When staying for more than a weekend in the area, many tourists are looking for day trips from Bordeaux. And rightly so, as Gironde (Bordeaux’s department) is one of the most fascinating areas in France, rich with beaches, beautiful villages, nature and heritage. There are plenty of beautiful locations around Bordeaux and some are even accessible by public transport. Thus, in order to help those who don’t want to rent a car, I gathered a list of the 10 best day trips from Bordeaux you can do by train.
All the tickets to the suggested destinations can be bought directly at the Gare Saint Jean train station in Bordeaux. The only one I would recommend ordering ahead of time is Angouleme, only because it’s on the direct line to Paris and the tickets might be expensive if you buy them last minute at the train station. So let’s start discovering the Bordeaux area by train with this list of the 10 best day trips around Bordeaux.
Arcachon and Dune du Pilat
Arcachon is one of the most popular summer destinations in the southwest of France. A seaside resort town renowned for its beautiful beaches, impressive architecture and vibrant atmosphere. The town is divided into four districts, named after the four seasons. Ville d’Été, covering the touristic center, main beach, restaurants and boutiques. Ville d’Hiver – the historic center adorned with glamorous 19th century villas. Ville de Printemps in the west is closer to the most beautiful and less crowded beaches and Ville d’Automne is the amazing port area of Arcachon packed with great sea food restaurants. A day trip from Bordeaux to Arcachon can easily take a whole day but many tend to combine it with a visit to the Dune du Pilat, the tallest sand dune in Europe and one of the most popular destinations in France. Words can’t describe how impressive this sand monster is, you’ll have to climb it to fully appreciate its beauty.
For more info: www.arcachon.com
*If you want to learn more about Arcachon check out my guide to what to do and eat in the Arcachon.
How to get there by train? There is a direct train to the center of Arcachon from the Gare Saint Jean train station (or Pessac train station). To continue to Dune du Pilat, take bus number 1 from the train station in Arcachon. The train leaves Bordeaux every 30 minutes from 6 am to 11:30 pm.
Saint Émilion is probably the most famous wine related day trip out of Bordeaux. Its picturesque center, densely filled with wine shops and fancy restaurants, turns this little town into a prominent attraction for tourists in the area.
Saint Emilion is mostly famous for its wines, with four appellations d’origine controlee (AOC) – Saint Émilion, Saint Émilion Grand Cru, Lussac Saint Émilion and Puisseguin Saint Émilion. A visit to one of the châteaux and participating in some wine tasting is a “must” when coming to the area. The charming town, however, is worth a visit even if you’re not a wine lover. Important historical monuments can be found in abundance in this medieval town, some of which date back as far as the 11th and 12th centuries. One of the famous monuments is the 11th century Monolithic church, carved from a limestone cliff, it’s the largest underground church in Europe. Check out the tourist office’s website for all the information about châteaux in the Saint Émilion area – http://www.saint-emilion-tourisme.com/
How to get there by train? You can get to Saint Emilion by train from the Saint Jean station in Bordeaux. There’s a 15 minutes walk from the station to the city center.
Another option is to take a guided tour that picks you up from Bordeaux and brings you to Saint-Emilion and back. Here are some of the best guided tours from Bordeaux to Saint-Emilion:
La Réole is a small hilly town situated on the banks of the Garonne river about 50 km from Bordeaux. Although the town developed around a monastery founded in the 7th or 8th century, it’s golden era was in medieval times when it became the second largest city in the region after Bordeaux. Still today, it’s one of the biggest towns in the south of the Gironde department with plenty of interesting events and a very lively weekly market on Saturdays. Get lost in the narrow charming streets of the historic center of La Réole and let the beautiful architecture take you back in time.
For more info: http://www.lareole.fr/
How to get there by train? It takes about 40 minutes to get from Bordeaux to La Réole train station. The train leaves from Gare Saint Jean every two hours.
Wine tasting in Margaux
Visiting châteaux in the Médoc area is definitely easier by car, but if you prefer going by train that’s totally doable. You can always do this day trip the DIY way. A train from Bordeaux will bring you to the center of Margaux in the Haut Médoc wine making region. Margaux is also the name of one of the most famous wine appellation d’origine which includes châteaux in the village itself and several villages around it. Some of the wine châteaux are within a walking distance from the train station allowing you to have the route du vin experience without renting a car.
Here are the names of several recommended wine châteaux which are close to the train station (all require prior reservation):
- Château Lascombes: 1 Cours de Verdun, 33460 Margaux
- Château Marquis de Terme: 3 Route de Rauzan, 33460 Margaux
- Château Ferriere: 33bis Rue de la Tremoille, 33460 Margaux
- Château Les Barraillots: 4 Rue Corneillan, 33460 Margaux
The beautiful Château Margaux is only a 25 minutes walk from the train station. Unfortunately their tours are only open to professionals but you can walk around the winery, see the beautiful vines and take photos of the famous chateau.
For more info: https://www.margaux-tourisme.com/
How to get there by public transport: There’s a train leaving Bordeaux to Margaux every couple of hours.
This is not a familiar destination to most people visiting Bordeaux, but it’s definitely worth a day trip. Saint Macaire is a medieval city located some 50 km from Bordeaux on the banks of the Garonne river. In the 13th and 14th centuries Saint Macaire was one of the most prosperous cities in Aquitaine due to its significant agricultural and trade activities. This charming town with its narrow streets and beautiful old houses is a great place for those looking to get a sense of the region’s heritage.
