Bordeaux is a lively city throughout the year, with plenty of restaurants, pubs, and wine bars where you can grab a drink every day of the week (well Mondays are kind of tough, but you can still find a spot for an apero). In the summer, however, Bordeaux takes it up a notch and becomes one of the coolest summer places in France. Plenty of rooftops, terrace cafes, and open bars are surging all over the city making the city extra chic. Most of the summer bars in Bordeaux are open only during the summer (duh!) and some only for a short period during the season, so you have a limited time to enjoy them. Some are more posh and chic, other more simple and chill but they are all super fun to hang out in during the summer in Bordeaux. In this list, I included 10 of my favorite rooftops and terraces all over Bordeaux metropole so you won’t necessarily have to get to Bordeaux center to enjoy the Bordelaise summer vibes.
Here’s a list of the best places summer bars in Bordeaux for a perfect cocktails evening or an afternoon apero!
Summer bars in Bordeaux
Mama Shelter – the chic rooftop
Mama Shelter is probably the most popular summer rooftop bar in Bordeaux. It has a funky design and many original cocktails but I believe its location should also get a lot of credit for its popularity. It’s one of the only rooftops in the center of Bordeaux, located just next to the Cathedral Saint André, and it has one of the best views of the city. If you come during evening hours, booking in advance is recommended.
Where: 19 Rue Poquelin Molière, 33000 Bordeaux When: Lunch everyday 12:00 – 15:00, Dinner Sunday to Wednesday 19:00 to midnight, Thursday to Saturday the bar is open for drinks For reservations click here.
La Guinguette chez Alriq – the best tavern in town
La guinguette chez Alriq is one of my favorite places in Bordeaux and its opening event is for me signaling the beginning of the Bordelais summer! The Guinguette is a big tavern located on the right banks of the Garonne at the Bastide neighborhood, hosting plenty of open-air concerts every summer. The performing bands and artists are coming from all over the world and create a laid back party atmosphere. There’s usually a small price to pay for the concerts taking place on Wed-Sat and on Sundays the entry is free. You can see their program here. The place is very popular so expect to see a line at the entrance.
Where: ZA Quai des Queyries, Port Bastide, 33100 Bordeaux When: Wed-Sat from 19:00 to 1:00 and Sunday from 12:00 to 22:00 Click here for more info and booking for groups.
Les Chantiers de la Garonne
Just next door to La guinguette chez Alriq you can find one of Bordeaux’s best-hidden gems. Les Chantiers de la Garonne is an old hangar turned into a sailing club and a restaurant with one of the best outdoor spaces in Bordeaux. The restaurant is located on board of the Garonne river and the outdoor space feels like a real beach with plenty of low tables on fine white sand and fresh seafood with cold bottles of white wine. You can find more info about the restaurant and other activities proposed by the Chantiers de la Garonne here.
Where: 21 Quai de Queyries, 33100 Bordeaux When: The beach is open from Wed-Sun from 17:00 to midnight.
Terrasse 14 – a pop-up bar
The new hip rooftop in Bordeaux is located on the roof of Hangar 14 and thus its name Terrasse 14. Besides an amazing view on the Garonne river, this place has all the hipster 101 kit 🙂 A cool bar, a petanque court, great local beers, wines, and tapas, and a lot of chic bordelaise people. This rooftop is going to be open until August 31 so hurry up if you want to try it.
Where: Hangar 14, Quai des Chartrons, Bordeaux. When: Wed-Sat from 17:00 to 23:00
Plage de L’IBOAT
The Iboat is a three-level ferry spanning 687m2, anchored to one of the docks of Bassins a flot and mostly known as a concert venue. During the summer they also open their “beach”, a fun outdoor space on the banks of the Bassin a flot with a bar, comfy sofas, and varying outdoor events. La Plage de L’IBOAT is definitely one of the best summer bars in Bordeaux for an afternoon drink! You can see the list of concerts and events here.
For more cool places to visit in the Bassin a flot area check out my article about the Bacalan district.
Where: Bassin à Flot n°1, Cours Henri Brunet, 33300 Bordeaux When: Every day from 17:00
This isn’t specifically a Bordeaux summer bar but it’s one of my favorite Terraces in Bordeaux all year long (when it’s not raining of course). For those who’re not familiar with the place, Utopia is an independent cinema theater, installed in an ancient church, l’église du Vieux Bordeaux. At the entrance to this beautiful building, you’ll find le Cafe Utopia, a nice bistro, and a good place to take your laptop for a few hours of work. However, the best part is the terrace which has plenty of tables on one of the liveliest squares in Bordeaux, Place Camille Jullian. If you’re looking for a nice, simple place for a drink in the center of the city, this one is recommended.
Where: 5 Place Camille Jullian, 33000 Bordeaux When: Daily from 10:00 to 22:30
Rooftops and Terraces in Bordeaux Metropole
Domaine de Raba
The beautiful chateau of Domaine de Raba is well hidden in a residential neighborhood in Talence. This place is a bit hard to describe as it has everything from a spa to a fancy restaurant, a bar, and different events like cinema nights and morning yoga. About a year ago, the Domain de Raba opened an outdoor bar called the Tiki Bar. The menu of the bar changes every week and it has many special evenings with Dj sets and concerts.
Where: 35 Rue Rémi Belleau, 33400 Talence When: The Tiki bar is open Wed-Sun starting 19:00 Booking in advance is recommended, you can do it online here.
Les Halles de Talence
The Talence market is the little brother of the Bacalan market, built by Biltoki in December 2018. Inside the market, you can find a very good cheese stand, tapas, Moroccan food, sushi, oysters, and more. The prices are a bit high except for the bar, which has a great variety of wines at a decent price. The best part, however, is the outdoor area! Plenty of tables are spread in the afternoon between the market and the other restaurants in the Forum and you can enjoy a really fun apero or dinner with a very local vibe. I live in Talence so this is actually my favorite place for a Friday apero!
Where: Place Alcala de Henares, 33400 Talence When: Daily except for Mondays, the market closes for a break between 14:30 to 16:30 on weekdays
Canopée Café in Merignac
If you want to avoid going to the city center the Canopée Café is a great option! The Canopée Café in Merignac has both an indoor restaurant (open for lunch and dinner) and a very chic rooftop with a huge selection of cocktails and a petanque court, called the Bodega. This rooftop is located in the industrial zone in Merignac and thus lacks the beautiful view of Bordeaux’s rooftop bars but the place itself is super chic and there’s plenty of parking 🙂
Where: Face Mérignac Soleil, 1 Chemin de Pouchon, 33700 Mérignac When: The rooftop (La Bodega) is open Mon to Sat from 17:30 to 1:30 and Sun 17:00 to 1:00. If you’re a group of 15pl, you must book a table. All the details are here.
La Laiterie – a new garden bar
Another summer bar in Talence! It’s starting to look like a “Bars in Talence list” but it’s just because I live here :). La Laiterie in Talence is a beautiful outdoor bar hidden in a wild green garden. Once/Twice a week they also have concerts, for those you must book your place in advance – all the details are here. The place is open from May to October.
Where: Impasse Vieille Tour, 33400 Talence When: The days and hours are changing weekly – check the updated hours on their Facebook page.
You can also get plenty of tips on things to do in the Southwest of France via lost in Bordeaux’s social media accounts and email list, check them out here:
I absolutely love street art and any city that makes the effort to complement its historic landscape with a modern expression of art is buying a fast ticket to my “go-to” list. That’s why Angoulême, which is located in the Charente department, about 1.5 hours drive from Bordeaux (or 35 minutes by train) has been on my mind for quite a while now. Angoulême is widely known as the comics and street art capital of France and is globally renowned for its Internation Comics festival hosting more than 200,000 people every year. Although I knew that I’m expected to see some beautiful murals in Angoulême, the creativity of this city took me by surprise the minute I entered the historic part of the city. Angoulême’s admiration for comics was expressed in every detail, from colorful post boxes to painted recycling bins and statues of famous comics characters. Visiting Angoulême is a little bit like playing treasure hunt for art lovers, there’s something to find on every street corner.
Now, don’t get me wrong here, this is by far not the only reason to visit Angoulême. It’s a beautiful historic city, surrounded by ancient ramparts, abundant with elegant monuments, and generally a vivid place with an impressive number of bars and restaurants. My article about all the things you can do in Angouleme is in the making but in this article, I want to focus on what attracted me to this city, which is its street art. My goal is to make you experience this city as if we were in an open museum of comics and street art. Having said that, if you really love comics don’t miss la Cité Internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l’Image, the comics museums of Angoulême.
There are 25 huge murals painted on different buildings spread around Angoulême. If you can, pass by the tourist office (located in the Hotel de Ville), and grab a map indicating all of these murals. However, you should know that some of them are located quite far from the city center and require a long walk to get there. So if you are limited in time or just want to save your energy for the more interesting parts of the city, I made a map of my favorite murals and other street art that I really loved when strolling the city. In most of the locations on the map, I added the name of the work and the artist’s name and in some, I also added a photo and a link for more info about this work (in French).
I should mention also that there’s an app that can help you navigate around the murals in the city. I didn’t try it myself, but if you want to give it a try, these are the links, Google Play, App Store.
My three favorite murals in Angoulême
I should start by saying that all the murals in Angouleme are stunning but there are several that I particularly loved and I think you should see.
La Fille des Remparts – Max Cabannes
This one is probably the most famous mural in Angouleme and one of the best spots for taking photos and selfies in the city 🙂 In this Mural, Max Cabann imitates the atmosphere of the old city with its ramparts and old buildings. It almost feels like a continuation of the street your standing on. You can find it just next to the market on 6 Boulevard Pasteur.
Chassez le Naturel – François Boucq
This beautiful mural is located in a residential neighborhood slightly outside of the city center, but it’s so stunning it’s worth the walk. François Boucq is a French comics artist known for its books about Jérôme Moucherot, an insurance salesman, who is dressed in a leopard suit. The mural can be found at: Rue du Dr Duroselle above the parking entrance.
L’Archiviste – François Schuiten
L’Archiviste by François Schuiten is one of the most special artworks on the streets of Angoulême – one million holes on a stainless steel plate over a huge building facade. The building is located on 24 Avenue Gambetta.
The Comics Festival
If you can choose when to visit Angouleme, the best time would be in January when the city hosts its famous Comics Festival. The Angoulême International Comics Festival is the third biggest comics festival in the world, hosting more than 200,000 visitors every year.
Discover more art when strolling Angoulême
The murals of Angoulême display the works of the most famous comics artists in France. However, street art and comics are such an important part of the modern identity of this city that the murals are only a fraction of the art you can find in Angoulême. I spent hours just walking and absorbing the colors, the cute characters painted on the shatters, and unusual statues in the garden below the ramparts. Here are some of my favorite discoveries from this beautiful city. I count on you to find many more when you visit fascinating Angoulême 🙂
You can also get plenty of tips on things to do in the Southwest of France via lost in Bordeaux’s social media accounts and email list, check them out here:
Until just a few months ago I used to publish monthly posts with plenty of suggestions for things to do in Bordeaux every month and then like the rest of the world I had to stop. So I can’t even describe how good it feels to finally write this article. Those who live or have ever visited Bordeaux know that there are plenty of fun events taking place here every summer. This summer most events were obviously postponed to the summer of 2021 but luckily there are still plenty of great summer places that will be open, allowing us to enjoy this lovely season. In this article, I gathered 15 places and things you can do in Bordeaux this summer (2020). For specific events and other ideas for things to do every weekend, I invite you to subscribe to my email list here.
Go see the amazing Gustave Klimt exhibition – D’or et de couleurs
The long-awaited Gustave Klimt exhibition at the Bassins de Lumières (previously known as the Base sous-marine) was finally opened on June 10th. This is one of the most stunning exhibitions to ever arrive at Bordeaux and a visit there is a must! Whereas previously the quays of the Base sous-marine were used only to access the exhibition, this time all four pools, the quais, and the bridges are all used to screen the animated paintings of Klimt and his friends in the Vienna Secession movement. The result is mesmerizing! Important information: tickets must be bought in advance (here’s the link) and masks are obligatory.
