Is Bordeaux Worth Visiting? Top Reasons to Go and Things to Do (2024)

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Is Bordeaux worth visiting? 

Based on my recent visit there, I have to say yes! While Bordeaux is renowned for its wine scene, I can recommend it even as someone who doesn’t do much drinking.

It’s an alluring city with beautiful architecture, mild temperatures and delicious food. Aside from my own experience, I’ve heard great reviews from friends who’ve recently visited as well. So, is Bordeaux worth visiting for you? Read on to find out!

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Top Reasons Bordeaux is Worth Visiting

There’s a lot to love about Bordeaux, but to skim the surface: 

Wine & Food Scene

dinner at Intercontinental Bordeaux

Bordeaux is the World Capital of Wine. From the city, you can access a great number of vineyards for exploration and tastings. Don’t have the time to take any day trips?

There are plenty of wine bars and wine experiences within the city itself where you can spend a few hours indulging in tastings or learning about the winemaking process. 

Personally, I didn’t drink much on my visit to Bordeaux at all. My indulgence? The food! I found it difficult to have a bad meal in Bordeaux. From lunches, coffees, snacks and desserts really everything I tried was delicious (specific recommendations are down below!). 

Bordeaux is the perfect city for a food tour, and this one gives you the opportunity to try several traditional dishes with a local guiding the way!

👉 Click to book Bordeaux Small Group Food Tour

Charming and Impressive Architecture 

cathedral in Bordeaux

In addition to being known for its wine scene, Bordeaux is also an acclaimed arts and history destination. It’s evident why as you walk along the streets, running into one impressive monument after another. 

Walk through the buzzing streets and uncover the various medieval gates surrounding the city. Admire the Pey Berland bell tower, the majestic opera house and the iconic Place de la Bourse. 

You’ll find charm along Bordeaux’s lamp-lined waterfront, and narrow streets spilling out onto plazas. If art is your calling, spend some time exploring the city’s many galleries and museums. 

Great Public Transportation

Bordeaux tram ticket

As soon as I stepped out of the train station into the city, I saw a tram passing by. As someone who loves buses for their above-ground views, and trains for their efficiency, trams offer the best of both! 

The tram ticketing and riding system is straightforward and easy to figure out. Use Google maps to find the best tram routes for your desired destination. Then, you can easily buy a ticket at the machines on each platform. From my experience, they run pretty regularly and tend to be on time.  

The ride itself is smooth, and offers an additional fun way to take in the city sights. In addition to taking the tram between my hotel and Bordeaux’s main train station, I also took it to go explore the Cite du Vin that was beyond walking distance. 

Best Things to Do in Bordeaux

Whether you want a jam-packed itinerary or a low-key one, you’ll be satisfied with what Bordeaux has to offer.  

Make Your Own Wine

Sure, you could go for a tasting. Or, you could for a tasting and try your hand at blending your own cuvée of wine! This experience is led by two brothers who are also cellar men, and include the opportunity to taste some of Bordeaux’s most typical wines.

Then, you’ll blend your own for an incredible souvenir of your time in Bordeaux.

👉 Click here to book your Wine Making Experience

Take a Day Trip 

There are multiple day trip opportunities from Bordeaux. One of the most popular options is a day trip to Saint-Emilion wine region.

You can choose to take a train and visit the area on your own, but it may limit your accessibility to some of the wineries and vineyards to do so. 

Alternatively, you could drive or join this guided day tour to explore both Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. 

Another great day trip option from Bordeaux is a visit to Arcachon Bay’s white sand beaches. This area is known for spectacular views from atop the Pyla sand dune and for oyster harvesting, so seafood-lovers can enjoy that aspect as well. 

Want to explore Basque Country? A guided tour of Basque Country is the way to go, and this one includes stops in Biarritz, Espelette and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

Tour the Wine Museum 

cite du vin bordeaux

If I’m going to spend time inside at a museum while on vacation, it better be an interactive museum. La Cité du Vin is just that! Whether you’re a wine drinker or not, this is an interesting museum to explore. 

Most of what you’ll come across on the first floor is for those who are brand new to learning about wine production. I didn’t find a lot here to be super engaging, aside from the section where you can learn about wine growers all around the world. 

The second floor has some fun exhibits. The main one consists of several long tables, all with a variety of scent experiences.

You’ll pump air into different glass domes and sniff to discern what items contribute notes to a particular scent. It’s an interesting way to learn about the nuances of wine. 

bordeaux wine museum

And most are pleasant scents, there’s only one I wish I hadn’t sniffed and to be honest I should have known better as soon as I saw it! I won’t ruin the surprises. 

Afterward, you can enjoy a drink at the rooftop (included in your ticket but optional, of course). Then, pop into Les Halles de Bacalan food hall across the street for a bite to eat. 

Eat!

Hestia Bordeaux greek food

As I said before, there are many great eats to be had in Bordeaux. I’ll share some of my favorites, although there was plenty more I simply didn’t have time to try. 

The first meal I had once I dropped my bags off at my hotel was at a charming restaurant called Melodie. I then recommended this restaurant to an acquaintance who was headed to Bordeaux after me, who also loved it. So, put Melodie on your itinerary for sure. 

I didn’t have a reservation, and when I first walked in they were full. She asked me to come back in 20 minutes, so I wandered the side streets for a while before heading back.

Note that many restaurants close during the middle of the day, from approximately 2:00pm until dinnertime. Luckily, I was part of the final lunch seating. 

