Bordeaux is possibly the most beautiful city in France and was proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth herself to be “the very essence of elegance”. Streets and buildings have a charming contemporary design, you’ll taste amazing food and wine and there’s enough to see and do no matter your trip length. Half of the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it was awarded ‘Europe’s Best Destination’ in 2015.
We’ve put together a Bordeaux 3 day itinerary to ensure you make the most of your visit in a short city break, which should be plenty of time to see the main sites.
Contemporary French architecture, excellent wine and charming city walks
Day 1 – Morning:
Marche des Capucins (Market) – Start the first morning of your Bordeaux 3 day itinerary with an early rise, ahead of an action-packed day of sightseeing. The first stop on our agenda is the popular Marche des Capucins Market. We love a good market when we travel and this one happens to be excellent. Spend an hour or so browsing the many food stalls, grabbing a bite to eat for breakfast and sampling fresh fruit and pastries. Arrive early to beat the crowds! If you like cheese, there’s countless stalls to choose that stock all the French classics.
St. Andre Cathedral – Like many French towns and cities, Bordeaux has numerous churches. Number one on your list should be the grand St.Andre Cathedral. Gothic in design, this towering building is one of the top sites to see in the city and well worth the visit. Tour the inside and outside of the building and take a look at all of the stained-glass windows – these were the highlight for us. You’ll almost definitely encounter some of the other churches as you walk around the city.
Pey-Berland Tower (city view) – Whilst you’re in the Cathedral area, don’t miss the 15th century Pey-Berland Bell Tower tour. This inexpensive tour (at only €6 per person) takes you to the top of the tower for the best panoramic views of Bordeaux.
Pont de Pierre – Pont de Pierre is the main bridge that connects to Bordeaux’s old town and is the oldest bridge in the city. Walk up the bridge to the halfway point to capture some stunning views of the river Geronne.
Café break – Stop off for lunch at a traditional French café. We found a small eatery called Chez Fred just only 2 minutes from Porte Cailhau which we’d highly recommend.
Porte Cailhau – After lunch, set your sights for Porte Calihau, a 14th century monument which was built as part of the city walls to commemorate Charles VIII’s victory in Forno, Italy. There is an enchanting castle setting to enjoy with a coffee from one of the local cafes. Stop back here at night-time for a completely different view of the monument
Place de la Bourse (Place Royal) – Further up the river is the majestic Place de la Bourse landmark. This ‘royal square’ area is an architectural masterpiece and must-see attraction where you’ll see the famous ‘Water Mirror’ come to life (see below). Spend a couple of hours wandering this impressive building and its intricate features. It makes a great photo opportunity!
The Water Mirror – After returning to your hotel to relax and freshen up, head back to the Place de la Bourse area for the spectacle that is the Water Mirror, a magnificent reflection of the Place Royal on the lake when the sun goes down. Soak in the vibrant atmosphere and enjoy the romantic, natural show. There are a number of restaurants in this this area to check out for dinner. We’d recommend ‘Lume’, a small eatery with a varied but delicious European menu.
Day 2 – Morning:
St Emilion day trip – A trip to Bordeaux wouldn’t be complete without a short detour to the region of St Emilion, a charming collection of countryside wineries, grand Chateau’s and a UNESCO World Heritage Site old town. You can get to the area via Bordeaux’s main train station, with the journey only taking 40 mins to the centre of St Emilion town. We think that 2 days is enough time in your Bordeaux 3 day itinerary to see the city, leaving a full day for St Emilion. Here are the top things to do whilst you’re there:
Tuk Tuk Tour – We believe the best way to see St Emilion in a morning is to hit the cobbled streets and tour the towns and villages by Tuk Tuk, a type of tour that’s growing in popularity across Europe. Saint Emilion Tuk Tuk Tour is the way to go. The 50-minute ‘town tour’ costs only €10 per person and it takes you around most of the main sites.
Other recommend places to see in your morning of adventure are:
Les Cordeliers Monastery – located in a garden area near the top of a hill, this old ruin of a monastery is a nice place to wander around with a glass of wine in hand!
Saint-Emilion Monolithic Church – This church may just seem like a pretty building in the centre of town at first, but it’s so much more! Join the guided tour for an insight into its fascinating history, an underground tour of the Catacombs and a unique view of the building exterior, which was carved from the mountain face.
Boutique shopping – St Emilion is a typical French countryside town with streets dotted with patisseries, cafés and apparel shops. Spend the rest of your morning shopping to your leisure and feasting on freshly baked croissants. We’d recommend choosing a bottle of wine and some hand-made macarons for a pre-dinner snack back at the hotel. It’s also a great place to pick up gifts for those back at home.
