If you love wine, food, and beautiful architecture you simply cannot miss a day trip to Bordeaux when visiting the region. One day in this vibrant city may not be enough to discover all the attractions and gastronomic experiences it has to offer but with the right plan, you can have a perfect day exploring the highlights of Bordeaux.
So if you’ve been wondering how to spend your one day in Bordeaux, this article will help you taste the best this city has to offer. It includes stunning architecture, a visit to the main market, cycling on the riverfront, tasting wine, and more. By the end of this day, you’ll be exhausted and totally in love with Bordeaux!
If you’re coming for a weekend, you should check out my Ultimate Guide to a Weekend in Bordeaux. Also, don’t miss my articles about the best neighborhoods to stay in Bordeaux and the best hotels in the city center if you’re looking for accommodation in Bordeaux.
Now let’s start discovering the beautiful capital of the Southwest of France.
Marché des Capucins – Visit the main market of Bordeaux
If you’re a foodie or just like discovering new markets, I highly recommend starting your one day in Bordeaux in Marché des Capucins. This is the biggest daily market in Bordeaux and has everything from stands of fruits, vegetables, sweets, and spices to a bunch of lively cafés and restaurants.
If you don’t have a lot of time, the best way to discover this huge market is by taking a food tour. You can take a private tour with Anne, who is a chef and an amazing food tour guide. Or join the group food tour of the No Diet Club.
If you like oysters there’s one restaurant in the market you simply cannot miss! Chez Jean-Mi has become an institution in Bordeaux, attracting many locals for a plate of oysters with white dry wine. Before you go, be sure to check out my article about the best places to eat at the Marché des Capucins.
It’s a covered market so you can enjoy it on the city’s numerous rainy days. Most cafes and restaurants also have tables outside where you can have a coffee or an early lunch. The market gets very busy on the weekend so be sure to be there early. The market is open from Tuesday to Sunday, however, be aware that not all the restaurants and stands are open on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Stroll the narrow streets of old Bordeaux
I have yet met one person who was not stunned by the beauty of “Vieux Bordeaux”, the historic part of the city. You can spend hours getting lost in the narrow paved streets with beautiful 17th and 18th-century houses.
The Southwest capital has 362 preserved buildings labeled as historic monuments, second only to Paris. The historic part of the city (and several streets around it) is recognized by UNESCO as an “outstanding urban and architectural ensemble” of 18th-century architecture.
Give yourself at least a few hours to wander the picturesque streets of Bordeaux. The city is rich with history and different architectural styles so if you have time, take a historic tour in the center of Bordeaux. Here’s a tour that’s offered by the Tourists office in several languages. If you don’t like big groups you can always take a private tour.
Main sites in the city center
There’s a photographer in Bordeaux who does amazing photography tours with photoshoots of these and other Bordeaux highlights, so that could be a really special experience. Here’s a shortlist of the sites you should not miss on your visit:
Grosse Cloche – the 15th-century gate to the old city. This stunning bell tower is part of a whole structure that was previously a part of the city hall of Bordeaux and at some point served as a prison for misbehaved juveniles (!).
It’s one of Bordeaux’s most emblematic monuments and appears on the coat of arms of Bordeaux. The Gross Cloche is located on one end of rue Saint James, one of the liveliest streets of Bordeaux, with stylish boutiques and wine bars.
Porte Cailhau – another magnificent 15th-century gate to the historic center of Bordeaux. This glamourous monument was built to commemorate the glory of King Charles VIII and opens up to one of Bordeaux’s nicest squares, Place du Palais.
Two other important monuments are located on the border between the historic part and the fancy Triangle d’Or neighborhood.
The Grand Theatre -The beautiful 18th-century building on Place de la Comedie will be hard to miss. This is one of the most impressive buildings in the city and is home to the National Opera and the National Ballet of Bordeaux. If you have the chance, try to book tickets to one of the concerts the Opera or the national ballet.
Continue from there to Place des Quinconces, the largest city square in France and one of the biggest in Europe. There you’ll also find the beautiful monument dedicated to the Girondins (members of a political faction) who were killed during the French Revolution.
Have a drink on the lively squares of Bordeaux
There’s a very special atmosphere in Bordeaux. It’s a very touristy and lively city that somehow succeeds in maintaining its tranquility. What contributes to that are the lively squares in the city center, linked by pleasant pedestrian streets. Almost every square in Bordeaux is adorned with terrasse restaurants and wine bars. As you can imagine, the city of wine has plenty of amazing wine bars and wine tasting places for you to taste some Bordeaux wine.