Dance at La Guinguette chez Alriq
The Guinguette is a tavern on the right banks of the Garonne hosting plenty of open-air concerts every summer. The performing bands and artists are coming from all over the world and create a laid back party atmosphere. You can see their program here. The place is open from Wednesday to Sunday with concerts taking place daily. If you’re a group of people you can book a table – see all the details here.
Bordeaux museums are free this summer
Yes, you heard it right! Five main museums in Bordeaux are going to be free all summer long! This is the list: le Muséum d’histoire naturelle, le CAPC, le Musée d’Aquitaine, le Musée des Arts Décoratifs and le Musée des Beaux-Arts. If you’re coming with kids, the natural history museum of Bordeaux is fantastic!
The Cité du Vin is one of the most popular attractions on the tourist trail in Bordeaux. The extraordinary building, inspired by the movement of wine swirling in a glass, is a one of a kind cultural center, all dedicated to discovering the wine world. Through its interactive exhibition, It offers a journey to both French and global wine history, culture and knowhow. One of the downsides is that the visit is quite expensive, the entry price for an adult is 20 euros and 9 euros for kids, so a family visit there makes it a pricey experience. However, this summer la Cité du Vin is free for kids under 17yo so it’s a great opportunity to take them to one of the most entertaining museums in Bordeaux. You can read my article about my visit to the Cite du Vin to get a good idea of what to expect there.
Enjoy a fun day in Darwin
Hipster paradise is finally open again! For those new to Bordeaux, Darwin is an old military base turned into an urban space with a huge chic restaurant and a cafe/organic food shop, a skate park for all ages, a second-hand shop, and many other surprises, all with an agenda of ecological awareness. On Saturdays, you can enjoy an outdoor local produce market. It’s also one of the most extraordinary places for street art and includes some amazing works by a lot of talented artists on each one of its buildings. Since the reopening, they added plenty of tables outdoors in what they call “Darwin Plein Air”, with some nice food stands for snacks. It’s not clear if Darwin Plein Air will continue throughout the summer but Darwin is a fun place to hang out in any case.
This summer (until August 31) Bordeaux Lac will offer FREE activities such as kayaking, SUP, zumba and more! The activities are taking place daily from 14:00 to 18:00 and registration is taking place on the beach starting from 13:30. Please read the content in this link as it includes instructions for some documents you need to present to be able to register as well as the schedule of the daily activities.
Puppet Theater for Kids
Le Guignol Guérin, founded in 1853, is the oldest puppetry show in France with daily spectacles for kids in Parc Bordelais during the summer (July and August). The show usually starts at 16:00 but can be canceled or postponed when it’s raining or getting too hot. Read more about the theater here.
Go to the IBOAT beach
Well, it’s not really a proper beach where you can swim but it’s definitely one of the coolest places in town. La Plage de L’IBOAT is a fun outdoor space with a bar, comfy sofas, and different outdoor events. The Iboat, mostly known as a concert venue, is a three-level ferry spanning 687m2, anchored to one of the docks of Bassins a flot.
For more cool places to visit in the Bassin a flot area check out my article about the Bacalan district.
Have a drink at Mama Shelter
This is one of the best places for drinks in Bordeaux, a rooftop bar on top of the Mama Shelter hotel in Bordeaux center. The rooftop is currently open every day from 12:00 to midnight, however, hours may change so check out their website before going. This place is very popular and tends to get busy in the late evening, so booking a table is recommended.
Mama Shelter is only one of the cool rooftops in Bordeaux Metropole, if you want to discover more hip rooftops and fun terrace cafes check out my article about the best summer bars in Bordeaux.
Don’t we all need to refresh our closet after this long period of being stuck at home? Summer sales are a great opportunity to enjoy good deals on clothes, shoes, electric supplies, toys and more. This summer the soldes d’été will take place from July 15 to August 11.
Enjoy the best markets in Bordeaux
You know how you always see people uploading beautiful pictures from French markets, with piles of strawberries, mouth-watering cheese, and crispy baguettes? Why not have the same fun touristic experience here, in one of Bordeaux’s numerous markets. The most popular market in Bordeaux is of course Marché des Capucins but there are plenty of amazing open-air markets in different neighborhoods in the city. Even if you live here you’ll probably discover a few new markets in my article about the best markets in Bordeaux.
Things to do around Bordeaux – Gironde and Dordogne
Taste the good life of Arcachon
If I had to make my top “good life in the Southwest of France” list, oysters, white wine, and beautiful beaches would probably be in my top 5. The Arcachon Bay is located about 50 km from Bordeaux and offers some of the best summer experiences in France. Tens of amazing beaches, oyster farmers villages, natural reserves, beautiful 19th-century architecture, and plenty of attractions for kids. A day trip (at least) to the Bassin d’Arcachon is an absolute must when visiting Bordeaux. To help you decide where to go I wrote an article about the best places to visit on the Arcachon Bay.
For a perfect summer afternoon gateway, head to Dune du Pilat and finish with a drink in La Corniche. Sounds splendid, isn’t it? Read more about these places in my article about the southern part of Arcachon.
Kayaking or Canoeing in the Dordogne river
Bordeaux is surrounded by many big and small rivers, it’s not a surprise then that there are quite a few places for Kayaking and Canoeing in the Bordeaux region. One of the biggest rivers near Bordeaux is the Dordogne, which splits from the Estuary of Gironde some 30 km north of Bordeaux. The low flow in most parts of the river makes it ideal for a kayak or canoe trip as you can easily descend and visit many beautiful villages and impressive chateaux on the way. I wrote an article about some of the best Kayaking clubs on the Dordogne river, some of which are located close to Bordeaux. You can also enjoy kayaking on the Leyre river on the Arcachon Bay.
Being close to the Atlantic ocean and surrounded by lakes are some of the best things about being in Bordeaux in the summer. We have an incredible amount of beautiful beaches with white fine sand, amazing views and nice beach facilities. You can surf in the Atlantic ocean, enjoy the kids’ friendly beaches of the Arcachon Bay or go to one of the beautiful lakes (and even hike around them!). If you’re here for a short period of time, it’s hard to choose where to go. To help you out I wrote an article about the best beaches around Bordeaux.
Discover the most charming villages in Gironde
Bordeaux itself is a beautiful and lively city but some of the best architectural treasures are spread around Gironde. The biggest department in France has some of the most charming villages in the Southwest of France. Bastide towns with arched squares, medieval towns with narrow streets, historic chateaux and citadels are all part of the incredible heritage of this region. In my article about the most beautiful villages in Gironde, I listed all my favorite villages around Bordeaux.
Go hiking and discover Gironde’s nature
Besides impressive heritage and beautiful beaches, the Bordeaux region is also rich with nature reserves, forests, and parks. If hiking is your thing, the options are endless. If you need some ideas for fun and interesting hiking trails, check out my article about hiking in Bordeaux.
Picnic in the vineyards
Like many industries the wine growers of Bordeaux have suffered the financial consequences of the lockdown. To bring back visitors to their wineries the winegrowers of the Bienvenue à la ferme en Gironde association are coming up with a great initiative – a picnic at the vineyards. Every Friday, 16 wineries in Gironde will host visitors for an event that will include wines and tapas from different local producers at a price of 7 euro per person. The visit has to be booked in advance directly with the winery – you can see the list of the chateaux here.
Visit the most beautiful chateaux in Gironde
Dordogne earned its reputation as the queen of Chateaux in the southwest of France, but did you know that some of the most beautiful chateaux (castles) in this region are actually located in Gironde? Château Royal de Cazeneuve, Château de Roquetaillade and Chateau Villandraut are all located in the south of Gironde. These three are rich with history and beautiful architecture and are some of the most interesting heritage sites in our region. This summer the tourist offices of the South of Gironde offer a special chateaux pass giving you a discount if you visit more than one chateau. The pass can be bought in the tourist office in Langon and at the reception desk of all three chateaux. You can see more details here.
A new huge Labyrinth in Gironde
Popcorn Labyrinth is a new huge Labyrinth in Cestas that is about to open its doors on July 11th. During the summer the Labyrinthe will be open every day and even has night sessions on Fridays and Saturdays. You can see the hours and prices in this link.
Taste white wine in Entre deux mers
Bordeaux is the capital of wine and is mostly associated with red wine. However, I think that the hot summer in Bordeaux is a great opportunity to discover the white wines of Bordeaux. The largest sub-region in Bordeaux is Entre Deux Mers, the area located between the Dordogne and the Garonne river. While both red and white wines are produced in this region, only the white ones can get the AOC label of the Entre Deux Mers appellation. The wine is usually drunk young and is absolutely perfect for the Bordelais summer. In this link, you’ll find many of the wineries you can visit in the Entre Deux Mers region.
If you need more advice about the wines of the region and about the best wineries to visit, you can visit the Maison des Vins that is located at the La Sauve Majeure Abbey, about 30 minutes drive from Bordeaux.
Did you know that the smallest village in France is located in Gironde, the department of Bordeaux? Castermoron d’Albret is a tiny village of only 3.5 hectares, located in the Entre Deux Mers wine region, about an hour drive from Bordeaux. Entre Deux Mers is sometimes called the Tuscany of France due to its scenic landscape of hills and vineyards. In this article, I am going to tell you why you should really consider visiting it on your trip to the Bordeaux region! At the end of the article, you can find other recommendations of villages worth visiting on the way.
Being the smallest village in France is a nice title but is it really worth an hour’s drive? In the case of Castelmoron d’Albret, the answer is definitely yes! The medieval town is brimming with charm and beauty with old houses covered with eclectic pots filled with colorful flowers. No house is the same here, every window, shutter, and door have its particularity and will make you stop and admire the beauty. There are almost no signs of modern life here, no cars, no sidewalks, just flowers, and pure charm. It looks so authentic that it feels like it got stuck in time. Mind you, it didn’t go unnoticed by French moviemakers who shot several period movies here.
There are only about 50 people living here and even with some tourists wandering around, the village feels calm and peaceful, you can barely hear any noise here. I believe that my kids are the loudest thing this village has ever known 🙂
What to see in Catelmoron d’Albret?
There aren’t any important monuments you should see here and that’s kind of the beauty of it. Take your time to stroll the captivating streets of the village, smell the flowers, admire the stone houses, pass through the narrow corridors between the four streets of the village. Despite its tiny size we somehow managed to spend three hours there. I have to mention though, that we travel with kids who stop to pick up every stone and leaf so for most people, it would probably be a nice tour of about a 1.5h. The village is situated on a hill, so don’t miss the beautiful view from the little green square located next to the Halles. Another spot not to miss is the old lavoirs (wash house) located on the footsteps of the village. You will see it on the left when you enter the village from the main street, the Grande rue. In this map you can see all the places worths paying attention to.
The are only three businesses in this village. The most interesting is the pottery workshop of Cécile and Christophe, which is both a shop and a workshop where they host groups. They also have a little tea garden just next to the workshop.
There’s also Serge the silversmith with his big workshop that specializes in fixing agricultural equipment. And finally, you can also visit the Bar- Brocant of Pierre located at the entrance to the village.
If you love hiking there are two great hiking trails you can do from the village. One is a short 5km trail called Boucle locale du moulin and a longer one Boucle locale de l’etang which is 10km long. You can see signs in the villages leading in the direction of the trails. Or use the instructions on the official site of the village (in French) – find them here.
When to visit Catelmoron d’Albret?
The best time to visit this and other villages in the region is spring! All the flowers are blossoming with roses climbing all over the medieval houses. Just that will make you fall in love with the Southwest of France!
However, in Castelmoron d’Albret, Christmas is also a special time and if you’re in the region try to plan a trip here. Every Christmas, the couple from the pottery shop are installing one of the most impressive Crèche de Noël (nativity scene) in the church of the village and most windows on the main street are decorated with little characters from the creche. It creates an amazing atmosphere that gives this village even more charm.
What else to do around Castelmoron d’Albret?
