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When you visit Bordeaux France, it’s hard to imagine that this elegant city was once called the Sleeping Beauty of France. It was a city with blackened 18th-century buildings and a seedy waterfront. A major revitalization project that took well over a decade, has transformed Bordeaux into a popular destination worth exploring. The city, as a whole, is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visit Bordeaux and it is easy to understand its appeal. The Garonne River, with its refurbished riverside pathway, winds its way through the city, historic sites are accessible by walking and there is plenty of local wine to drink. A win-win… don’t you think?
9 Amazing Things To Do In Bordeaux France
Wander with me through Bordeaux for a taste of the elegance and beauty I discovered.
1. Visit Bordeaux | Stand In Place de la Bourse
Place de la Bourse has been Bordeaux’s most famous sight for centuries. This square is an exquisite example of classic French architecture from the 18th century. The Miroir d’Eau (Mirror of Water) in the foreground, is the world’s largest reflecting pool. It was added in 2006 and draws people together to splash about in the 2 cm deep water. A wall of misty fog appears about every 15 minutes.
This will be a highlight of visiting Bordeaux France.
Other places to explore include the medieval villages of the Dordogne Valley And, Paris is a 2-hour train ride away. Read here to plan your Paris experiences.
2. Admire Place des Quinconces
Place des Quiconces is one of the largest squares in Europe.
Look up! This glorious bird woman, facing the centre of Bordeaux, is breaking free of her chains. Hello, freedom.
When you visit Bordeaux, admire these bronze horses spouting water surrounding the towering monument. You never know what you might see! On a hot summer’s day, I watched a few people dipping in to cool off.
Of course, there is a historical significance. The fountains and towering column are dedicated to the Girondins who were a political faction during the French Revolution.
Read More | The UNESCO Heritage Site of Rocamadour France is sure to interest you if you are a lover of ancient towns carved into a cliff with seven chapels and a Black Madonna. It’s about 2 and a half hours from Bordeaux.
3. Explore The Charming Neighbourhood Of Chartrons
When you visit Bordeaux, don’t miss the Church of Saint-Louis whose spires soar over the Place du Marché des Chartrons. This square was once the site of a 19th-century market and is surrounded by cafés and restaurants. A great place for a little respite after exploring the quirky antique shops on nearby Rue Notre-Dame.
I stayed in this area and loved the old-world charm. It was a quick 15-minute walk along the river pathway to the historical centre.
Where To Eat In Bordeaux France
The restaurant Chez Dupont in Chartrons came highly recommended so I indulged in the prix fixe menu at lunch. It was delicious. This restaurant, in the true French style, serves lunch from 12 pm – 2 pm. Arrive after 2 pm and you are out of luck!
4. Marvel At The Incredible Cathédrale Saint-André
The stunning Cathedral of Saint Andre, located in the heart of Bordeaux, is a true masterpiece of Gothic architecture. From the outside, its towering spires and intricate detailing demand attention, while inside, the cathedral’s beauty is even more apparent. The grand nave is adorned with stunning stained glass windows, and the vaulted ceiling seems to reach towards the heavens.
The Tower of Pey- Berland, the magnificent stand-alone bell tower located next to Saint-André Cathedral, is a true marvel of medieval architecture. Standing tall at over 66 meters, it is an unmissable symbol of Bordeaux’s rich history and culture. Climb the winding stairs to the top of the tower to be rewarded with breathtaking views over the city and the Garonne River below. When you visit Bordeaux, be sure to include the Tower of Pey Berland on your itinerary.
5. Visit Bordeaux And Go On A Wine Tour
A wine tour when visiting Bordeaux France is a must.
Bordeaux, famous worldwide for its wine, is the largest wine-producing region in France. These five grape varieties are the secret to Bordeaux wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Bordeaux is surrounded by hectares of vineyards and majestic châteaux.
Many of the châteaux hand-pick and hand-sort all the grapes…. who knew? I think I will appreciate that next glass of Malbec just a bit more.
