Bordeaux is not only the World Capital of Wine but also the second city in France with the most UNESCO World Heritage sites. The beautiful and vibrant city is a perfect weekend getaway destination. Among the activities you could do such as wandering around the city, appreciating the architecture and cultural sites, you can also enjoy a visit to one the most famous vineyards in the world or spend the day at the beach. Whether you are travelling with your family, as a couple, solo or with friends, spending a weekend in Bordeaux is sure to be entertaining.
Our 3 day itinerary is perfect for exploring both Bordeaux and the surrounding area. To enjoy more sights and venture even further into the countryside, I would recommend adding a day or two.
- Day 1: Explore Old Town
- Day 2: Discover Bassin d’Arcachon and Dune du Pilat
- Day 3: Morning with locals at a market
- 1 Weekend in Bordeaux Day 1 – Exploring the Old Town
- 2 Tour Pey-Berland & Cathédrale Saint-André
- 3 Place de la Bourse & Miroir d’Eau
- 4 Grosse Cloche
- 5 Place des Quinconces (monument des Girondins)
- 6 Place de la Comédie
- 7 Place de la Victoire
- 8 Porte Cailhau
- 9 Weekend in Bordeaux Day 2 – Discovering locale and cultural sites
- 10 Marché des Capucins
- 11 Saint-Michel flea market
- 12 Rue Sainte Catherine
- 13 Cité du Vin
- 14 Other things to do
- 15 Weekend in Bordeaux Day 3 – Day trip to Arcachon or Saint-Emilion
- 16 Arcachon
- 17 Dune du Pilat
- 18 Saint-Emilion
- 19 Where to Eat in Bordeaux
- 20 Where to stay in Bordeaux
- 21 Practical information for your weekend in Bordeaux
Weekend in Bordeaux Day 1 – Exploring the Old Town
The first day of our weekend break was spent exploring the old town. We arrived on a Friday afternoon and although the weather wasn’t great (it was drizzling) we managed to see most of the main sites. The best thing about Bordeaux is that all the important points of interest are concentrated in the same area, thus making it ideal for those who like to explore on foot.
Tour Pey-Berland & Cathédrale Saint-André
Situated close to the Hotel De Ville (Town Hall), Pey-Berland tower and Saint-André cathedral are a must see while in Bordeaux. Pey-Berland is a freestanding bell tower located by the cathedral. Built in the 15th century and rising to 66m, the tower offers a panoramic view over the city after climbing the 229 stairs. It’s not an easy climb but well worth the effort because the view of the city is outstanding. The ticket is 6 euros but free if you are under 26 (EU citizens or residents) or have the Bordeaux City Pass. Tip: only climb on a clear and bright day.
The Roman Catholic cathedral, in a gothic style, is equally beautiful inside and outside. The clergy, having amassed impressive treasures within its religious edifices, is displaying them for the public to see twice weekly.
- Address: Place Pey-Berland
- Pey-Berland Tower is open day – Entry 6€, free for under 26s
- Cathedral is open Wednesdays and Saturdays (PM) Entry 2€, free entry for under 12s.
Place de la Bourse & Miroir d’Eau
Miroir d’Eau (Water Mirror) is the most popular and photographed place in Bordeaux. So, something not to miss out during your weekend break to Bordeaux. Located across the road from Place de la Bourse, Miroir d’Eau is in fact a reflecting pool.
Why is the place a must see? Simply because when the water recedes underground, it creates a shiny surface which helps the magnificent buildings of Place de la Bourse to reflect on it creating a magical sight. Kids, adults, locals and tourists alike love this work of art.
The buildings of Place de la Bourse were built in the 18th century to open up the city’s fortified medieval walls. They consist of three separate buildings: Hôtel de la Bourse, Hôtel des Fermes and the central pavilion.
Address: 2-8, place de la Bourse
Grosse Cloche which means “big bell” in English is one of the oldest belfries in France. The 7,750 kgs bell christened “Armande-Louise (all french bells have a name) rings only on the first Sunday of each month and celebrations like January 1, May 8, July 14 for Bastille Day, August 28th which marks the 1944 liberation of Bordeaux and November 11th. The gate where the bell is hung served as a prison for young people who failed to respect the city’s curfew or public order. Visitors can visit the tower and “haunted” dungeons.
Address: 1 rue Saint-James – Tourist Office offers a guided tour every day from June to September (PM) ; on Saturdays from March to May, October and November only on reservation at the Tourist Office (the guided tour is only in french)
Place des Quinconces (monument des Girondins)
Head to Places des Quinconces situated in the heart of Bordeaux to see the Monument des Girondins. The monument sitting in one of the largest squares in Europe, was erected in memory of the Girondists who fell during the French Revolution.
