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Is Bordeaux Worth Visiting? 15 Reasons to Visit in 2024

Gross Cloche in Bordeaux
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Is Bordeaux Worth Visiting? | Located in the southwest of France, Bordeaux is famous for its wines and is known as the Wine Capital of The World. If you’re a wine lover, then this is the perfect destination for you.

Bordeaux is an up-and-coming city in France. While wine may be the main lure to the city, especially during the fall harvest, there is so much more that this beautiful city has to offer.

Bordeaux is home to one of the best flea markets in France, amazing local food markets, stunning 18th century architecture, and incredible cuisine. It’s only an hour from the ocean and minutes from the lush vineyards of the Gironde.

So – is Bordeaux worth visiting? The answer is yes! We spent 2 weeks in Bordeaux exploring all that the city has to offer, and we’re sharing 15 reasons why we believe it’s one of the best cities to visit in France in 2024.

15 Reasons to visit Bordeaux, France

1. World Capital of Wine

Wine tasting in Medoc

Bordeaux is renowned for its incredible wines and has been crowned the World Capital of Wine. The region is home to over 6,000 wineries and has 272,000 acres, or 110,000 hectares, of vineyards producing what are considered some of the best wines around the globe.

Bordeaux is especially known for its red wines, which account for 90% of the region’s production. The red wine in this region is crafted primarily from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc grape varietals.

The region also produces some fantastic white wines with blends made of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes. Sauternes is a popular sweet wine made of white grapes.

The Bordeaux wine region is home to 57 appellations. Medoc, Margaux, Saint Emilion, and Pomerol are all well-known and can be visited on day trips from Bordeaux.

If you consider yourself a wine aficionado, then a visit to the Bordeaux region is a must!

2. Stunning Architecture and UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Bordeaux Old Town is made up of elegant 18th-century buildings, charming streets, and beautiful monuments. The Old Town is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and within this protected area are 350 buildings listed as Historical Monuments.

Here are some of the must-see architectural sites in Bordeaux:

  • Porte Cailhau – Built in 1495 as a monument for King Charles VIII, this gate once served as the main entrance to the city. For €5, you can climb to the top of the gate (it’s not too tall) for lovely views overlooking the River Garonne and the Place du Palais.
  • Grosse Cloche – Built in the 15th century, the Grosse Cloche is a large medieval clock tower that was also one of the main entrances into Bordeaux. For the best view, order a drink and grab a table outside of Books & Coffee.
  • Place de La Bourse – This iconic square was built in the 18th century and is the symbol of Bordeaux. It features the Miroir d’eau, which is the world’s largest reflecting pool.
  • Cathedral Saint Andre – This church is a magnificent example of Gothic architecture and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most important event to be held here was the marriage between Eleanor of Aquitaine to the future King Louis VII in the 12th century.

The streets of Bordeaux are like a maze, and we loved spending a couple of hours everyday getting lost and discovering hidden gems. It’s one of the most elegant historic city centers in France.

3. Exceptional French Cuisine

Not only is Bordeaux worth visiting for its wine but also for its exceptional food scene. With over 9 Michelin Star restaurants in the city center and plenty of other excellent restaurants, you won’t have a hard time finding good food here.

Being only 1-hour from the Atlantic Ocean, oysters and caviar from Cap Ferret are a popular delicacy in Bordeaux. Locally sourced produce, such as white asparagus from Blaye and Bordeaux Cèpes (mushrooms) are found in many seasonal dishes.

Bazas beef comes from the nearby town of Bazas and is a tender and flavorful beef that is served in many restaurants around Bordeaux, such as Brasserie Bordelaise. Finally, fois gras (duck liver) is a local delicacy from the southwest of France and is often served as an appetizer.

Here are a few restaurants we recommend trying in Bordeaux:

4. Incredible Chocolate & Desserts

Dune Blanches in Bordeaux

Of course, France is famous for its delicate (and complex) pastries made with layers of cake, cream, and mousse. What’s so different about Bordeaux?

The desserts in Bordeaux are unique to the region, and they are more difficult to find in other parts of France.

