Bordeaux Travel Guide
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in southwest France. The historic part of the city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List as “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble” of the 18th century. 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 tourists come here come to eat, drink, experience wine, and be merry. Just like the Napa Valley in California or the Hunter in Australia, prices here reflect that commercial spending reality 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 doesn’t have any hostels – that’s how upscale it is. The cheapest places to stay are budget hotels.
- Budget hotel prices – Prices begin at about $70 USD per night for a double room at a one or two star hotel. From there, the sky’s the limit.
- 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 $30-50 USD, depending what you get and how much wine you drink. Cheap sandwiches around the cost about $7 USD. Groceries will cost around $50-80 USD per week and can make eating in the this city affordable. My two favorite restaurants are La Tupina and Le Petit Commerce.
- Transportation costs – The city of Bordeaux has an extensive public transportation system which includes buses, trams, a free city center electric bus and water shuttle. One journey is $2 USD; 5 journeys are $7.50 USD; 10 journeys are $14 USD; 1 day pass is $5 USD and 7 day pass is $13 USD.
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 USD.
- Discount museum prices – Score discounts on museums by asking about discounted prices for foreigners, students or different rates for different times of the day.
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
- 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, which makes it the longest in Europe.
- 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 provides great views. It’s a pain to walk up, though really fun to run down!
- Go to the museums – 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 – 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.
- Les Quais – The Quays of Bordeaux follow the shores of the Garonne—they used to be a harbor, but have been renovated for visitors. Walking here is great, because you have amazing views of the landscape and the unique Aquitaine bridges. There are also many nightclubs here.
- 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. Many 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.
- Learn to cook French food – The French are known for their food and drink, and after all the wine you will be drinking, you may want something else in your belly. Consider taking a French cooking class. The École de Cuisine au Chapon Fin offers half-day cooking classes. At $250 USD, they’re expensive and won’t be for everyone, but the chef has a really good reputation.
- 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.