The wine capital of the world has more than one trick up its sleeve. Discover all the not-to-be-missed highlights of your visit to Bordeaux.
Bordeaux is, of course, world-famous for its first-rate wines. However, this is not what earned it Unesco recognition in 2007. In fact, it’s the impressive concentration of historic monuments and the particularly homogeneous architecture of the city center that is being celebrated as a World Heritage Site. In fact, Bordeaux is first and foremost known for its proud Haussmann façades and spectacular squares.
Undeniably elegant, even to the point of being nicknamed “sleeping beauty”, Bordeaux has nonetheless found a new lease on life. Boosted by its demographic dynamism and the emergence of contemporary neighborhoods, the city is reinventing itself and coming alive. To visit Bordeaux today is to immerse yourself in a city on the move! We take you on a tour of the must-sees
Located at the crossroads of trade routes, Bordeaux has played an important role in history since antiquity. In fact, the city still bears the imprint of its prestigious past, and is brimming with remarkable monuments.
1. Stroll around the Unesco perimeter of Bordeaux
Bordeaux has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. More precisely, a perimeter representing more than half the city’s surface area has been inscribed. While this includes more than 300 listed monuments, it is rather its unrivalled architectural coherence that Unesco is highlighting. A stroll through the streets of Bordeaux reveals a superb ensemble of perfectly renovated classical and neoclassical buildings.
Without a doubt, Bordeaux has panache, with its grand squares, proud avenues and elegant facades. That’s why a stroll around the Unesco perimeter is the first thing to do in Bordeaux! And to complete your stroll, a visit to the “Bordeaux Patrimoine Mondial” (Bordeaux World Heritage) exhibition site provides an interesting historical perspective.
2. Admire Place des Quinconces and Place de la Comédie
Among Bordeaux’s majestic finery, its squares stand out. And among them, the Place des Quinconces is undoubtedly the most remarkable. At 12 hectares, this esplanade on the banks of the Garonne is the largest in Europe. Both sober and monumental, it is largely planted with trees. It’s perfect for a shady break, during which you can admire the statues and columns.
Next, head for the Place de la Comédie. With its proud facades and monumental clock, it’s the epitome of Bordeaux elegance. It is also home to the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux. Its colonnaded architecture and impeccable programming make it another Bordeaux must-see!
3. Climb Pey Berland Tower
What if you were to take to the skies to discover Bordeaux in a different light? Then head for the Pey Berland tower. This high campanile is none other than the bell tower of Saint-Jean Cathedral. And as well as being a jewel of Gothic art, the tower offers a breathtaking view of the city. So don’t be put off by the 231 steps up to the terrace, which offers an unbeatable panorama of Bordeaux.
4. Visit the Musée d’Aquitaine
For history buffs and the simply curious, the Musée d’Aquitaine is a must-see in Bordeaux. It’s one of the largest history museums in France, with collections ranging from prehistory to the present day.
During your visit, you’ll be immersed in the rich and eventful history of Bordeaux and the surrounding region. We particularly recommend the well-documented section on the triangular trade and slavery. The museum also hosts regular temporary exhibitions and lecture series.
Reflections and lights
Bordeaux’s architecture is dazzling in its own right. But it also knows how to adorn itself in light and play with the reflections of the river.
5. Playing with the water mirror at Place de la Bourse
We mentioned a few of Bordeaux’s squares above, but the Place de la Bourse is just as much a must-see. Built in 1720, this symmetrical royal square was one of the first symbols of modern Bordeaux. Today, however, it’s a much more contemporary addition that makes its reputation: the water mirror.
This spectacular work by landscape architect Michel Corajoud covers the square with a fine carpet of water. Its surface reflects not only the surrounding facades, but also the sky and its changing colors. This poetic site is without doubt a must-see in Bordeaux, and will delight budding photographers in particular.
6. Take a cruise on the Garonne from Bordeaux
How about rediscovering Bordeaux by water? Numerous river companies invite you to cruise the waters of the river and admire the city from a different angle. While the trip itself is ideal for daydreaming, themed cruises offer tailor-made experiences. History buffs can easily find guided tours of the city’s heritage and past.