Saint Macaire is also well known for its white wine. Guided tours are organized by the tourist office, including tastings of the Côtes de Bordeaux Saint-Macaire wines. It’s really worth visiting Saint Macaire at the end of August when the Fêtes médiévales takes place and the little town is getting very lively with amazing costumes, music, medieval games and more.
For more info: https://www.tourisme-sud-gironde.com/patrimoine/notre-territoire/saint-macaire/
How to get there by public transport? You can get to Saint Macaire by train from the Saint Jean station in Bordeaux. In the middle of the week, however, the train leaves very early in the morning and the next one leaves only in the evening. Several trains are running between Bordeaux and Saint Macaire on Saturdays so this is the recommended day to go if you want to get there by public transport. A more flexible option would be to get to Langon, from which there are more frequent trains from Bordeaux and then take a taxi (it’s a 10 minutes ride from Langon). Or if you have a bike you can take it with you on the train to Langon and then ride about 15 minutes to Saint Macaire.
Libourne is a beautiful town located at the confluence of the Isle and Dordogne rivers. The city was founded as a Bastide town in the 13th century and has been for many years an important port city central to the wine and wood trade done on the river. Surrounded by some of the world’s most renowned wine labels such as Saint Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac, it used to play an important role in the economy of the region. While it’s not as attractive as Bordeaux, it’s the main city in northern Gironde and it’s rich with history and beautiful architecture.
Due to its location, many people see it as a wine destination from which you can visit the numerous chateaux in the area. But this city has more to offer and is worth a separate visit. You can start your visits at Place Abel-Surchamp, the main square of the city hosting the outdoor market every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. This is one of the main markets in the area, attracting people from all the little towns around Libourne. It’s recommended to visit the city on one of the market days as it really lifts the atmosphere. You can see a lot of interesting buildings on the little streets leading to the main square, some worth mentioning are Rue Victor Hugo and Rue Fonneuve. Don’t forget to take a walk on the beautiful quais of the Isle river.
For more info: http://www.tourisme-libournais.com/
How to get there by train? There’s a train from Bordeaux to Libourne every 20-30 minutes.
Sainte Foy la Grande
This beautiful bastide town, situated in the north east of Gironde, is one of the most charming towns in the Libournais area. The Dordogne river runs through the town, unusual for bastides which are typically situated on hilltops. Many of the buildings in the center of this medieval town date back to the 15th century and give St. Foy la Grande it’s charming look. It’s a small lively town with little cafés on the main central Place du Marché square. Although it’s not a very touristy destination it does get quite busy during Saturday’s market. The market is one of the biggest in the area and it’s the recommended day to visit Sainte Foy la Grande. If you want to spend the whole day there you can cross the river to the other side and visit a small river beach called Plage des Bardoulets.
For more info: http://www.tourisme-dordogne-paysfoyen.com/
How to get there by train? It takes about an hour by train from Saint Jean station to Sainte Foy la Grande.
Gujan-Mestras is a little town known as the capital of oyster farming on the Bassin d’Arcachon. It has seven oyster ports which you can visit and watch oyster farmers work. You can even join one of the farmers and take part in their work for a few hours. Find the list of farmers providing that experience on the tourist office website. One “must” stop is the “Maison de Huitre”, an interactive museum where you discover everything about oyster farming. And finally, don’t forget to taste the freshest oysters in one of the cabanes along the coast line, many of which are located at the famous Port de Larros. If you’re planning to spend the whole day there, check out the Plage de la Hume. For more info on what to do in
Gujan-Mestras check out: https://www.gujanmestras.com
How to get there by train? Gujan-Mestras is one of the stations on the way from Bordeaux to Arcachon. The train leaves every 30 minutes from Bordeaux Saint Jean or Pessac Centre stations.
Visit Châteaux in Bordeaux by tram or bus
Many people are looking for châteaux in the Médoc region or next to Saint Emilion, but actually there are some famous châteaux in Bordeaux metropole and you can easily reach them by tram or by bus.
Some of the more familiar ones are:
Château Pape Clément in Pessac
Take line B to Pessac Centre and then continue 20 minutes by foot or take a direct bus from Place Tourny in Bordeaux (line 4). For more info click here. Château Haut brion in Pessac
You can reach it by bus 4 from Place Tourny in Bordeaux.
For more info click here.
Château du Taillan in Le Taillan-Médoc
You can reach it by bus 5N from Place Tourny in Bordeaux.
For more info click here.
Château Saint Ahon In Blanquefort
Take line C to the Blanquefort train station and then continue 20 minutes by foot or take bus 29 from the Blanquefort train station.
For more info click ere.
All of them have amazing wine and are beautiful destinations, be sure to make reservations before you go.
One of the biggest cities in the south west region is Angoulme. The town is located on a plateau overlooking the Charente river, attracting many tourists thanks to its beautiful historic center and vibrant cultural life. Stroll the streets to explore the historic part of the city and the beautiful boulevards with their view on the original ramparts. It’s a vibrant city with plenty of cafes and restaurants, a big market, museums and historic monuments worth visiting. It’s also famous for its comics festival taking places in January and its interesting comics museum. You can admire the comics art by just strolling the streets. There are 20 murals of comics and illustrations on buildings in almost every neighborhood around the city.
For more info: http://www.angouleme-tourisme.com/
How to get there by train? The TGV train to Paris stops in Angouleme, so even though it’s located 130 km from Bordeaux, you can still get there from Bordeaux in about 35 minutes.
Need more ideas for things to do in and around Bordeaux? you should definitely join my newsletter where I share a lot of info about the area – sign up here.