Bordeaux is one of the most beautiful cities in France. Known for its architecture, incredible restaurants, and proximity to great wine, it makes for a wonderful stop while visiting France. For us, it became our second home while we lived in the city for nearly six weeks. I adore this corner of France and feel like it’s one of the best regions to visit.
Situated along the Garonne River, Bordeaux feels like almost a mini Paris. Its grand buildings that are oh-so-beautiful and charming neighborhoods make it like a big city. But in fact, the city center itself has around 250,000 residents, so it’s actually quite small which is what I love about it. The flat city is easy to explore by foot, bike, or tram — no car is needed!
For me, Bordeaux feels laid back yet refined. Its younger generation shapes the city with specialty coffee shops, global-inspired food, and well-curated shops. Then, you have the old-world French luxuries here like the historic brasseries and cafes that will always be iconic. It’s the best of both worlds. Long strolls through Jardin Public always end in the bustling city center, which no matter what time of day, has something to enjoy.
Bordeaux makes for a great jumping-off point to the entire region. Wine lovers will especially enjoy the city’s proximity to the Médoc or villages like Saint-Émilion. And not too far away, the Dordogne. One of the best road trip areas of France is at the fingertips of Bordeaux. So for those looking to create an all-encompassing trip in France, Bordeaux pairs well with any of these regions.
So after six weeks in the city, these were our favorite finds — from restaurants to day trips, this is what there is to love and more in Bordeaux.
The Ultimate Guide to Bordeaux, France
What to Know Before Visiting Bordeaux
Time of Year to Visit Bordeaux
The summer months can be hot and busy, so I always suggest visiting during the off-season like late spring or late summer, or early fall. Year-round there is plenty to do and given the numerous restaurants and museums, it would make for a great trip any time.
Amount of Time in Bordeaux
For those who want to do a deep dive, I would suggest three nights to see the city of Bordeaux and all that it has to offer. If you plan to do day trips to the region, you could consider even staying a week.
Getting Around Bordeaux
The best way around Bordeaux is either by foot, bike, or tram. If you download the Uber app, you can utilize the powered bikes or scooters that are everywhere, and the flat city is easy to navigate. The tram is also very easy to use, you can buy tickets at the stops or download the app called Witick.
Other Things to Note
Credit card is accepted everywhere, remember it is not a tipping culture, but a euro or two for an excellent meal wouldn’t be a bad thing to leave. French and English are spoken everywhere.
How to Get to Bordeaux
From Paris by train
It is easily reached from Paris by train on the TGV, and several trains a day arrive at Bordeaux Saint-Jean. It takes around 2.5 hours on the fastest train. Once in Bordeaux, you have several choices of either local buses, the tram, taxi, or Uber for getting around to your final destination.
Bordeaux has an international airport BOD, which several flights land a day. From the airport, it is around a 25-30 minute drive into the city center. I suggest a taxi for the fastest way into the city.
Where to Stay in Bordeaux
There are two areas that I would suggest staying in when visiting Bordeaux. Either the smaller neighborhood of Chartrons if you’re looking for something quaint and more like a small village. Or, stay in the city center to be in close proximity to shopping, etc. We stayed in Chartrons for six weeks and loved it.
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Easily the coolest hotel in the city, this is where you’ll want to stay for a younger feeling. It has a rooftop and is well located. Book the best rates on Hotels.com.
For those looking for an upscale experience, Hôtel de Sèze is my choice. Luxury rooms, a spa, and even a six-hole golf course right on the property. Book the best rates on Hotels.com.
One of the newer hotels to open in the St. Michel quarter, I am loving the design here. Modern meets old-world luxury, set with nature-inspired decor. Book the best rates on Hotels.com.
A contemporary, five-star boutique hotel. The design is very refined and consistently gets rated well for its service. Book the best rates on Hotels.com. Book the best rates on Hotels.com.
My choice for a hotel close to Chartrons, this luxury hotel is set in a 19th-century mansion close to Jardin Public. The rooms are stunning. Book the best rates on Hotels.com.
Other Hotels to Consider
Where to Eat in Bordeaux
There are so many wonderful restaurants to choose from in Bordeaux and what really took me by surprise was the range of international cuisine. I highly recommend you make reservations for both lunch and dinner during the peak summer season. High chairs are not readily available so if this is something you need, best to call ahead and confirm.
CASA GAÏA – lovely Mediterranean-inspired food and the interior space is wonderful.
Chez Dupont – for more upscale brasserie-style food, this is a classic choice. It is white linen at night and more formal for dinner.
La Carré – classic brasserie style food and right on the square in Chartrons.
