Bordeaux, a port city in southwestern France, is a wine lovers’ dream (at least, this wine lover)! The historic part of the city is on the UNESCO World Heritage thanks to its very intact 18th-century city architecture making it one of the most quintessentially French cities to walk around. What you imagine France to be based off pop culture and movies is what Bordeaux is. However, Bordeaux is also an upscale place – a city for luxury shopping, drinking, and eating. It sits in the center of the world famous wine region that bears its name and, thus just like the Napa Valley in California or the Hunter in Australia, prices here reflect that commercial reality (people come here to spend money) so don’t expect a cheap visit to the city but, despite its costs, it’s one of the most beautiful cities and regions in France. Don’t miss it — especially if you love wine!
Hostel prices – Bordeaux only has two hostels – that’s how upscale it is. Of the two hostels, one is located 10 km outside of the city. The other one, Hostel 20, is centrally-located and has a 6-bed dorm that runs for 28 EUR a night. It also has private rooms with shared bathrooms starting at 54 EUR.
Budget hotel prices – Prices begin at about 50 EUR per night for a double room at a two-star hotel that’s near the city center. From there, the sky’s the limit. At the two-star price point, you’ll find WiFi included and many hotels offer air-conditioning. On Airbnb, you can find shared rooms in apartments starting at 30 EUR per night and entire apartments starting at 50 EUR per night.
Average cost of food – Bordeaux has some amazing food and tons of traditional restaurants. When opting for one of these restaurants, you should budget between 27-50 EUR, depending what you get and how much wine you drink. Try doing a prix-fixe meal at lunch. It’s a set menu that offers you a deal on a 2-course meal for about 15 Euros. You can also pick up some ingredients and have a picnic in the park by stopping at one of the many bread, cheese, and meat shops/markets throughout the city. Creating your own meal will cost around 9-15 EUR, depending on what you buy and if you get wine. Cheap sandwiches around the cost about 6 EUR. Groceries will cost around 45 EUR per week and can make eating in this city affordable. It gets even more affordable if you find a discount grocer like Aldi or Lidl. My two favorite restaurants are La Tupina and Le Petit Commerce.
Transportation costs – The city center is very walkable and has a large pedestrian zone. Besides that, Bordeaux also has an extensive public transportation system which includes buses, trams, a ferry, and a free “navette” (shuttle) in the city center. One journey on the tram, bus, or ferry is 1.50 EUR; 5 journeys are 6.70 EUR; 10 journeys are 12.40 EUR; 1-day pass is 4.60, 7-day pass is 12.40 EUR. If you get a City Pass tourism card you’ll be able to ride the public transit for free.
Suggested daily budget – 60-80 EUR / 62-83 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. It also depends on the food and wine tours you take. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Explore on foot – Walking around Bordeaux is a great way to experience the architecture and people watch. Bordeaux is small enough to walk around.
- Drink the cheap wine – Grab a cheap bottle of Bordeaux from one of their numerous wine shops on the street and have a glass while walking around to see monuments and historic buildings. You can find good bottles for as little as 5 EUR.
- Discount museum prices – Pick up a City Pass for free public transportation and free entry to 20 museums. A one-day pass is 26 EUR, while a three-day pass costs 40 EUR. You’ll also get access to free walking tours, as well as discounts on other attractions (including wine tours).
- Couchsurf – Couchsurfing connects you with locals who will give you not only a free place to stay, but also a local tour guide who can introduce you to all the great places to see. With accommodation prices so expensive in the city, I highly suggest trying to find a host that can give you a bed and show you around. This city is not cheap and a local guide will go a long way!
- Remember that water is free – When you order water at a restaurant, make sure you ask for tap water. They’ll try to provide bottled water and charge you for it, but tap water is free and safe to drink.
- Take a free walking tour – If you want to learn more about the city, a free walking tour is a great place to start. You’ll learn about the history and architecture while getting to see all the major sights. (When booking through Airotour, you’ll have to pay a 2.50 EUR reservation fee.)
Top Things to See and Do in Bordeaux
- Go on a wine tour – The reason you decided to visit this area in the first place was probably for the wine. You can take full-day or half day tours and venture outside of the immediate areas of Bordeaux. Depending on the length of your tour, you’ll visit two to four wineries where you get to sample wine at each. (The cheapest tours start at 45 EUR, however, discounts are available if you have the City pass).
- Visit Old Town Bordeaux – Home to one of the largest 18th-century architectural urban areas in all of Europe, its amazing buildings and level of preservation have led to the old town being added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Two famous attractions are the Grand Théâtre, which was built in 1780, and the infamous Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux. The cathedral was impressive to see, though the recent cleaning restoration got rid of its old, Gothic charm.
- Visit Rue Sainte-Catherine – For the walkers and the shoppers, this shopping street is about 1 mile long so it’s perfect for a shopping trip or people watching stroll.
- A day trip to Dune de Pyla – This sand dune is located an hour outside Bordeaux in Pyla Sur Mer, a resort town where many of France’s well to do “summer.” The Dune de Pyla is the largest sand dune in Europe and is the result of winds eroding one shore of the bay and blowing the sand over the other. The dune has pretty amazing views of the area and bay. It’s a pain to walk up, though really fun to run down!
- Museum Hop – Bordeaux has several very renowned museums. There is the Vinorama, a talking wax museum that chronicles the history of Bordeaux wine, or the Bordeaux Wines Museum, which exhibits the history of the city’s wine merchants.
- Walk around – If you want a glimpse of art or history in Bordeaux, all you need to do is walk through the city’s streets. Many buildings in Vieux Bordeaux have retained their charm and character over time. If you’re looking for historical views of the city, you can walk through the Quartier Saint-Eloi. If you continue along the Victor Hugo Avenue, you can see the Porte de Bourgogne, a huge stone arch that was once one of the entrances to the city. Another interesting place to walk around is the Palace Royale. Built in 1755, this building is a fine example of French classical architecture.
- Musee D’Art Contemporain – Definitely worth a visit if you are interested in Modern Art. The Richard Long slate line-up on the roof is a permanent feature. The museum is closed on Mondays. You can get a guided tour if you go on Saturday or Sunday at 4pm for the price of regular admission. It costs 4 EUR for the permanent collection, 6.50 EUR for the permanent collection and temporary exhibits.
- Les Quais – The Quays of Bordeaux follow the shores of the Garonne. They used to be a harbor, but have been renovated for visitors to walk around. Walking here is super scenic because you have amazing views of the landscape and the unique Aquitaine bridges. This is also a popular nightlife and club area if that is your thing!
- La Victoire – This used to be the center of suburbia in ancient Bordeaux, but it is now one of the most popular areas of the city. Lots of young people hang out here at night, as there are lots of bars and clubs.
- Victory Arch – In the center of La Victoire stands this amazing piece of Roman architecture. It is a great example of the Roman roots that helped form the city.
- Admire the works at Musée des Beaux-Arts – This museum is housed in an interesting building itself – the 18th century Hotel de Ville. Some of the main work featured here includes pieces by Flemish, Italian, and Dutch artists of the 17th century. Tickets are good for up to 48 hours and cost 10 EUR.
- Jardin Botanique – – This big park north of the center is the city’s large public garden. There are a ton of walking paths, places to watch ducks, or just sit around on a nice day and have a picnic. There are guided tours for those looking to learn about all flowers in the garden. Admission is free.
- Wander through Saint Emilion – This village has a strong connection to red wine production, and vineyards have existed here since Roman times. Even if you aren’t on an organized wine tour, a visit to this village and an afternoon walking through its streets can be a peaceful way to spend a day.