Castelmoron d’Albret is a perfect half a day trip but if you made the effort to get here from Bordeaux you may want to visit one of the other villages, towns or sites in the region. There’s a lot to visit in this part of the Southwest of France, Here are some suggestions:
Sauveterre-de-Guyenne – just seven minutes’ drive from Castelmoron d’Albret and you’ll arrive to one of the most important towns in Entre Deux Mers. The town was founded in the 13th century and is one of the many bastide towns located in this region of France. You’ll see its impressive entrance gate from the road, it’s hard to miss.
La Réole – a small hilly town situated on the banks of the Garonne river located about 14 km from Castelmoron d’Albret and about 50 km from Bordeaux. It’s one of the most impressive towns in the South of Gironde and has a great market every Saturday. For more beautiful villages in the region check out my article about the most beautiful villages in Gironde.
Duras – you can also continue a bit further to Duras, a town located in the Lot et Garonne department, about 17 km away from Castelmoron d’Albret. The most important monument in Duras is Chateau de Duras, a very impressive castle with a magnificent view of the Dropt valley.
Sauve Majeurs – if you’re looking to stop somewhere closer to Bordeaux, this is the place to go. The Abbaye de la Sauve Majeure built in the 11th and 12th centuries is located just midway between Bordeaux and Castelmoron d’Albret. The ruin of the ancient abbey is a historic site that appears on the UNESCO list of protected heritage sites. It was an important religious site until the Hundred Years’ War and was destroyed during the French revolution. Next to it, you can find the Maison du Vin of Entre Deux Mers which can help you with information about different wineries in the region.
The Arcachon bay is one of the most popular destinations in the southwest of France. Its beautiful beaches and cute resort towns attract many tourists and locals from the Bordeaux region. There is plenty of stuff to do there and I have already written two guides about visiting Arcachon: The guide to Arcachon city and the best places to visit on the Arcachon Bay. But I have yet to talk about the fact that it’s one of the best vacation destinations to do with kids. Plenty of family-friendly beaches, sports activities, parks and interactive tours are some of the things you can do with kids in Arcachon. In this article, I gathered a list of 15 fun things to do with kids around the Arcachon Bay, both in the southern part and the Cap Ferret Peninsula. If you’re also visiting Bordeaux on your trip, please read my article about 30 things to do with kids in Bordeaux.
COVID 19 warning – although most sites in the region are now open to the public, please remember that we are still in the midst of a pandemic. It means that in all the places on this list you’ll need to keep a distance from other visitors, groups of over 10 people are not yet allowed and some sites recommend adults to wear masks (see info on their websites before going). And most importantly, as the situation is quite dynamic the information about the opening hours as well as the reservation requirements may change by the time you read this article. I strongly encourage you to contact Arcachon’s tourist office or the websites of the places you’re planning to visit when planning your trip to Arcachon Bay.
You can also join my Facebook group “Travel in the southwest of France” where many enthusiasts of the region share their recommendations for places to visit and things to do in the southwest of France.
Now let’s dive into the list of the most fun things to do with kids on Bassin d’Arcachon.
Beaches and nature in the Arcachon Bay
Go to one of the kids-friendly beaches in Arcachon
My first item on the list is quite obvious, isn’t it? Which kid doesn’t love to splash in the water and build castles in the sand? In that regard, Bassin d’Arcachon is heaven for families and that’s because the water in the bay is very calm due to its shape. Many of the beaches are also quite easily accessible and don’t require a long walk from the parking lot, which we all know can be a real hustle with little kids.
Here are just a few kids-friendly beaches around the Arcachon Bay: Plage Pereire, which starts right after the pedestrian promenade (bordered by Jetée de la Chapelle). It’s a beautiful three km beach with white sand and a view of the Cap Ferret peninsula on the other side of the bay. You can also reach this beach by public transport from the center of Arcachon. Petit Nice – one of my favorite beaches on the bay, located just in front of the Le banc d’Arguin which protects the beach from the ocean waves and creates a very calm and family-friendly beach. Plage de la Hume in Gujan Mestras is definitely one of the safest beaches on the bay. Its location on the bay makes the water very calm and easy to swim in. However, this beach is only fun when the tide is high so if you want to swim, you should check the tide hours first. They are changing daily and in some hours of the day, you can barely see any water. Click here for the daily tide hours. Cap Ferret – You can also go to Lege Cap Ferret where many of the beaches turning towards the bay are kids friendly. Two of my favorite beaches on the peninsula are the Plage de la pres de la pointe and the little beach of L’herbe.
Climb the dune du Pilat
Dune du Pilat needs no introduction! If you’re planning to go to Arcachon, most chances are you have already heard about the dune before. Dune du Pilat is Europe’s tallest sand dune, rising to an impressive 110 m high. It’s also 500 meters wide and 2.7 km long so you’ll have plenty of room to wander. I had to include the dune on this list as kids absolutely love climbing it. It’s an amazing activity with the kids and more so gliding back down on the sand from the top of the dune.
VIsiting dune du Pilat is a bit tough if your kids are very small. However, during the touristic season when the stairs are installed, you can easily get to the top of the dune and enjoy the incredible view from the top! There is a huge (paid) parking lot right next to the dune.
Go to le Lac de Cazaux
While I love the ocean, I usually prefer taking my kids to the lake as it feels safer and it’s easier to handle them there. The Arcachon region is home to Lac de Cazaux, one of the biggest freshwater lakes in France. The big lake is wind-sheltered by the pine forest around it and is known for its tranquil and beautiful beaches. The most popular beach on the lake is the Plage de Cazaux Lac, with plenty of summer water activities and easy access for handicaps. My favorite beach on the lake is Plage de Laouga, it feels a bit wilder and very tranquil.
A boat trip to Iles aux Oiseaux and the Cabanes Tchanquées
A great way to explore the landscapes and biodiversity of the Arcachon Bay is by boat. There are quite a few boat operators offering different boat tours across the Bassin. The best one to do with kids in my opinion is the “ Grand Tour d’Iles aux Oiseaux”. It’s a two hours boat tour that takes you to two of the most notorious places on the bay: Les Cabanes Tchanquées and L’Ile aux Oiseaux. Les Cabanes Tchanquées, the two wooden huts decorating almost every postcard in Arcachon, are one of the most emblematic symbols of the bay. You can take the tour from Jetée Thiers, located on the main beach of Arcachon but also from other ports on the Arcachon bay such as Gujan Mestras, Cap Ferret, Le Canon, Le Moulleau and Andernos les Bains.
You can choose the hours you’re interested in and the port you want to take the tour from on this site.
Bird Watching at the Teich Ornithological Reserve
The Teich Ornithological Reserve is a protected nature reserve located some 50km from Bordeaux, where you can watch thousands of wild birds from up-close. 110 hectares of wooded areas, saltmarsh, reed beds and meadows stretch out between the mainland and the Bassin d’Arcachon coastline, offering a perfect habitat for many birds. Some stay here permanently and some just pass by. A visit to the reserve can be a fun and educative day for both kids and adults. If your family is in shape you can do the 6km tour of the whole reserve. If your kids are too small for 6km, the reserve also has a 2km path for families. In any case, the path is accessible with strollers in case your toddler doesn’t want to walk. The Teich Ornithological Reserve has a great website with a lot of info, even giving you the approximate bird’s arrival schedule so you can plan your visit according to that. Consult all the info here.
Amusement parks and sports activities
Kayaking on the Leyre river
No list of activities for kids can be complete without kayaking or a canoeing experience (mine are too small so I’m really waiting for that). There are quite a few places for kayaking on the bay, one of the best is on the Leyre river. The tropical river, that got the nickname La Petite Amazone (little Amazon) flows through three towns on the Bassin d’Archachon: Le Teich, Biganos, and Mios. There are many operators that offer kayaking and canoeing in that area, one of them is located on the colorful little port of Biganos. You can do this activity with kids older than 6yo and there are several routes to choose, among them, there are morning/afternoon tours or whole day excursions. You can see all the info here.
Pay attention to the starting location as it changes depending on the tour you want to take. You should also know that the hours may change depending on the tide so always call a day in advance to know what hours are best to arrive. Where: Canoe-kayak Courant D Eyre Location de canoë sur Leyre, 88 Rue du Port, 33380 Biganos
Tree Climbing at Bassin Aventure
Another super fun sportive activity in Arcachon is accrobranche (tree climbing) that is offered by Bassin Aventure in Gujan Mestras. It’s one of the only sports activities that you can do with little kids (starting from 3 yo). The place has 22 different tree-climbing circuits and 250 different games on and around the trees. Reservations are recommended, you can see all the prices here. Please read carefully about all the restrictions related to COVID 19 on the website of Bassin Aventure. Where: Avenue des Loisirs, 33470 Gujan-Mestras
Parc de la Coccinelle
This cute amusement park in Gujan-Mestras is perfect for a day out with kids. It has everything from water slides, roller coasters, trampolines, and even an animal farm where you can feed baby goats. If you’re traveling with more than one kid it’s not always obvious to find a park that both little ones and bigger kids can enjoy. And that’s why the Parc de la Coccinelle is so fun! See the time schedule and tariffs here. Where: Parc de loisirs, La Hume, 33470 Gujan-Mestras
Cycling along the Arcachon Bay
The Arcachon bay has some of the prettiest and easiest cycling paths in our region and this can be a great way to discover the bay with kids. With more than 220km of cycling lanes stretching from Cap Ferret to the south of Arcachon, you have plenty to discover. Start your circuit from the center of Arcachon and continue to Dune du Pilat, through le Moulleau and Pyla sur Mer. To follow the path see the map here. There are also several cycling routes in Cap Ferret, choose a circuit from this site or just follow the path that starts from the center of Cap Ferret.
There are many bike rental places in Arcachon where you can rent a bike for a few hours or for the whole day, see their details here.
Your kids can learn surfing in Arcachon
Arcachon is located on the famous Côte d’Argent known as a paradise for surfers. If your kids are over 8 yo they can go to a surfing school. The surfing school for kids is located on the Plage du Grand Crohot at the top of the Cap Ferret Peninsula. They offer a five-day course for kids as well as a first-time discovery session. You have to reserve in advance. All the details, tariffs and registration forms are on the website of the school.
Put the following coordinates in your GPS to arrive at the right location: Latitude: 44° 48′ 9,12” Nord, Longitude : 1° 13′ 33,60” Ouest
Educational activities and games
The Oysters museum
Arcachon is well known globally for its oyster farming. The capital of oyster farming in Arcachon is definitely Gujan-Mestras which is a very nice destination for a day trip. You can bike along the 7 oyster ports of Gujan, stop in one of the oyster cabanes for tastings, and go to the beach (la Hume which I mentioned earlier). But if you want to turn it into a nice and educational experience for kids take them to La Maison de l’Huitre. The oyster museum is an interactive museum where you’ll discover everything about oyster farming. See more details about their opening hours and tariffs here.
Where: La Maison de l’Huitre, Rue du Port de Larros, 33470 Gujan-Mestras
Go to the Zoo
The Arcachon zoo is located in the middle of the great pine forest, Forêt des Landes. The zoo is spread over 22 hectares and inhabits more than 800 animals from all over the world. The zoo is opening its doors this Saturday (June 6) and masks are obligatory from 11yo and up – please read all other instructions here before going to the zoo. The tariffs are 16 euros for kids aged 3-11 and 23 euros for everyone older than 12yo (it’s one euro less if you book the tickets online). See all the info here.
Where: Boulevard de Cazaux, 33260 La Teste-de-Buch
Discover the winter city of Arcachon by train
Ville d’hiver in Arcachon city is a beautiful neighborhood with extraordinary architecture that is well worth a visit. However, taking a walking tour there could be a bit dull for kids, instead, take the little train that goes through the most beautiful villas of Arcachon as well as to the Periere beach where you can see an amazing view of the Bassin. You can buy the tickets directly from the driver, see the tariffs and time schedule here.
Where: the train leaves from the tourist office- MA.AT Esplanade Pompidou, 22 Boulevard du Général Leclerc, 33120 Arcachon.
