Described by England’s late Queen Elizabeth II herself as ‘the very essence of elegance’, Bordeaux in France, is a quintessentially French city. There’s architecture, food, and culture, and of course, some of the best wine that France has to offer. Situated in the South of France with a semi-Mediterranean climate, Bordeaux also enjoys plenty of sunshine and warmer temperatures in the summer.
If you like the sound of warmer weather but prefer art, culture, and gastronomy to the beaches of the French Riviera, then we thoroughly recommend heading to Bordeaux. Before you pack your case, make sure you check out this list of our Top 10 Best Things to do in Bordeaux, France, so you don’t miss out on the principal attractions.
1. La Cité du Vin - the World’s Best Wine Museum
Savour the history of wine in this pristinely presented museum in the town of Bordeaux. Largely known as the world’s best wine museum, this attraction covers the topic of ‘wine’ in its entirety. From wine’s history to its presentation, La Cité du Vin will answer any questions you have about this popular alcoholic beverage and its production. La Cité du Vin occupies one of Bordeaux’s most modern buildings. Built in 2016, the world’s best wine museum is located in a huge structure made of glass and steel. Its restaurants and attractions are spread throughout 10 floors. With a 55-metre tower and a 360-degree view on offer from the tasting room, this is a museum experience like no other. Why not enjoy spectacular scenery as the sun sets, whilst you sip on some fabulous wines?
2. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saint-Émilion
Founded by a monk who fled his home in Brittany in the 8th century, Saint-Émilion is a quaint medieval village that’s situated at the very heart of the Bordeaux region. Now a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site, Saint-Émilion is a historic point of interest that has retained its involvement in the wine industry. Visitors to the town can enjoy visiting the vineyards and experience tastings of its broad variety of wines. Produced from an extraordinary range of soils, the many terroirs of France’s Bordeaux region give each wine unique properties.
For over 1000 years, the main industries here were quarrying and winemaking. Much of the stone used to build Saint-Émilion and other towns and villages in Bordeaux came from its very own quarries. The catacombs under the Trinity Chapel can be explored by visitors for an unforgettable subterranean experience. We thoroughly recommend taking a tour of this special landmark, to see four spectacular monuments: the Hermitage Cave, the Trinity Chapel with its medieval paintings, the catacombs, and the underground church.
3. Miroir d’eau, or ‘The Water Mirror’, at the Place de la Bourse
If you love reflective photography, then this is the location for you! The Water Mirror is located in the Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux. French designer Michel Corajoud created the illusion of a mirror by placing a large expanse of water opposite the 300-year-old building. The result is a reflective pool that replicates the building’s architectural grandeur.. The Water Mirror even features mechanisms that release steam onto its surface, to add an air of mystery!
With over 70,000 images of the Place de la Bourse shared on Instagram, it’s fair to say that it’s the most photographed place in Bordeaux. Situated just a stone’s throw from the River Garonne, it’s flanked by an expanse of neoclassical French architecture. This spectacular building was designed from 1735 to 1738 and looks magnificent whether it reflects the golden sunlight or is illuminated with artificial lights at night. Why not dip your feet in the water to cool off in summer, and take a photograph or two to remind you of your visit?
4. Bordeaux Cathedral
St Andrew’s Cathedral of Bordeaux was founded by Carolingian monks in the early 9th century and grew in power throughout the Middle Ages. Located on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route during the medieval period, Bordeaux Cathedral attracted many pilgrims that greatly increased its wealth and importance within the region. Constructed largely in the 11th and 12th centuries, its architecture is mostly Romanesque in style.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, St Andrew’s Cathedral in Bordeaux has been recognised for its religious and cultural significance. Its architecture varies from Romanesque to Gothic, andRenaissance, but its most remarkable features are its north transept, complete with portal, and its 13th century tympanum. On the south side, visitors can see an elaborate rose window and elegantly carved sculptures of religious figures. Don’t miss the choir and chevet wing, which features radiating chapels and flying buttresses in the Gothic style.
5. The Place des Quinconces
With its famous monument that commemorates the contributions of the Girondin movement, The Place des Quinconces represents Bordeaux’s proud involvement in the French Revolution. Situated near the River Garonne and the Parc du Quai Louis XVIII, the Esplanade des Quinconces features many trees planted in staggered rows.
The Monument aux Girondins provides a focal point to the Place des Quinconces, where bronze fountains decorate a small square around a column. The column is topped with a statue bearing broken chains, and this is symbolic of the liberty established in the French Revolution. The Girondin movement had their headquarters in Bordeaux, and were influential in initiating and implementing the first phases of the French Revolution. The Place des Quinconces is now a transport hub for the city, serving trams, buses, coaches, and shuttles.