When you visit Bordeaux, it is highly recommended to take a full or half-day wine tour. Here are some suggestions:
Find a half-day tour to Medoc country here or a full-day tour here.
Or a half-day vineyard tour to Saint-Émilion. There are also full-day tours to Saint-Émilion.
If you don’t have time for a tour to wine country, you could enjoy a Bordeaux wine and cheese tasting right in the city!
Read More: Saint-Emilion is a fabulous half-day or full-day trip from Bordeaux. Here is how to do this trip independently.
6. Visit Bordeaux And Attend The Wine Festival
When visiting Bordeaux, try to coordinate with the Bordeaux Wine Festival. In 2018, the 20th anniversary of the Bordeaux Wine Festival, there was a Tall Ships Regatta along with many festivities and much wine tasting.
I only caught the last morning as the Tall Ships left port, sailing down the Garonne River. The spirit of the festival was still running high as bands played and young girls shouted from the shore, “Good-bye Portugal..”
Read more | The Atlantic beaches are so close. You won’t regret a trip to this one. Biscarrosse Plage: Why this Atlantic Beach is a Must.
7. Explore CAPC – The Museum of Contemporary Art
CAPC is housed in a beautiful old warehouse full of arches that is worth a stop when visiting Bordeaux.
On my visit, the art installations were beyond my ability to appreciate them. For example, the concrete blocks pictured were part of one of the exhibits.
Certain art styles or artists’ work, might not resonate, but the experience still challenges one to look for different perspectives.
8. Take In Pont de Pierre (Stone Bridge) and Flèche St-Michel (Arrow St-Michel)
When you visit Bordeaux, the Pont de Pierre and the Flèche Saint-Michel create a lasting impression. The Pont de Pierre was the first one constructed in Bordeaux to connect the right and left banks of the Garonne River. It was built under Napoleon I – so it is a very old bridge! The steeple is the second tallest steeple in France and was built in the 15th century. “La Flèche” is a stand-alone bell tower and can be climbed for a sweeping view.
Read More | A 2.5-hour drive from Bordeaux is the fantastic French island of Ile de Ré. Plan a little holiday there. You’ll love it!
9. Stroll The Quays When You Visit Bordeaux France
The quays in Bordeaux France tells a lot about the city. Residents and visitors alike flock to the quays of the Garonne River to stroll, cycle and rollerblade. Picnics are in full swing and music is sure to reach your ears from a street musician. The 4.5 km (2.8 miles) of pathways are a chill and wonderful place to absorb the vibe of the city. Don’t miss the quays of the Garonne when visiting Bordeaux.
10. Stand Amidst A Sound And Light Show
Culturespaces have opened Les Bassins de Lumières in Bordeaux. Similar to Atelier des Lumières in Paris, Les Bassins de Lumières features mesmerizing light and sound experiences projected onto massive surfaces of water. This unique art center is situated in an old submarine base, which gives it an intriguing historical edge.
Inside Les Bassins de Lumières, visitors can explore four large underwater basins that have been transformed into galleries showcasing the works of famous artists such as Klimt and Monet. The intricate projections and vivid colors bring the paintings to life! Find out more about Les Bassins de Lumières.
More Travel Info
Visit Bordeaux France
How To Get To Bordeaux:
Bordeaux is easily accessed by all modes of transportation.
Bordeaux From Paris By Train:
The new TGV train (in 2017) makes it only a 2-hour train journey between Paris and Bordeaux. This makes it an easy visit, even a day trip, from Paris.
BTW: TGV stands for “Très Grande Vitesse” (in English: very fast)
Trains arrive at Gare St. Jean which is very central. The tram stop is right at the station.
Visit Bordeaux Interesting Fact: The tram cars are 98% recyclable!
Arriving At Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport (BOD):
The Bordeaux International Airport is a busy hub.
How To Get From Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport (BOD) To The City:
The T1 bus into Bordeaux is the least expensive option (€1.60/$2.50) to get to the city centre. It runs regularly and takes about 50 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at the machine by the stop or on the bus. In my experience, the bus drivers were very helpful.
Read more details here.
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