The first must-try dessert is a canelé. The canelé is a small, caramelized pastry with a custard center flavored with rum and vanilla. It’s an iconic dessert and its sweet and caramelized flavor is irresistible.

You can buy canelés from La Toque Cuivrée and Baillardran Bordeaux – both shops have several locations around Bordeaux.

Another dessert we love are Dunes Blanches. This specialty comes from the nearby Cap Ferret in the Arcachon Bay.

Dunes Blanches are light and airy cream puffs filled with chantilly cream and topped with sugar crystals and powdered sugar. It may simply be a cream puff but it’s the best cream puff you’ll ever try.

Along with these sweet treats, Bordeaux boasts an impressive chocolate scene. We recommend doing a little chocolate tasting on your own.

Here are a few chocolate shops to try:

5. La Cité du Vin – A Museum Dedicated to Wine

Cite du vin Bordeaux

La Cité du Vin is Bordeaux’s wine museum. This interactive museum offers an immersive experience into the world of wine. Each floor has educational exhibitions that are dedicated to different aspects of viticulture, wine history, and wine production.

For example, there is a film where you explore 20 different wine regions, an interactive exhibit to learn about grape varieties, and a section that walks you through the winemaking process.

Additionally, the museum hosts wine tasting workshops for anyone looking to learn more about how to properly taste wine. A visit to La Cité du vin is a must if you love wine.

6. Easy Day Trips to Wine Country

Wine tasting Medoc, France

Located in the heart of one of the world’s most famous wine regions, Bordeaux serves as the perfect home base for exploring the surrounding vineyards and wineries.

The region is split into two parts: the left bank and the right bank. Medoc is on the left bank and Saint-Emilion is on the right bank. We recommend taking day trips to both sides of the region to get a taste of the different wines.

Either you can rent a car and take a day trip yourself, or you can book a guided tour from Bordeaux. We did a full-day e-bike tour to Saint Emilion from Bordeaux, which included several wine tastings. It is one of our favorite tours we’ve ever done on our travels.

You can find more tour options here:

7. Only an hour from the Atlantic Coast

Bordeaux is only an hour away from the beautiful Arcachon Bay on the Atlantic Ocean. This is a popular spot for French locals during the summer, as the beaches are absolutely stunning in this area.

At the heart of the bay is one of the most unique sites in France – the Dune du Pilat. This is the largest sand dune in Europe and it’s worth a day trip out to the coast to climb this massive, 3km-long sand dune.

8. Vibrant Cultural Scene

Chez Fred Cafe in Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux is a vibrant city with fantastic entertainment, and lovely museums. For being such a historic city, we were surprised by the young and lively atmosphere here.

It feels like a mini Paris but without all of the traffic and tourists. Of course, you don’t get the Louvre or Eiffel Tower in Bordeaux, but the whole city feels alive and happening in a similar way to Paris.

Aside from that, there are plenty of festivals and events happening here throughout the year, such as the Bordeaux Wine Festival and Quinconces Flea Market.

The National Opera in Bordeaux hosts many performances throughout the year, and the museums in Bordeaux are wonderful to visit as well.

We suggest visiting the Bassins des Lumieres, an immersive art show that is projected onto the walls of an old submarine bunker.

9. Wonderful Local Markets

Bordeaux is home to one of the best markets in France – the Marché des Capucins. This bustling indoor market is located near the Place de La Victoire and has a rich array of fresh local produce, cheeses, meats, fresh seafood, and restaurants where you can try some local specialties like oysters, charcuterie, and Bordeaux wine.

The Marché des Capucins is open everyday except Mondays, so it’s easy to add into your itinerary.

Some other markets to visit in Bordeaux are:

  • Marché des Quais: Located along the banks of the River Garonne, this is a weekly outdoor market with a variety of food stalls and fresh produce. The market is on Sunday mornings. We recommend grabbing a mix of foods and having a picnic in one of the city’s parks.
  • Marché Royal: Every Saturday morning, stalls fill up Place Meynard with vendors selling fresh produce and other items like clothes, fabrics, and home goods. This market is okay – we prefer the Marché des Capucins and Marché des Quais.
  • Les Halles de Bacalan: Located next to the Cité du Vin, this is more of an upscale indoor market with permanent vendors. It’s a great lunch spot after a visit to the wine museum.