As for bon vivants, they’ll appreciate aperitif cruises or gastronomic strolls on a restaurant boat. And families won’t be left out, with adventures specially designed for young visitors.
7. Cycle along the quays at sunset
Strolling along Bordeaux’s quays is a way of admiring the city’s harmonious architecture and majestic bridges. But it’s also about letting your eyes drift with the reflections of the Garonne and the moving clouds. Borrow a bike, and a wind of freedom will blow over your escapade. Finally, choose the hour of sunset, and your stroll along the quays will become truly magical.
8. Marvel at the Bassin des Lumières
A city of glitter and reflections, Bordeaux has illuminated the remnants of dark times with the Bassin des Lumières. Located in a World War II submarine base, this living museum is a breathtaking place.
From the walls to the ceiling, via the surface of the basins, masterpieces stretch and come to life, forming a superb sound and light show. A unique sensory experience that plunges you right into the heart of the masterpieces. For all these reasons, the Bassin des Lumières is a must-see in Bordeaux.
The wine capital of the world, Bordeaux is undeniably an epicurean city. Here, vines and gastronomy are celebrated with passion. So treat yourself to some of the things to do in Bordeaux!
9. Explore the Cité du Vin
Inaugurated in 2016, the Cité du Vin has quickly become a Bordeaux landmark. This monumental, contemporary building houses a fascinating museum dedicated to the art of wine. Here, you can travel through time and space to retrace the rich, living history of wine and its place in the world’s cultures.
Don’t hesitate to devote half a day to the visit, to have enough time to discover all the treasures the Cité has to offer. After all, this tour is one of Bordeaux’s must-sees!
10. Taste local wines and specialities of Bordeaux
Once you’ve explored wine from every angle at the Cité du Vin, it’s time to taste it. Perfect timing: Bordeaux is full of excellent wine bars. Your visit to Bordeaux will also be the perfect opportunity to treat yourself to a guided tasting by an oenologist. From chic bars to friendly bistros, there’s a place for everyone.
When it comes to restaurants, too, you’ll have no trouble finding what you’re looking for. Gourmets can turn to the city’s fine gourmet addresses, which include a number of Michelin-starred restaurants.
And adventurous eaters won’t be outdone, as Bordeaux’s gastronomy has reinvented itself. From street food to bistronomy, the culinary scene is particularly dynamic. But above all, don’t miss the real Bordeaux must-have: the delicious cannelé, available in every bakery.
11. Enjoy the atmosphere of the markets
If you think of Bordeaux as a sleepy town, a visit to one of its markets will be enough to disabuse you of any doubts. Start with Bordeaux’s most famous market, the Capucins covered market. Nicknamed the “belly” of the city, it’s constantly buzzing with a cosmopolitan stream of onlookers. Its colorful stalls offer a jumble of flowers, fruit and vegetables, whole fish…
In addition to this large permanent market, other markets liven up the city at weekends. The Quai des Chartrons market offers a lovely Sunday stroll along the banks of the Garonne. As for the Marché Royal, it features a host of food and non-food stalls every Saturday.
Bordeaux on the move
Your stay in Bordeaux will quickly dispel the clichés of a sleepy, bourgeois city. In fact, Bordeaux today is a bustling city in constant reinvention, sure to inspire you.
12. Discover the new Bordeaux
Beyond the Unesco perimeter, where classicism is elevated to the art of living, architects in Bordeaux have deployed a wealth of inventiveness. As mentioned above, the undulating curves of the Cité du Vin are a perfect illustration. But there’s also the Méca, Maison de l’économie créative et culturelle, with its surprising lines. Or the MMM or Musée Mer Marine, with its facade engraved with bubbles and waves.
For architecture lovers, a visit outside Bordeaux is a must. Nearby Pessac is home to the famous Cité Frug/ès, a UNESCO-listed work by Le Corbusier.
13. Get inspired by the Darwin ecosystem
Darwin écosystème is like a city within a city. This ambitious third-location center occupies a rehabilitated former barracks on the Right Bank. With its open-air galleries, skate park and organic store, Darwin is a complete alternative. At the Magasin Général, you can enjoy tasty organic dishes created from local produce.
