Butterflies in your stomach, your heart racing? Ah yes, the feeling of being smitten. I recently visited Bordeaux for the first time, and this is exactly how I felt: undeniably enchanted by this vibrant city. My college friend Tori and I did a girls’ weekend during our vacances scolaires, and it was just the break I needed. We ate well, we drank well, we laughed well in Bordeaux. You know those destinations that you visit and you say to yourself, One and done, no need to return. Well, my trip to Bordeaux was not one of those. I am itching to return to this delightful city in southwestern France. Heading there, too? Here are 17 things to do in Bordeaux.
Where We Stayed
I can confidently say I’ve never had a better Airbnb experience. Not only was this apartment darling, but the host was also so kind and hospitable. Super host Vincent truly thought of everything! It was located steps away from a cute square with shops and restaurants, but the apartment itself was plenty quiet. Here’s $65 off your first Airbnb booking.
The name of this American food joint made me want to croon The Beach Boys. Located in a bubbly square, Café Kokomo serves up burgers, fries, lemonade and more of your American favorites. After a 6-hour train ride, Tori and I were famished. And this hit just the spot after a long journey. The best part of all (okay, close) is that they handed out those gummy hamburger patty candies with our order. You know, the Krabby Patty ones you used to snack on as a kid? Tori and I were obsessed!
Église Notre Dame de Bordeaux
If I had a dime for every church in France with the name “Notre Dame” — oh là là ! Église Notre Dame de Bordeaux dates back to the 1600s and boasts beautiful stained glass and paintings inside. It was truly one of the quietest cathedrals I’ve visited. It’s also near plenty of shops and restaurants, so it’s worth a stop.
Charcuterie night à Bordeaux
Sure, France offers some of the most renowned cuisine in the world, but sometimes you just want a night in while on vacation. Snacking on a charcuterie board for dinner is one of my favorite meals, and in Bordeaux, you have ample local shops where you can select the best cheese, meats and wine.
On your list of things to do in Bordeaux, be sure to add wine tasting because that’s this city’s claim to fame. Due to restrictions, we couldn’t find any wine tastings, so we made our own. We started at L’Oenothèque right across from Église Notre Dame de Bordeaux. We wandered in, and our eyes met rows and rows of Bordeaux wine. The kind shopkeeper helped us pick out a selection of regional wines for our charcuterie night, and she even pointed to where they came from on her map of Bordeaux. Full of character, the wine shop is attached to a small antiques shop. The shop doesn’t have an Instagram and appears to be pretty under the radar. The address is 1 Place du Chapelet. Although there’s not a fuss on the internet, Tori and I were entirely thrilled with our purchases and service.
We asked the lady at the wineshop where we should buy cheese, and she directed us just a couple streets over to Fromagerie Beillevaire. This small but mighty shop is well-equipped for all your cheese needs, to say the least. The woman at the shop helped us find a variety of cheeses, including one that had dried flowers on its rind. And next to the fromagerie, La Boucherie de Paris is where we found our meats to complement our cheese and wine. As far as the best things to do in Bordeaux goes, having your own wine and charcuterie night is an authentic and scrumptious way to travel.
Rue Sainte Catherine
If you’re looking to shop till you drop, Rue Sainte Catherine is the place to be. This long, bustling street has plenty of big name stores to browse and is a must for any shopaholics heading to Bordeaux.
Place de la Bourse and Miroir d’Eau
This famous Bordeaux square sports beautiful architecture and a classic fountain just steps away from the Garonne River. Although it wasn’t in operation when we visited, Miroir d’Eau is another popular site in this square as it reflects the buildings.
Les Quais de Bordeaux
This path lines the Garonne River and is the perfect place for a pleasant walk or bike ride. The scattered gardens along Les Quais de Bordeaux also make it a great spot for picnicking, reading or catching up with a pal. Tori and I had the most pleasant stroll and outdoor lunch along the Garonne River as rollerbladers, bikers and runners whizzed past.
Rue Saint James
While Rue Sainte Catherine is all the hustle and bustle, Rue Saint James is a muted kind of cool. This street is lined with darling boutiques with fun knickknacks, especially at Bon Endroi. It’s all under the watchful eye of La Grosse Cloche, a darling bell tower gracing the street. This was one of my favorite things to do in Bordeaux for its fun shops and under-the-radar vibes.
Only a few steps away from Rue Saint James is a pretty and pink boutique called Panache. Tori and I met the owner of this recently opened storefront and enjoyed looking at all the fun books, trinkets and artsy things along with the studio upstairs. It reminded me of a boutique I’d see in America for its feminine yet irreverent vibes.
This small but mighty square was right around the corner from our Airbnb, and Tori and I loved sitting here to people watch and enjoy ice cream. Honestly, when I think of my time in Bordeaux, I think of Place Fernand-Lafargue. Not because it’s anything that out of the ordinary, but because it’s entirely lively and a peek into la vie quotidienne, or the French way of life. There’s plenty of cafés and shops about this area, and it connects to Rue Saint James.
Place des Quinonces
This beautiful spot in the city is the largest square in all of Europe and is the perfect place for a walk or a picnic. Tori and I briefly walked through it on our last night, and I wish we could’ve spent more time there.
I am always in search of a good bowl of pad thai, and Padang Padang fit just the bill. It was steps away from our Airbnb, and we saw lots of people on the street munching on Asian food. We had no destination in mind for lunch, and we decided to join the bandwagon. Reasonably priced, my Padang Padang pad thai packed flavor, and I was so bummed that my tummy wasn’t big enough to finish the whole bowl.
Tori and I stayed in Bordeaux for two nights, and we visited Glacerie Dumas twice. So if that doesn’t paint a picture, I’m telling you it was delightful. The first night I ordered ice cream macaron sandwiches, which pack flavor in such small bites. And the second night I ordered their chocolate ice cream topped with chantilly. They also sell pastries and other sugary sweets, so your sweet tooth will be satisfied.
Les Comptoirs du Magellan
I’m picky when it comes to postcards, and I also have an unhealthy obsession with more wall art than can humanly fit into my room. And Les Comptoirs du Magellan was the perfect store to poke around in. This store has plenty of fun knickknacks and some beautifully designed postcards and wall art. I love finding artwork that portrays the places I visit, and Les Comptoirs du Magellan had so much to pick from.
Arcachon and La Dune du Pilat
Since, when does France have sand dunes? I mean, we know they’ve got a cool tower in Paris, snowy mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. But few realize that the oh-so geographically diverse France is home to the largest sand dune in Europe. And it’s an hour and a half away from Bordeaux.
Gare Saint Jean in Bordeaux has trains running to and from Arcachon throughout the day. It’s a one-hour train ride to the beach village of Arcachon. From the Arcachon train station, take Bus 1 to La Dune du Pilat stop. The bus ride takes another 30 minutes, but I savored every second as the commute is filled with tree-lined streets and expensive homes. It gave me Florida-meets-Beverly Hills-meets-France vibes. Boujee but make it nature and French.
After your commute, you arrive at the park. Follow the trail, and then you will see la dune in all her sandy glory. Be sure to wear good hiking shoes, and check the weather before you go. Tori and I did not do our homework nor take into account how incredibly windy it would be at the top. All that to say, we were pretty darn cold. Wear long pants and long sleeves to protect yourself from blowing sand.
It is no secret that I fell in love with Bordeaux. And I can’t wait to return to find even more things to do in Bordeaux. Happy exploring and wandering!
Craving more French destinations? Here are my favorite villages near Nice to explore.