10. Bike rides along the Garonne River

One of our absolute favorite things to do in Bordeaux is to rent bike and ride along the banks of the Garonne River. We rode our bikes from Place de la Bourse all the way to the Cité du Vin museum along the waterfront, and it took 20-30 minutes each way. The path is flat and easy to follow.

Bikes are easily accessible around the city, and you can rent one at any of the self-service stations around the city. They offer pay-per-hour options, and I believe you can also rent a bike for the entire day.

11. Longest Shopping Street in Europe

Rue Sainte Catherine is the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe, stretching over 1.2 kilometers through the heart of the city.

The street is lined with large department stores, such as the Galeries Lafayette, and popular brands like Zara and H&M. You’ll also find smaller local shops as well.

The street is especially popular on the weekend when locals and tourists are out and about.

12. Dynamic Nightlife and Entertainment

We visited Bordeaux for two weeks, and every night, no matter what day of the week, the city came to life at night. Bars are filled with people socializing after work, restaurants are booked, and the streets are filled with people chatting and walking around.

We highly recommend exploring Bordeaux’s center in the evening because it’s a lively and fun atmosphere. From laid-back brasseries to outdoor cafes and high-end wine bars, Bordeaux has a lot to offer for those seeking nightlife.

13. Bordeaux Wine Festival

The Bordeaux Wine Festival, or Fête Le Vin, as an annual event that takes place along the riverfront. Over the course of 4 days, you can taste wines from over 80 different appellations and enjoy other events, such as concerts and a drone show.

We recommend buying the Tasting Pass, which includes 11 wine tastings and a workshop with the Bordeaux Wine School. In 2024, the festival happens over the weekend of June 27th – June 30th.

If you are planning on visiting the wine festival, be prepared for higher accommodation prices, since this is the most popular event in the city.

14. River Cruises on the Garonne

Garonne River bordeaux

Taking a day or evening cruise down the Garonne River is a great way to gain a unique perspective on the city of Bordeaux. There are plenty of different options to choose from, including a dinner cruise, an afternoon cruise with wine and canelé, and even a wine tasting cruise from the Cité du Vin.

Here are few river cruises we recommend:

  • Scenic River Cruise: This 75-minute cruise includes commentary about the history of Bordeaux from an expert guide and a canelé tasting.
  • Evening Apéritif Cruise: Enjoy this 1.5-hour evening cruise while sipping on wine and enjoying a sampling of local products.
  • Wine Tasting Cruise: This 1.5-hour cruise includes a tasting of 2 wines and commentary from a local guide.

15. Great for Antiquing

Bordeaux is an antique lover’s haven. There are several permanent flea markets, or brocantes, located in the Chartrons district that are filled with vintage goods, including furniture, rare books, and jewelry.

The biggest brocante in Bordeaux is held twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, in the Place des Quinconces. It’s called the Bordeaux Quinconces market. Over 200 vendors set up for 2 weeks in this beautiful tree-lined square with 200,000 visitors.

If you’re planning to attend this flea market event, make sure to book accommodation well in advance.

3 Things to Know Before You Visit Bordeaux

1. September & October are expensive and busy

September and October are high season in Bordeaux because of the fall wine harvest. Restaurants, accommodation, and wine tours book up quickly, so it’s best if you plan your visit a few months in advance.

Because of the surge in visitors during the fall, it’s also the most expensive time of year to visit Bordeaux. Plan for higher hotel prices during this time.

2. You need a car to access most wineries (or book a tour)

If you plan to visit some wineries around Bordeaux, then you either need to rent a car or book a tour to get there. The town of Saint Emilion can be reached by train; however, many of the wineries around Saint Emilion are not within walking distance.

We suggest booking a wine tour to Saint Emilion or Medoc, or renting a car for the day to make the most of your time.

3. Book restaurants in advance

Based on our experience, restaurants in Bordeaux book up, especially on weekends. Try to reserve at least a week in advance. Michelin Star restaurants may need to be reserved months in advance depending on their popularity.