Eat ice cream at Le Moulleau
Le Moulleau, located in the far west, is officially a part of the city of Arcachon. However, in reality, it feels like a completely separate little resort town with its own center, beaches and restaurants. Le Moulleau is built around the beautiful Notre Dame des Passes square and its pier. If you’re traveling with kids, this neighborhood is well worth a visit. It has one of the prettiest and most kid-friendly beaches on the bay and also several good ice cream shops on the main street 🙂
Find the treasure with Terra Aventura
Terra Aventura is a fun activity you can do with your kids in many locations in Nouvelle Aquitaine. Terra Aventura organizes geocaching games in which children try to find characters well hidden around monuments and nature by answering different riddles. All you have to do is download the free app of Terra Aventura to start treasure hunting with your kids.
The Bassin d’Arcachon offers five different games located in: Arès, Biganos , Andernos, Gujan-Mestras and Mios. You can find all the details about the starting points here.
That’s it for today, but before we go let me ask you an important question! Are you subscribed to my email list? Every Thursday/Friday I’m sending a weekly email with suggestions of things to do every weekend, everything from day trips, hiking paths, markets, activities for kids and other secret gems in the region. So if you want to receive cool plans for the weekend be sure to subscribe to my newsletter here!
In the last few weeks I’ve been writing a lot about places in Gironde, rather than Bordeaux itself and that’s because I really want to encourage you to discover the amazing area we live in. Gironde is the biggest department in France and one of the most varied ones in terms of what you can see and do. In my previous articles I’ve written about the beautiful beaches surrounding Bordeaux, the best parks around Bordeaux and on some great hiking trails in Gironde. Now that you know all about the magnificent nature we’re surrounded by, it’s time to explore some of the most charming villages in France! So today, I am taking a short break from nature to invite you on a journey to discover Gironde’s beautiful architecture and heritage. In this article I gathered some of the most beautiful villages in Gironde. If you follow my articles, you know that I really like variety and that’s why I included towns and villages from all over the department. Beach towns on the Atlantic coast, beautiful villages in the middle of Bordeaux’s wine routes and plenty of medieval towns in the South of Gironde.
If you take my advice and visit these beautiful villages, I’d love it if you could use the hashtag #lostinbordeaux so I can share your photos on my stories on my Instagram page Lost_in_bordeaux. Also, come and share your experiences and get plenty of new ideas for day trips in Nouvelle Aquitaine in my Facebook group – Travel in the southwest of France.
*Before we start I have an important announcement! I am upgrading my newsletter and from now on I will send a weekly email with suggestions of things to do every weekend. The email will be sent on Friday! So if you want to recieve cool plans for the weekend (especially during this period without obvious events taking place in Bordeaux) be sure to subscribe to my newsletter here!
Now let’s hit the road and discover the most beautiful villages in Gironde.
Entre deux mers and South Gironde
I decided to start my list with the Entre deux mers region and the South of Gironde as they’re usually my go to places when I’m in a mood for beautiful medieval towns. This is one of the most beautiful parts in the southwest of France, embodying the historic and cultural richness of this region. Most of the villages on my list are located close to one another so you can visit them all in one weekend. Public transport is not extremely developed in this part of Gironde so it’s better to travel by car or bike if you like cycling a lot. I did, however, add public transport routes to these places just for completeness.
First on my list is Saint Macaire, a little medieval town located on the banks of the Garonne river, about 50km from Bordeaux. Saint Macaire is a very attractive destination for those interested in history and beautiful architecture. What today seems like a sleepy town in the Entre deux mers wine appellation was once an important city under British rule and was declared the “ville royale d’Angleterre” (An English royal city) in 1341. During the 13th and 14th centuries it was one of the most prosperous cities in Aquitaine due to its significant agricultural and trade activities.
Visiting Saint Macaire can be a great half-day trip if you take the time to discover its rich heritage, the narrow streets, and beautiful old houses and monuments. Place Mercadiou, surrounded by beautiful medieval houses is the main square of the village, where the market takes place every Thursday morning. Another monument not to miss is Porte de la Benauge, the main gate to the old city whose historic center is surrounded by ramparts. Probably the most important monument of Saint Macaire is its Eglise de Saint Sauveur et Saint-Martin. The big church, built in the 12th and 15th centuries has impressive murals that are really worth seeing. Every year at the end of August, Saint Macaire hosts one of the best medieval festivals in the region.
How to get there: It’s a bit complicated to get to Saint Macaire without a car as there’s no regular direct public transportation going there from Bordeaux (there’s one train a day to Saint Macaire). However, you can take a train to Langon and then cross the Garonne to the other side and bike or even go for a nice hike along the river until you reach Saint Macaire.
Cadillac is a little town located on the right bank of the Garonne river at the Entre Deux Mers wine region. It’s quite a popular destination attracting many tourists, especially during summer. Cadillac is hard to miss when driving the D10 route to the south of Gironde. You will be greeted by a big defensive wall and the main gate into the old medieval center built in the 13th century. However, it’s undeniably most famous monument is the Château des Ducs d’Épernon, built by the Duke of Épernon in the 17th century. The chateau is very impressive and is best known for being a women’s prison starting from the French revolution and up until 1950. It now serves as a museum that mostly displays the life of the royals who were occupying the estate before it became a prison. However, on the last floor, you can actually still see the cells and a small exhibition about the prison.
The town is also known for its wine, the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. You can visit the maison des vins of Cadillac in order to learn about the wine of this region and taste it of course 🙂
How to get there: You can get there by bus number 501 from the Bastide neighborhood in Bordeaux, see the schedule here.
About 5km from Cadillac you will find Rions, a small medieval town located on the banks of the Garonne river. Like other towns in this region, Rions is also characterized by cute narrow streets and medieval houses. During medieval times it was an important town which was greatly affected by the Hundred years war between France and England. In 1295, Rions, which was at the time under British rule, was conquered by the French Charles of Valois who took down its defensive walls. In 1313, England was able to take the city back and surround it with ramparts, making it one of the Fortified English cities of British ruled southwest of France (Guyenne). It went back into French hands right before the end of the long war and, despite all the turmoil, was left with its impressive architecture and charm, perfect for a few hours trip. If you want to make the best of your day trip to the region, you can go on a 5km hike and see the beautiful surroundings of this medieval town. Read more about the hiking trail from Rions, in my article about hiking around Bordeaux.
How to get there: You can take bus number 501 from the Bastide neighborhood in Bordeaux, see the schedule here.
Castelmoron d’Albret is the smallest village in France and in my opinion one of the most charming ones in the southwest of France. This tiny medieval village is brimming with charm! Almost every house here is covered with colorful roses and other beautiful flowers spilling from eclectic pottery that is made here in the village. No house here looks the same, every window and door has its own particularity. There are almost no signs of modern life here, no cars, no sidewalks, just a beautiful village frozen in time. There are only about 50 people living here and only three businesses operating in the 3.5 hectares village so the atmosphere is incredibly relaxing. I think my kids were the loudest thing this village has experienced in a while.
It will take you about an hour of a scenic drive over the hills and along the vineyards of Entre Deux Mers to reach the little town from Bordeaux. If you want to combine the visit with any other activity, I recommend visiting the impressive bastide town of Sauveterre-de-Guyenne, which is located just a few minutes drive from Castelmoron d’Albret. There are also several hiking and cycling routes you can do in this part of Entre deux Mers. In this link you can find two great hiking trails that start from the village itself.
How to get there: Getting there by bus is fairly complicated and I would advise going only by car. The closest train station tho this village in La Reole but the bus from there to Castelmoron d’Albret is not very regular.
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. There are quite a few impressive houses and monuments to see in this little town, among them is the historic 12th century Town Hall, the Saint Pierre church and the Benedictine abbey, the old remparts of the city and more. Get lost in the narrow charming streets of the historic center of La Réole and let the beautiful architecture take you back in time. If you happen to arrive in La Reole when the tourist office is open, be sure to take a map of all the monuments in the city.
How to get there: This is a great destination for those who don’t own a car. You can get to La Réole in 40 minutes by train from Bordeaux. The train leaves from Gare Saint Jean every two hours.
Bazas is one of my favorite towns in the south of Gironde not only because it’s a beautiful place but also due to its rich heritage embodying the Gascony culture. It’s located at the eastern edge of the Gascon Landes forest, about 65 km from Bordeaux. A stroll in the historic center will allow you to discover the impressive architecture of the city and its past role as an important bishopric. At the main square of the town you will find its famous gothic Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste which appears on the UNESCO world heritage list. When strolling the historic center don’t miss the charming old houses on the smaller streets as well as the gardens.
Architecture is not the only attraction of Bazas which is actually quite famous for its gastronomy, especially its meat. You can enjoy the Bazadaise meat in one of the restaurants located on the main square. True meat lovers could also buy meat in one of the many butcher shops in the center. If you’re looking for a full gastronomic experience to discover the cuisine of the region, there’s one tour you shouldn’t miss. Anne, an American living in Bazas is an expert on everything related to food in the region. She knows all the farmers and chefs around Bazas and her guided farm to table tours are an unforgettable experience. Check out her website.
How to get there This is the most complicated place on my list to get to by public transport and I wouldn’t recommend doing it. If you still want to go there by public transport you can take a train from Bordeaux to Langon and then bus number 512 to Bazas.
Before we continue to our next region I just wanted to remind you that I also share plenty of day trips ideas on my Facebook/Instagram pages, so if you’re not there yet, what are you waiting for? Like/follow me on social media and you will never be bored on a weekend again 🙂
The right bank – Saint Emilion and Pays Blayais
You can’t really do a list about villages around Bordeaux without including Saint Emilion in it, can you? This medieval village is known all around the world for its splendid wine but it’s also undoubtedly one of the most beautiful villages around Bordeaux.
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. Its picturesque center, densely filled with wine shops and fancy restaurants, turns this little town into a prominent attraction for tourists in the area. If you’re visiting Saint Emilion in the high season of July-August beware that you need to book everything in advance, it gets very busy!
Blaye is one of the most interesting places in the Bordeaux area, located only about 50 km north to Bordeaux center. This little town has a long military and strategic history and is mostly known for its remarkable Citadel. The Citadel and city walls are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can easily spend half a day discovering them. The entrance to the Citadel is free and you can explore the streets and ramparts admiring the view of the Gironde estuary which can be seen from the top.
Blaye is also well known for its red wine which honestly is really excellent and very reasonably priced. You can visit the Maison du Vin on the main street (12 Cours Vauban), where they would gladly introduce you to the wines of the region and the chateaux you can visit around Blaye.
How to get there? The easiest way to get there is by car or by ferry if you’re coming from the other side of the Gironde estuary. The ferry is leaving from Lamarque, you can see all the details about the tariffs and hours in this link. Beware that masks are currently required onboard the ferry. There are also several bus lines going to Blaye – check all the info here.
Bourg (Previously called Bourg sur Gironde) is a picturesque village at the heart of the wine appellation of Côtes de Bourg located at the confluence of the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers. Bourg has played a key role in the region’s history, it was built in Roman times, fortified by the English and visited by several kings, such as Louis XIV in 1650. Just like its neighboring town of Blaye, Bourg too has a very impressive citadel called Château de la Citadelle. While it’s not one of the main tourist destinations in the Medoc area, those who do get to visit this beautiful place, quickly fall in love with it. Apart from the citadel, the historic part of the city also has a cute central square with restaurants and shops, the market takes place every Sunday.
Bourg is however quite known for its great Côtes de Bourg wine! Don’t miss a visit to the Maison des Vins des Côtes de Bourg, a 19th century former residence with a warm atmosphere that acts as a venue for exhibitions, talks, receptions, tasting classes, meetings with winegrowers and more. You can also see the map of all the wineries here, it’s better to call them prior to your visit.
How to get there: Two bus lines of TransGironde (201, 202) from Lormont pass through Bourg. However, unless you live or stay on rive droite of the Garonne it will take you some time to get to Lormont from the center of Bordeaux. So here too, going by car is recommended.
