Planning a trip to Bordeaux? Get some inspiration on what to do while you’re there with our idea of a perfect three-day itinerary. History, culture, entertainment, restaurants… Pack it all in at a comfortable pace and don’t miss a thing!
The most striking beauty is surely one that is unaware of her charms, and as such, Bordeaux, the pearl of Aquitaine, is deservedly known as the “sleeping beauty”. Although Bordeaux has now woken up to its beauty, the city retains its somewhat hidden charm, showing a certain modesty that invites the visitor to be a little more daring while exploring the city.
Your discovery of Bordeaux should begin beside the river Garonne, on the Place de la Bourse. This square is one of the city’s newest attractions, yet is already established as a must-see. Here you will find a water mirror designed by landscape architect Michel Corjoud: a thin film of water covers a granite slab, its watery mirrored surface alternating with a cloud of mist, making it a particularly popular place for children to play and for romantic couples to stroll.
Continue your morning walk along the waterfront, where you will see the beautiful facades of the eighteenth century buildings that have earned the city a Unesco World Heritage label. Near the Place de la Bourse, you can also admire the Grand Theatre, a magnificent building which illustrates the extent of architectural skill in the eighteenth century.
At lunch time, make your way to the CAPC, Bordeaux’s contemporary art museum. Go up to Café Putman on the top floor, where you can eat in an amazing setting surrounded by contemporary works of art.
Follow this up with a visit to the exhibitions. This museum contains one of the finest collections of contemporary art in France. You will find, among the 1,300 works, pieces by truly innovative artists such as Richard Long and Mario Merz.
Upon leaving, you will find yourself a stone’s throw from the botanical gardens, where you can add a touch of nature to your day, especially if you follow this with a visit to the Natural History Museum, just next door.
For the evening, opt for Vin Rue Neuve if you want to enjoy traditional bistro cuisine from the land of vineyards. On the menu you can choose from traditional dishes made with ingredients sourced directly from the market, and of course a wide selection of the best wines of the region.
The next morning, make your way back to the Garonne, but this time you will embark on a boat ride that will take you to the estuary. From the pontoons in the centre of town, near the Place de la Bourse, you can register for themed boat trips to the islands in the estuary, or to discover the vineyards, or just drift along the waterfront. Most of the boat trips include tastings on site and a meal.
In the afternoon you will visit the Museum of Aquitaine, which has over 70,000 pieces that will help you get a clearer picture of the history of the city and its region from prehistory to today. The museum has a section devoted to the role of the slave trade in Bordeaux, a relevant, interesting initiative, this a courageous and rare exhibition.
In the evening, make your way to the Pont de Pierre, the oldest bridge over the Garonne, from which you can see the lights of the docks reflected on the river. In this district and on the riverbanks, you'll easily find a restaurant that suits your mood and your budget.
The next day, cross the Garonne to the right bank, where you can explore the district of La Bastide. After suffering many years of disorganised and industrial development, it has been much restored in recent years. In particular you can visit the cantonal house in La Bastide, a magnificent building that combines neo-Gothic with art deco and art nouveau architectural elements.
In the afternoon, return to the left bank to visit the Saint-André cathedral which dates from the twelfth century and is a splendid example of Gothic architecture. Just beside it is the Pey-Berland Tower, dating from the fifteenth century. You will be rewarded for climbing its 232 steps with a beautiful view of the historic centre.
Right next to the cathedral is the Museum of Fine Arts, one of the oldest museums in France, which, over the years, has brought together an exceptional collection of works by great masters such as Delacroix, Rubens, Veronese, Titian, Matisse and Picasso.
For your last night in Bordeaux, its time to go out and sample the city’s nightlife, with plenty of venues to suits your tastes. For an elegant evening, choose Azuli Bar, a sumptuous bar with music provided by a fine selection of DJs. BT59 club is a techno hotspot, while fans of minimal and dubstep will want to head to the I:Boat on the riverbank. For a student atmosphere, the Place de la Victoire is the place to be, while a popular atmosphere awaits you in the Saint-Michel district.
A warm and welcoming city, Bordeaux is truly a sleeping beauty. In three days, you can get an idea of what life is like in the pearl of Aquitaine, but there are so many things left to discover. If you have the opportunity to spend more time in Bordeaux, you could set off on the wine trail, enjoy an evening in the magnificent opera house, or recharge your batteries a little in the many public gardens.