Bordeaux isn’t one of France’s cheapest cities but there are quite a lot of things you can enjoy here for free (or at a very low price). In this article, I gathered plenty of ideas for you to enjoy the city and the area around Bordeaux without spending a dime. Following my list, you will learn how to dance, discover amazing art, visit beautiful beaches and do most of it completely free. If you’re coming with kids, this post will give you some nice ideas for entertaining them without breaking the bank. Many of the offered attractions in this article are available during the summer season but some things you can do during winter as well. So let’s start with the list of free things to do in Bordeaux!
Free things you can do all year long in Bordeaux
Stroll the historic city
You don’t need much to enjoy this amazing city. The exceptional architecture is present on almost every street. The old gates to the city, the romantic streets leading to lively squares, the wide beautiful promenade on the river banks will all leave a great impression on you. After Paris, Bordeaux has the highest number of preserved historical buildings in France. No wonder that its historic part was declared as an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble by UNESCO. If it’s your first time in Bordeaux you can read about the most important monuments in my guide to a weekend in Bordeaux.
Darwin – hipster paradise
If you want to take the off-beaten track go to where the locals love to hang out. Darwin is an old military base on the right bank of the river converted into an urban space with a very cool vibe to it. It has a very chic restaurant and several shops but you don’t really need to spend money to enjoy it. You can stroll around the hangars, check out the charity shop, see plenty of street art and just embrace the hipster vibes :). Darwin and the associations it hosts are very active and offer plenty of free events. I tend to write quite a lot about it, so check out my weekend posts. You can also have a picnic at the Parc aux Angéliques located just in front of Darwin.
Address: 87 Quai des Queyries, 33100 Bordeaux
Free museums Sunday
Like in most cities in France, the first Sunday of the month is a free museums day. You have a free entrance to all the public museums and to most exhibitions. Check out the full list of museums in Bordeaux that you can visit for free this Sunday.
Free galleries in Bordeaux
Discover the local art in the many galleries spread in the city, many of them you can visit without a reservation. Here are some of the best galleries in Bordeaux: Galerie D.X., Bouillon d’art, A deux pas d’ici (photography), Cox gallery (street art). For contemporary art, head to FRAC which is located at the new MECA, an interesting architectural attraction by itself.
For more exhibitions check out my list of exhibitions to see this summer in Bordeaux.
Take a city bike
One of the best ways to discover the city is by bike and you don’t even have to pay much to do that in Bordeaux. There are city bikes (V³) stations spread all over the city and they cost only 1.7 euros for 24 hours. You have to return it to the station every 30 minutes and you can immediately take another one to continue your journey. You can also pay 2 euros per hour and return it later if you want to make a longer ride to areas without city bikes stations. See the location of the stations here.
See Bordeaux’s most ancient monument
Strolling the city center you’ve probably noticed a lot of impressive monuments dating back to the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries such and the Grosse Cloche or the Saint Michel Basilica. But Bordeaux’s oldest monument is actually located outside of the old city walls. Palais Galien is the ruins of a Gallo Roman amphitheater dating back to the second century when Bordeaux was called Burdigala. The site is located a few minutes walk from Jardin public and you can see all of it from the street. There are guided tours to Palais Galien during the summer season. You can book them calling this number +33 5 56 00 66 00.
Bordeaux Metropole is rich with many basilicas and churches, decorating almost every big square in the city. Its history is blended with religion and the churches are a testament to the development of the city. One of the best things about them is that they are always free and open every day. Bordeaux is an old city so you get to explore religious temples from various periods in time, carrying very different styles. Some examples are the amazing Saint Andres on Place Pey Berland that is built in a Gothic Style or the church of Notre Dame with its Baroque style. Other impressive and interesting churches and Basilicas include Saint Croix, Saint Michel and Saint Bruno.
There are free events taking place every weekend, from concerts on the street to huge brocantes, street art events, dance lessons and more. All you need to do is follow my weekend list to be updated on what’s happening in the city at the moment.
Drink at the Capucins Market
One of the main attractions in Bordeaux is Marché des Capucins, Bordeaux’s main market. Eating at the market definitely isn’t free (although very affordable) but you don’t have to eat there to feel the vibe. You can just sip a glass of cold white wine at Chez Jean Me (only 2 euros a glass) and absorb the sounds and smells of the market. If you need more recommendations check out my post about the best restaurants at the Capucins market.
Discover the street art
Like many other cities, Bordeaux too has the street art fever, with numerous talented local artists. One of the best things about street art is that it’s usually free, you just need to put some effort to find it. Darwin is one of the places that have the largest concentration of street art by local artists in Bordeaux. Other spots in the city include the Bassin a Flot district, rue du Loup with a beautiful work by Nasty, rue Bourrard, quai des platitudes, the Mur in Chartrons, rue Bergeret. One of the most beautiful works, in my opinion, is located just next to Pessac’s train station. The street art scene is always evolving so again you’ll have to get back here for updates 😉
Brocante in Saint Michel
Antiques and flea markets are a popular attraction in many cities. Some people go there to hunt for special bargains to take home and others see it as a way to discover more about the place through the pieces on display. Bordeaux is quite rich with Brocantes and Vide Greniers (a local version of a garage sale) and you can find many of them both in the center and the villages around it. The most famous one is located in Passage Saint Michel, a hangar that gathers about twenty brocanteurs (second-hand goods dealer) together. Just in front of it, on the main square in Saint Michel, you will find the Sunday Brocante with much cheaper items for sale. Another neighborhood to visit is Chartrons, with plenty of more expensive Antique boutiques. If you want to experience a local and cheaper “flea market” you should attend a Vide Grenier in one of the suburbs or the villages next to Bordeaux. To discover when are the next vide greniers taking place check out this site.
