Unique things to do in Bordeaux France (besides drink wine)

Bordeaux things to do see taste

Bordeaux might be best known for its wine, but there is much more to do and see in France’s biggest wine region. Thanks to the cities efforts to modernize and shake up its old stuffy image, it’s been attracting more and more visitors every year. Here are some unique, fun and optional off-the-beaten-track things locals love to do.

Is Bordeaux, France, worth visiting?

Bordeaux, well known for its wine, is often referred to as “the sleeping beauty” because although beautiful, it doesn’t enjoy as much fame as Paris and some other French cities.

For centuries, Bordeaux has had a reputation for being stuffy, pompous and bourgeois partly due to its long history of producing exceptional wines with high prices.

But bourgeois isn’t what it used to be.

Bordeaux is trying to shake its aristocratic vibe and appeal to the younger generation.

Bordeaux France

After years of being overlooked by travellers, people are beginning to realize that the Bordeaux region offers much more than wine and panoramic rolling hills of vineyards that date back 2000 years to Roman times.

It’s filled with 18th-century Gothic architecture, a new wine museum, quaint narrow cobblestone streets, a revitalized restaurant scene and an abundance of exciting and modern cultural activities. 

It’s also home to over 250,000 residents, making it France’s 9th largest city in terms of population.

Getting around Bordeaux is easy. 

Almost everything in the city centre is accessible on foot, or you can hire a bike.

Another plus for tourists and residents is the awesome public transportation. Buses, trams and even boats all use the same tickets, which cost about €1.50 while a day pass costs about €4.60.

Let’s begin!

Fun outdoor Bordeaux Attractions

1) Bordeaux water mirror (le Miroir d’eau)

Bordeaux France

The reflecting pool in Washington, D.C and at the Taj Mahal might be two of the most famous of their kind, but they aren’t the most fascinating or the largest.

That privilege goes to “le Miroir d’eau” (Water Mirror) in front of the Place de la Bourse on the quay of the Garonne river in Bordeaux.

Bordeaux water mirror (The Miroir d'eau)

Bordeaux water mirror (The Miroir d'eau)

Completed in 2006, this one-of-a-kind reflecting pool, also called “Quay Mirror,” is the world’s largest reflecting pool, covering 3 450 square metres (37,100 sq ft). 

Undisturbed by fountains, it’s made up of granite slabs covered in up to two centimetres of water that you can actually walk over and splash around in. During the hot summer months, that’s exactly what people do to cool off. 

Watch Guignol, a traditional French hand puppet show in a park

Guignol puppets
Guignol is the puppet on the right: ©pinkcandy/123RF.COM

If the weather is nice, head to Parc Bordelais, one of Bordeaux prettiest parks, to watch a Guignol puppet show and a French cultural icon.

If you’re not familiar with Guignol, it’s the name of a (Punch and Judy-Esque) hand puppet character and puppet show.

Laurent Mourget of Lyon created the puppet show in 1808 for both adults and children, with Guignol as the main character. In the beginning, the skits were unscripted satire around current events meant for both children and adults.

Today, the name Guignol has become synonymous with puppets, and the shows are mainly geared toward children. 

About 600 marionette companies operate in France, but many of these puppet theatres perform in parks across France and are run by the descendants of marionettists who passed down their puppet knowledge from generation to generation. 

The Guignol Guérin puppet theatre in Bordeaux is one of them. Founded in Bordeaux in 1853, it’s the oldest puppet theatre still in operation in France and has been family-run for six generations by the Guérin family. 

Watch the video of Guignol taking you on a tour of the park. Very cute. 

Access: Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and French public holidays
4 p.m. and 5 p.m. (weather permitting). On hot days, there is only one show at 5 p.m. No show on scorching hot days. 

Guignol Guerlain website:

Food And Restaurants

Try Cannelés: Bordeaux most famous pastry

Canelé: A sweet French confectionary from Bordeaux

Make sure you visit one of the many pastry shops in Bordeaux and pick up a box Canelé /Can-a-lay/, the pride of Bordeaux.

This small French pastry is flavoured with rum and vanilla and has a thick caramelized crust with a soft custard center.

Cannelé, from the French word “cannelure,” means grooves. It gets its distinctive dome shape with vertical grooves from a canelé baking mould. 

One of the better-known pastry shops that bake “les Canelés” to die for is San Nicolas, located right in the center of town.

