Bordeaux checks all the boxes when it comes to French culture: award-winning museums, UNESCO-recognised monuments, world-renowned wines, and some of the best shopping and dining outside of Paris. If you’re visiting Bordeaux for the France Rugby World Cup 2023, why not plan a few days before or after match day to take in the highlights of France’s wine capital? To get you started, here’s our pick of the top 10 things to do in Bordeaux.
1. Admire the UNESCO-listed Architecture
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 2007, Bordeaux has more than 350 classified historic monuments, which gives you a lot to cover in a walking tour. The obvious starting point is the Place de la Bourse, the grand central plaza that looks out across the Garonne riverfront. Here, you’ll find the Palais de la Bourse and the dazzling Miroir d’Eau, a vast 2cm-deep ‘mirror’ of water coated with fine mist.
Cool off with a stroll through the mist jets, then head south to admire the medieval Port Cailhau, which could pass as a fairy-tale castle. Other must-sees include the historic belfry ‘Grosse Cloche’, the Gothic Saint-André Cathedral, and the enormous Place des Quinconces, which holds the title of France’s largest city square.
2. Sample Bordeaux Wines at the Cité du Vin
Sampling a few glasses (or bottles) of Bordeaux red is likely high on your to-do list, and the best place to start your wine-tasting tour is the Cité du Vin. Inspired by the city’s winemaking heritage, this ultra-modern complex is part-museum, part-cultural centre, and it’s brimming with audiovisual displays, multi-sensory exhibitions, and interactive experiences.
Let yourself be whisked on a journey through winemaking history, join a wine workshop, then head up to the belvedere bar to brush up on your Bordeaux with a view over the city.
3. Cruise the Garonne River
Bordeaux’s ‘Port de la Lune’ (‘Port of the Moon’) is named after the half-moon shaped curve of the Garonne River, and some of the best views of the city are from the water. Hop aboard for a boat cruise and admire landmarks including the Stone Bridge (Pont du Pierre), St Michael’s Basilica, Place de la Bourse, and the futuristic façade of the Cité du Vin.
In true Bordeaux fashion, you can also combine a sightseeing cruise with an onboard wine tasting or dine on gourmet French cuisine as you watch the sunset over the waterfront.
4. Window-shop at the Golden Triangle
Bordeaux’s ‘Golden Triangle’ (Triangle d’Or) —formed by Cours Georges Clemenceau, Cours de l’Intendance, and Allées de Tourny—is the lavish heart of the city’s shopping quarter. Start by browsing the boutiques of the luxe Galerie des Grands Hommes shopping mall, then work your way through the surrounding streets, where you’ll find designer clothing and jewellery boutiques, artisan bakeries and delicatessens, and elegant cafés and restaurants, all with suitably impressive price tags.
Shoppers with more reasonable budgets can also head to Rue Saint-Catherine, which claims to be Europe’s longest pedestrianised shopping street and is home to all your favourite high street brands.
5. Stroll the Quais de Bordeaux
The Left Bank of the River Garonne is Bordeaux’s grand showpiece, and its spacious riverfront promenades are ideal for a walking tour, lined with flowerbeds, benches, and grand neoclassical buildings. Stroll along Quai Louis XVIII between Place de la Bourse and Place des Quinconces, then stop for lunch at one of the riverside restaurants along the Quai de Chartrons.
Better yet, rent a bike and cycle all the way up from Saint-Michel Park, crossing over the Stone Bridge to the Right Bank, where you’ll find the Botanical Gardens and Angéliques Park.
6. Taste Local Delicacies at the Market
Bordeaux has no shortage of restaurants, bistros, and patisseries (bakeries) to tempt travellers, but local foodies know that the freshest produce comes from the city’s markets. The Marché des Capucins is Bordeaux’s largest market, held every morning except Mondays, where you can pick up regional delicacies from Aquitaine caviar to rum-flavoured canelés.
Alternatively, head to the riverside Marché des Quais on a Sunday morning, held along the scenic Quai des Chartrons. Sunday lunch at the market is a local tradition, so order a platter of freshly shucked Arcachon oysters and pair it with a glass of wine as you gaze out along the waterfront.
7. Picnic in the Jardin Public
Bordeaux’s green lung is the 10-hectare Jardin Public, a short walk from Place de Quinonces, and it’s the ideal spot to while away a sunny afternoon. Follow the trails around the lake, manmade waterfalls, and landscaped botanical gardens, which take inspiration from the gardens of Versailles (although admittedly, they aren’t quite as impressive).
Our tip? Swing by the Marché des Capucins to pick up some picnic-ready dishes, stretch out on the grass by the lakeside, and perhaps join locals for a game of pétanque.
8. Take in the View from Saint-Michel
Bordeaux looks pretty from all angles, but some of the best views are from above. Climb the 114-meter bell tower of Saint-Michel Basilica, known to locals as “La Flèche” (The Spire). Built in the 15th century, it’s the second tallest bell tower in France, after Strasbourg Cathedral.
If you’re intent on getting your steps in, there’s also the Tour Pey Berland, the freestanding bell tower of the Saint-André Cathedral. It’s a 282-step climb to the top (Saint-Michel’s is a mere 235!), and equally impressive views await.
9. Get your culture fix
Bordeaux has a buzzing cultural scene, so make it your mission to visit at least one museum or exhibition. The Natural History Museum, Contemporary Art Museum (CAPC), and Science Museum and Maritime Museum are all popular choices, but our vote goes to the city’s more unique offerings. Check out the Base Sous-Marine, a former WWII submarine base transformed into a digital art exhibition, or head to Darwin, an urban eco-project filled with local artisans, cafés, a skate park, and street art galleries.
If a night at the opera is more your style, snag tickets for a show at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux—the Rugby World Cup just so happens to coincide with the start of the opera season.
10. Join a wine-tasting tour
All roads from Bordeaux lead to the vineyards, and it would be rude to visit France’s wine capital without indulging in the fruits of its terroir. The medieval town of Saint-Émilion is a popular choice for a day trip and ideal for exploring the Right Bank vineyards of the Saint-Émilion and Pomerol appellations.
North of Bordeaux, the Médoc is the star of the Left Bank wine regions, where you’ll find the highest number of Grand Cru wine châteaux, while Sauternes, to the south, is famed for its sweet white wines. Wine tours leave daily from Bordeaux, but if you’re short on time, the Château Haut-Brion is the only wine estate within city limits, and it’s just a tram ride away.
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