Some of the liveliest squares in the city center include the Place du Palais with a magnificent view of Porte Cailhau, Place Pierre with the Saint Pierre church right in the middle, and Place Camille Julian with the Utopia bistrot (an old church converted into an independent cinema and restaurant).
The biggest square in the old center is Place du Parlement, which was built in the 18th century in an Italian style. Its facades are very richly decorated and resemble the facades of the buildings on the riverfront of Bordeaux and the magnificent Place de la Bourse.
Lift your eyes to see the mascarons
If you’re following my advice and on your way to Place du Parlement don’t miss the beautiful little sculptures that decorate the buildings.
The sculpted faces between the ground and first floor are called mascarons, a variation on the word masks in Italian. There are more than 3000 mascarons decorating the buildings and the monuments of Bordeaux, taking inspiration from Greek mythology, wild animals, religion, and the economic development of Bordeaux.
Some examples are Neptune who represents the importance of the river and African faces, a memory of the slave trade Bordeaux was part of. Most of the mascarons can be found on the buildings on the riverfront of, Place de la Bourse and Place du Parlement.
You can read in more detail about all the main monuments in Bordeaux in my ultimate guide to a weekend in Bordeaux.
Dine in one of Bordeaux’s delicious restaurants
After the long walk, a proper lunch is in order! In recent years Bordeaux has gained popularity as a gastronomic city and even holds the record for the number of restaurants per person in France. If you have only one day in the city, trying one of Bordeaux’s restaurants should be on your list.
There are a lot of excellent restaurants in the city center and choosing one won’t be easy, but let me suggest just a few: Bo Tanique, Lauza, Symbiose, Cent 33, Frida, Au Bistro and the list goes on and on.
It’s important to notice that restaurants in Bordeaux tend to be closed on Sundays or Mondays (or both) so check out their websites when planning your trip. Also, it’s always recommended to book a table ahead of time, even if you do it on the same day.
Have a picnic in Jardin Public, Bordeaux’s main park
If you prefer leaving the dining experience for the evening you can replace a fancy lunch with a picnic in the beautiful park of Bordeaux, Jardin Public.
Make yourself a basket of regional products and join the other Bordelais on the vast green planes. Don’t forget to add a bottle of Bordeaux wine you can get in most supermarkets or in dedicated wine shops.
Jardin Public is a beautiful park and by far one of the most kid-friendly places in the city. However, it’s not the only good spot for a picnic or a little break. Bordeaux has many gardens and parks that you can enjoy on a sunny day. To discover them check out my post about the best places for a picnic in Bordeaux.
Shop on the Longest street in France
Sainte Catherine is the longest pedestrian street in France, full of clothing boutiques, and one of the only places in the center where you can find all the main fashion retail stores. If you prefer smaller boutiques, you won’t find them on the main streets but rather on the small narrow streets of Saint Paul and Saint Pier districts, as well as on rue Notre Dame in Chartrons.
If you’re into second-hand clothing be sure to check my guide to second-hand and vintage shops in the center of Bordeaux.
Visit the main church in Bordeaux -Saint-André
The big Cathedral on the main square of Pey Berland is a Roman Catholic church and the seat of the Archbishop of Bordeaux. This cathedral has an important part in the history of Bordeaux. Here, the 13-year-old Eleanor d’Aquitaine, married the future king of France Louis VII, therefore making her the queen of France (for a very short period of time).
Like many other churches and basilicas in Bordeaux, Saint-André is classified as a national monument of France. In the evening the Cathedral often hosts concerts of classical music, choirs and an organ festival during the summer. You can check out more info about the concerts here.
visit the fancy district of Bordeaux
It’s time for a little dessert and there’s no better place for it than the Triangle d’Or neighborhood, the fancy district of Bordeaux. You’ll notice that the architecture and landscape of this district are different from the narrow streets of the historic center of Bordeaux. The wide boulevards and decorated 18th-century houses reflect the economic boom that the city was undergoing at the time.
Today it’s considered a gourmet district with plenty of wine and cheese boutiques. It’s also home to Olala Bordeaux, one of the best places to take wine-tasting classes. During the tourist season they offer daily wine tasting master classes.