SOUKKA – Mediterranean food and easy-going dishes, open for breakfast and lunch.
Papa Lello – our favorite pizza in Bordeaux, this is done in Napoli-style and best eaten fresh onsite.
Symboise – a very modern take on farm-to-table ingredients, the food is wonderful here.
SiMPLE – it’s always busy and I love how diverse the menu is. Everything from Vietnamese dishes to Spanish food.
La P’tite Boulangerie – our go-to for fresh bread and pastries like eclairs.
Café Eriu – Technically next to Jardin Public, this was a wonderful spot for coffee or Aussie-style brunch.
Near the City Center
Nomad – One of my favorite meals, it’s “sud” food, meaning south. Lots of Turkish-inspired dishes and Mediterranean food.
Café Piha – We had a wonderful brunch here, pancakes were amazing and good coffee.
Restaurant Ishikawa – Wonderful spot for upscale izakaya-style Japanese food and nigiri.
Bo-tannique – very sophisticated restaurant, pre-fixe menu, and classic French dishes.
Le Petit Commerce – For seafood, come here. Known for their array of fresh fish and oysters from nearby.
L’Autre Petit Bois – classic French cuisine, be sure to reserve in advance.
Fufu Ramen – a great ramen spot that is done very traditionally. It’s always packed and they do have a second location in Chartrons.
L’Alchimist – Our go-to coffee spot in Bordeaux.
Best Things to Do in Bordeaux
Sunday Market in Chartrons
Hit the market in Chartrons on a Sunday morning along the Garonne for a wonderful experience. There are several vendors that line up, and you can stock up on local produce, and local goods, and even eat lunch here. Do like the locals, and end your time with a plate of fresh oysters at the end of the stalls.
Take A Stroll Through Jardin Public
It is so scenic and one of the most peaceful outdoor spaces in Bordeaux. On the weekends, family and friends all gather for a picnic here. When you visit, go for a stroll around the entire park, you’ll find plenty of little surprises along the way like the botanical gardens.
Explore the Old City of Bordeaux
Just off the main shopping street of Rue Sainte-Catherine towards the river is the old section of the city. I love exploring this area and stopping by sights like Porte Cailhau, Eglise Sainte-Piere, the Bordeaux Cathedral, and the Grosse Cloche. This part of the city is packed with small boutiques, restaurants, bars, and more. It gets very busy come around 5 pm, so I like to go in the morning before the crowds with my camera in tow.
Museum Hop through the City
There are several museums to stop at in Bordeaux. A few that we enjoyed over our time here were the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (set in an old mansion, several interesting objects, and decor), Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts, CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, and Natural Science Museum (small but great for families).
Get To Know the Local Wines
Bordeaux region is very well known for wine and there are a few ways to experience it in the city. The first would be to visit the La Cité du Vin. It’s a high-tech wine museum that you can actually taste wine in as well. I would recommend getting tickets in advance to skip the line and when in that area, cross the street to Les Halles Bacalan for a wonderful food and market hall. Of course, there are several wine bars throughout the city but this museum gives you great insight into the region’s wine.
Now there is another wine museum in Chartrons called Musée du Vin et du Négoce and this is technically the original wine museum in Bordeaux. So if you’re looking for something less high-tech and ends in a wine tasting, they do a great job diving into the wines here.
If you’re looking to go to just a wine bar to taste wine, Bar a Vin is the one to go to. They have a wonderful library of wines to choose from and taste.
Do A Guided Tour in Bordeaux
One of the most highly recommended things to do in the city is a guided tour. When I travel, I prefer to use Get Your Guide, and there were a few that caught my eye. The first is this Garonne River Cruise that comes with a glass of wine, a lovely way to see the city of Bordeaux from the water. The next is this half day to tour to Saint-Emilion to go wine tasting. And finally, this bike tour through historic Bordeaux and Chartrons looked lovely.
Take a day trip from Bordeaux
If you have access to a car in Bordeaux, there are a few day trips I would consider taking. And even if not, you can take the tram. By car, the Medoc region is wonderful for a scenic drive through wine country all the way up to Soulac-Sur-Mer for a beach day. Other options would be going to Dordogne or even down to Cap Ferret. By train, the two most easily reached destinations would be Saint-Emilion or the bay of Arcachon. In Saint-Emilion, it’s a small charming village with tons of great food and wineries. Arcachon would be perfect for a beach day.
Other Favorite Things in Bordeaux
- Marches des Capucins
- Renting bikes and riding along the river
- Antique shopping on Rue Notre Dame in Chartrons
- Visit Darwin, the lifestyle center across the river