Bordeaux, France, is a well-known and incredibly vivacious city, that often gets overshadowed by its more famous neighbor to the north, Paris. While I wouldn’t discourage anyone from going to Paris at least once, I think Bordeaux has just as much appeal and would make a great addition to any trip to France.
Bordeaux is, in many ways, a smaller version of Paris, and it is just as enchanting. The architecture is very similar, the food is just as French, the museums are world-class, the wine is superb. The only thing that’s missing is the Eiffel Tower. But did you know that a large part of Bordeaux has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
Planning a trip to Bordeaux?
Ensure you have lodging and wine tours booked ahead of time! Below are some of our top picks to help you plan!
- Easiest way to book wine tasting appointments: Rue des Vignerons (instant booking!)
- Book a private wine tour with driver with B for Bordeaux (personalize your tour)
- Rent a car through Discover Cars (they find all the best deals)
Where to Stay in Bordeaux:
- Intercontinental Bordeaux Le Grand Hotel, an IHG Hotel (5-star hotel in Bordeaux Centre)
- Château Fombrauge – Bernard Magrez Luxury Wine Experience (Saint Emilion)
- Château Pape Clément – Bernard Magrez Luxury Wine Experience (Left Bank)
Best Tours and Experiences in Bordeaux:
There is a lot to see and do in Bordeaux and the surrounding areas – from wine-related activities, to cultural and heritage sights, to world-class museums, so you’ll need at least 3-4 days to take it all in.
After you see all the things we’ve included in this itinerary, you’ll see why we highly recommend spending up to a week in Bordeaux, France. If you’re a wine lover, you may even want to plan for a few more days to see each of the significant wine regions of the area.
You can easily combine a trip to Bordeaux with a few days in Paris, if you want to see both. There is a train between the two cities. If you’re interested in other French cities, we love Toulouse! France has many stunning cities with diverse attractions and world-famous landmarks.
» Visiting soon? Check out our France travel guide. You might be interested in visiting the gorgeous town of Annecy, France for amazing food, as well as the Savoie wine region and these three jaw-dropping destinations in the French Alps. Here are our guides to the most beautiful cities to visit in France, and the top French wine regions.
How to Spend a Week in Bordeaux
Before you leave home, if you spend a bit of time pre-planning your itinerary, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your time while you’re there.
We’ve put together all the info you need in this one post, so you don’t have to spend so much time researching. For a quick primer on the city, see the video we made of our time in Bordeaux. It’s a lovely city with great architecture.
Where to stay in Bordeaux
The most important decision you have to make is where to stay. There are many options and it can sometimes be difficult to choose the right place.
Within the city center, it’s easy to walk most places. The streets aren’t pedestrian only, but there’s very little traffic in the center. So choosing a place in the city center is the best option, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time on public transportation.
- Intercontinental Le Grand Hotel | Read reviews on Trip Advisor or Book on Expedia
- Le Boutique Hotel | Read reviews on Trip Advisor or Book on Expedia
For upscale mid-range:
- Mama Shelter | Read reviews on Trip Advisor or Book on Expedia
- Hotel de Tourny | Read reviews on Trip Advisor or Book on Expedia
Day One: Discover the City Center of Bordeaux
The Bordeaux Tourist Office is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s very organized and offers an immense amount of information for tourist, from maps and advice, to lots of scheduled tours to take part in. I recommend making the tourist office your first stop, to gather information and plan out your time in Bordeaux.
» Located at 12 Cours du 30 Juillet, in the Place des Quinconces
One of the best values for your money is the Bordeaux City Pass. You can buy one for 24, 48 or 72 hours, depending on how long you’ll be in the city and wanting to use the card.
It gives you benefits like free use of public transportation, free entrance to some museums and attractions, and even a free open-top bus tour. Pick one up at the tourist office, or purchase in advance from the link above, so you can begin using it immediately.
The bus tour that’s included in the pass leaves from just outside the tourist office, about every 1.5 hours. Check the schedule at the office to be sure. The trip takes a little over an hour and shows you around all the top spots in Bordeaux city. This is a fantastic way to get your bearings and determine where you want to spend more time.
» If you don’t get the City Pass, you could go on this city sights walking tour instead.
After the bus tour, spend some time walking around the Place des Quinconces and admire the Monument aux Girondins, a towering monument and fountain in the center of the park.
There are dozens of antique shops and food stalls selling churros and nutella-filled crepes in the park. Next, take a walk (or ride Tram C) to the Place de la Bourse, which was built as a royal square dedicated to the French ruler Louis XV.
It’s a sprawling and incredible building with symmetrical facades with a Water Mirror (“Miroir d’Eau”) in front of it that casts a reflection in the water and sprays an enchanting mist into the air.