Melodie offers the 3-course meal option typical of many restaurants in the area. I enjoyed a refreshing and unique leek starter, followed by a salmon risotto and creme brulee. It was all mouth-wateringly good. The menu changes seasonally, but I feel confident in directing you to Melodie for a great meal. 

salmon risotto at Melodie in Bordeaux

I was staying at the InterContinental during this visit, and I also enjoyed a delicious dinner (as well as breakfasts) on the property. Their restaurant is open to the public, and sitting outside during summer months would give you the best views of the Grand Opera House across the way. 

For a quick lunch one day, I enjoyed Greek food at Hestia. I had the most delicious chocolate chip sea salt cookie at Tiki Bar. KURO Espresso Bar is a solid cafe to stop by for a solid coffee drink and pastry.

Laze About in a Piazza 

plaza in bordeaux

Something I hadn’t expected when I arrived in Bordeaux was how much the city reminded me of Italy. Perhaps it was the narrow streets flanked by tall buildings.

Or the fact that so many of these streets suddenly opened up to little squares lined with restaurants, perfect for a midday snack or drink. Take some time to simply be while in Bordeaux, at one of these plaza-eateries.

Join a Walking or Bike Tour

Bordeaux architecture

The best way to take in all the sights and sounds of Bordeaux is through a local-led walking or bike tour. 

Learn about the history of the region through memorable stories on this complete walking tour of Bordeaux.

Over the course of 2.5 hours, you’ll loop around the entire city center and capture the many highlights of the city. This tour ends at the iconic Miroir d’eau  – the world’s largest reflecting pool in front of Place de la Bourse.

If you want to mix it up a bit and get off your own two feet, opt for this Bordeaux by bike experience and pedal your way around the city instead. 

This 9-mile, guided ride will take you to Bordeaux’s top sights including street art and green spaces. By bike, you’ll see even more of the city along with some hidden gems.

There are many bike lanes around Bordeaux, and the group size is capped at 12 so you’re set up to have a safe yet enjoyable experience.

Shop on Rue Saint-Catherine 

the shopping mall on rue saint catherine means bordeaux is worth visiting for shopaholics!

Rue Saint-Catherine is the longest pedestrian street in Europe. It’s also a top shopping destination in the city. Here, you’ll find a mix of high-end stores as well as smaller, quirkier shops and cafes. 

Even if shopping isn’t your thing on trips (it generally isn’t mine), it’s worth a walk-through during calmer, morning hours just to see what the fuss is about!

Cruise Along the Garonne River

Garonne River Bordeaux

Bordeaux sits on the Garonne river, and this 1.5-hour-long cruise lets you see the city from a unique vantage point. Both leisurely and informative, this is a fun way to see the sights.

Your guide will narrate in both French and English. Plus, you’ll get a glass of wine and a traditional canelé included in your ticket.

👉 Book the Garonne River Cruise in Bordeaux

Where to Stay in Bordeaux

Whatever your price point, Bordeaux has accommodations to match your needs.

🏨 Luxury: InterContinental Bordeaux, Le Grand Hotel

Intercontinental_Bordeaux_1669

This 5-star hotel offers prime location across from the Grand Opera, stylishly adorned rooms, gourmet food and drink options, a luxurious spa and the best views from any hotel rooftop in Bordeaux. This is where I stayed on my visit to Bordeaux, and you can read my full review for additional details. 

👉 Stay at the InterContinental Bordeaux 

🏨 Mid-Range: Mama Shelter

Bordeaux city center

Mama Shelter is located within walking distance to many of Bordeaux’s highlights in the city center, making it a great option for your Bordeaux stay. The rooms, albeit on the smaller side, are clean and comfortable. The onsite restaurant and rooftop bar are well-rated, too.

👉 Stay at Mama Shelter Bordeaux 

🏨 Budget: ibis Bordeaux Centre Meriadeck

place de bourse

For a modern, affordable and conveniently located option book your stay at ibis Bordeaux Centre Meriadeck. It’s a 10-minute walk from city center, and has a tram stop nearby that goes directly to the airport. There’s also a buffet breakfast, and an onsite restaurant serving regional dishes.

👉  Stay at the ibis Bordeaux Centre Meriadeck

FAQ: Visiting Bordeaux

is Bordeaux worth visiting? the beautiful gates are a great reason to visit

As you think through whether Bordeaux is worth visiting for you, consider:

How many days should I spend in Bordeaux? 

I myself spent 2 nights, more or less 3 days, in Bordeaux. For me, this worked well. If you plan to take a day trip, you might factor in an additional day or two. 

Is Bordeaux nicer than Paris? 

If Paris overwhelms you, Bordeaux might offer you a peaceful reprieve. Some call Bordeaux a mini-Paris. I find it tough to compare the two, as someone who has visited Paris five times and continues to discover something new each visit. If you’re looking for a smaller yet still beautiful city, head to Bordeaux.

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

Absolutely. The city itself is lovely and you can easily spend your time admiring the architecture, visiting galleries or museums, eating delicious meals, shopping, taking day trips or watching a show. There’s plenty to do, even if you don’t like wine. 

Final Thoughts: Is Bordeaux Worth Visiting? 

Ultimately, Bordeaux is worth visiting for both wine-lovers and non-wine-lovers alike. The city offers beautiful architecture, great shopping and a thriving food scene.

It also provides unique day trip opportunities. If you’re looking for a scene that’s quieter than what Paris has to offer, yet still buzzing with energy, then give Bordeaux a chance.