Arcachon and Medoc
L’herbe is a traditional oyster farming village located on the Cap Ferret Peninsula. Here you won’t find the characteristics of a typical French village, no central square with a bakery, no old houses or medieval gates. Nonetheless, it’s one of the most beautiful villages in the southwest of France, in my opinion at least.
There’s something raw and authentic about L’herbe. You get to walk between the colorful cabins of oyster farmers and see them in action on their special workboats. If you like oysters, you’re going to love this place. Plenty of oyster restaurants are spread along the beach serving only the freshest oysters, pork paté and white wine. This is a perfect destination for a sunny half-day trip from Bordeaux, or a full day trip if you add a visit to the beach as well.
How to get from Bordeaux to L’herbe: by car is the best way to get here as the bus is not a direct one and it takes almost two hours to get to L’herbe from Bordeaux. But if you have no choice take bus 601 (Trans Gironde) from Bordeaux center.
Cap Ferret is a little town located on the Western part of Bassin d’Arcachon and has been traditionally known as a summer getaway for the French upper class. Although it’s been recently gaining popularity among tourists visiting the south of France, it has yet to lose its relaxing beach village atmosphere, especially if compared to Arcachon city.
Cap Ferret is shaped like a narrow tongue with a long string of beautiful sandy beaches on the Atlantic ocean and a view of the eastern side of the Bassin. Apart from its dreamy beaches it’s also known for its ostréiculture industry, which produces some of the best oysters in France. Dozens of oyster cabins and restaurants with a view on the Bassin give Cap-Ferret a unique character that’s worth a visit. If you want to really profit from the day, rent a bike and cycle along the beaches and through the pine forest that covers a large part of the Cap Ferret peninsula. There are plenty of bike rentals in Cap Ferret, one of them is Bike rental Cap Gyro (7 Boulevard de la Plage, 33970 Lège-Cap-Ferret).
How to get there: Bus 601 will bring you to Cap Ferret but it’ll take you at least two hours to get there, so a car is definitely a better option here. You can also take a ferry from Arcachon or le Moulleau beach, you can see the schedule here.
Soulac Sur Mer
This charming little town is one of the highlights of the Medoc region. It’s located on the very top of the Medoc Atlantique, about 90 km from Bordeaux. If you ever had the chance to visit the town of Arcachon, you will find Soulac sur Mer a bit familiar, and many actually call it “little Arcachon”. Its city center resembles Ville d’été while the northern part of the town with its charming 18th-century villas is similar in style to the impressive villas of Ville d’Hiver in Arcachon. Soulac has some of the most beautiful beaches on the Atlantic coast, attracting many French tourists to the area. There are plenty of cute little restaurants both in the center and on the promenade. Seafood is a very important part of the local cuisine and so many restaurants will serve oysters and large shrimps.
Every year Soulac hosts one of my favorite events in Gironde, called Soulac 1900. A celebration of music, dance, ancient cars and costumes from the beginning of the 20th century.
We came to the end of my list of the most beautiful villages in the Southwest of France, Gironde (at least until I find another treasure that has a place on this exclusive list :)). There are of course more charming villages around Bordeaux such as le Canon in the Cap Ferret Peninsula or Monsegur in Entre deux mers, but I narrowed down the list to the ones I find most special.
If you missed my announcement from the beginning of the post I will repeat it again because I think it’s so cool 🙂 I am upgrading my newsletter and from now on I will send a weekly email with suggestions of things to do every weekend. The email will be sent on Friday mornings! So if you want to recieve cool plans for the weekend (especially during this period without obvious events taking place in Bordeaux) be sure to subscribe to my newsletter here!
The amazing response to my Hiking in Bordeaux article last week, made me realize that now, more than ever, people are looking to replace their city center outings with parks, beaches, and forests. So maybe not everyone is up for a 9km hike but I’m sure most of my readers would love to discover new places where they can admire exotic flowers, observe ducks swimming peacefully in a cute pond and enjoy an outdoor picnic. I know we all miss going to restaurants but opening a bottle of good Bordeaux wine accompanied by cheese, charcuterie and a beautiful view doesn’t feel so bad to me! So this week I decided to write an article about the most beautiful parks in Bordeaux, or better yet “my favorite parks in Bordeaux” 🙂
If you leave the city center and travel to the other towns of Bordeaux Metropole, you will discover that there’s a huge amount of parks and green spaces in the Bordeaux region. Some of them have lakes, playgrounds, picnic areas, others have a more foresty vibe to them and some even have beautiful art installations. In some parts of this article, I mention things like playgrounds, animal parks, coffee places, and picnics, which were a normal thing before the pandemic. I hope that things can get back to normal as soon as possible but for now, please know that some of these places are still closed and that no gathering of more than 10 people is allowed. So be safe and prudent when visiting public spaces.
If you’re keen on staying close to the center you can check out my older article about the best places for picnics in Bordeaux. Also, I just want to remind you that on my Instagram I post plenty of photos and stories from the places I visit in Gironde so follow me to get much more info about the hidden gems of our region.
For those living in Bordeaux, my choice to start with Jardin Public would seem too obvious, but one cannot make a list of parks in Bordeaux without mentioning this beautiful green island harmoniously placed among the historic buildings of Bordeaux. Jardin Public, created in the 18th century is the biggest park in Bordeaux center spreading over 11 hectares! This place is the epitome of city parks, it has a beautiful pond with ducks and swans, a wide green area for picnics, a lot of space for runners and two fun playgrounds for kids. It’s also home to Bordeaux’s natural history museums which is a great spot for families. You can clearly see why it’s one of the most visited places in Bordeaux by locals and tourists alike. In the summer, the park hosts a daily traditional puppets show, which makes it even more attractive for families. For more activities for kids check out my article about the best things to do in Bordeaux with kids.
Parc Bordelais in Cauderan
Parc Bordelais in the Cauderan neighborhood is the biggest park in Bordeaux city. It’s a beautiful 28-hectare green space that attracts both friends and families for picnics around the lake, as well as runners and bikers. It also has a chic cafe, for those of you in need of a cold glass of rosé 🙂 I would dare to say that it’s the most kids-friendly park in Bordeaux. Besides two large playgrounds (for younger and older kids), there is a puppet theater, a little animal park and a kids train that takes you on a tour of the park. While it’s not in the hyper center like Jardin Public, it’s really worth the travel.
There’s no tram directly to the park but you can easily reach it by bus (number 2 or 3) from the center of Bordeaux. You can also take tram D and walk about 15 minutes to the park. It will take you about half an hour to get there walking from the center of Bordeaux.
Parc Majolan in Blanquefort
If I had to make a list of my top three parks in Bordeaux this one would definitely be on it! Parc Majolan in Blanquefort is a great example of a beautiful landscape design. When you follow the paths in the park you feel like you walk through a forest but then suddenly discover ruins of an old gate, beautiful flowers, and finally a stunning lake. The best part of it all is the artificial caves created in the 19th century. This park is so rich that it will take you hours to explore all of it!
How to get there: The entrance to the park is from Avenue du Général de Gaulle 33290 BLANQUEFORT. If you’re coming by bus, take bus number 29 and get off at Parc de Majolan station.
Parc Bouran in Merignac
Parc Bouran is the main park of Merignac and is easily accessible by tram A from the city center. While it’s a proper park with a lake, a beautiful chateau and playgrounds, some parts of it feel rawer and woody, which I find very nice. The park has been built around the Deveze, a stream that runs into the Garone river next to the Saint Pierre neighborhood (the original location of the old port of Bordeaux). In the city center, the stream now goes underground but here in the park, it’s in the open-air, giving it yet another special feature. This park is perfect for families and seems to be very popular with joggers as well 🙂
I feel like this amazing park doesn’t get enough credit. The 20 hectares flower park of Bordeaux side by side with the Bois de Bordeaux (the forest of Bordeaux) in the Barails natural reserve, which I have written about in my Hiking in Bordeaux article. This is one of the most beautiful places in Bordeaux for walking, running, bicycle riding or a picnic.
The colorful Parc floral has a beautiful rose garden with more than 500 varieties of roses. And that’s not all, among the park’s greenery you can find magnolias, many irises, every possible type of rhododendrons and many types of vines (mind you they are there to feed the birds). Throughout the park you will see plenty of statues and structures that look like they have been taken from other parts of the world. These were donated to Bordeaux from different places like Japan, Spain, and Morocco (don’t miss the stunning Moorish mosaics.) Spring is the best time to visit the park. Everything is still blossoming and after two months of confinement, it’s a good reminder that the world is still beautiful and alive 🙂
Parc Floral is located in the Bordeaux Lac neighborhood and to get there straight without passing the forest first you will need to enter through entree roseraie (next to the Golf de Bordeaux Lac). Before heading there check out the information about the different entrances and parking spots on the official site of Bordeaux.
Le Bois du Bouscat
Le Bois du Bouscat is a 5 hectares park stretched along the big Hippodrome in the Le Bouscat neighborhood. It’s a relatively new park, opened only in 2013 and labeled “entre nature et culture” it strives to connect nature, art, and culture. While it’s not a huge park, its cultural aspect is particularly attractive and it can take you a few hours to see everything if you really pay attention to all the details. Plenty of sculptures are spread throughout the park, unusual benches, each designed by a different wood sculpturer, beautiful metallic animals representing the animals of the forest, and other art installations all related to nature. If you’re in for a culture hike, this is your place.
Parc Peixotto in the center of Talence is not one of the big parks in Bordeaux metropole, but one of my favorites for sure. Well, I’m not objective here, I live just next door to it and it has been my savior every time my kids go bananas at home. What can you find here? A pond with plenty of geese and ducks, a beautiful chateau, and tons of hidden spots for romantic picnics 🙂 In the summer there are usually some nice events taking place in the park as well.
It’s easily accessible by tram B from the city center – the Forum and Parc Peixotto stations are both very close to the park.
Ecosite du Bourgailh in Pessac
The Ecosite of Bourgailh is not just a park, it’s a universe of plants put together in great landscape design. The area of the Foret du Bourgailh includes a 2.6 km walking trail, the largest tropical greenhouse in the region, sports facilities, a skate park, an amphitheater, a zoo and one of the most beautiful playgrounds you have ever seen, which for me is the highlight of this park. There are plenty of nice ecological and educational events taking place there throughout the year, such as mushroom hunting, a pumpkin festival, planting workshops and more.
Parc du Moulineau happens to be one of the biggest parks in the green suburb of Gradignan and it’s a real gem for kids. Not only can they enjoy a big playground but it’s also home to the Maison de la Nature that inhabits nearly 50 different animal species from rabbits to the black and white goat of the Pyrénées. The animal park is still closed so I recommend waiting until it opens up before going there. You can see all the details about the opening hours of the animal park here.
Parc Sourreil in Villenave d’ornon
This little park is well hidden behind its chateau and is easy to miss when passing by its main entrance in Villenave d’Ornon. However, if you go beyond the chateau you’ll find a cute forest-y park with a nice area for kids and some walking paths around the woods. I wouldn’t necessarily make a long trip to see this park but if you’re not far from here, it’s worth a visit!
Parks on Rive droite
Parc de L’ermitage in Lormont
The Parc of Lormont, or by its official name Parc de l’Ermitage Sainte-Catherine, is one of the favorite parks of rive droite inhabitants, or those who love traveling around the metropole. This beautiful hilly park is located on the east bank of the Garonne river and is part of the enormous 400 hectares green space called Parc des Coteaux, which goes through several other towns on rive droite.
If you climb on the upper side of the park you can enjoy a stunning view of the Aquitaine bridge covering the Garonne river. However, If you’re coming with strollers or generally with little kids, beware that it’s not a very easy climb to the top of the park. In that case, I would advise you to spend your time near the lake at the bottom of the park and then reenter the park again through Haut Lormont (the higher part of Lormont) to visit the hilly part.
I previously mentioned this park in my article about things to do with kids in Bordeaux. Just next to the park you will find the ferme d’Iris, an animal farm for kids with rabbits, donkeys, goats, and more. For more info about the farm click here.