Address: 11 Rue Duffour Dubergier lun-dim : 7h-19h Parvis Louis Armand (Gare Saint Jean) 33800 Bordeaux. 

Eat at a Michelin star restaurant.

Michelin star restaurants in Bordeaux

While most people associate Bordeaux with wine, Some of France’s best chefs have relocated to Bordeaux, rivalling the food scene in Paris in Lyon. 

As of 2022, there are 7 Michelin star restaurants to choose from in Bordeaux, making it the city with the fourth most Michelin star restaurants in France after Paris  (108), Lyon (17) and Courcheval (8).

Even Gordon Ramsay has a Michelin star restaurant in Bordeaux called Le Pressoir d’Argent. 

You might be interested in reading: What’s So Special About 3 Star Michelin Restaurants In Paris?

List of Michelin-star restaurants in Bordeaux. :

  1. **Le Pressoir d’Argent – Gordon Ramsay Le Grand Hôtel: 2 place de la Comédie (160 – 250 EUR) • Modern Cuisine
  2. *L’Oiseau Bleu: 127 avenue Thiers, Bordeaux (50 – 110 EUR) • Modern Cuisine
  3. *L’Observatoire du Gabriel: 10 place de la Bourse ( 49 – 160 EUR) • Modern Cuisine, Creative
  4. *Tentazioni: 59 rue du Palais-Gallien (35 – 95 EUR) • Italian
  5. *Soléna: 5 rue Chauffour (39 – 98 EUR) • Modern Cuisine
  6. *Le Pavillon des Boulevards: 120 rue de la Croix-de-Seguey (45 – 140 EUR) • Creative
  7. *Le Quatrième Mur: 2 place de la Comédie (170 EUR) • Creative

French chef celebrity Philippe Etchebest is the owner of Michelin star restaurant “Le Quatrième Mur” in Bordeaux.  He’s the French version of Gordon Ramsey. He appears on the French television show “Cauchemar en cuisine,” the French-language version of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. And since 2015, he has been a member of the jury in Top Chef’s French adaptation.

If Michelin-star restaurants are a bit out of your price range, try these traditional Bordelais restaurants.

Try traditional Bordelais food

Le 1925

Le 1925 French Brasserie in Bordeaux

 ” Le 1925” is a chic and traditional brasserie-style restaurant straight out of the roaring ’20s that puts a modern spin on traditional dishes. 

They have vegan options too. 

Address: 4, place des Quinconces, 33 000 Bordeaux

La Tupina

La Tupina restaurant in Bordeaux France

On one of Bordeaux’s oldest streets is La Tupina, a Cozy little portside restaurant that serves up traditional Bordelais dishes of yesteryear the old-fashioned way.

In a Cauldron, on a spitfire or in an open fire. It’s pretty amazing to see the kitchen. 

If Pigs blood crepe, goose wing and kidneys, or pigeon are not your cup of tea, go with something less renaissance and order the chicken or beef dishes. 

Address:  6 rue Porte-de-la-Monnaie, Bordeaux, 33000, France

Fascinating Cultural Activities

Les Bassins de Lumières

Les Bassins de Lumières in Bordeaux is an absolute must.

It’s the world’s largest digital art centre that presents immersive digital exhibitions devoted to the major artists in history, and it’s housed in a former submarine bunker. 

You can see the artwork of French artists such as Monet, Renoir, and Chagall comes to life all around you accompanied by music as they’re projected on huge old bunker cement walls.

Even the kids will love it. Schools often take students on field trips to see the digital art show because it’s that good. 

It’s difficult to explain, so watch the video. 

Address: Imp. Brown de Colstoun, 33300 Bordeaux, France Phone: +33 5 35 00 00 90

13,50€ per adult: Bassin des Lumières website

La Cité du vin: An interactive wine theme park/museum 

bordeaux France's 9th largest most populous city (photo of CITÉ DU VIN wine museum)

cité due vin: cultural wine theme park and museum in Bordeaux

There is so much to do and see at the Cité du Vin (city of wine), which opened its doors to the public in 2016. It’s a cross between a museum and a cultural wine theme park where wine comes to life through an immersive visual and sensory experience.

There are no thrilling rides, haunted houses or enchanted castles, but there are over 20 themed areas of permanent and temporary exhibitions all about wine. You can also take an introductory wine tasting workshop.

