a lush five-star hotel right in the center of the old town where you can be completely immersed in the finer things. And since indulgent eating is an absolute must-do in France, why not reserve a table at Le Pressoir d'Argent which has two Michelin stars and where Gordon Ramsey is involved with finalizing the menu?

Sip on Pomerol

If you want to make your winey friends back home jealous of your Bordeaux trip (or if you yourself are a big wine lover!), make sure to get your hands on a bottle of Pomerol, one of the most coveted wines of the region, if not the world. Whether it’s sipping champagne or this stunning red, drinking French wine while in the country is one of the best things to do in France. The commune of Pomerol, and the wineries of the region, are about an hour's drive from Bordeaux. Since you’ll be drinking on the trip, it’s best to book as part of a guided tour, or you could ask a local to help you put together an itinerary and arrange a private driver for the day. Make sure not to skip a visit to Vignobles Carles and Château Bonalgue.

Go shopping on rue Sainte-Catherine

Shopping needs or wants or not, rue Sainte-Catherine is a really nice walk. The entire length of the street is just under one km (about half a mile) and you could easily just get the walk done in ten to fifteen minutes. But as a fully pedestrianized route, it’s a really nice stretch to take your time wandering down. You’ll certainly find chain shops here. But you’ll also be able to pop into a vintage store, a comic book shop, and plenty of local boutiques. 

Take a day trip to Saint-Émilion

The rooftops of Saint-Émilion - Tanja Cotoaga/Unsplash

It’s difficult to imagine there is a spot more worthy of a postcard than Saint-Émilion. Easily reached in just over an hour from Bordeaux by train, if you have a spare day, Saint-Émilion is a must-see. You could just spend the day there wandering the perfect streets, staring at the epic views, and generally enjoying the quaint, small town. But you could also stop and enjoy some local wine (merlot is the area’s specialty), have a bite to eat (check out Le Bis By Baud et Millet), or do both while on a picnic (one of the things you should know for your trip to France is that open containers are perfectly legal!), or ask a local trip planner what else they recommend doing.

Go for a cycle through the city

Bordeaux has about 200 km (about 125 miles) of cycle paths, and many of those are very flat, making it one of the best cities in France to hop on a bike. The city’s bike share program is called Cykleo and has stations across the city. You could spend a few hours or a day aimlessly checking out the city on two wheels, or you could book a biking tour.

Look in the mirror in Place de la Bourse

Reflections in Place de la Bourse at night - Clovis Wood Photography/Unsplash

The huge main square of Bordeaux is not only noteworthy for being such a recognizable space, but also for being home to the largest reflecting pool in the world – amazingly it is more than 37,000 square feet. This is amongst the things that make Bordeaux one of the best cities to visit in France. The whole space really is a sight and experience not to be missed. It combines the old (a 300-year-old square) with the new (a 20-year-old reflecting pool) in a phenomenal manner. You’ll see all sorts of people here, playing, watching, and loving life. 

Drink more wine

The region of Bordeaux is potentially the most famous wine region in not just the country, but the entire world – making a visit to it amongst the best things to do in France. It’s unlikely you haven’t at least heard the name uttered, even if you yourself are not a huge wine nerd. If you enjoy even the smallest of tipples, this is the place to indulge. Bordeaux is the name of the wine from the region, but the grapes used are primarily merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc. For tips on the best wine bars, restaurants, or other options, chat with a local Hero and get their advice

Try all the local dishes

If you’re not overindulging in food all throughout your trip, you’re missing one of the best things to do in France. While Bordeaux may be best known for its wine, wine is only improved when it’s paired with the right food. Speaking of which, one of Bordeaux’s specialties is Confit de vin de Sauternes au safran, a confit made from reduced wine. Here are some others to try:

  • Lamprey à la Bordelaise

  • Entrecôte marchand de vin

  • Cannelé

  • Cap Ferret oysters

  • Les cèpes en persillade

Visit old town

Many of the items on this list are actually in old Bordeaux’s old town (known as the Saint Pierre district): Port Cailhau, the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, and Place de la Bourse, for example, and while these are all important points to include on your itinerary, it’s also great to reserve time to simply wander this area of the city. It’s full of the historical past and vibrant with life present. And for more tips on exactly where to wander, ask a local trip planner where they like to go.

Stroll along the Quais de Bordeaux

The quayside in winter - Vince Gx/Unsplash

The quayside, or riverfront, in Bordeaux, is easily one of the most beautifully developed anywhere in the world. There are gorgeous, flat, paved paths along the water which are excellent for a stroll, a jog, or a cycle. There are also a myriad of green spaces and gardens along the quayside where you can sit out in the sun with a book or a glass of wine. Stop by the skatepark to see what the kids are up to, or check out some of the higher-end shopping in the area.

Have a look at St Andre Cathedral

Unofficially referred to as the Bordeaux Cathedral, this commanding structure from the 17th century has seen a great deal of history and has played host to several weddings which were integral to the changing dynamics of Europe at the time. It is absolutely worth visiting, and best of all it is free to enter. The church does host services on Sundays and occasionally puts on concerts that can be quite impressive to witness. 

Learn more about wine in La Cité du Vin

In case you hadn’t already figured it out, Bordeaux is an immense wine region, and La Cité du Vin is dedicated solely to that wine. The museum offers an immersive experience bringing you through the first instances of wine around the world and into present-day vineyards. All ticketed entries to the museum include a glass of wine at the onsite restaurant, where you can also dine. But beyond the museum and restaurant, there are a wide array of workshops offered, from a simple beginner’s introduction to wine tasting to cheese or chocolate pairing workshops – some of these though are only offered in French.

