Place de la Bourse is one of the best things to do in Bordeaux.

Best Things To Do In Bordeaux

Famed wine region Bordeaux is much more than just sipping its excellent Gran Cru at one of its many wine chateau. Created at the height of the Enlightened age, this city also offers grand spaces and historical monuments, like magnificent Place de la Bourse, with the world’s largest reflecting pool, Porte Cailhau, a 15th century fairytale-esque tower, and more. It also offers a fun Sunday riverside market, excellent museums, churches, and a lively cafe culture with many Michelin starred restaurants. This post covers the best things to see and do in Bordeaux.

Visiting a wine chateau is one of the best things to do in Bordeaux
Bordeaux Wine Chateau

Best Things To Do In Bordeaux

Located near the France’s western coast, Bordeaux is one of its most visited cities. World-renowned for its outstanding wine, producing over 900 million bottles a year, Bordeaux is a city of remarkable urban planning, beautiful architecture, and interesting sites and things to do.

Place de la Bourse And The Miroir D’eau

Visiting impressive La Place De La Bourse, with its reflecting pool, is definitely one of the best things to do in Bordeaux. Especially near dusk, as the sky starts to darken and you can see this neoclassical beauty clearly reflected in its mirror pool.

Built by one of the architects from the Palace of Versailles, this impressive architecture once surrounded an equestrian statue of King Louis XV. The statue, torn down during the French Revolution, was replaced with a statue of Napoleon, and later by the fountain of the Three Graces, which still stands today.

The reflecting pool alternates its mirror surface with ‘misters’, which add a playful ambience. You will see people of all ages running, dancing, biking, skating, whatever, in the water and mist. It’s rare to see public spaces create so much joy and beauty.

Place de la Bourse is one of the best things to do in Bordeaux.
Place de la Bourse

Porte Cailhau

This medieval, Gothic Revival, fairytale-esque tower was once stood guard to the main entryway to Bordeaux from the port. It was built in the 15th century as defensive gate dedicated to French King Charles VIII, commemorating his victory at Fornovo in Italy in 1494.

For a small fee you can visit its museum showcasing the city’s history as well as see a panoramic view of the area.

How To Get To Porte Cailhau: Porte Cailhau is located on Quai Richelieu, between Place de la Bourse and Pont de Pierre.

Pont de Pierre

The oldest bridge in Bordeaux, Pont de Pierre has 17 arches spanning the Garonne river. One for each of the 17 letters in Napoleon Bonaparte’s name. Located near Place de la Bourse, it’s an integral part of the beautiful urban planning here. Especially near dusk. Although, as the bridge is only open to pedestrian traffic, bicycles, and trams, it’s peaceful to stroll at any time.

How To Get To Pont de Pierre: Pont de Pierre is about a 5-minute walk south of Place de la Bourse along Quay Richelieu.

Marche des Quais, or Sunday Market

Visiting riverside Quay Market on the Quai des Chartrons, is another one of the best things to do in Bordeaux. Every Sunday this lively market is packed with produce and local delicacies.

It’s fun to watch the locals buy their fish, produce, meat, breads, and cheeses here, as well as try some local specialties yourself! And since Bordeaux is close to Spain, you can even find Spanish specialties here like Paella.

I especially recommend the fresh oysters (when in season)! I had an amazing Sunday breakfast here of 6 fresh oysters, a glass of wine, bread and butter for under 9€.

How To Get To The Sunday Market: Located on the edge of Garonne river, it’s a 15-minute walk north of Place de la Bourse.

Rue Sainte-Catherine

Just behind Place de la Bourse is Rue Sainte-Catherine, the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe. Formerly the main road in Roman times, it runs right through the historic district. From famous brand names to boutiques, you can shop till you drop on this 3/4 mile long (1.2 km) pedestrian street.

Bordeaux Cathedral, or Cathedrale Saint-Andre

This detailed French Gothic church, dedicated to Saint Andrew, is the seat of the Archbishop of Bordeaux.

Its bell tower, Pey-Borland, stands separately, supposedly to protect the church from the vibration of the bells. For a panoramic view of Bordeaux, climb its 230 spiraling steps.

It’s located a 10-minute walk west of Place de la Bourse.

Bordeaux cathedral is one of the best things to do in Bordeaux
Bordeaux Cathedral

Best Museums is Bordeaux

Cité du Vin

The Cité du Vin, which opened in 2016, is a museum covering everything you need to know about the history of wine. All housed in a gorgeous contemporary building with stellar views. With tasting rooms, reading rooms, presentations, videos, and exhibits, it covers wines around the world and through the ages.

How To Get To Cité du Vin: Located northeast of Place de la Bourse, it’s a 20-minute tram ride from the Grand Theater.