Nothing like it exists in the world. 

There’s also “Le 7,” a restaurant on the 7th floor with panoramic views. On the 8th floor is the belvédère wine bar, which also has a stunning panoramic view of the city and the port. 

Tickets cover entry to the park and tour, a guide, and a complimentary glass of wine.

Address: Esplanade de Pontac, 134 Quai de Bacalan, 33300 Bordeaux

Visit a museum for free (on this day each month)

Big blue door with knocker in Bordeaux France

Every first Sunday of the month, public museums and some monuments in Bordeaux (and all of France) are free. 

Here are the museums that are free every first Sunday of the month in Bordeaux. 

  • CAPC musée d’art contemporain
  • Musée d’Aquitaine. 
  • MADD: Musée des Arts décoratifs et du Design (This used
  • Musée des Beaux-Arts
  • Base sous marine (submarine base)
  • Muséum de Bordeaux – sciences et nature

Shopping in Bordeaux

Visit rue Sainte Catherine street: the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe.

Longest shopping street in Europe: Rue st Catherine in Bordeaux France

If you like shopping, you’ll love the Promenade Sainte Catherine, a 1.2 km long pedestrian, car-free shopping street and the longest one of its kind in Europe. 

This lively street stretches from Place de la Comédie to Place de la Victoire and has over 230 shops and restaurants. You could literally spend a whole day on this street alone.

Be prepared for crowds of up to 60,000 visitors per day during peak season and biannual sales in January and June. 

You might be interested in learning about these other shopping streets:

18 Shopping Streets In France and Paris That Tourists Love

Best London Shopping Streets And Shops That Are Also Tourist Attractions

The Capuchin market (Marché des Capucins) Great on rainy days too.

Capucine Market in BOrdeaux 1912

Save your appetitive and head over to the Capuchin market but be prepared for a sensory overload.

If you’ve been to and loved the Mercado de La Boqueria in Barcelona, you’ll be quite at home at the marché des Capucins.

Marché Capucin is Bordeaux’s largest food market in operation since 1749, possibly longer and is also known as “The belly of Bordeaux” (le ventre de Bordeaux.)

There’s an abundance of colourful stalls, including fruit stands, meat counters, cheese, vegetables, bakers, florists, fishmongers, wine merchants and other French delicacies. But it’s much more than a place to buy groceries. People also go to the Capucin market to eat lunch at the food stalls, eat oysters, have a glass of wine, drink coffee and hang out with friends. 

Address:  Place des Capucins, 33800 Bordeaux, France
Hours:
Closed on Monday.
Tuesday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday from 5.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m.

Antique market and flea market in Saint Michel.

Flea Market in Bordeaux at place Saint Michel;
Flea Market in Bordeaux at place Saint Michel; ©gabe123/123RF.COM

If you love antiques, flea markets and hunting for bargains, Bordeaux has quite a few, but two of the most well-known are located one minute apart.

Les Puces de Saint Michel:

 Every Sunday, sellers gather at the st. Michel flea market in front of the 14th century Saint-Michel basilica. You’ll get a chance to see a side of Bordeaux tourist brochures often overlook. 

Hours: every Sunday. Get there early by 8 am before the good stuff is sold.

Address: 17 Rue des Faures, 33800 Bordeaux, France

Brocante: 

Less than a minute’s walk from the Saint Michel flea market is a brocante (antique marche). It’s located in a hanger at passage Saint Michel.

This is a great place to immerse yourself in French culture and a fun way to spend a few hours perusing.

There are usually 20 permanent antiques & flea market dealers in the 650m² hangar. 

Unusual things to do and see in Bordeaux

See a Movie at Utopia Cinema in a 15th century Church

Utopia cinema theatre in an abandoned church in Bordeaux

Housed in a converted 15th-century church is Utopia Cinema which is also the place where the sardine key was invented. 

In the 19th century, before the church became a movie theatre, it housed the cannery of Charles Teyssonneau. Charles bought the old church in 1863 and opened a vegetable and sardine canning plant, and subsequently invented the Sardine key. In 1990, the Church/sardine plant was converted into its current-day use, a cinema. 

Sardine key was invented in Bordeaux France in the current location of Utopia cinema

The Utopia cinema shows art-house movies from small independent producers and big-budget films in their original language with French subtitles. VOST (Version Original avec Sous-titre).