Wine tasting afternoon in St Emilion – If you’ve done a bit of research, you’ll notice that there are tons of different Chateaus and wineries offering an authentic wine tour. Bordeaux is actually one of the most popular areas of the world for red wine production! We recommend choosing Chateau Cantenac for your afternoon wine tour. It’s currently the number one attraction in St Emilion according to Tripadvisor reviews and for good reason. The chateau itself and the surrounding vineyards are a beautiful setting where you can learn about the history of the family business and sample wine at your leisure. It’s a real eye opener to the world of wine production and flavour!
Jump on the train back to Bordeaux and relax in the comfort of your hotel after a busy day of sightseeing (and drinking!). We’ll leave the evening free to do whatever you wish. We opted for a nice 3 course dinner in a reasonably priced Brasserie called La P’tite, showcasing a menu packed with all of the French favourites.
Day 3 – Morning:
Monument aux Girondins – Start the final day of your Bordeaux 3 day itinerary with some casual sightseeing. A short walk from Place de la Bourse (from day 1 of our itinerary) is the towering Monument aux Girondins, a historic memorial which was built in 1902 and overlooks the river Garonne on the Place des Quinconces.
Place des Quinconces – The largest city square of its kind in Europe, Place de Quiconces is a hub for festivals, circus tours, sports events and other cultural exhibitions year round. Check the official Bordeaux tourism website to see what’s on during your stay. Spend a couple of hours exploring this heavily tourist populated area of the city and take some amazing photos of the river.
Jardin Public – Jardin public simply means ‘public park’ if you hadn’t guessed already. This beautiful park is a short walk from the square and is well worth a visit after a busy morning of walking. We’d recommend stopping by a local café to grab some lunch to enjoy in the park. Boulangerie Perrin is the way to go. This cheap café/patisserie has a number of sandwiches, drink and pastry combo’s for around €5. Alternatively, plan ahead and make your own picnic. The park has a pond, botanical garden and luscious green relaxation areas surrounded by ancient trees.
Bernard Magrez Art Institute – Set in the charming Bernard Magrez Chateau, this art institute caters to both art enthusiasts and those with a casual interest. Enjoy a glass of wine from the vineyard as you wander the corridors and rooms of the mansion browsing the art collections.
Shopping/Spa – Being your last day in the city, now is the perfect time to do a spot of personal or gift shopping. Like Paris, Bordeaux is no stranger to top fashion brands and there are a number of shopping hotspots. Rue Sainte-Catherine is the place to visit for designer fashion whilst Place Fernand Lafargue is best for gift shopping. Chocolate and wine shops are high in demand here. If you’d rather do something more relaxing, head to a spa for some pre-dinner treatment. We recommend Spa 2 Be, a tranquil spa with a pretty garden retreat.
Grand Theatre – What better way to spend your last night than a night at the Opera or a Theatre show? The Bordeaux Grand Theatre could quite possibly be the most impressive theatre venue we’ve ever been to, featuring a stunning contemporary design which took 5 years to construct. View the theatre’s schedule here. If there’s nothing you want to see, make sure you do a daytime tour of the venue instead. You have the opportunity to stand on the stage and look out into the audience.
If you want to extend your last night and enjoy the local bar scene, the ‘hip’ St Pierre district is the place to go!
More top attractions if you’re in Bordeaux for longer:
- A day trip to the Chateaux region of Medoc
- La Cite du Vin wine museum
- Le Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas
- Grosse Cloche de Bordeaux
- Notre Dame Church
- Chateau Pape Clement
- Port of the Moon dock area
Top tips for visiting Bordeaux
- If you’re looking for good nightlife, the St Pierre district is the place to be. Alternative to the renaissance vibe of the city, St Pierre embraces Hip Hop and the usual house music favourites. It’s popular with students and tourists alike
- Being one of the wine capitals of Europe, you’ll find top-notch bottles of red to be very cheap here. Pop into a wine store to grab a €5 bottle
- Pick up a Bordeaux City Pass on your first day for unlimited access to public transport, free guided tours around the city and discounted entry to many of the top attractions. One day, two day and three day passes are available, starting at €29 per person. Check it out and buy your pass online here.
- Bordeaux is very much an upscale city, with everything from the hotels, restaurants and shops having a touch of luxury. That said, the city’s accommodation caters to both travellers on a budget and those looking for a suite in a large, romantic chateau. AirBnB rented apartments can be a great way to save money. Plan your trip to best suit your budget and you’ll have an amazing time!
Now you’ve inspired yourself with ideas for what to do for your own Bordeaux 3 day itinerary, all that’s left to do is take in the beautiful sites of this quaint French town and indulge in the fine food and wine. The entire city and surrounding countryside has a charm that will leave you wanting to return next year!