Bordeaux is located in one of the most beautiful areas in France, surrounded by charming villages, impressive chateaux, vineyards and sandy beaches. When visiting the city, many are looking for day trips from Bordeaux that will allow them to discover the area without driving for hours. And you can indeed easily fill your visits here with amazing day trips from the city. However, many of these places are hidden secrets to most tourists and information is not easy to find online. That’s why I decided to make this list of places to visit around Bordeaux. I tried to make it as diverse as I could to help anyone find its perfect spot for a day trip. It’s important to notice that most of these locations are not very accessible by public transport, so renting a car is recommended. For those of you that prefer not to go by car, be sure to check up my article about the best day trips from Bordeaux by train.
Wine related day tips around Bordeaux
Saint Émilion is probably the most famous wine related day trip from Bordeaux. Its picturesque center, densely filled with wine shops and fancy restaurants, turns this little town into a prominent attraction for tourists in the area. Saint Émilion is mostly famous for its wines so a visit to one of the châteaux (wineries) is a must. The charming town, however, is worth a visit even if you’re not a wine lover. Important historical monuments can be found in abundance in this medieval town, some of which date back as far as the 11th and 12th centuries. One of the famous monuments is the 11th-century Monolithic church, carved from a limestone cliff, it’s the largest underground church in Europe.
There is a direct train from Bordeaux to Saint Émilion however if you want to visit some of the distant chateaux in the region, coming by car is recommended. There is just one problem is Saint Émilion, there are just too many beautiful spots to visit and it’s really hard to choose just a few! In my article about the best wineries to visit in Saint Emilion, I cover both the most interesting chateaux and the most welcoming wine producing families in the area so check it out!
The Medoc Wine Route
The Medoc is one of the most famous wine regions in the world, attracting many wine enthusiasts to the Medoc wine route. The famous route is a never-ending road (the D2) leading from the northern part of Bordeaux Metropole (start in Blanquefort) to almost the northernmost point in Gironde. An infinite landscape of vineyards adorned with mesmerizing châteaux. A view that will leave you speechless even if you don’t like wine.
There are about 600 châteaux along the Medoc wine trail. You probably won’t have time to visit most of them, but luckily, some of the most beautiful ones can be seen from the road so all you have to do is stop for a quick photo. The most famous wine houses (like Château Margeaux and Château Mouton Rothschild) are open only to professionals but don’t worry, there are plenty of beautiful properties you can visit. Some of the prettiest and more interesting are Château d’Arsac, Château Siran, Château Beychevelle and Château Cos d’Estournelle. If you don’t mind going a little further to the north I highly recommend visiting the last chateau on the trail, Château Loudenne. This charming (it’s pink!) old château has a huge garden and its own port so apart from the wine visit, you can have a lovely picnic or take a boat tour. Make sure you book your visit to the wineries before going there as it can get quite busy in the summer.
Wine is not the only alcoholic drink the Southwest of France is known for! Bordeaux is located about 120 km (75 miles) from Cognac, an area that produces one of the most luxurious spirits in the world. The town of Cognac, located in the Charente department, is a charming and interesting place that’s worth a visit even if you’re not a big fan of Cognac. The old center of the city is characterized by narrow paved streets with houses dating from the 16th and 17th century. Some of the most famous Cognac houses are located right in the city center, among them, you’ll find Hennessy, Martell and Rémy Martin. All of them offer tours which normally include a visit to the cellars and Cognac tastings. You can read more about Cognac in my post about the 10 best things to do in Cognac. While it’s possible to get to Cognac by train, it’s quite a long journey so going by car is recommended.
Discover the sandy beaches around Bordeaux
Arcachon is one of the most popular summer destinations in the southwest of France. A seaside resort town renowned for its beautiful beaches, impressive architecture and vibrant atmosphere. Within an hour drive from Bordeaux you get to swim in the ocean, eat oysters and see beautiful villas. A day trip from Bordeaux to Arcachon can easily take a whole day but many tend to combine it with a visit to the Dune du Pilat, the tallest sand dune in Europe and one of the most popular destinations in France.
I recently wrote a post about the best things to do and see in and around the town of Arcachon, which is one of the main tourist destinations on the Arcachon Bay. So take a look at it before you head to the area. You can reach Arcachon by train, however coming by car will allow you to easily access the dune and to visit other places on the bay, such as Gujan Mestas and the Teich bird reserve.