The Utopia cinema in Bordeaux is part of the Utopia network of independent art-house cinemas in France. There are also Utopia label cinemas in Avignon, Montpellier, Toulouse, Paris, Saint-Ouen L’Aomône and Tournefeuille. 

If you don’t speak French, look for films in your original language.

Address: 5 Pl. Camille Jullian, 33000 Bordeaux, France

Cinema Utopia website:

Darwin Eco-System (L’éco-système de Darwin)

Darwin eco system in Bordeau France

If you’re looking for a fascinating place to visit, stop by the Darwin ecosystem located in the Bastide district on Bordeaux’s right bank. 

This giant utopian experiment is located in former warehouses and a decommissioned military base repurposed into a modern urban hangout. The one-hectare ecosystem and collective space are devoted to responsible economic development, social entrepreneurship and an inclusive eco-friendly community.

Darwin écosystème in Bordeaux

Some of the things you can do and see at the Darwine Ecosysteme include:

  • Skatepark (bowls & ramps in an industrial space with graffiti-covered walls & funky art)
  • BMX track
  • Bike polo field. 
  • Spaces for graffiti artists.
  • An organic grocery store (the largest in France.)
  • A restaurant and cocktail bar called Le Magasin general (The general store).
  • A wine store
  • Co-working spaces
  • Second-hand space (for furniture, clothes, knick-knacks and more)
  • A bike shop and bike repair shop
  • Urban farm
  • Get a chair massage
  • Beehives
  • A café where the coffee is roasted on-site
  • A brewery that makes organic beers
  • Fitness and well-being place that has yoga and pilates classes
  • A bookstore
  • An experimental high school 

Emmaüs-Darwin second hand shop

Darwin is reminiscent of another utopia city called the “Familistère Guise,” which would be a perfect day trip from Paris.  

If you’re interested, you can reserve a tour to visit the Darwin ecosystem here.

Or just head out there and check things out. You could easily spend a whole day at Darwin ecosystem. 

Sports and recreational things to do in Bordeaux

Go indoor surfing in a café

Wave surf Cafe: surf indoors in a cafe in Bordeaux

Wave Surf Cafe is an unusual cafe where you can surf indoors and enjoy a burger, pizza or salad. It’s the first indoor wave surfing place open all year round in France, whether they are beginners or experienced. Sessions last 55 minutes and cost 25 euros per session. You can also buy a 5 or 10 pack session at a discounted price. 

Address: 170 crs du Médoc 33300 Bordeaux (There is also one in Perpigan).
Wave surf café website:

Chartrons skatepark (Colbert), Bordeaux, France

Skate Park Colbert: Chartrons Skate Park in Bordeaux

The Chartrons skatepark is a popular outdoor riverfront skatepark and one of the largest of its kind in France (2,350 square meters). 

Closed for the first quarter of 2022 to get completely renovated to welcome athletes throughout the 2024 Olympics.

The skate park is made with wood and concrete and has 4 main areas for BMX bikes, roller skates, skateboards and scooters. 

  • Ramps/bowls:  must know how to descend. Reserved for BMX bikes and skateboards 
  • Cascade: dedicated to rollerskating and BMX bikes. 
  • A street area
  • Beginners area (for 3 to 10-year-olds.)

The minimum age is 8 years old except for the beginner’s area, reserved for 3 to 10-year-olds. 

Even if you don’t skate, it’s a fun place to watch locals, adults and kids letting loose. 

It’s also FREE!

Adresse: Au niveau du 82, Quai des chartrons – 33000 Bordeaux

Swim with the locals in a public pool at Piscine Judaïque

JUDAÏQUE-JEAN-BOITEUX-Bordeaux-pool JUDAÏQUE-JEAN-BOITEUX-Bordeaux-pool

Nearly every city and town in France has at least one public swimming pool. There are six public pools in Bordeaux, but if I had to choose one, I would recommend “La piscine Judaïque.”

For 5.05 euros, you can swim in one of 2 pools hidden behind a giant concrete portico of a former riding school dating back to the 1800s. 

Address: 164 Rue Judaïque, 33000 Bordeaux, France

www.bordeaux.fr/o213/piscine-judaique 

Outdoor parks with playgrounds for the kids

If you have kids, there are plenty of parks and playgrounds to take them to in Bordeaux. 

For a list of the parks in Bordeaux with playgrounds, see this link. It’s in French but it has the names of the parks with their address.