Parc aux Angéliques in Bastide
Parc aux Angéliques on Quai des Queyries isn’t a park per se, but rather a vast green area close to the city center, perfect for hiking, biking, or a picnic with friends. I felt that I should include it in the list for those looking for a nice picnic spot in the more tranquil part of Bordeaux. The park is spread along the Garonne river from its east side which provides a beautiful view of the buildings and monuments on the opposite side of the river such as the beautiful Place de la Bourse. There’s a very familial and tranquil vibe to it even during the more touristy months of the year. You will see groups of friends picnicking, families playing badminton, and a lot of bikers and runners (well, these are apparently everywhere in Bordeaux). If you’ve made it all the way there you can enjoy places like Darwin and Jardin Botanic, both located just in front of the park. You can read more about these two places in my ultimate guide to a weekend in Bordeaux. If you’re coming with kids, don’t panic if you don’t find a playground in the park. There’s actually a large playground just next to Jardin Botanique at Place des Droits de L’Enfant.
You can get there by tram A (Stalingrad station), by boat from the other side of the river, or with many buses that go through the Bastide neighborhood, You can use the site of the public transport in Bordeaux to find the best route. My favorite way to get there is on a city bike, you can read more about that in my article about cycling in Bordeaux.
In this list, I included only the parks that I had a chance to visit, which is quite a lot but if you think that I should include other parks feel free to write it in the comments below.
If you want to get more information about traveling in Bordeaux and the Southwest of France you should join my Travel in the Southwest of France Facebook group or simply join my Facebook/Instagram pages where I share almost all my travel and experiences in the region on a daily basis. If you want to get exclusive tips on traveling in the region, subscribe to my newsletter here.
I started writing this article mostly for myself about a week before the end of confinement. I wanted to come up with a long enough list of places I could go to with my kids or even alone (if that’s ever possible) where we can enjoy the wonders of the region but still keep social distancing. (If you’re reading this in 2050, we were all locked in our houses for two months, just google COVID-19). Gironde is one of the most beautiful departments in France and actually the largest one as well, so within the permitted 100 km radius you can find an overwhelming amount of hiking options. You can discover the parks and lakes around Bordeaux metropole or combine your trips with some heritage in Entre Deux Mers, or the vineyards of Saint Emilion. There are long hiking trails for fit walkers and shorter ones for families with kids. I had so many ideas that I just had to come here and share them with you. I included hiking trails from every part of Gironde to give a big landscape variety. There are of course plenty of other options for hiking around Bordeaux and I will slowly update this list with more trails so bookmark this page and come back whenever you’re in a mood for a walk. I also publish quite a lot of my daily trips on social media so you are of course invited to follow me on Facebook/Instagram. Now let’s start!
Hiking in Bordeaux Metropole
Let’s start with destinations closer to Bordeaux and its suburbs. There are dozens of big and small parks in the metropole that can be perfect for a nice and easy hike, so you don’t even need a car to be able to enjoy the green areas of Bordeaux. The ones I particularly love are Parc de l’Ermitage in Lormont, Parc Majolan in Blanquefort, and Parc Bordelais in Bordeaux. There are of course many more green and lush places in the city and I’m working on an article with the full list which will be published soon. But for now, I wanted to introduce you to a few great hiking trails in Bordeaux Metropole through which you can discover the towns and forests surrounding the city.
Au fil de l’eau bourde – From Talence to Gradignan
I live in Talence so the first one on the list is close to my home, a 5km trail through some of the green areas of Talence and Gradigan. It’s important to mention though that while most of your hike is going to be accompanied by green scenery, this is not a classic nature trail, meaning that you will have to walk through some urban areas to get from one location to another. Having said that, it’s a beautiful path and you will be surprised by some of the parks and monuments located on the footsteps of Bordeaux.
The starting point is Bois de Thouars, a forest located on the border of Talence and Gradignan (it’s recommended to enter the forest from Avenue de Thouars in Talence). Don’t be in a rush here, take your time strolling around the lake, it feels more unspoiled here than many of the other lakes in the area. From this point, you can follow the markup of GR® métropolitain throughout the entire route. But just to make sure you’re in the right direction, here are a few interesting points you should check on the way. From the forest cross the bridge of the rocade (highway) to get to Gradignan (you should reach rue de Bénédigues in Gradignan). After a few more minutes walking, you’ll be on rue Saint-François-Xavier and will enter a green area that follows the Eau Bourde, a little stream of the Garonne river. Your second destination on the trail is Parc de Pelissey in Gradignan. From there continue along the Eau Bourde to enter one of the biggest parks in this town – le Parc du Moulineau. This park is a gem for kids. Not only can they enjoy a big playground but it’s also home to the Maison de la Nature that inhabits nearly 50 different animal species from rabbits to the black and white goat of the Pyrénées. The animal park is unfortunately still closed due to Covid 19, but that should not bother you to enjoy the vast green Parc du Moulineau (or Le parc René Canivenc by its other name).
When you leave le Parc du Moulineau continue along the stream to get to Parc Mandavit. From here you will continue to the last destination of this trail – le Parc de Cayac, a historic monument on the Saint-Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage road. From here you can take bus line number 10 to get back to the Thouars forest. There’s also an option to continue to another 9 km hike through Gradignan. You can find more info about this and other hiking trails in the Metropole here.
Réserve écologique des Barails
If you prefer to forget that cars exist for a couple of hours, this next trail is for you! I’m happy to introduce you to the Réserve écologique des Barails, a beautiful natural reserve spreading over 156 hectares which also includes the beautiful Parc Floral of Bordeaux. Located in the North of Bordeaux (the Bordeaux Lac district), it’s actually the biggest green space in Bordeaux. The reserve consists of different parts each with their own characteristic: the forest, the park, the meadows, the wetlands, and the ecological corridors. It’s so rich with nature that most visitors don’t cover it in one visit.
There are three entries to the park. If you enter through Entree bois you’ll have the pleasure to discover more than 6km of hiking trails in the beautiful green forest. Enter the entree roseraie (next to the Golf de Lac) and you can enjoy a beautiful flower park with more than 500 varieties of roses. The reserve is also perfect for an easy stroll with kids and in fact, it was the first place I took mine after the deconfinement. Before heading there check out the information about the different entrances and parking on the official site of Bordeaux.
Floirac – fil vert – the green path
Le Fil vert on the right side of the river has more than 25 km of hiking to offer, passing through Parc des coteaux, the green space that encompasses most of the parks of Floirac, Cenon, Lormont, and Bassens. There are numerous hiking trails you can do here, depending on what part of “rive droite” you want to discover. You can see some of the trails here.
In this article, I’ll focus on hiking in Floirac and Boulac, a trail called Boucle de Floirac – Bouliac, which starts at Parc Castel in Floirac. The park itself is very cute with an impressive chateau, which is the starting point of your walk. Before you start the green path you can climb to the heights of the park to see the “belvédère” for a nice view. Then go down again to find the green loop path (boucle vert) in the le Chemin de Montagne. After about 500m take a left on the main street (Chemin des plateaux) that you will have to follow to reach le Domaine de la Burthe, the biggest park of Floirac. Enter the park through Chemin de Beaufeu and follow the red and white markup in the park, this will lead you to Ruisseau de Jacotte (a little stream of water). You will then have to go down under the highway to cross to the next town – Bouliac. Continue following the markup until it leads you to the next destination – le Bois de Loc Boué in Bouliac. The final destination on this route is the 12th-century church of Saint-Siméon. From here you can start your way back to Floirac. To avoid repeating the same path, you can take a different route through rue de Bourg. Before leaving rive droite you can also take a walk on Quai Deschamps and enjoy the beautiful view on the Garonne river.
The Saint Emilion region
Discover the lamprey capital of Gironde – Sainte Terre – 6.4 km
I’m sure that many of you are familiar with the beautiful Saint Emilion region. Even if you haven’t had the chance to do any hiking there, most of you living here had the chance to drive through the stunning vineyards of the famous wine region. This trail, however, is different from the usual view you see from Saint Emilion as it goes along the Dordogne river. This is a good opportunity to learn about another product the Saint Emilion region is famous for, the lamproie (lamprey in English). The little village of Sainte Terre is the capital of Lamprey. Start your tour from Église Saint-Alexis, the church of Sainte Terre and walk on Rue du Parlement until you reach the river. Take a nice long stroll along the river until you reach the prohibited area sign, then turn left with the path. Follow the path until you reach the town again and then turn left on Rue du Parlement to reach the town center. On normal days you can also visit the Lamprey’s garden, a small park and the museum of lamprey, however, I believe that it’s still closed for visits. You can see the map of the trails with the points of interest here.
The chateaux and restaurants are still closed, but once they’ll re-open I really recommend combining this hike with a visit to a winery or a nice meal in one of the villages around Saint Emilion. If you want more information on what to do in Saint Emilion, check out my article with everything you need to know about visiting this beautiful village.
Entre Deux Mers
Boucle de Rions – heritage and hillsides
Entre Deux Mers is one of the most beautiful parts of Gironde. An abundance of medieval villages scattered along the Gironde river, centuries-old historic monuments, wineries and a lot of nature makes it a perfect place for day trips from Bordeaux. And above all, it’s also a great region for hiking with several paths mixing heritage and nature. Today I want to focus on hiking around one of my favorite towns in the region – Rions.
Rions is a small medieval town on the hills on the banks of the Garonne river that played an important role in the Hundred Years War and was occupied by England during the 13th century. Even if you come here specifically for hiking, don’t be in a rush and take some time to admire the beautiful houses with old shatters and the colorful flower pots decorating the narrow streets of the village. After you got inspired by the beautiful architecture we can start the hike. Leave the city center following rue Lavidon, through Porte Lavidon, and enjoy a pleasant 4.5 km path with a stunning view of the Garonne hillsides and vineyards. You will enter back through the most impressive gate in Rions, Porte du l’Hyan, the only gate that was kept fully preserved to this day. Before you leave, visit the old ramparts of the city, built in the 14th century and restored in the 18th century. You can find the map and all the details here
The South of Gironde
Hostens is one of the highlights of the South Gironde region. Domaine des Lacs d’Hostens is located at the heart of the Landes de Gascogne forest (50 km from Bordeaux) and offers some of the best hiking trails you can find near Bordeaux. The Domain consists of five different lakes with plenty of water activities as well as hiking trails, mountain bike trails, and more. If you’re after a good hike, head to the second lake, Lac du Bousquey. On the way you can see horses, butterflies and other wonders of nature. There are three trails in the Domain of Hostens: 8, 11 et 16 km long so there is something for both fit walkers and people who just want to enjoy a relatively short walk in nature.
In Hostens you will also find one of the best beaches in Gironde, this one located on the shores of another lake, the lake of Lamothe. So if the weather is good this would be the best way to end your hike.
Lac Vert and Lac Bleu
I really love hiking around lakes! I think that water in combination with the greenery around it gives it a very meditational vibe 🙂 Luckily there are a few beautiful lakes around the area where you can have a lovely walk and admire the colors of the water. The first one is Lac Vert (the green lake) in Canejan and the second one is Lac Bleu (the blue lake) in Leognan, both located about 15/20 minutes’ drive from Bordeaux. Their names derive from the color of the water and they are both stunning.
Did you know that the largest man-made forest in Europe is located just an hour’s drive from Bordeaux? The huge Landes forest has a few hiking trails, one of them starting in Saint Symphorien, a village located about 50 km south of Bordeaux. The route starts from the center of Saint Symphorien, which by itself is not very interesting. But it’s nice to dedicate a few minutes to see the town hall, the gothic Saint Symphorien church, and the cute little Maison Cammunale, which was built during the great depression. To start the walk, leave the city center and walk about 5 minutes on Cours de Verdun until you reach Le Chalet Mauriac. In this house the famous novelist, Francois Mauriac used to spend his vacations as a child. The chateau itself is probably closed right now, but the nice park around it might be open.