In short, Darwin is a hipster’s paradise, but not the only one! Pleasant and convivial, the place also welcomes families and the curious of all kinds, around a rich cultural program. The Darwin ecosystem is undoubtedly the must-see of contemporary Bordeaux.
14. See a film in a church, at the Utopia cinema
Let’s stay on the side of alternative cultural venues with the Utopia cinema. There’s nothing ordinary about this cinema, which nestles in the heart of a former church. Right from the entrance hall, the vaults and arches create an incomparable atmosphere. But beyond this theatrical setting, Utopia is also a venue with a diversified arthouse program.
It also offers a wide range of film events, and regularly hosts themed festivals. Last but not least, tickets are particularly inexpensive. There’s no denying that Utopia is Bordeaux’s must-see cinema!
15. Going out in Bordeaux
With over 100,000 students, Bordeaux has a particularly dynamic nightlife. For partying in Bordeaux, the Saint-Pierre district is a must. Its cobbled streets are home to countless bars, restaurants and clubs for night owls of all ages.
On the banks of the Garonne, the Quai de la Paludate offers a host of bars, clubs and barges where you can dance the night away. As for the Place de la Victoire, it’s the epicenter of lively student nights. If you’re looking for a quieter atmosphere, head for the wine bars in the Notre Dame district.
How to get to Bordeaux ?
With 260 trains a day, including 25 round trips to Paris, Bordeaux Saint-Jean station is particularly well served. There are direct connections to Lille and Strasbourg. As for the Paris-Bordeaux TGV, it now takes just over 2 hours to cross France. All in all, the train is an excellent way to get to Bordeaux.
Located 12 kilometers from the city center, Bordeaux Mérignac airport serves some 100 national and international destinations. From Paris, there are numerous flight connections. Use Skyscanner’s flight comparator to find the right plane for you.
With no less than four freeways, Bordeaux is at the crossroads of France. So it’s easy to reach the city by car from Bayonne or Toulouse, as well as Nantes or Lyon, and many others.
Where to stay in Bordeaux?
To make sure you don’t miss out on any of Bordeaux’s highlights, we recommend staying in the city center. When it comes to accommodation and restaurants, there’s something for everyone. The city offers a wide range of luxury hotels, as well as more authentic bed & breakfasts. For those on a budget, youth hostels and Airbnb rentals are ideal. Finally, another option is to get away from it all and stay in a château or country gîte away from the city… In any case, hotel comparisons will be your best friends for finding the perfect accommodation.
here are the best accommodation options in Bordeaux:
- For a family trip, I recommend the Hilton Garden Inn Bordeaux Centre hotel. It’s located in the Saint-Jean train station area and offers spacious, modern rooms.
- For a trip as a couple, I recommend the Villa Reale hotel. It’s located in downtown Bordeaux and offers elegant rooms with a magnificent view of the city
- If you’re on a budget, I recommend the Bordeaux Cosy B&B hotel. It’s located in the Nansouty Saint-Genes district and offers comfortable, modern rooms at an affordable price.
- For the best value for money, I recommend the Quality Hotel Bordeaux Centre. It’s located in Bordeaux’s historic district and offers spacious, modern rooms at a reasonable price.
- For a luxurious stay, I recommend the Palais Gallien Hotel & Spa. It’s located in downtown Bordeaux and offers elegant, luxurious rooms as well as a spa and outdoor pool .
- If you’re looking for an establishment with a strong sustainable commitment, I recommend Les pénates bordelaises – Maison d’hôtes – Guesthouse. It’s located in the Cauderan district and offers ecological and sustainable rooms.
As you can see, Bordeaux is brimming with unmissable sights. From history and heritage to cultural life and gastronomy, you can be sure of a rich and varied stay! And once you’ve explored Bordeaux’s must-sees, don’t forget to take in the city’s surroundings. From the Arcachon Basin or Cap Ferret to the Bordeaux vineyards, you’ll discover breathtaking landscapes.