The best things to do in Bordeaux, France:
- Explore Bordeaux Old Town
- Go Wine Tasting in Saint-Émilion
- Ascend the Pey Berland Tower
- Try a Cannelé
- Check out the Water Mirror
- Eat Your Way Around Bordeaux’s Food Markets
- Learn About Wine at the Musée du Vin
- Watch a Light Show in a German Submarine Base
- Visit the Musée d’Aquitaine
- Eat Oysters in Arcachon Bay
- Watch the Sunset at Mama Shelter Rooftop Bar
1. Explore Bordeaux Old Town
Why visit Bordeaux? Because of the Old Town of course!
Bordeaux’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, filled with centuries-old architecture and medieval streets rich in history.
Spend a couple of hours walking around Vieux Bordeaux (Old Bordeaux) – this is definitely one of the top free things to do in Bordeaux.
Highlights of the Old Town include Porte Cailhau (15th century city gate), Gross Cloche (Bell tower over the old jail), Place Saint-Pierre, La Porte de Bourgogne & Place du Chapelet.
There are also lots of beautiful old churches & cathedrals you can enter for free to admire the stonework and stained glass.
If you’re wondering what to do in Bordeaux in a day, the Old Town is the perfect place to start.
2. Go Wine Tasting in Saint-Émilion
When people ask, is Bordeaux worth visiting? I just show them a photo of Saint-Émilion.
Saint-Émilion is a commune about 45 minutes from Bordeaux, famous for wine growing.
The medieval village of Saint-Émilion is a world-heritage site, surrounded by vineyards and châteaux where you can try amazing Bordeaux wine.
A trip to Saint-Émilion is definitely the best thing to do in the Bordeaux region of France, and several guided tours run every day from Bordeaux city centre.
So how much is Bordeaux wine? Like most wine regions the price varies depending on the vintage, but you can pick up a delicious bottle from the wineries for around $20.
When considering how many days to visit Bordeaux, make sure you put aside half a day to visit the Saint-Émilion wine region.
I only had just over 48 hours in Bordeaux and wondered how I could do Bordeaux in 2 days, but there was definitely time for a half-day tour of the wine region.
Only got one day in Bordeaux? If you don’t have time to head out to the wine region, I can highly recommend a wine tasting session at Olala Bordeaux.
The cosy wine shop is located in the Old Town, also making it one of the best Bordeaux things to do in winter.
3. Ascend the Pey Berland Tower
You need to go up the Pey Berland Tower for the best views in Bordeaux.
The gothic tower was built in the 15th century and today it’s one of the top sights in Bordeaux.
It costs just €6 to ascend the hundreds of spiral steps to the viewpoint at the top, and the view is so worth it.
You get an epic view of Bordeaux Cathedral from above, as well as the other bell towers and the river beyond.
This is definitely one of the top things to do in Bordeaux.
4. Try a Cannelé
For a first timer’s guide to Bordeaux, you need to try a cannelé.
A cannelé is a French pastry flavoured with rum and vanilla with a soft custardy centre and a caramelised casing.
Bordeaux is famous for this centuries-old recipe and you’ll see the red Baillardran stores all over the city selling them by the box.
Rest assured, eating amazing French food will definitely be one of your favourite Bordeaux activities.
5. Check out the Water Mirror
The Water Mirror or “Miroir d’Eau” is the world’s largest reflecting pool.
The cool attraction is one of the best Bordeaux things to do, and brings in visitors from all over the world.
The Water Mirror is found on the banks of the Garonne River opposite the famous Place de la Bourse.
The “Miroir d’Eau” is also one of the ultimate things to do in Bordeaux for families, as kids love splashing around in the shimmering water.
6. Eat Your Way Around Bordeaux’s Food Markets
One of the most fun things to do in Bordeaux is check out a food market.
Les Halles Bacalan is a buzzing gourmet food market next to the Cité du Vin exhibition centre, offering tapas, local french delicacies and many other world cuisines with drinks.
If you want a local’s guide to food markets in the city, I can highly recommend Marché des Capucins.
Marché des Capucins is the city’s largest food market, which has been open since the 1950s.
It’s also the cheapest food market, offering lots of street food for a really reasonable price.
I love the mussels place offering traditional Moules-frites with local white wine, but there’s also a great Portuguese deli and a couple of seafood spots where locals enjoy seafood platters at the weekend.
When people ask is Bordeaux expensive to visit, I direct them to the Marché des Capucins.
7. Learn About Wine at the Musée du Vin
Everybody raves about the Cité du Vin, a big new shiny wine exhibition centre in the city.
But personally, if you want to learn about wine in an authentic way I would check out the Musée du Vin instead.
The Musée du Vin is found in an old 18th century merchant’s house and it takes you on a journey over 2000 years of wine production in the region.
Moreover, at the end of the museum visit you can do a tasting to try the famous wines for yourself.
8. Watch a Light Show in a German Submarine Base
If you’re looking for unusual things to do in Bordeaux, you can’t miss Bassins des Lumières.
Bassins des Lumières is an immersive light show which takes place in an abandoned submarine base (built by the Germans in the Second World War).
Today, the cultural attraction is rated as one of the best Bordeaux things to do on Tripadvisor.
Expect dazzling art work to be projected around the walls of the eerie submarine base, creating a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
This is definitely one of the top 10 things to do in Bordeaux.
9. Visit the Musée d’Aquitaine
The Musée d’Aquitaine is a brilliant museum, which explores the history of Bordeaux and the Aquitaine region.
The museum takes you on Bordeaux’s journey over 400,000 years, including the prehistoric period, Roman rule in the early centuries and its role in the transatlantic slave trade.
The museum has some amazing artifacts on display including a Roman mosaic floor from the 3rd century and a huge rose window from a 14th century gothic church.
It costs just €6 to enter the Musée d’Aquitaine, or €3.50 if you enter during the last hour before closing (5pm-6pm).
Found just round the corner from the cathedral, it’s one of the best things to do in Bordeaux city centre.
10. Eat Oysters in Arcachon Bay
Arcachon Bay is the nearest beach to Bordeaux, and it’s the place to try some of the freshest oysters in the world.
You’ll find oyster bars all around the Arcachon area, which have been caught just hours earlier.
Just 60km from Bordeaux, you can drive or jump on the train to enjoy beautiful beaches and the best oysters in France.
For foodies, this is one of the top things to do in Bordeaux, France.
11. Watch the Sunset at Mama Shelter Rooftop Bar
Sunsets in this city are pretty special, and you’ll catch the best one at Mama Shelter Rooftop Bar.
Found on the roof of a hotel near the main shopping area, this is the best spot to enjoy an aperol spritz and watch the day turn into night.
I hope you enjoyed my guide to the best things to do in Bordeaux.
Whether you’re visiting this city in February, March, September, October or even Christmas, you’re sure to have a brilliant time.
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