Take a trip through history in Musée d’Aquitaine

The Musée d’Aquitaine lays out the history and civilization of present-day Bordeaux and the surrounding region – the Aquitane. The museum really does take you through all the ages: prehistory, the Iron Age, Antiquity, the Medieval period, the Modern Era, and then finally the 20th Century. Entrance to the museum is quite affordable at just €5 which includes an audio guide. 

Hang out in Place des Quinconces

Place des Quinconces is a big, grand square in Bordeaux where you can often find small events or markets happening. Just about every day you can grab a small bite to eat or a drink from one of the kiosks in the square, but you might also encounter small antique markets or kids' fun fairs. This is also a great meeting and reference point as it is quite centrally located in Bordeaux.

Try a glass of Médoc

Médoc is another subregion of wine in Bordeaux. It’s about an hour's drive northeast from the city, and while you can book a guided tour you might again consider hiring a private driver and consulting with a local trip planner on which stops they say can’t be missed. There is ample opportunity in the area to try the Médoc wine appellation and there are several gorgeous chateaus that you should plan to visit: Château Margaux is one of the most stunning.

Go shopping on Sunday in St. Michel Brocante

A Sunday morning tradition in the St. Michel neighborhood is the market that opens in Place Meynard with hundreds of vendors. You can snag anything from a basket of fruit or veggies to a comfy pillow. Even if you’re after neither or nothing, stop by and stroll the bustling market to see locals going about their business, or find yourself a chair in one of the nearby cafes and watch from there. 

Snap a few photos of the stone bridge

Pont de Pierre in Bordeaux - Pierre Blaché/Unsplash

You really can’t spend very long in Bordeaux without noticing the gorgeous stone bridge that spans the Garonne River. Officially the name of this bridge is Pont de Pierre. It has 17 arches and was the first bridge to connect the two sides of Bordeaux when it was built in the 19th century. For some of the best photo angles of the bridge, head to the east side of the river and go just north of the bridge. From there you can catch the bridge with the basilica in the background.

Go to a show in the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux

The exterior architecture of the Grand Theater - Clovis Wood Photography/Unsplash

The Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux is impressive in so many ways. Its exterior shows off neoclassical architecture and the interior is a jaw-dropping concert hall dating back to the 18th century, but then there are the shows – ranging from operas to modern dance to symphonies. Public visits are only available during the summer months, but there are performances year-round, tickets to which are usually available to the general public.

Take a wine-tasting tour

Bordeaux grapes - Henri Guérin/Unsplash

If you put together all the various wine destinations already mentioned in this post, you’ve got yourself a pretty decent wine tour. But to figure out the exact logistics of that, and to know if there are any other stops you might want to add on, chat with a local Hero and see what they recommend. They might be able to help you put together a self-guided tour of the region, or recommend the best guided tour. 

Enjoy a slow river cruise

Whether you want to rent out an entire boat for just you and your partner, throw a party with all of your friends, or join a group lunch cruise, or even if you’re not totally wine-d out and want to hop on a wine cruise, there are loads of river cruise options in Bordeaux. Cruises generally start north of the Pont d’Aquitane and head down to Pont du Pierre before turning around. This route basically shows you the entire city from a new angle – and it’s a great one!

Marvel at the art in Musee des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux

In English, this is the Fine Arts Museum of Bordeaux. It houses paintings, sculptures, and other mediums from the 15th-century Renaissance period through to 21st-century modern art. In addition to the permanent and temporary exhibitions, there are occasional performances held in the museum space. Make sure not to miss that there are two buildings across from each other that make up the entirety of the museum, your ticket allows entry to both but they have separate doors.

Attend the annual wine festival

If you’re planning a trip to Bordeaux you have to expect many mentions of wine! Here’s another. The annual Bordeaux wine festival takes place over a long weekend in early summer (usually late June). It puts on a show all that the region has to offer as local vintners gather in the city to share their wares. Beyond ample opportunity to taste and enjoy a variety of wines, there are workshops and shows as well as loads of activities for kids, making it a generally relaxed, fun, festival-like vibe.

Get out of town to La Rochelle

La Rochelle’s harbor - Karim MANJRA/Unsplash

If you’re looking for a day trip from Bordeaux that is a little less about wine, consider La Rochelle. La Rochelle is a small but bustling university city right on the water just north of Bordeaux. The train journey there is just about three hours, so you could even consider making this an overnight away from your base in Bordeaux. 

Eat seafood 

Though Bordeaux is not necessarily what you immediately think of when you think of French seaside cities, the Atlantic is a mere 30 miles from the city center. And as such, so is all the seafood you could want. There are lots of seafood restaurants, so check in with a local travel planner on where they think you’d enjoy. But keep Le Petit Commerce on your radar, especially to try some basics, like mussels or shrimp, done well.

Climb up Dune du Pilat

Photo by Carlo Knell on Unsplash

One final easy day trip from Bordeaux is to nearby Dune du Pilat, it’s not only one of the tallest sand dunes in Europe but it’s also one of the best places to visit in France. And it’s just an hour's drive southwest of the city. Once you’re out there it’s also a great area where you can enjoy an ocean day after climbing up and walking along the dune’s ridge. Check out Plage Arcachon just north of the dune. If you do want to see a few different beaches and explore the area it’s best to rent a car to drive yourself out there. 

As you can see, there is plenty to do in the city as well as the region of Bordeaux. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the next steps, don't worry! The best way to make sure you fit everything you want into your trip without getting overwhelmed is to enlist the help of a knowledgeable local. They can also suggest lots of off-the-beaten-path spots that didn’t make this list.  

Read more about France: 

Connect With a Local to Plan Your Trip

20 Things to Do in France (Local Recs)

Where to Stay in France: 11 Amazing Places

The 6 Best Cities in France (Recommended by Locals)

Where to Go in France in 2024?

Contact Us


Still have questions about travel to France?
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

Looking for more info?