Things to do in Bordeaux

Discover the Capital of France's wine region

With its eclectic nature, an advantageous location on the banks of the river Garonne, and plenty of attractions and activities to offer, Bordeaux is an unmissable stop for all travellers visiting Southwestern France. The world capital of wine and one of the loveliest French port cities, Bordeaux will strike you with its harmonious blend of modernity and historical past, which earned it the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its unique architectural and cultural gems, stunning coastline, and extensive vineyards, the 'Pearl of Aquitane' will leave you no time to be bored. From the scenic Mirroir d’Eau in Place de la Bourse to the marvellous Cathedral of Saint Andrew, discover the majestic palaces and buildings of the Old Town, and delve into the regional gastronomy by browsing the many traditional cafes and bistros. Read our tips and tricks to make the most of your stay and discover the most exciting things to do in Bordeaux.
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Place de la Bourse

Start your urban exploration in Bordeaux with a walk through its historic centre. Located on a crescent on the left bank of the river Garonne, Bordeaux’s Old Town is listed among UNESCO World Heritage Sites and boasts incredible architectural gems dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The central Place de la Bourse is among Bordeaux’s most recognizable landmarks. The square was designed by Louis XV’s favourite architect, Jacques Gabriel, and symbolizes Bordeaux’s new independence after the demolition of the city’s medieval walls in 1720. Place de la Bourse houses magnificent historic buildings such as the neoclassical Hôtel des Fermes, a former royal palace now housing the art and history museum Musée National des Douanes, and the imposing Hôtel de la Bourse, although its most notable feature is the scenic Mirroir d’Eau (Water Mirror), a giant walkable reflecting pool very popular both among tourists and the Bordelais- and an excellent spot for spectacular pictures and selfies.

Cathedral of St Andrew of Bordeaux

From Place de la Bourse you will easily reach Bordeaux’s most impressive religious monument. The beautiful Cathédrale-Primatiale Saint-André de Bordeaux (the Primatial Cathedral of St Andrew of Bordeaux) dates back to the 12th century and, together with the basilica St. Severinus and the basilica St. Michael, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Originally built in the Romanesque style, the cathedral underwent many reconstructions and was rebuilt in the Gothic style between the 12th and the 16th centuries. Its impressive façade boasts decorative elements typical of French Gothic architecture, while the interiors conceal a vast collection of sacred artworks and paintings open to the public. Quite uniquely, the cathedral’s belltower, named Pey-Berland after the archbishop of Bordeaux, is separated from the rest of the building; if you feel up for a challenge, climb the 233 belltower’s steps and enjoy a spectacular view of Bordeaux from the top of the monument.

Pont de Pierre

Designed under Napoleon I and officially inaugurated in 1822, the Pont de Pierre (Stone Bridge) is another characteristic symbol of Bordeaux. Similarly to the Pont Neuf in Paris, the bridge is the oldest- and, until 1965, the only- link between the two banks of the river Garonne. Connecting the city centre on the Garonne’s left bank to the quartier de la Bastide on the right bank, the Pont de Pierre, which, contrary to its name, is built of brick, is 500 metres long and counts seventeen arches, one for each letter in Napoleon Bonaparte’s name. The bridge has been closed to traffic since 2018, which makes it possible for pedestrians to cross it while enjoying views of the city and the river Garonne. Do not miss the chance of a night hike to admire the Pont de Pierre scenic illumination.

Jardin Public

Bordeaux’s beautiful public gardens have been among the Bordelais’ favourites since their creation in 1746. The Jardin Public is an extensive green space located not too far from the historic centre and the river Garonne’s promenade. Combining the architectural elements typical of the 18th century with a rural, peaceful setting with a lake surrounded by trees, the Jardin Public is Bordeaux’s real green lung. The gardens extend over 11 hectares of greenery and include a botanical garden, elegantly arranged flowerbeds, a children’s play area and the popular Guignol Guérin puppet show. If you visit Bordeaux with the kids, check out the Natural History Museum on the southwestern end of the Jardin Public. The Musée d’Histoire Naturelle regularly hosts several permanent and temporary exhibitions where you can learn more about hundreds of specimens and their ecosystems. Before leaving the park, treat yourself to a glass of local wine and excellent seasonal specialities at the park’s bar-restaurant L’Orangerie.