Your next destination is Moulin de Marian, an old windmill standing close to the Hure river. This is a nice walk that should take you about 30 minutes. From here continue on the path until you reach the department route number D220. Don’t turn to D220, instead continue straight on D115 until you reach Landes de Lassus, turn left here. Then continue north until you get to l’Atelier des Chemins de fer économiques de la Gironde. The building, built in the 19th century is a testimony of what was one of the main economic activities of this village. The site was closed in 1978 but you can still see some of the machines they used back then. You are now almost back to the center of Saint Symphorien, where our tour ends.
One of my favorite hiking places in the region is Lanton on the Arcachon bay. There are of course many other great places for a promenade around the Bassin but I love the fact that you rarely see any people in Lanton and that the drive is not very long. You can start your walk from Plage de Suzette, which is a little port with a few restaurants on it, from there just follow the trail surrounding the little port. If you’ve ever been to the Bassin d’Arcachon you know that the view changes a lot depending on the tide. This trail goes along the bay and that’s why, depending on the time you arrive, it may feel like walking along the beach or in an apocalyptic desert. The scenery and tranquility are just magical and it’s less than an hour from Bordeaux! To discover more places in Bassin d’Arcachon go to my article about the best day trips to Arcachon Bay.
Ville d’Hiver in Arcachon
Here’s an idea for those who like urban trails. The touristy city of Arcachon currently feels very different from its usual lively vibes. Tourists are yet to flood the region and the restaurants will stay closed until at least June. Why not use this opportunity to discover the beautiful architecture of ville d’Hiver in Arcachon city. The winter city of Arcachon was mainly built in the 19th century and among its 300 villas, you can find some architectural treasures. Here are a few villas you don’t want to miss: Teresa, Toledo, Brémontier, Trocadero, Alexandre Dumas, Bayard, and Athena. Before you go, don’t miss the beautiful Parc Mauresque which separates the winter city from the summer city. If you can read some French, here’s a site with a short history of the most famous villas in the winter city. For more info on what to do in Arcachon city check out my article about Arcachon.
There are of course many more hiking routes in the region. We are surrounded by forests, lakes, parks, old villages, and a lot of heritage, so there’s an endless amount of ideas for a walk. But I wanted to release this article as soon as possible so you can start enjoying the weather and the deconfinement. I will add more ideas for walks in this article in the next few weeks, so I invite you all to return to this page. If you enjoyed reading the article, you can always share it with friends and make them go on a hike instead of the crowded city center 🙂
Before I go, I just wanted to let you know about all the other places you can get my information about traveling in Bordeaux and the Southwest of France.
My Facebook/Instagram pages where I share almost all my travels and experiences in the region on a daily basis.
Newsletter – I decided to go on a little break with my emails during the confinement being that most of the content there is about villages, restaurants, museums, and heritage sites, which is not content anyone currently needs. But I’m coming back with my weekly emails soon so you are all welcomed to join me there – subscribe here.
The Bassin d’Arcachon or the Arcachon Bay has become one of the most popular destinations in France with more than half a million visitors heading there during July and August alone. While some people rent a house close to the beach, most tourists go there for day trips from Bordeaux, which is located about an hour’s drive from the bay.If you look at the map you’ll see that the Arcachon bay is quite a big place with plenty of villages and activities so how do you choose where to go? That’s what I’m here for! In this article I’m going to introduce you to some of the best destinations for a day trip or a weekend on Bassin D’Arcachon. The places with the most unique atmosphere, the best beaches, interesting activities for you and your kids and spots where you can enjoy the famous Arcachon oysters.
We can roughly divide the bay into two parts, the north and south of the Bassin. When I’m in the mood for a beautiful village or an unspoilt beach I tend to go to the northern part of Arcachon bay. There, you have the most charming villages on the Arcachon Bay like L’herbe, Le Canon, Andernos les Bains and others. However, if I’m in a more active mood, I’d usually go to the southern part of the bay where you can climb the incredible dune de Pilat, visit the oysters museum, spend a day in a huge birds reserve and kayak on the Eyre river.
You can also join my Facebook group “Travel in the southwest of France” where many enthusiasts of the region share their recommendations for places to visit and things to do in the southwest of France.
Now let’s start discovering some of the most beautiful and interesting places to visit on the Arcachon Bay!
Andernos les Bains – a perfect day trip to the Arcachon Bay
Andernos les Bains is not a prime tourist destination like some of its better-known neighbors on the Bassin d’Arcachon and that, in a way, makes it even more attractive. With an old prehistoric site, 19th-century villas and a long sandy beach overlooking the Bassin, it’s not hard to spend a pleasant day in this seaside resort. Like other towns on the Arcachon bay, Andernos les Bains is also known for oyster farming, and a wealth of restaurants serving delicious oysters and seafood garnish its shores. Most restaurants are located next to the port from which you can take a nice promenade on the longest pier in France. My favorite spot for oysters is Cabane 21 Station des Gus, which is also very kids friendly. But mind you, it’s a spot for real seafood lovers as you won’t find anything else on the menu (except wine of course). Andernos les Bains is also known for its fun events and festivals such as the Festival Cabanes en Fête (an oysters and wine celebration) in December and the Andernos Jazz Festival in July.
How to get from Bordeaux to Andernos les Bains: The best way to get there is by car but if you have no other choice you can also take Bus 601 (Trans Gironde) from Bordeaux center.
L’Herbe – the best-hidden gem on the Arcachon bay
L’herbe is a traditional oyster farming village located on the Cap Ferret Peninsula. Here you won’t find the characteristics of a typical French village, there’s no church nor a central square with a bakery and a restaurant. Nonetheless, you can easily say that it is one of the most beautiful villages in the southwest of France.
There’s something raw and authentic about L’herbe. You get to walk between the colorful cabins of oyster farmers and see them in action on their special workboat. If you like oysters, you’re going to love this place. Plenty of oyster restaurants are spread along the beach serving only the freshest oysters, pork paté and white wine. This is a perfect destination for a sunny half-day trip from Bordeaux, or a full day trip if you add a visit to the beach as well.
How to get from Bordeaux to L’herbe: Same as with Andernos les Bains, a car is the best way to get here as the bus is not a direct one and it takes almost two hours to get to L’herbe. But if you have no choice you can also take Bus 601 (Trans Gironde) from Bordeaux center.
Cap Ferret – dreamy beaches and the best oysters on the Arcachon bay
Cap Ferret is a little town located on the Western part of Bassin d’Arcachon and has been traditionally known as a summer getaway for the French upper class. Although it’s been recently gaining popularity among tourists visiting the south of France, it has yet to lose its relaxing beach village atmosphere, especially if compared to the more southern towns of Arcachon bay.
Cap Ferret is shaped like a narrow tongue with a long string of beautiful sandy beaches on the Atlantic ocean and a view of the eastern side of the Bassin. Apart from its dreamy beaches it’s also known for its ostréiculture industry, which produces some of the best oysters in France. Dozens of oyster cabins and restaurants with a view on the Bassin give Cap-Ferret a unique character that’s worth a visit and a taste.
Another fun thing to do in Cap Ferret is to bike along the beaches and through the pine forest that covers a large part of the Cap Ferret peninsula. There are plenty of bike rentals in Cap Ferret, one of them is Bike rental Cap Gyro (7 Boulevard de la Plage, 33970 Lège-Cap-Ferret).
How to get from Bordeaux to Cap Ferret: The same 601 bus can take you to Cap Ferret but it’ll take you at least two hours to get there, so a car is definitely a better option here. If you’re near Arcachon or le Moulleau, you can see the schedule here.
Arcachon – the city
It’s not my favorite destination on the bay mostly due to it being a town rather than a village. Having said that there are plenty of great things to do in and around the town of Arcachon and if you have the time it’s worth a visit.
The town of Arcachon is divided into four districts, named after the seasons of the year. 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 of Arcachon and Ville d’Automne is the beautiful port area packed with great fish restaurants. A visit to Arcachon can easily take the 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.
Another reason to go to Arcachon is the beautiful beaches located on the south part of the bay. Two that I particularly like are petit Nice and La Corniche where you can also grab a drink at the fancy La corniche hotel /restaurant. A fun way to discover that part of the bay is by bike. You can hire one in the center of Arcachon city and just follow the cycling route along the beach.
In my guide to Arcachon city, you can find all the details about things to do, places to eat, where to hire a bike and what beaches are the best ones to go to in Arcachon.
How to get from Bordeaux to Arcachon: Arcachon is the easiest one to get to by train directly from Bordeaux. A train leaves almost every hour from the main station in Bordeaux and the station of Pessac centre. Beware that if you come by car, free parking is not easy to find, so taking the train is advisable during the touristic season. You have more details about parking in my article about Arcachon.
The Magnificent dune du Pilat in Teste de Buch
If there’s one thing in this list I consider a “must” it’s definitely this one. The gigantic sand dune is one of the wonders of the area, with its 60 million metric cubes of sand it’s quite astonishing the first time you see it. Dune du Pilat is Europe’s tallest sand dune, rising to an impressive 110 m high. It’s also 500 meters wide and 2.7 km long so you’ll have plenty of room to wander. You can climb the dune by stairs that are installed from the end of May to early November. If you come during the low season or just feel energetic, you can just climb straight up the sandy slopes.
Once you reach the top, a stunning panoramic view will be revealed with the Cap Ferret peninsula on one side, a huge pine forest on the other and the magnificent Banc d’Arguin nature reserve just in front. After working so hard climbing the dune, you can slide to the other side (when the sand is not too hot of course) and go straight to the beach. If you’re not in a rush you can easily spend the day here, have a nice picnic and swim in the crystal clear water. It’s hard to describe the beauty of this site in words, you really must see it for yourself.
How to get from Bordeaux to dune du Pilat: If you’re coming by public transport, line 1 (Baia company) will take you from the Arcachon train station to Dune to Pilat. Otherwise, you can get there by car and park in the paid parking of the site.
Lanton – a beautiful promenade
If you’re looking for a beautiful quiet place for a long walk, Lanton is the perfect spot for you. You can start your walk from plage de Suzette, which is a little port with a few restaurants on it and just follow the trail that starts next to the boats. If you’ve ever been to the Bassin d’Arcachon you know that the view changes a lot depending on the tide. This trail goes along the bay and that’s why, depending on the time you arrive, it may feel like walking along the beach or in an apocalyptic desert. If you want to escape the crowds in the summer head to Lanton as the scenery and tranquility are just magical.
The birds’ reserve in Teich
The Teich Ornithological Reserve is a protected nature reserve located some 50km from Bordeaux, where you can watch thousands of wild birds from up-close. 110 hectares of wooded areas, saltmarsh, reed beds and meadows stretch out between the mainland and the Bassin d’Arcachon coastline, offering a perfect habitat for many birds. Some stay here permanently and some just pass by.
The Teich Bird Reserve is explored on foot along a 6 km long circular path (with a shorter route proposed to visitors with young kids). The path goes through a rich diversity of natural habitats, giving a great overall picture of the site and its surrounding areas. I would highly advise taking a binocular with you. Many of the birds stay quite far from the designated Viewpoints and are just too distant to observe. Doing the same route with a binocular made the visit much more interesting in my view.
The Reserve Ornithologique du Teich is open all year long except on December 25, and can even be reached by train (the Teich train station is located about 15 minutes walk from the reserve). For more info see the website of the reserve: https://www.reserve-ornithologique-duteich.com/en/
Gujan Mestras – the capital of oysters
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.
You can also visit 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 coastline, many of which are located at the famous Port de Larros. Gujan-Mestras also has a beautiful beach called Plage de la Hume. Due to its interior position on the Arcachon bay, there are almost no waves and it feels more like a lake than a sea beach, which makes it very kids friendly.
The town hall of Gujan-Mestras is quite active and hosts plenty of nice events for kids and adults in the summer, you can find them all on their site: https://www.gujanmestras.com
How to get to Gujan Mestras? The same train that goes to Arcachon also stops in Gujan Mestras so you can easily get there by train if you don’t want to drive.
These are some of my favorite spots on the Arcachon bay, and I hope it will encourage you to get out and spend at least one day in this magical place.