From here, head off to the Cathedral and Pay-Berland Tower. A visit to the tower is included in the City Pass. It’s 229 steps to the top of the tower, but it’s worth the effort for the view of Bordeaux from the top.
You’ll want to check the hours for the tower before heading there, as they vary based on time of year. It’s also closed during a lunch hour that varies. Without the city pass, it’s about 6€ to climb the tower.
Nearby the Cathedral is the Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts), that has just reopened after an extensive renovation. A visit to the museum is also included in the city pass, and it’s definitely worth a look around. When you’re finished at the museum, it’s likely time for a break.
There are many coffee shops, like Café Napoléon 3, where you can stop for a coffee or tea. But we prefer to drink wine at every opportunity we get in Bordeaux, since there are so many famous Chateaux in the area.
The best place for trying some of the local wine is a wine bar called Maison du Vin that is located right next to the tourist office. They are open from 11am to 10pm every day except Sunday. Just don’t show up at 6pm or later unless you’re prepared to stand in the queue for a while to get in. They don’t take reservations.
If Maison du Vin is too busy, another alternative is Max Bourdeaux, where you can buy a wine card and pour for yourself whatever wines strike your fancy.
For dinner, make a reservation at L’Entrocote, which too is right next to the tourist office. They serve only one thing – entrocote (beef) with their famous mustard sauce, a salad, and French fries.
Day Two: La Cité du Vin and Waterfront
Built in 2016, La Cité du Vin is all about wine. To call it a museum would not being giving it enough credit. Instead, it is an immersive and interactive experience that takes you through the cultural and sensory world of wine, with over 10 hours of possible content to discover inside.
You can learn about different wine regions by watching video content of winemakers from those areas. You can smell the different aromas that are represented in wines and try to identify them yourself without looking. You can sit back and watch movies and animated depictions to learn the history of wine.
I’ve never been to a museum quite like this – especially not a wine museum. Even if you aren’t a wine lover, or even a wine drinker, you’ll very likely still thoroughly enjoy La Cité du Vin. A visit is included in the city pass. If you go before noon, it’s completely free to enter with the pass.
If after noon, you will pay a small supplementary fee. The visit also includes a glass of wine on the top floor, with a great view of the city. Without the city pass, it’s 20€. The museum is open every day from 9:30am to 7pm. You can get there by taking Tram B.
We spent 3 hours there, which I think is a typical length of time to spend, unless you really don’t care to learn about wine (maybe an hour is enough), or you’re determined to do as much as possible there (maybe up to 4 hours).
Upon leaving La Cité du Vin, instead of taking the Tram back, walk along the waterfront at the Quai des Marques. It’s an outlet shopping center and promenade that stretches along the entire waterfront of the River Garonne and leads back into the center of Bordeaux.
You’ll pass by the Jacques Chaban-Delmas bridge – which is a real sight to see – and have the opportunity to stop for a meal, a coffee, some shopping, or even to ride the merry go round. At the end of the walk, you’ll come upon the CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art, which is also included in the city pass.
You’re probably ready for some dinner at this point. I would recommend trying The Wine Bar, located in Le Boutique Hotel Bordeaux. They have a great selection of Bordeaux wines and French tapas to share.
Day Three: Bordeaux Wine Tour to Medoc or Graves
Wine tasting in Bordeaux is an absolute must in our opinion. While Bordeaux is a great city to visit, you can’t ignore the fact that it’s a famous wine region with incredible wine.
You can go on a group tour, a private tour, or drive yourself and schedule your own appointments. For a group tour, be careful not to book a bus tour with 50 other people. It’s real. Avoid it!
- Medoc Full Day Wine Tour – 150€/pp – a full-day tour to discover 3 carefully selected châteaux.
- Medoc Half Day Wine Tour – 95€ – Visit & tasting at 2 classified châteaux, all costs included.
- From one bank to the other: Graves and Saint-Emilion (full day) – 170€ – Departure from Bordeaux. Start with a visit to a Grand Cru Classé of Graves, a wine tasting, followed by a lunch with food and wine pairing in a chateau of St-Emilion. Tasting of a glass of Crémant in a magical place located in the heart of Saint Emilion and a visit to the village. Finish with a visit to a family winery in the Pomerol or Saint-Emilion appellation.
If you’d like a more personalized experience, we recommend the private wine service below.
If you’re cool with planning your own wine tour, I highly recommend using Rue des Vignerons. It’s a French website that makes booking wine appointments super easy.
The site has 450 wineries and distilleries, both family-owned and famous houses, that includes 1,500 bookable experiences, including tastings, tours, workshops, and meals. You can book online up to 30 minutes before and your appointment is confirmed instantly. This is the website I used to book all of my Bordeaux tasting appointments.