6. Wander the Cobbles in Chartrons
Built around the 14th century Chartreux abbey, Chartrons is Bordeaux’s historic district. Filled with culture, cafes, and antiques shops, Chartrons embodies the ‘French feel’ that many visitors search for when visiting the country. With its vibrant street art and energetic markets, Chartrons really is the heart and soul of Bordeaux. Popular with French locals, you can absorb the authentic culture of Bordeaux when you visit.
From La Vie en Rose café for a cup of tea to Faubourg des Arts street, where you’ll find artisan workshops, the Chartrons area has plenty to offer. The best way to enjoy it is to wander the cobbled streets and poke your head in a few shops. Perhaps sit a while in a café and take in the sights, smells, and sounds. Whilst you’re in the area, don’t miss an opportunity to visit Rue Sainte-Catherine for a spot of shopping!
7. See the Architectural feats of Bordeaux in France
Bordeaux is famous not just for its wines and culture, but also for its architecture. Passing over the River Garonne, the Pont-Canal d’Agen is a stone boat crossing for water travel that’s 530 metres long. Rising up 9 metres above the River Garonne, the aqueduct of Pont Canal d’Agen commands respectable views of the landscape it passes over. Below its watery crossing, which is passed by European Waterways barge, Rosa, its wide arches give it an impressive appearance from afar.
Visitors to the Bordeaux region should also not miss an opportunity to see Pont d’Aquitaine. Reaching from one bank of the river Garonne to the other in the northwest of Bordeaux, Pont d’Aquitaine allows vehicles to pass over the water. The bridge stretches an incredible 393 metres and was finished in 1967. It was designed in the style of a suspension bridge, but its full length is actually extended by a ramped viaduct on the left side of the river bank.
8. Explore Château de Duras
Located in the Dropt valley, around an hour’s drive from the French city of Bordeaux, is the remarkable fourteenth century Château de Duras. Having served as a significant military fort during the Hundred Years War, Château de Duras became a symbol of financial, military, and political power within France. Its stark grey walls hide the secrets of the rise of the Durfort family, who became allies of the Kings of France.
Plundered during the French Revolution, Château de Duras has slowly been restored by the city of Duras since it was bought in 1969. Visitors to the castle can see an archaeological and ethnographic museum in the basement, the refurbished apartments of the Duke and Duchess, and walk the ramparts surrounding the château itself. Throughout the summer period, Château de Duras offers additional entertainment such as falconry, chivalry, and musketeer shows.
9. Cruise the Canal de Garonne
The best way to take in the Canal de Garonne is aboard a barge cruise. Slow travel along the waterways to give you time to appreciate the scenery of the passing French countryside. Float for 120 miles along the canal from Bordeaux to Saint Émilion. You will have the opportunity to see the vineyards of the region with their many châteaux, all from the comfort of your own cabin. Make your way through 53 locks and see towpaths, trees, and vineyards.
Book a luxury cabin on hotel barge Rosa and cruise along this beautiful waterway. It’s the calmest and quietest way to visit Bordeaux , and you can see so much more than just the city itself. With gourmet meals prepared for you on board daily, and tastings of local produce and wines, there really isn’t a more delicious way to experience Bordeaux. For keen cyclists, there’s even an opportunity to cycle along the towpaths on sunny days!
10. Taste Exquisite Wine at Château Franc Mayne
Just one kilometre outside of Saint-Émilion is the prestigious vineyard at Château Franc Mayne. Set deep within the vineyards of Bordeaux this producer of grand cru wines tends to seven hectares of vineyards in the French countryside. Surrounded by rolling vineyards on all sides, Château Franc Mayne is at the very heart of the UNESCO listed World Heritage Site of the Bordeaux vineyards. With its own 16th century coaching inn, it’s possible to stay a while and appreciate the scenery.
A tour of the incredible Château Franc Mayne will reveal some of its many exciting secrets. Explore Bordeaux in France as very few other visitors do when you are taken to the stone quarries beneath Château Franc Mayne. This underground network of tunnels beneath the landscape are now used to age barrels of grand cru wine. Enjoy a tour of the vineyard and winery as well as a wine tasting at the Château.
Cruise Bordeaux in Comfort, Aboard Hotel Barge Rosa
Many of the Top 10 Best Things to Do in Bordeaux can be enjoyed on one of our itineraries when you book to see this beautiful region with hotel barge, Rosa. Enjoy unique experiences when you visit Château Franc Mayne, Saint-Émilion, Château de Duras and so many more incredible places in the stunning region of Bordeaux, in the south of France. You’ll even have the opportunity to barge over the Pont-Canal d’Agen, where you can take in the sights around the River Garonne from a 9-metre height.
If cruising aboard Rosa sounds like your ideal holiday, then why not order a free copy of our brochure or perhaps have a no-obligation chat with a member of our team via our Contact Form.