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 (55 miles) from Bordeaux. If this is too far for you, you can combine it with the wine trail in Medoc which I mentioned above.
Soulac sur Mer is a resort town that resembles Arcachon, with the city center looking like Ville d’été and the impressive 18th-century villas that look just like Ville d’Hiver. 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.
When there, take a map in the tourist office and go on a discovery tour of the most interesting villas. I highly recommend coming here at the beginning of June during the festive weekend of Soulac 1900, a really fun Jazz festival.
Cap Ferret is a charming town located on the Western part of Bassin d’Arcachon (Arcachon Bay) 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, uncrowded beach village atmosphere.
Cap Ferret is shaped like a narrow tongue with a long string of beautiful sandy beaches on the Atlantic ocean and a view on the eastern side of the Bassin. It’s also one of the main producers of oysters in France due to its location on the bay that creates perfect conditions for the ostréiculture industry. 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.
The Biscarrosse lake
This one is a great option for a day in nature. If you don’t mind driving a bit longer, the beautiful Biscarrosse lake is located about 70 km (45 miles) from Bordeaux. It is one of the biggest lakes in the area with plenty of amazing beaches and pine forest surrounding it. As it’s so big there are several beaches to choose from, some of which are Plage Navarrose and Plage de Caton. Aquapark, the biggest inflatable water park in France is located on Plage Maguide. If you’re into surfing, head to the beaches on the Atlantic coast. You can also start the day with a biking trail on the canal, connecting the big and little lakes.
A day trip to beautiful villages
Bazas is a beautiful town with lovely people and a great heritage embodying the Gascony culture. It’s located at the eastern edge of the Gascon Landes forest, about 65 km (40 miles) from Bordeaux. A stroll in the historic center will allow you to discover the rich history of the city and its past role as an important bishopric. Its beautiful architecture includes the gothic cathedral (recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO), old mansions, gardens and historic monuments.
Heritage is not the only attraction of this charming town, it’s actually quite famous for its gastronomy, especially its meat. You can enjoy the Bazas meat in one of the restaurants that are perfectly 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 is Bazas is an expert on everything related to food in the region. She knows all the farmers and chefs around Bazas and a guided tour with her is an experience you don’t want to miss. Check out her website.
Blaye is one of the most interesting places in the Bordeaux area, located only about 50 km (30 miles) from the center of Bordeaux. This little town has a long military and strategic history and today it’s mostly known for its remarkable Citadel and red wine. The Citadel and the city walls are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can easily spend half a day discovering the old city walls. 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 known for its red wine. 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 area and the chateaux you can visit around Blaye. 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.
Visit castles in the South of Gironde
South Gironde is a magical area with a landscape colored with history, tradition and character. It’s a rural area, abundant with beautiful medieval villages and ancient castles. One of the most impressive castles is Château de la Brede which is located only 30 minutes from Bordeaux. It is a 14th-century castle that was built in a Gothic style. The house has a historic importance as it was the residence of Montesquieu. The château is open for visits from April to November (consult their opening hours here).
Another interesting castle to visit is château de Cadillac located in a charming little town that goes by the same name. The chateau is very impressive and is best known for being a women’s prison starting from the French revolution until 1950. Now it 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 an exhibition about the prison.
Bergerac is one of the main cities in the Dordogne area, quite close to the eastern border of the Gironde department. While it’s not as appealing as some of the small beautiful villages in Dordogne, it’s a lively city with a lot of charm to it. In the city center, you will find plenty of restaurants, a great market and long shopping streets. Bergerac is seated on the banks of the Dordogne giving it a beautiful view of the river. You can take a tour on the traditional boats (les gabarres) and discover the history of the city as well as the natural reserve around it.
The area is also known for its wine and you can combine your trip there with a visit to a château. One of the most famous ones is the beautiful Château de Monbazillac, which is located only 15 minutes away. It’s known for its sweet white wine. If you’re going to Bergerac on a Saturday, don’t miss the great market in Saint Foy la Grande which is just on the way from Bordeaux.
If you’re visiting Bordeaux for the first time, be sure to check out my ultimate guide to Bordeaux to get familiar with all the must-see places in Bordeaux. To help you choose a hotel in Bordeaux I’ve gathered a list of the best hotels in the center of Bordeaux as well as a guide to the districts of Bordeaux to help you find your preferred location.
Finally, if you are looking for a fun and delicious activity in Bordeaux, check out my food tours in which I’ll take you through a three hours journey in the culinary scene of the Southwest of France.
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