When is the best time to visit Bordeaux?

Saint emilion village

The best time to visit Bordeaux is either spring, summer, or fall. Visit during the months of September and October if you want to experience the fall wine harvest.

Summer is a wonderful time to visit if you plan to spend time at the beaches, plus the weather is usually sunny and warm this time of year.

While spring is a bit chilly, the spring blossoms light up the city and the countryside.

The winter is wet and cold, so we don’t recommend visiting between end of November to February if you want to enjoy the vineyards and outdoors.

How many days in Bordeaux?

We recommend spending 2 days in Bordeaux to see all of the city’s main attractions. Add an extra day to your itinerary if you plan to take a day trip to nearby wineries.

Where to stay in Bordeaux?

Bar in Bordeaux

No matter what your budget is, Bordeaux has a wide range of hotels for every type of traveler. We love a good boutique hotel, so when we’re searching for where to stay, we look for design-forward hotels with modern amenities and local charm.

Here are some of our top Bordeaux hotel picks:

Best Bordeaux Budget Hotel: Quality Hotel Bordeaux Centre

This high-rated budget hotel is located in a 19th century building in the heart of the city, just a short walk from the Place de la Bourse. The rooms are spacious and clean with an optional breakfast included.

Best Bordeaux Boutique Hotel: Hôtel Singulier Bordeaux

This 4-star, highly rated boutique hotel is centrally located in Bordeaux and features beautifully decorated rooms. For those visiting during the summer, the rooms have A/C, which is a huge plus in France. Not only that, but you can enjoy their rooftop terrace with stunning views overlooking the city.

Best Bordeaux Mid-Range Hotel: Heym

Located next to the Jardin Public, this gorgeous hotel features spacious rooms and even an indoor swimming pool. Breakfast is included in the price.

Best Bordeaux Luxury Hotels:

  • Villas Foch: This 5-star hotel is located in the center of Bordeaux and features well-designed rooms and modern amenities. Highly recommend staying here if you are looking for a boutique, luxury experience.
  • Le Palais Gallien Hôtel & Spa: Another stunning 5-stair hotel, Le Palais Gallien features an outdoor swimming pool and stunning rooms. It’s central location makes it convenient for getting around the city by foot.

FAQ: Is Bordeaux Worth Visiting?

Promenade bordeaux

Is Bordeaux prettier than Paris?

Bordeaux is often called a “mini Paris”, which isn’t too far off. While Bordeaux is much smaller than Paris, the city’s 18th century buildings and charm resemble that of Paris. Both are beautiful cities and worth visiting.

Is Bordeaux worth visiting if you don’t like wine?

Even if you don’t drink wine, Bordeaux is worth visiting for the charming architecture, incredible food, and gorgeous scenery.

What is so special about Bordeaux?

Bordeaux is the world capital of wine and is surrounded by the most famous wine region in the world.

More Information for your Trip to France

FRANCE TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE

France Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for France? YES! We always purchase travel insurance before all of our trips just in case anything happens. Check out Safety Wing to find the best plan for you.

France Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in France? Yes! We’ve rented a car in France too many times to count, and it’s definitely the most convenient way to get around the countryside. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.

France Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in France, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to France, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. It’s easy to download and you can even top up via the app if needed.

France Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for France? We’ve been reserving all of our hotels through Booking for years. Their messaging tool makes it easy to communicate with the hotels, and there are endless options to choose from

2 COMMENTS:

  1. Thanks for this post—the best I’ve found so far on Bordeaux. I’ve been all over France, but for some reason, have never been to Bordeaux. I’ve been to La Rochelle, though—a great destination for those who like oysters. We’re planning to spend a week in Southern France before going to Paris for 3 weeks.

    Alors, merci encore!

    1. Hello! I’m so happy to hear that you found this post helpful. We absolutely loved our 2-week stay in Bordeaux – it’s one of the most beautiful cities in France, in my opinion. La Rochelle sounds like a great place to visit as well! I’ll have to add that to my never ending list of places to visit in France.

      Enjoy your trip to France!!

      Best, Jenoa

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