The square houses lots of events throughout the year so depending on your travel dates, you might find a fun fair, antique fair or a big open space like we did. The esplanade is also a major transport hub with trams, buses and coaches passing through.
There is no doubt that you will pass through at some point during your weekend in Bordeaux, so you should make a special trip there to soak up the sunshine (weather permitting) or walk beneath the trees towards the Garonne river.
Place de la Comédie
The Place de la Comédie is the square where most of the streets in Bordeaux join. From there, you can head to the Monument aux Girondins on Place des Quinconces or shop on the famous Rue Sainte Catherine. The square is home to the Grand Théâtre and the luxury hotel Intercontinental Grand Hotel de Bordeaux.
The majestic theatre – rebuilt in 1773 after a fire – is where you can hear the Opéra National de Bordeaux perform. The building has twelve columns.
Grand Théâtre is an unmissable architectural marvel in Bordeaux. Go check out the huge woman’s face or simply sit on the terrace of a restaurant and enjoy people going by their business.
Place de la Victoire
Place de la Victoire is another of Bordeaux’ busy squares. The Porte d’Aquitaine (gate) stands proudly in the square along with a 16 meter pillar and a giant turtle sculpture. The column and turtle are recent additions. While the pillar is a monument dedicated to wine and viticulture, the turtle represents the slow but steady rise of the wine industry. It’s frequented by young university students since it’s the start of Rue Sainte-Catherine. There is also an antique book sale on Fridays.
One of the main entrances to medieval Bordeaux, Porte Cailhau is one of the city’s most beautiful pieces of architecture. The 15th century gate served as both a defensive gate and arch of victory and dominance celebrating King of France, Charles VIII’s victory in Italy. You can go inside, check out the small museum and enjoy the view over the river, quay and more.
Address: Place du Palais – Open daily – Entrance : 5 € (free for under 12s or holder ofBordeaux City Pass)
Weekend in Bordeaux Day 2 – Discovering locale and cultural sites
What would a weekend in France be without a stroll in a market? So, for our second day in Bordeaux, we decided to spend some time doing things like the locals by doing some shopping and visiting the Marché des Capucins.
Marché des Capucins
If you are fascinated by French markets and the variety of things on sale then I recommend stopping by Marché des Capucins. It’s the biggest daily market in Bordeaux so expect to find everything from fruits and vegetables, fish, meat and poultry counters, cheese, bread etc…
The covered market is open daily but it’s during the weekend that you can see locals making their weekly shopping.
We loved checking out the different stalls. There are lots of places where you can eat. Whether you are looking for some charcuterie, seafood (oysters, prawns and whelks) or tapas, you are sure to find a nice place to sit down and eat. Locals usually enjoy a serving of oysters with a glass of white wine. We couldn’t resist but copied them so we sat at a packed terrace and ordered some oysters served with lemon and yummy fresh bread. Followed a serving of whelks and king prawns.
Saint-Michel flea market
Following on from Marche des Capucins, you can explore another market: the flea market located in the Saint-Michel neighborhood. It’s open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. It’s a nice market to check out if you like vintage items. If you love antiques, then this place is right for you as there are several antique shops nearby. There are many other things to do and see in the area like the Basilica of Saint Michel and Flèche Saint-Michel, a bell tower. Both are situated in Place Meynard which is surrounded by cafes and restaurants.
Rue Sainte Catherine
If you would like to get a little bit of the French chic while in Bordeaux, then you have to stroll along Rue Sainte Catherine. It’s the longest pedestrian street in Europe and is full of clothes stores and other boutiques. If you start from Place de la Victoire, you will find cheap clothing stores reminiscent of clothes you will find in markets. You will also find lots of fast food restaurants and even naan kebabs!
Towards the middle of the long street, you will find the typical high street chains like H&M, Maje, Sandro and Galeries Lafayette. For high end clothes, head to Passage Sainte Catherine. Clothes in Bordeaux are less expensive than Paris or London so make the most of it!
Cité du Vin
Had we had more time in Bordeaux, I would have ventured in the Chartrons neighbourhood and seen the Cité du Vin (Wine City) further down the Garonne River and the beautiful parks. The high-tech, futuristic wine museum has modernised Bordeaux’s skyline. You can join a wine-tasting workshop, learn about wine from all around the world, visit the massive wine cellar. If you are not a wine lover, you can have dinner in the 7 Restaurant, located on the 7th floor of the museum.