Base Souse-marine

This old 20th century submarine base, survivor of several bombings, is now a hip underground cultural center, art gallery, and music center. See their facebook page for events and times. https://www.facebook.com/BasesousmarinedeBordeaux

How To Get To Base Souse-marine: This unique venue is located about a 15-minute drive north of Place de la Bourse, not far from Cité du Vin. You can also take the tram, which is about 30 minutes.

Musee des Beaux Arts de Bordeaux

Fine art masterpieces from the 15th to 20th century, including works by Renoir, Rubens, Titian, and more.

How To Get To Musee des Beaux Arts: It’s about a 15-minute walk west of Place de la Bourse, near the Cathedral of Bordeaux.

Grand Theater de Bordeaux

This beautiful 18th century neo-classical building is home to the Opéra National de Bordeaux and Ballet National de Bordeaux.

How To Get To The Grand Theater of Bordeaux: This theater is just a 5-minute walk from Place de la Bourse.

Experiencing Bordeaux Wine

And last but not least, the best things to do in Bordeaux is to experience Bordeaux wines. These world-renowned wines are blends, predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Generally, the wines, or blends, from the left bank of Bordeaux are heavier in Cabernet Sauvignon, while the wines, or blends, from the right bank are heavier in merlot.

Some contain other grapes, like Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot, and Carménère, but at smaller percentages. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot reign here, with both varietals originating in Bordeaux. Rose and white wines are also produced here, but also at a small percentage.

The vineyards here, known as ‘chateau’, were at one time all located on chateau’s. Now, however, it’s just the term used for the vineyards. The wine region is very large, with over 6,000 chateau. Not all, however, are open to the public.

Wine Tasting In Bordeaux

Wine tasting here is different than in the USA, as you need to make appointments in advance. Making appointments on your own and organizing transportation is feasible, but cumbersom due to the number of chateau, and space they cover. It’s best to visit via tour. Tours usually focus on one region per day, visiting about 3 chateau. If you want to see more than one region, it’s best to do so on multiple days. The most popular tours visit either Medoc or St Emilion.

Medoc, which is on the left bank, is where the most prestigious Cabernet Sauvignons are. Saint Emilion, on the right bank, is famous for its merlots. It’s also a charming medieval UNESCO listed town with beautiful old ruins, and Romanesque churches, adding to its ambiance.

Wine tasting in Saint Emilion is one of the best things to do in Bordeaux.
Saint Emilion
Wine tasting in Saint Emilion is one of the best things to do in Bordeaux.
Saint Emilion

I took tours to Medoc and Saint Emilion and loved them both. And even though I didn’t select the most expensive tours (which can get pricey), my tour guides were thoroughly knowledgeable with degrees in wine. I learned tons about wine, and Bordeaux, and had fun doing it.

Aux Quatre Coins Du Vin

On my tours, I also learned of a great wine bar in downtown Bordeaux that offers ‘serve your own tastings’ called Aux Quatre Coins Du Vin. This translates to At The Four Corners Of Wine. It’s a great place to taste a wider variety of local wines than you can on a tour.

I recommend making a reservation though. I visited on a Saturday night (without a reservation) and they were very busy. Since I was solo, however, they were nice enough to quickly walk me through the process and let me sit at the bar. Thank you!

You can try a small taste, a half glass, or full glass, with bottles hooked up to a self operating dispensary system. They also offer delicious appetizers and small plates.

Wine tasting in Saint Emilion is one of the best things to do in Bordeaux.
St Emilion

Want More Of France?

To explore more of France’s outstanding wines, there’s also Burgundy, Champagne, and the Loire Valley. Each with their own incredible terroir, varietals, and historic architecture.

Of course you can’t miss France’s most visited city, Paris. One of the most romantic cities in Europe, you can visit it over and over, seeing something new each time. And from Paris, there are several must-do day trips, like the Palace of Versailles, or Giverny, to see Claude Monet’s house and gardens.

Provence, in southern France, and the Cote d’Azure, or French Riviera, also offer several charming cities, like Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Gordes, Lourmarin, Cassis, St. Tropez, Cannes, Nice, and more.

And if you want to explore more of France’s incredible historic cities, consider Strasbourg, Lyon, Brittany, and Mont Saint-Michel.

There’s a reason why France is the world’s most visited country…it has a ton for offer! To see all the great places to fall in love with France in, as well as tips on money, safety, scams, and how to best get around, see my France Travel Guide.

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

2 Comments

  • Kerry Dare

    Thank you again for an amazing location and history. I look forward to trying Bordeaux wine. It sounds like the type of wine I prefer.

    • Julie

      I’m definitely going to drink more of it too!

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