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.
- What not to miss while cycling in Bordeaux
- The “rive gauche” – the 18th-century charm of Bordeaux
- The Bacalan neighborhood – the cool kid on the block
- The “rive droite” – the hipster hub
- Where to rent bikes in Bordeaux
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.
You can read more about the acknowledgment of the slave trade by Bordeaux in this very interesting article by Invisible Bordeaux.
Stop 2 – CAPC
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.