Bordeaux sightseeing

See the Green Jaguar perched at Victor Hugo Parking lot.

Green jaguar at victor Hugo parking lot looks like its falling to the ground

Visitors to Bordeaux are always perplexed by the green jaguar precariously hanging out of the car park, looking as if it’s about to come crashing to the ground.

Don’t worry; it was put there on purpose. 

In 1993 when the Victor Hugo car park was renovated, Architect Jean François Dosso created this work of art and placed it there. The engine was removed, and the car is regularly serviced and cleaned.

Sorry, you cant visit or take a tour of the car. But you can take pictures for your Instagram account. 

Porte Cailhau (climb to the top)

Porte Cailhau in Bordeaux

Porte Cailhau view

One of the cities main tourist attractions is Porte Cailhau aka Porte du Palais which was once part of the wall that surrounded the city. On one side faces the Bordeaux riverfront, and on the other side faces Place du Palais.

Standing at 35 metres (118 ft) tall, this medieval city gate dates back to 1494 and commemorates France’s victory in the battle of Fornovo in Italy. 

Grosses Cloches: The big bell (the symbol of Bordeaux)

Grosse Cloche: Big Bell in Bordeaux France

La Grosse Cloche (big bell) is a large belfry built in the middle ages that once also served as a prison for anyone who didn’t respect the curfew or misbehaved.

Like Porte Caihau, it’s a well-known and loved landmark in Bordeaux that was also part of the wall surrounding the city. It’s also the symbol of the city and still appears on the coat of arms of Bordeaux.

The monument is topped by a 7-tonne bell which you can hear ring every first Sunday of the month, at noon. The bell also rings at 11 a.m. six times a year during certain celebrations. They are: 

  1. January 1: New Years
  2. May 1: May day and labour day
  3. May 8: VE Day
  4. July 14: France national day
  5. August 28: To celebrate the Liberation of Bordeaux in 1944
  6. November 11: All Saints day
Adress: Porte Saint Éloi – 53 Rue Saint James 
6€ / person for a 30 minute guided tour

La tour Pey Berland and Cathédrale Saint-André

Cathédrale Saint André and the bell Tour Pey Berland Bordeaux France

Another place to get a panoramic view of the city is the beautiful Tour Pey Berland (Pey Berland tower), next to the Saint-André Cathedral. It was commissioned by Archbishop Pey Berland as a free-standing tower and took 20 years to complete (1440-1500). 

The bell weighs 11 tonnes and is the fourth largest in France. You better be in decent shape to walk up the 230 steps to the top of the tower (50 metres), but the view makes it worth it. 

To get to the top, you’ll need be willing to climb 230 

Pour profiter d’une vue panoramique sur la ville, rendez-vous au sommet de la jolie Tour Pey Berland, située juste à côté de la cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux qui mérite également le coup d’oeil ! Pour vous rendre jusqu’en-haut, il faudra gravir les 231 marches.

Accèss : 6€ per person or free with a Bordeaux Métropole City Pass.d

RELAX IN LUXURY!

Relax at the Guerlain SPA at the Hotel InterContinental de Bordeaux

Guerlain SPA InterContinental Grand Hotel de Bordeaux

After a long day of sightseeing, relax at the luxurious Guerlain SPA at the 5-star Hotel InterContinental de Bordeaux designed by architect Victor Louis in 1789. This is the same architect who created the Grand Theatre across the street.

There are eight treatment rooms dedicated to Guerlain treatments and massages, a Guerlain boutique, a heated relaxation pool, a sauna, a hammam, a tea room and a fitness area.

Here’s a list of prices. Here’s a list of prices at the SPA.

Address: Place de la Comédie, 33000 Bordeaux

Don’t forget to have some wine

Last but not least, it would be a shame if you didn’t enjoy some Bordeaux wine.

Pop into one of the many wine shops (les caves à vins). Go to a wine bar (bar à vin) or sit at a restaurant terrace during l’heure de l’apero between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. to enjoy a glass or two. 

Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

Annie André

About the author 

I’m A Bilingual North American With Thai And French Canadian Roots Who's Been Living In The South Of France For Over 10 Years. I Love Writing Weird, Wonderful, Interesting, Forgotten, And Fascinating Articles For Intellectually Curious People Amazed By France, French Culture, And World Travel.

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