Other things to do
With so many classified and listed buildings in Bordeaux, it’s no wonder that the city has a big number of museums. If you have more time, add one or two in your itinerary, especially when it’s raining. Some of the museums to check out are:
- Marine Museum – the Musée Mer Marine is where you can learn all about the history of men at sea through artworks, maps, marine objects and model boats and scenography. It’s a great place to take childrens. Address: Bassin à Flot, 89 rue des Etrangers, 33300 Bordeaux
- Natural History Museum – One of the largest in France, it offers permanent and temporary exhibitions, multimedia shows and workshops. It recently opened after a major renovation. Address: 5 place Bardineau 33000 Bordeaux
- Museum of Decorative Arts of Bordeaux – housed in a historic beautiful townhouse, the museum is a home to collections of furniture, ceramics and many other objects dated from the 18th and 19th centuries. Address: 39 Rue Bouffard
- Musée d’Aquitaine – If you are a History buff and are interested in learning all about Bordeaux’s past from the Stone Age to the modern day, Musée d’Aquitaine is the place to visit. If you want to learn about the history and archaeology of Bordeaux and its region (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), this is your best source. Address: 20 Cours Pasteur
- Explore the city’s street art scene
Admire some street art
Like Montpellier, Ghent or Glasgow, I couldn’t visit Bordeaux without checking out the street art scene. If you are interested in seeing more of the colourful creations, have a look at Street Art Bordeaux Facebook page or join a street art walking tour with Bordeaux Tourist Office. Some of the places you can see graffiti (detailed location map here) are Thiers Benauge, the Skatepark Hangar Darwin near Cité du Vin or Quai de Paludate.
Go for a stroll
There is nothing better than taking a stroll in Bordeaux, the city is definitely a city for strolling. After wandering around the city, make your way towards the river banks. There’s a lively riverside market on Quai des Chartrons where you can (like in the other market) sit down to relax and enjoy a glass of wine with oysters.In addition to taking in the open views, take time to appreciate the fact that Bordeaux is void of skyscrapers. Thanks to the Mayor Alain Juppé banning high-rise buildings by the banks.
Weekend in Bordeaux Day 3 – Day trip to Arcachon or Saint-Emilion
There are plenty of amazing day trips options from Bordeaux. We decided to use our last day to venture outside of Bordeaux. We wanted to make a short getaway to the sea or explore the vineyards. Have more time to spend in Bordeaux, check out the other day trip options,
Arcachon is a cute seaside town where the pastel coloured houses have names. It is easily accessible from Saint-Jean station and takes less than 50 minutes for a cost of €7 one way. Arcachon is known for its oyster production and sandy beaches. Since we visited in February, there was pretty much nothing but taking a long walk on the empty beach. In the high season, you can take a boat to Arcachon Bay and see the oyster-beds.
After noticing lots of restaurants along the waterfront, we decided to have lunch there. I would recommend Diego located in front of the beach. The restaurant is beautiful, with delicious food and a friendly staff!
Dune du Pilat
A short car drive from Arcachon is the Dune du Pilat, the biggest and highest sand dune in Europe. Stretching over 2.7km and rising to 110m, it’s an impressive sight and a good workout too. When you climb all the way to the top, you will be welcomed with a nice panoramic view over the ocean, forest, Bassin d’Arcachon and Cap Ferret.
If you visit during the low season like we did, you will have to climb up the sandy slopes, however from May to November, stairs will be installed to help the climbing. To get to Dunes du Pilat via public transport, take Bus 1 (Baia) from Arcachon station.
Address: Route de Biscarrosse (RD 218) 33115 Pyla-sur-Mer
Whether you are a wine lover or like wandering small villages, you will love the medieval village of Saint-Émilion. The wine town with cobbled streets and rows after rows of vineyards is a UNESCO designated site. Aside from wine tasting at a chateau, the attractions of the town are wandering around the streets, grabbing a famed macaron from Ferlion Macarons and taking in the architecture and the beauty of the place. Saint-Émilion is an easy 45-minute drive from Bordeaux but for a stress-free visit, consider booking this half-day wine tour.
Where to Eat in Bordeaux
What to eat in Bordeaux
Food has an important place in Bordeaux and the city has a big number of restaurants. As the capital of wine, good restaurants are needed to pair up the wine with the food. Not only would you be able to see all kinds of French restaurants, but you will also experience dishes from other parts of the world like Asian, African and Arabian restaurants.
