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29 Best things to see & do in Bordeaux

  • Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros
  • Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Close up of grapes hanging from a tree

Bucket List Experience

Bordeaux Wine Region

A must-see for wine lovers from around the world, Bordeaux’s fabled wine estates are fascinating to explore.

There’s plenty to discover (and taste): the region is divided into 57 appellations, with over 8,500 wineries (or châteaux) producing some 800 million bottles a year.

Some 89 percent of these are red wines, including the legendary, stratospherically priced Grands Crus or ‘First Growths’ of the Médoc, Graves and Saint-Emilion. Meanwhile, the sweet, golden Sauternes rules the whites.

Adult price: £40

Good for age: 18+

  • Montignac, Nouvelle-Aquitaine , France

Known as the ‘Sistine Chapel’ of Palaeolithic art, the Lascaux Caves were painted around 17,000 BC. The breathtakingly sophisticated polychrome paintings of bison, horses, reindeer and aurochs demonstrate a keen eye for perspective and movement.

Sadly, the cave had to be closed in 1963 because of the damage caused by carbon dioxide in visitors’ breath. A partial replica, Lascaux II, opened in 1983, and in 2016 a complete replica, Lascaux IV, opened as part of Montignac’s high-tech International Centre of Parietal Art.

Adult price: £15

Good for age: 6+

  • Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Bordeaux has some 347 listed buildings – only surpassed, in France, by Paris – such that UNESCO designated the entire city as World Heritage site in 2007.

The ‘old’ style architecture falls into two main periods. The Quartier Saint-Pierre and the city’s great churches recall the Middle Ages, when Bordeaux was the main port of English Aquitaine.

The harmonious riverfront façade and majestic Quartier des Grands Hommes was built around the 18th-century Enlightenment – much of it funded by the massive wealth generated by the slave trade. Recent years has seen Bordeaux graced with striking new architecturally-interesting buildings.

Laid out in the 18th century, the wide streets of the Golden Triangle are home to some of Bordeaux’s best buildings. The Place de la Comedie, houses the majestic Grand Theatre and nearby, there’s the wonderfully overblown Monument aux Girondins in the enormous Place des Quinconces, dedicated to Bordeaux’s revolutionaries. Inside its grand Medieval gates, the Porte Cailhau and the Grosse Cloche, you’ll discover old Bordeaux – a maze of streets filled with intimate boutiques.

Many of the city’s monuments are beautifully illuminated at night and open late, making it a great time to see the sights during the hot summer months.

Good for age: 18+

  • Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

five small round sponge cakes

Bucket List Experience

Bordeaux’s best food & drink

Bordeaux is where all the famous specialities of southwest France come together accompany: tender lamb from Pauillac, beef from Bazas, ceps (boletus mushrooms) from the Landes, duck, geese, foie gras and truffles from the Dordogne, oysters and other seafood from Arcachon and the increasingly acclaimed Aquitaine caviar from the Garonne and Dordogne rivers.

The traditional cuisine of the city is very bourgeoise and a bit heavy; food was meant to go with a bottle of wine rather than vice versa.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: -

  • Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Exterior of Wine City building on a sunny day

Bucket List Experience

Wine City

Designed by Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazieres, Bordeaux’s spectacular Cite du Vin opened in 2016 – its curvaceous, spiralling 55m glass tower evoking wine swirling in a glass. Far more than simply a wine museum, it offers a total, immersive wine experience, packed with 19 permanent exhibits that tickle all five senses.

This fascinating, in-depth, high-tech history of winemaking around the world culminates in the building’s spectacular rooftop belvedere, where guests can join in with a wine tasting. The frequent, changing exhibits make the Cite du Vin just as popular with the Bordelais locals as with visitors to the city.

The architecturally-striking building, designed by architects XTU, ‘does not resemble any recognizable shape because it is an evocation of the soul of wine between the river and the city.’

Adult price: £18

Good for age: 18+

  • La Teste-de-Buch, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

A large dune with greenery on one side and the sea on the other

Bucket List Experience

Dune of Pilat

Europe’s biggest sand pile, the Dune du Pilat (or ‘du Pyla’) towers near the mouth of Arcachon Bay.

Standing 107m high, stretching 6km in length and with a volume of 20 million cubic metres of sand, it’s an extraordinary sight.

The view from the top is breathtaking, too – on a clear day you can see all the way to the Pyrenees. After, cool off on Pyla-sur-Mer’s golden-sand beach.

Good for age: 4+

  • Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Set in a striking, 19th-century vaulted warehouse, the groundbreaking CAPC houses one of France’s most important collections of modern and contemporary art, collected from around the world.

The museum’s diverse program features temporary exhibitions, installations, performances, and multimedia works, fostering a vibrant and ever-evolving cultural dialogue. The CAPC’s Permanent Collection features a diverse range of artworks from renowned artists. The collection spans various mediums and styles, providing insight into the evolution of contemporary art over time. It also hosts temporary exhibitions on specific themes.

With a focus on promoting emerging artists and pushing the boundaries of artistic practices, CAPC offers a thought-provoking and immersive experience that celebrates the evolving nature of contemporary art.

Adult price: £6

Good for age: 18+

  • Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Saint-Emilion

Experience

Saint-Emilion

This beautiful hill town produces some of France’s finest red wines, in rolling hills so well-tended over the centuries – a region deliminated by Edward I in 1289 and unchanged to this day.

In 1999 UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site as ‘an outstanding example of a historic vineyard landscape that has survived intact and in activity until the present day.’

Besides Saint-Emilion’s pale stone beauty, its vines and its wines, there’s plenty to see: historic churches and cloisters, town walls and towers, and lovely squares – not to mention a fine array of boutiques, wine bars and restaurants.

Some of its star attractions are underground – from wine cellars to a unique 12th-century church.

Good for age: 18+

Halles de Bacalan

  • Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Exterior view of the building, with slatted wooden roof and the Wine City Tower behind

Experience

Although it only opened in 2017, this vast new food hall by Wine City has become one of the most popular foodie hangouts in the city, with a mix of stalls run by farmers, chefs and producers.

Good for age: 18+

  • Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

external view of the huge concrete structures of the former Submarine pens in Bordeaux

Experience

Submarine Pens

The southernmost base of Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’, built for U-boats to attack the Allies’ fleets, these enormous submarine pens (bassins des lumieres) in Bordeaux’s old port were built by prisoners of war – in 5m thick reinforced concrete walls.

Next to impossible to demolish, four of the 11 pens have found a new use in 2018 as an edgy, all-immersive sound and light show, claiming to be the biggest digital displays in the world.

The shows, all family-friendly, are based on art and science themes and change annually. Check out the Bassins des Lumieres website for current listings.

Adult price: £15

Good for age: 4+