Make the most of what Bordeaux has to offer with our insider’s guide to three perfect days in Bordeaux – the world’s largest urban UNESCO Heritage Site.
Wondering what to do in Bordeaux? With so much sightseeing, shopping, and lounging to do, most locals would agree it’s best to plan an itinerary before your visit. If you want to taste the crème de la crème of the city but only have a few days to do it, this handy guide to Bordeaux can show you the way.
Day 1: Old Town Bordeaux
Start your time in Bordeaux the right way by following your nose to Koeben for breakfast. This hip Scandi-style hangout has enough French and Swedish fare on the menu to delight the most discerning palate.
Head for your first stop on the sightseeing Bordeaux checklist: Basilique Saint-Seurin. Like the majority of the city, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make sure you check out the porch, crypt, and base of the tower – all of which are still wonderfully intact from the 11th century.
Wade into the historic heart of the city, Vieux Bordeaux, most of which is UNESCO-protected. Walk off your breakfast with a stroll around these old streets. Grand boulevards, neoclassical squares, dream-like mansions, and picture-perfect corners await.
Do lunch and Bordeaux sightseeing in one fell swoop by heading to the most photographed square in the city – Place de la Bourse. The staff at Restaurant Melodie are waiting to ply you with French delights: dunk fresh bread into baked cheese, tuck into tender, flaky salmon, or sample moreishly sticky tarte tatin. Grab a seat outside if you can and blissfully watch the world go by.
Pop into the National Customs Museum to gaze at everything from Monet pieces to antique opium pipes. Step inside the Hôtel des Fermes du Roi – an 18th-century architectural gem – where the museum’s brilliant cabinet of curiosities is not to be missed.
The star of the show in Place de la Bourse is Miroir d’Eau, or water mirror, the world’s largest reflecting pool. It also magically transforms into a haze of spray and mist at regular intervals. It’s the brainchild of renowned landscape architect Michel Corajoud, who has had a huge role to play in reviving the entire Garonne waterfront.
Even if you’re not usually a fan of opera, a show at the Grand Théâtre is a quintessential Bordeaux experience. It’s located in the Triangle d’Or – Golden Triangle – where wealthy locals once built their mansions, and design hounds flit in and out of luxury boutiques.
If the name alone doesn’t lure you in, the menu and panoramic views at Night Beach will. This Bordeaux restaurant is the perfect spot to watch over the city at night, dining on shrimp skewers and tomato salad as the sun slowly dips its head.
Day 2: Wine and Architecture
Start day two with a photo opportunity. The Pont de Pierre bridge is one of the most picturesque spots in the city with magnificent arches – each of which represents a letter in Napoleon’s name.
You’ll never see scones the same way again when you stop for brunch at the brilliantly named Excuse My French cafe. The French and British dishes have playful twists on traditional fare, whether you fancy pancakes and pigs-in-blankets – sausages wrapped in bacon – or a coffee-complementing cheesecake.
Work off your brunch with a short walk to Monument aux Girondins, a stunning statue and fountain honoring the Girondists, who were thought of as political martyrs. See if you can spy the webbed feet on the horse statues.
The ultra-modern Cité du Vin is a sight to behold inside and out. If you want the director’s cut of what some have called the world’s first wine theme park, start with one of the tours of the permanent exhibitions before heading upstairs to the temporary displays. Immerse yourself in hours of interactive experiences, from 3D vineyards to holographic banquets. You can also try a spot of Bordeaux wine tasting at the museum’s rooftop bar, The Belvedere, as long as you’re not driving.
Return to the center and into the old-meets-new district of St. Pierre. Handsome old churches, medieval footpaths, and traditional squares blend seamlessly into laidback bars and restaurants. Stop for a coffee in one of the idyllic cafes before taking five to check out Porte Cailhau. Its glorious tower looks identical to how it did in the 15th century.
Squeeze in two Bordeaux attractions before dinner: the 18th-century Porte de Bourgogne, a symbolic gateway into Bordeaux, and the flamboyant Basilique Saint-Michel. Lovers of architecture will be in their element at the latter – be sure to explore the crypt and the magnificent organ inside.
Chez Thérèse is the place to go for big portions and generous lashings of butter. If you’re up for veal drenched in honey and thyme, buttery beef entrecote with homemade fries, or French toast with heavenly vanilla ice-cream, you’re in the right place. Just remember to book in advance.
Day 3: Pastries, Gardens, and Art
Bordeaux’s best bakery opens from 7am, but there’s no need to rush. Boulangerie Saint-Michel is the place you’ll find the most wonderful chocolate almond croissant – simply ask anyone in the area.
Live like a local and make for the market. Marche des Capucins has one of the best market days in the city. It’s full of vibrant stalls offering colorful fresh produce and flowers.
Take the tram up to the CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux – the city’s contemporary art museum housed within a 19th-century warehouse – and spend a couple of hours scratching your chin at some of the works on show.
Fall into Le Bar à Vin for a casual lunch. Share plates of cheeses, meats, and fresh bread, and for those who aren’t driving, sip some of the finest Bordeaux wines the city has to offer.
Soak up the last of the day’s sunshine in Jardin Public, a short saunter from the restaurant. This gorgeous green space is small enough to feel intimate but large enough to absorb you fully if you wanted to stay here all day. Daze by the lake, cycle around the garden, pace the exhibitions inside the natural history museum and – if you’re lucky – catch a show at the puppet theater.
Le Pressoir d’Argent is the two-Michelin-starred, Gordon-Ramsay-owned restaurant based in five-star hotel InterContinental Bordeaux. Signature dishes center around lobster and veal, while there’s a vegetarian a la carte menu.
Wander back to the St. Pierre district to end the evening – and your vacation in Bordeaux – in one of the city’s bars. Start in L’Alchimiste or La Comtesse and savor every minute before heading home.
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