Canelés are the city’s speciality and are made of pastry flavoured with rum and vanilla. You can find them practically everywhere, especially in the old town. Having said that some places do better canelés than others. Even though I have only been in the city for 3 days, I managed to make my way through and taste from several shops and bakeries. Pâtisserie San Nicolas and Baillardan are big names but my favourite was by La Toque Cuivrée. They have shops in different areas but if you are on Rue Sainte-Catherine, stop by to get a taste.
Puits d’Amour or ‘wells of love’ in English is a bit-size biscuit made of pâte à choux (light puff pastry) filled first with crème Chiboust (mix of crème pâtissière and Italian meringue) and a layer of crunchy caramel. We initially saw the stall in Marche des Capucins and had to have a taste. That’s what we did. You can buy them individually, which is convenient. They come in two delicious flavours; I recommend you try both. You might as well!
With the largest number of restaurants per habitant, Bordeaux is not the place you will struggle to find something to eat. This restaurant was recommended to us by some local friends.
La Tanière is an authentic traditional restaurant. If you’re after good food, a cosy atmosphere and great value then this is for you. Plus, serving are huge!
La Tanière, 41 Quai Richelieu
Le chien de Pavlov
We were recommended Le Chien de Pavlov. The menu is ever changing depending on the available ingredients. The little bistro is a locals’ favourite. Sadly it was packed when we went so i would recommend you make a reservation.
Le Chien de Pavlov, 45 Rue de la Devise.
Babette is a concept store and restaurant linked to Hilton by Garden Inn. When I dine in a hotel restaurant, it’s usually because it’s very late or the weather is too bad to go out. We had initially planned on eating at La Boca but couldn’t find a place to sit so went back to the hotel. We noticed that the restaurant was busy during lunch so decided to give it a try. Babette proved to be a pleasant surprise, with great food and friendly service. I had the souffle which was divine while my cousin had the slow cooked braised beef cheek. It’s so tender that it melts in your mouth.
Babette Concept Store Bordeaux, 207 Quai de Paludate
La Boca FoodCourt
It’s a food hall with more than 10 restaurants. You will find anything from Asian noodles and sushi bars, American burgers, Spanish tapas and French patisserie and seafood bars. Here people eat on communal tables s ideal for groups. The place is cashless so you can either pay by card that you get from a machine at the entrance or via La Boca app.
La Boca FoodCourt, Euratlantique, Quai de Paludate
Where to stay in Bordeaux
If you are planning a weekend in Bordeaux (or three/four days in Bordeaux) make sure to book well in advance. Prices can go off the roof pretty quickly, especially if there is an event. We stayed at Hilton Garden Inn located 10 minutes walk from Saint Jean station. Although it’s a good 15 minutes from the city centre, it’s a great hotel. Here are some other places we’ve come across during our research: Hotel du Theatre, Mama Shelter Bordeaux, Ydon Hotel, Intercontinental Bordeaux Le Grand Hotel , Seeko’o.
Practical information for your weekend in Bordeaux
How to get to Bordeaux
One of the best parts about travelling to Bordeaux is how cheap the train and flights cost are!
If you are travelling from Paris Montparnasse, the good news is that Bordeaux Saint Jean Station is only 2h30 away on the TGV. Also thanks to OuiGo, you can get a fare as little as 10€ each way. How cool is that! You can also travel from other cities in France or Spain via the cheaper Regional TER or the Intercity trains.
If you are flying from the rest of France or Europe, be sure to check the best fares via Skyscanner. I flew from London with British Airways and managed to grab an unbeatable £30 each way! With a flight time of only 1 hour and 20 minutes, you have no reasons not to book a little city break.
Upon arrival at Bordeaux Merignac, you can either take Lianes bus 1+ to the city centre or the shuttle bus. The city bus costs 1.70€ and takes about an hour to get to Saint Jean Station while the Keolis shuttle at 8€ takes half the time. You can also take the taxi but it will cost you about 35/45€ depending on your final location.
If taking the bus is no problem for you, know that both Flexibus and Eurolines have direct services to Bordeaux. The bus stop is in Quai de Paludate, close to the train station.
On foot: Although Bordeaux is a big city, the places of interest are all centred in the same area, the old town, making it perfect to explore the city on foot.
By bus or tram: Bordeaux doesn’t have a metro system but has excellent buses and trams systems. Tickets cost about €1.6 for a single ticket (note that you allow unlimited transfer between buses and trams within an hour window but you must validate your ticket each time). If you are planning to use public transport more than three times, it would be beneficial and more cost effective to buy a daily pass €4.6 or pack of 5/10 tickets for €6.70/€12.70.
Map of Bordeaux
I fell in love with Bordeaux. I loved: small size, beautiful architecture (mix of old and modern) delicious restaurants and the atmosphere.
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