Take a free tour in Bordeaux
If reading about the history of Bordeaux feels like a daunting task to you, you can just take a tour and let a professional guide tell you all about it. Free walking tours offer free tours in the city center and you can tip them at the end as you want.
What to do for free in Bordeaux during the summer
Go to a free music concert
The summer in Bordeaux is one big music festival with plenty of free concerts and parties scattered all over the city. There are several associations that organize free concerts from June to the end of September in many different styles and locations. Bordeaux Open Air offers amazing electronic festivals in the parks of Bordeaux almost every summer. Relache will make you rock with free rock concerts on different squares of Bordeaux. Banzai lab has amazing parties on the weekend of July and the Pavillon d’été welcomes you to enjoy free music concerts on the right bank of the river. For more information follow my post about things to do in July and August as well as my what to do this weekend post that I publish every Wednesday/ Thursday.
Learn how to dance
If dance classes are too expensive for you, in Bordeaux you can learn it for free! The main dance festival in the summer is Dansons sur les quais, with free dancing lessons on the promenade. The lessons are taught by professional teachers and it’s quite an amazing experience for both kids and adults. However, this is not the only place to take free dance classes in Bordeaux during the summer season. You can also learn how to dance Tango with Tango Bordeaux association and Swing with the Swing In Kiosque at Jardin Public.
Have a picnic at the Park
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy a proper French meal or snack. Just buy some cheese and wine, add to it a crispy baguette from the boulangerie and head to one of Bordeaux magical picnic spots. Many of you probably heard about the beautiful Jardin Public, but this is far from being the only park in Bordeaux. Check out my list of the best picnic places in Bordeaux where I also included information about playgrounds for kids and the closest supermarkets.
Listen to music and dance at la Guingette chez Alriq
La Guinguette chez Alriq is one of the best summer places in Bordeaux with plenty of concerts in the open air. During the summer they host amazing bands from Thursday to Sunday. While on most evenings the concerts cost 6 euros on Sunday afternoon the concerts are free!
Adress: ZA Quai des Queyries, Port Bastide, 33100 Bordeaux
Go to one of the beaches in the city
One of the best free attractions to do during the Bordelaise summer is going to a beach. There are many lakes in the area and two of them happen to be in the city and you can even reach them by public transport. Bordeaux Lac is a fantastic little beach in the north of the city. Unfortunately, the direct line to the beach (line c) from the city center is going through some works until September so going to the beach will take more time than usual. The second city beach is located in the southern suburb of Bordeaux, Bègles. Bègles plage can be reached by line c within 25 minutes from the train station.
Fun stuff to do (almost) for free with kids in Bordeaux
Chill at the Miroir d’eau
The best free attraction for kids (and adults) in Bordeaux is definitely Mirroir d’eau. Kids absolutely love splashing in the water, especially on hot summer days. When tired you can have a picnic at the little garden right next to it.
Go to the pool
Going to the pool is not really free in Bordeaux but it’s very affordable and you can spend the whole day there. There are several kids friendly pools in Bordeaux metropole, two of them are not very far from the city center. Next to the Meriadeck, you’ll find the piscine Judaique located in a beautiful art deco building. A bit farther from the center is Piscine du Grand Parc. Both are very kids friendly with facilities like kids’ pool, water slides, floats and more.
Skateboarding on the quai
If your kids love skating be sure to bring the skateboard with you when coming to Bordeaux. One of the best skateparks in the city is located on Quai des Chartrons and it’s free. For those heading to the Sunday market on the quai, that would be a great break for the kids.
For more activities with kids in Bordeaux check out my list of the best 30 things to do with kids in Bordeaux.
Enjoy the free scenery of the South of Gironde
There are plenty of amazing day trips you can go to when visiting the Bordeaux area. It’s not entirely free of course as you have to rent a car but it gives you the chance to discover plenty of amazing places around Bordeaux without paying a dime. Also, If you make sure to rent it a few months before your arrival rental prices are fairly low. If you prefer to go by train, check out my list of the 10 day trips you can do by train from Bordeaux.
Discover the beautiful châteaux of the Medoc region
Even if you don’t want to spend money on a wine tour I highly recommend doing the route du Vin, just for the beautiful châteaux all along the way. If you don’t want to rent a car you can do most of the trip by bike. While in many wineries you’d have to pay for a guided tour, some will offer you to taste their wine for free. For more information check out my article about the wine road in Medoc.
Go to one of Bordeaux’s beautiful beaches
Above I’ve mentioned two beaches that are located within the city but with a car, Gironde is a paradise for beach lovers. Plenty of beautiful sandy beaches surround the Bordeaux Metropole. The more kids friendly ones are located on the lakes, such as lac Lacanau or lac Cazaux and on the Bassin d’Arcachon. Surfers will definitely fall in love with the beaches on the Atlantic coast. If you need help in choosing the best beaches, I just recently released a post about the best beaches near Bordeaux.
Visit medieval villages
To its south and east, Bordeaux is surrounded by amazing medieval villages which you can reach within less than an hour drive. One of the most famous villages in our area is Saint Emilion, but it’s not the only charming village in the area, others include, Bazas, Saint Macaire, La Reole, Rions and more. For more information about some of these destinations check out my article about day trips from Bordeaux.
I hope I convinced you that a trip to Bordeaux can be quite cheap when you have so many incredible free things to do. Hope you enjoyed the list!
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