Like every French city, Bordeaux has its chocolatiers, many of which are located in and around Triangle d’Or. On rue Michel Montaigne you will discover the most famous local patissier and chocolatier, David Capy. On Allée de Tourny you will visit the oldest chocolatier in Bordeaux, Cadiot Badie. It’s a very prestigious place that feels more like a jewelry shop than a chocolate boutique. Other amazing chocolate shops are la Maison Darricau and Hasnaa Chocolat Grand Cru.
If you also want to take the opportunity to stop for a coffee. Bordeaux has some amazing coffee shops. You can read about my favorite ones in my article about the five coffee places in Bordeaux you don’t want to miss.
Chill at the Miroir d’eau
Now it’s time to visit Bordeaux’s most famous attraction and one you have probably seen in any guide or video about Bordeaux – Le Miroir d’eau.
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. It’s a perfect place to chill on a hot sunny day in Bordeaux.
If you’re coming with kids you can easily spend more than an hour here as it’s going to be quite hard to get them out of it. Kids seem to really love it! (don’t forget to bring change clothes for the kids, they tend to get soaked!)
Take a bike ride on the banks of the Garonne – or a cruise if you’re tired 🙂
The promenade on the left bank of the Garonne River is one of Bordeaux’s highlights. Since the massive overhaul project in the early 2000s, the quais (docks) of Bordeaux has become one of Bordeaux’s most popular spots, hosting many events and festivals during the summer.
The 4.5 km promenade is also perfect for a walk or a bicycle tour. The most interesting part of it is between the two bridges of Bordeaux – Pont Saint Pierre in the center and Pont Chaban Delmas in the north of the city, which includes the Miroir d’eau as well as playgrounds for kids and restaurants with a view of the river.
A few companies are offering a biking tour that covers all the parts of town and more, Monsieur Bacchus is one of the best ones. But you can also do a self-guided tour using my bridge-to-bridge route article.
Want to cruise instead of cycling?
if you only have one day in Bordeaux and that’s taking a cruise. There are plenty of nice afternoon cruises on the Garonne, but I believe that to experience the good life of Bordeaux you should take the Cruise with a glass of wine.
Discover the hipster side of Bordeaux
After spending several hours on the classic left side of the river, it’s time to discover the more hipster right bank of the Garonne. Crossing the river to the other side you’ll get to the Bastide neighborhood. If you’re going on the biking tour from the previous item, you’re going to get there on your way.
Here, the main attraction is Darwin, an old military base turned into an urban space with plenty of cool stuff to do. Among these, you’ll find a restaurant, a bakery, a winery, a huge skate park, and many hipster shops.
Darwin is one of the most extraordinary places for street art and includes some amazing works by a lot of talented regional artists on every one of its buildings.
If you visit the Bastide district on the weekend (during the summer) don’t miss one of Bordeaux’s hidden gems, La Guinguette chez Alriq. The Guinguette is a tavern on the banks of the river that hosts plenty of open-air concerts. The performing bands and artists come from all over the world and create an atmosphere of a laid-back world music party.
How to get there?
If you follow my advice about doing the bridge-to-bridge circuit, you’re going to pass through everything I mentioned on your way. Otherwise, you can do a nice walk, crossing Pont de Pierre or taking tram A to the other side. Another fun way to get there is by taking the river shuttle.
Have a drink in one of Bordeaux’s wine bars
Wine bars are springing up like mushrooms in the center of Bordeaux. It’s not a big surprise considering it’s the capital of the biggest wine area in France. A great way to finish your one day in Bordeaux is by tasting wine in one of Bordeaux’s wine bars.
There are plenty of wine bars to choose from in the city center, here are some of my favorite ones: le Bar a Vin for the beautiful decor and professional waiters, Wine More Time for its huge selection, and Les doux secrets d’Hélène for the design and the tasty tapas.
Some bars offer wine-tasting experiences that allow you to better understand the wines of the region. To discover the best places for wine tasting check out my article about wine tasting in Bordeaux.
If you’re interested in wine don’t miss a trip to Saint Emilion where you can visit some of the best wineries in the region. You can take a guided wine tour or plan the trip by yourself using my post about the best wineries to visit in Saint Emilion.
Not less interesting and beautiful is the Medoc wine area where you can see some of the most impressive chateaux in the region. Follow my post about the Medoc wine route when planning your trip there.
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.
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