If you’re only going on a half-day tour, take the rest of the day to relax, walk around to some of the other monuments in the city, or visit one of the urban wineries.
The tourist office has an interactive guide called the Urban Wine Trail that you can follow to find the best wine bars in town, some that offer great discounts. Another alternative to doing a guided tour is to book your own visits to the Chateaux and take a taxi or a bus to the ones closer to the city in the Pessac-Léognan or Graves region.
Day Four: Day Trip to Aracachon
It’s a quick hour-long train journey from the city to Aracachon on the coast, which makes it a fantastic day trip from Bordeaux.
In Aracachon, you can spend the day outdoors, enjoying the sandy beaches and the highest dune in Europe, walking along the numerous paths that lead from the beach into the forest, and discovering the many little towns along the bay.
» If you’d rather not plan this trip yourself, there is a guided half-day trip to Arcachon you can go on.
If you prefer to stay in the city for an extra day instead of venturing out to Aracachon, there are many more things to do in Bordeaux. You could ride around the city on a bicycle, which can be easily rented by the hour at numerous bike stations, or take a bike tour.
You could take a boat tour or river cruise. You could go on a food tour, or take a wine tasting course, or a wine and cheese tasting tour. You could visit the Botantical Gardens. So many possibilities!
Days Five and Six: Wine Trip to Saint-Emilion
There are many to choose from. You can go on a group tour. Tours typically go to great wineries and there’s a lot of information given – plus you don’t have to take care of a single detail.
Here are some great tours you can book with Rue des Vignerons:
- Saint Emilion Full Day Wine Tour – 155€ – Visit & tasting at 3 Châteaux plus free time to explore Saint Emilion.
- Saint-Emilion Half Day Wine Tour – 110€ – Visit the vineyards, the chateau, and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Saint-Emilion.
- On the road to Saint-Emilion by bike (full day) – 160€ – Departure from the tourist office in Bordeaux in a minivan. They will take care of the handling of the bikes, the visit to a chateau in Saint-Emilion and wine tasting, followed by a picnic type lunch in the vineyards. Finish with a visit to the medieval village and a wine tasting in a family winery.
If you’re a wine lover, I’m sure you won’t mind at all spending another days of your trip wine tasting in Bordeaux. Even if you’re not, let me assure you that a side trip to Saint-Emilion isn’t just for wine tasting.
It’s a beautiful countryside village (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site), with remnants of the old city wall still standing, and plenty of other things to do besides visiting Chateaux. However, the focus of a visit to the region still remains on wine and food, because that’s what we do here.
I recommend spending at least two days in Saint-Emilion because of its charm and how easy it is to get there, even if you don’t have a car. Of course, renting a car for your two-day visit there will make it much easier to get around, but it’s not necessary. You can take the train directly from Bordeaux to Saint-Emilion.
If you spent the previous day in Aracachon, you can take the train from there straight to Saint-Emilion.
Once you’re there, you can easily walk to a number of Chateaux for a visit, including Château Chauvin, Château Grangey, and Château Cadet Bon, all three of which are Grand Cru Classé. You can make advanced appointments at these or others on Rue des Vignerons.
It’s free to use and extremely helpful with planning. You can fill up your two days in Saint-Emilion with winery tours and tastings, walking around and exploring the city, and eating at some of the top restaurants in the area.
Try this tour:
Book a stay overnight at Chateau Hotel & Spa Grand Barrail. It’s a gorgeous chateau with very comfortable, lovely rooms (we prefer the blue rooms to the pink rooms).
There’s a hotel restaurant if you don’t want to leave for the evening. And they can organize a free wine tour and tasting at the Chateau next door that is associated with them.
Day Seven: Final Day
On your final day, you can take the train from Saint-Emilion back to Bordeaux in order to catch the tram out to the airport. If you happen to have a bit of extra time to spend, you could visit another museum, and have one last wine and cheese lunch at Chez Baud et Millet.
If you can’t make it to this awesome cheese shop and restaurant on the last day, do try to fit it in another time. It’s really great. If you had a car in Saint-Emilion, you could stop in Graves for one last wine tasting appointment before returning the car. It all comes down to how much time you have.
Tours to Book:
As you can see, there are more than enough things to do in Bordeaux and the surrounding areas to easily fill a whole week. It’s a fantastic alternative to Paris, which can be overwhelming, touristy and crowded.
Bordeaux is a really great city to explore. We hope you like it as much as we did.
(We were invited as a guest on some of these activities by Bordeaux Tourism, but what we write about the experience is always our own honest opinion.)
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited over 75 countries. Her work has been published in numerous guidebooks, websites, and magazines.