I truly believe that the best way to discover the center of Bordeaux is by foot, simply because every building in this city is an architectural work of art worthy of your full attention. One exception is the waterfront of Bordeaux, which is the perfect place for cycling in the city. Surely if you’ve been living here for a while you would think that there are many other interesting trails around the city, but for a newcomer, this cycling route is the best way to discover some of Bordeaux’s most interesting and entertaining spots. In this article, I’m going to introduce you to the “Bridge to Bridge” cycling route in Bordeaux. This trail starts from “la rive gauche”, the western side of Pont Pierre (the central bridge of Bordeaux). It then continues north all along the waterfront until you get to the most modern bridge of Bordeaux, Pont Chaban Delmas. From there you will cross to the Bastide neighborhood, the local’s favorite weekend getaway.
In this article, I’m going to mention all the beautiful monuments and interesting places you should pay attention to as well as recommend places that require a longer stop. I do want to want to warn you that there are quite a lot of stops here, I wrote them all just for you have all the options, but if you really want to feel like you’re cycling you might want to skip some of them 🙂 I am only referring to places located along the waterfront so If you want a deeper introduction to Bordeaux go to my ultimate guide to a weekend in Bordeaux. There is so much to see on the way and I don’t want you to miss any of it, so tune in and let’s start cycling. *For information on bike rentals go to the bottom of the article.
What not to miss while cycling in Bordeaux
The “rive gauche” – the 18th-century charm of Bordeaux
Start your tour next to the central and oldest bridge of Bordeaux, Pont de Pierre. The first bridge of Bordeaux was commissioned by Napoleon I at the beginning of the 19th century. Prior to the building of this bridge, the only way to get to the other side was by boat. If you’re using the city bikes, there is a station just a minute walk north of Port de Bourgogne, otherwise, look on the map of available bikes here.
Now that you have your bike, you can start cycling north, all along the Garonne river. Look at the shape of the river, does that remind you of anything? The Garonne river is shaped like a moon and that’s where Bordeaux got its’ nickname “la Port de la Lune” – the moon port.
It’s time for some sightseeing! It will be very hard to miss the first monument on our route, the spectacular Porte Cailhau, one of the two original gates to the old city of Bordeaux. It was built in 1495 to commemorate the glory of king Charles VIII and you can find the statue of the king right in the center of it.
Stop 1 – the most popular monument of Bordeaux
We are in front of the Miroir d’eau, which is by far the most popular location in Bordeaux during the summer. And although you’ve been cycling for only a couple of minutes this place demands a stop. This modern monument, built in 2006, is the world’s largest reflecting pool. The surface is made from blue granite covered in water, reflecting the 18th century Place de la Bourse. During the summer months, the system of le Miroir d’eau operates in cycles of 15 minutes creating a shallow pool where you can wet your feet and a fog at the end of the cycle when the water is coming down.
I would highly recommend crossing the road to Place de la Bourse and take a look at this masterpiece of classic French architecture from the 18th century. Don’t miss the famous mascarons of Bordeaux, these are the little faces looking on you from the arches of the buildings. There are more than 3000 mascarons decorating the buildings and monuments of Bordeaux, taking inspiration from Greek mythology, wild animals, religion and the economical development of Bordeaux. To learn a bit more about the architecture of Bordeaux go to the Bordeaux Patrimoine Mondial, an architectural and heritage interpretation center. The center hosts a modern exhibition presenting various stages in the development of Bordeaux and the factors that have influenced its construction.
You can now pop on your bikes and continue to our next stop, but before we get there, here are a few places I don’t want you to miss.
Place des Quinconces Place des Quinconces is the largest city square in France! On one of the sides of this enormous square, you will find the beautiful monument dedicated to the Girondins (members of a political faction) who were killed during the French Revolution. Throughout the year the square hosts many different events, festivals and fairs such as the Brocante de Quinconces. I tend to write a lot about the events that take place on Place des Quinconces so be sure to check out my monthly and weekly updates about things to do in Bordeaux for up to date recommendations.
Remembring the slave trade in Bordeaux In the last few years, Bordeaux has become more engaged in trying to acknowledge its dark past of slave trade that took place from the 17th to the 19th century. A decade ago you could barely find any remanence of Bordeaux’s role as the second biggest slave trade port in France. Today, however, several statues of slaves can be found in the city and Bordeaux’s triangular slave trade voyages carrying more than 150,000 slaves are documented in the Musee d’Aquitaine.
One of the most beautiful statues was created by a Haitian sculptor named Filipo and is located right here on the waterfront, just in front of the Bourse Maritime. The statue depicts a young slave named Modeste Testas who was bought when she was only 15 years old by two Bordelaise brothers. She worked on their plantation in Saint-Domingue and was set free after the death of her owner. You can read about her story on the panel explaining the statue.
If you’re in an artistic mood our second stop is for you! CAPC is the contemporary art museum of Bordeaux located between the Quinconces and Chartrons districts. The museum is housed in an impressive former warehouse from the 19th century where commodities, traded down the river, used to be stored. In the permanent collection, there are almost 300 works of art and it regularly hosts temporary exhibitions that are dedicated to the history of art. I have visited the place several times and while the exhibitions are not always the best, the building itself is very impressive. On top of the building you can find a very chic restaurant, a nice place to stop for lunch or a drink.
If you want to see what other museums Bordeaux has to offer, check out my article about the Museums of Bordeaux.
Stop 3 – lunch on the Quai des Chartrons
If you’re feeling peckish, Quai des Chartrons is the perfect location for a good lunch. You have many good restaurants along the waterfront to choose from, two of my favorite ones are Symbiose and Pastel.
If you’re doing the cycling tour on Sunday, don’t miss one of the best markets taking place every Sunday morning on Quai des Chartrons. This market hosts dozens of food stalls selling everything from fresh fruits, cheese, pastries and oysters. Besides the fresh local products you can buy at the market it’s simply a very nice spot to have an early lunch or a plate of oysters with white wine if you want to feel like a local.
If you are not time constrained take an hour or two to discover the super chic Chartrons district. You can simply follow my article about the best things to do in Chartrons.
Stop 4 – Cap Sciences
If you’re doing this bike tour with kids here’s another cool place to keep in mind. Cap Science is a nice science museum that proposes interactive exhibitions and activities all dedicated to different aspects of science. The museum is located at Hangar 20, Quai de Bacalan. For other activities for kids check out my list of 30 things to do with kids in Bordeaux.
Just next to it don’t miss Pont Chaban Delmas, a modern bridge that was inaugurated in 2013 and named after one of the mayors of the city. It’s the longest vertical-lift bridge in Europe and seeing it elevating to let the tall ships pass is a very impressive sight.
Before you cross the bridge to the other side let’s discover another hip neighborhood in Bordeaux
The Bacalan neighborhood – the cool kid on the block
Bacalan is a northern district of Bordeaux, an area that, until recently, has largely been avoided by tourists and locals. The grungy landscapes of the port and its distance from the city center aren’t as appealing as the beautiful architecture and lovely squares of the historic center of Bordeaux. In the last few years, however, the Bacalan district has been changing its face, emerging to be one of the most interesting places in Bordeaux, with plenty of new neighborhoods and places to explore.
You can spend a few hours discovering this cool place, using my guide to the Bacalan district. But as we’re in the midst of our “Bridge to Bridge” cycling trail, I’ll point out two of the places close to the river that I think you should visit.
Stop 5 – La cité du Vin
La Cité du Vin is Bordeaux’s famous wine museum. This impressive piece of modern architecture is one of a kind cultural center, all dedicated to discovering the wine world. Through its interactive exhibition, It offers a journey to both French and global wine history. You will learn about winemaking, see movies and interviews with wine producers and then pass on to smell and taste wine. The Cité du Vin allows you to discover a selection of wines from all over the world and offers one of the best panoramic views of Bordeaux. You can think of it as a kind of wine amusement park that can be very enjoyable to both wine lovers and people who don’t drink at all.
Read more about visiting the world’s best wine museum in my article about the Cité du Vin.
Stop 6 – the Bacalan Market
It’s time for a little break from sightseeing to go for a drink in one of Bordeaux’s chic markets – les Halles de Bacalan, located just in front of the wine museum. This impressive 950m2 hangar hosts more than 20 artisans that were chosen for the quality of their products (85% of which are produced in the South-West region of France).
The “rive droite” – the hipster hub
You can now go back to the modern bridge and cross it to the eastern side – la rive droite. The Bastide neighborhood represents another side of Bordeaux’s charm. Instead of the classic monuments, it has a much more tranquil and funky spirit that attracts many local families and young hipsters of Bordeaux on weekends. This district is especially charming from May to October when you can enjoy all its green areas and all the summer bars and restaurants on the riverfront.
Let me walk you over some of the best places to stop by at the Bastide neighborhood.
Stop 7 – Fabrique Pola
Our next stop is definitely not a must, but it can be a nice place to discover for art lovers. La Fabrique Pola is an artistic hub that brings together associations related to the visual arts. They always have different (usually free) exhibitions running and sometimes on weekends, they have live music on the banks of the Garonne. For the program take a look at their site.
Stop 8 – Darwin
Darwin is probably the main reason to cross the river to the east part of the city. It’s an old military base turned into an urban space with a huge chic restaurant and a cafe/organic food shop, a skate park for all ages, a second-hand shop and many other surprises, all with an agenda of ecological awareness. Whether alone or with kids you can spend hours in Darwin. It is also one of the most extraordinary places for street art and includes some amazing works by a lot of talented artists on every one of its buildings.
If you’re interested in plants or just love beautiful gardens, don’t miss the neighboring Jardin Botanique. This little park was created to allow the wide public to discover the world of plants, biodiversity and sustainability.
Stop 9 – finish your day with a fabulous picnic
Your cycling route along Quai des Queyries (the waterfront of “rive droite”) goes through one of the best green corners of Bordeaux. That part of the Bastide district is called Parc aux Angéliques, a wide green space with a stunning view on some of the most stunning monuments in the center of Bordeaux. Closer to Darwin, the vibe gets more hipstery.. further away and it’s more of an extended family kind of atmosphere 😉
On summer days it’s one of the best places for a picnic in the city. If you don’t have any food with you, just go over to Magasin Général in Darwin and buy some cheese and wine (the perfect set for a French picnic). For a larger selection go to the Carrefour supermarket on Allée Serr. For other beautiful green spots in the city, check out my article about the best places for picnics in Bordeaux.
Before you go back to the center of Bordeaux through Pont Pierre, stop by one of the most famous statues of “rive droite”, Le Lion. The blue lion on Place Stalingrad is created by a famous French artist Xavier Veilhan as a tribute to the victory of the Soviet army during the Second World War.
That’s it, our cycling route in Bordeaux has come to its end. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop! Bordeaux is a super friendly city for cycling and you can continue discovering other neighborhoods and parks. You might get some ideas from the article about the Five alternative ways to discover Bordeaux.
Where to rent bikes in Bordeaux
There are plenty of places to rent bikes in Bordeaux, one of them is located just next to our starting point, next to Pont Pierre. The shop is called Bordeaux Velo and the address is 46 Quai Richelieu.
However, if you’re on a budget or just don’t want to commit to a bike for several hours you can use city bikes that are spread all over the city. The price is only 1.7 euros for 24 hours if you return them to the station every 30 minutes (you can take another bike right away). If you rather not spend your time looking for a station in the middle of your trip you can return them after you finish your ride and pay 2 euros for every additional hour.
If you live in Bordeaux you also have the possibility to rent a free bike for several months. The organization is called la Maison métropolitaine des mobilités alternatives (MAMMA) and it’s located at 69 cours Pasteur – 33000 Bordeaux. You can check out all the details here.
I hope you enjoyed this beautiful city and if you have a few more days in the area don’t forget to check out my article about the best day trips from Bordeaux. If you want more tips on restaurants, concerts and exhibitions follow me on facebook/Instagram. Or better yet, join my newsletter where I share a lot of exclusive info about Bordeaux and the region – sign up here.