Bordeaux's Grosse Cloche

In the heart of the Old Town in the quaint Rue St. James street, you will come across the Grosse Cloche, the massive bell of the belfry incorporated in one of the old entrances to Bordeaux’s medieval centre. The whole vestiges of the ancient ramparts, the gateway called Porte Eloi, include the belfry and its clock, the adjacent towers and the underground gaols. Once utilized as a juvenile prison, the “Big Bell” is among the city’s most emblematic monuments and is part of the Santiago de Compostela route, included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Although the bell is rung only six times a year for specific festivities and at noon every first Sunday of the month, the belfry is open to the public: do not forget to bring your camera for scenic shots of the gate and the Rue St. James from above.

Place des Quinconces and Monument aux Girondins

Just a few blocks from the Jardin Public is the famous Place des Quinconces, one of the most extensive squares in Europe and the largest in France. Located across and close to the river Garonne’s banks, the 12-hectare Esplanade des Quinconces regularly hosts fairs, sporting and live events and is among the most photographed sites in Bordeaux. The square features unique examples of architectural mastery, such as the statues of Montaigne and Montesquieu, the imposing rostral columns facing the Garonne river, and the dramatic Monument aux Girondins, built to commemorate the Girondin revolutionaries assassinated during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. The monument is composed of a large pedestal encompassing two large fountains decorated with Baroque bronze sculptures, and a 54-metre-high column surmounted by a statue symbolizing liberty.

Join a wine-tasting tour in Bordeaux's vineyards

Bordeaux doesn’t boast the reputation of the world wine capital for nothing: the countryside surrounding the cité du vin is dotted with countless vineyards that include over 6000 châteaux, historic villages and the vestiges of ancient Roman churches. Fine wine connoisseurs will appreciate the numerous guided tours in the nearby wineries and the chance to taste some of the highest-rated white and red wine paired with exquisite local delicatessens. Although the entire Bordeaux region is renowned for its vineyards, some of our favourite wine tour destinations near Bordeaux include Pessac-Leognan (the closest to the city), Medoc, and Saint-Emilion, listed among the UNESCO World Heritage sites. During your stay, do not forget to try some of the gastronomic gems Bordeaux is famous for; Bordelaise cuisine will surprise you with its strong character and numerous sweet and savoury specialities. Besides the many French classics, we suggest you try the puits d’amour, small caramelized pastries made from choux pastry and filled with meringue cream, and the popular canelés, small pastries baked in a scalloped mould with vanilla, rum and cane sugar.

Rue Sainte-Catherine

If you want to enjoy an afternoon of non-stop shopping, you cannot skip a walk along the popular Rue St. Catherine. Crossing Bordeaux’s city centre and connecting Place de la Comédie to Place de la Victoire, the 1.2 kilometres-long Rue St. Catherine is the longest pedestrianized street in Europe, showcasing exclusive luxury French brands, popular and international chains and unique boutiques that add a bohemian vibe to the venue. The shopping street also features the popular malls Galerie Bordelaise and Galerie Lafayette hosted in recently renovated historic buildings. During your Bordeaux shop-until-you-drop tour, take a break at one of the many local cafes to rest and relax with a pastry or a drink.

Stroll along the river Garonne's banks

Bordeaux’s waterfront is among the most beautiful in Europe: before leaving the Perle d’Aquitaine enjoy the scenic 4-kilometres-long promenade along the banks of the Garonne. In particular, the left bank quays are part of a magnificent urban landscape that UNESCO included in the World Heritage list and offer a great chance to explore the city by its waterfront. Enjoy scenic views of Bordeaux’s most spectacular landmarks, visit the Bord’Eau Village shopping complex, or treat yourself to some of the French specialities of the many restaurants on the Quai des Marques. If you want to admire Bordeaux’s cityscape from a different perspective, you can also opt for a cruise on the Garonne and take superb panoramic shots from the water while enjoying a glass of wine.

Discover the Côte d'Argent and its beaches

Depending on when you visit Bordeaux, you might want to check out the splendid beaches along its coastline. Thanks to its mild climate and its cultural and architectural attractions, the capital of the Aquitaine region is a pleasant holiday destination all year-round. If you visit in the summertime or during the warmest spring months, you will have the chance to enjoy some of the loveliest beaches in Western France. The coastal area, called Côte d’Argent, includes gems like Lacanau-Océan beach, a renowned surfing destination surrounded by spectacular golden dunes and a pine forest, and the beautiful Pereire Beach, located in the Arcachon Bay at a short distance from Bordeaux.