3 days in Bordeaux: the city of wine, cheese, and canelé

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It is definitely worth spending 3 days in Bordeaux, a city of wine, cheese, and the iconic canelé. You can feed your sweet tooth and enjoy the youthful vibe of the 9th biggest city in France. 

Is Bordeaux worth visiting?

Bordeaux has been a part of our travel wishlist for a long time. We always wanted to explore this famous wine hub, because we both love the cheese-wine combo and we wanted to be in a place, where this is part of the day-to-day. Even if you’re not a fan of wine, or don’t like to drink in general it is still a great place to visit and be absorbed by the city’s passion for this delicious alcoholic juice. 

Still not convinced? 

Of course, Bordeaux is not only about wine, the city has other charms that it can offer. Here are a few more reasons why this is a good choice to spend a long weekend:

  1. It has good weather all year round. We went in April and the days were very sunny and warm.
  2. It is a very walkable city, full of history, of buildings made of limestone that give you a feeling of traveling in time and that are beautiful to look at.
  3. Bordeaux offers a city vibe, but at the same time is surrounded by vineyards and countryside-type landscapes. 
  4. It is a budget-friendly place with the help of a few tips and tricks: Transportation is cheap, you can find affordable accommodation not far from the center, and there’s a wide variety of places to try food from. If you plan it in advance you can keep it well within €35/day per person.
  5. Easy to approach from anywhere in Europe: the way to get around and travel in the region is easy, cheap, and well connected
  6. Close to stunning spots: enjoy some of the best wines in the neighboring town of St-Émilion or one of the best sunsets in Arcachon bay on a day trip.

Where is Bordeaux and how can you get there?

Bordeaux is a port city located on the river Garonne, close to the Atlantic coast, about 500km southwest of Paris. You can reach this city in a 3-hour flight from Dublin, Ireland. 

Bordeaux’s airport is the largest in the region and is located 12km from the city center. The bus is the cheapest way (€1.70 per ticket, when we went) to get to the center but it is also the most extended (1 hour). 

Interesting facts about Bordeaux

How to spend 3 days in Bordeaux: the city of wine, cheese, and canelé
  • City of Art and History – considered the world capital of wine, Bordeaux is also classified as a “City of Art and History” and is regarded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its many historic monuments, some dating back to the Roman period. 
  • Bordeaux’s name originates from the Basque word “Bordèu”, which is derived from the French “au bord de l’eau”, which means at the water’s edge, alluding to the two rivers Garonne and Dordogne. These two rivers have played a key role in the success of the region and its wine production.
  • Bordeaux holds the title of the largest wine-producing region in France and to give you an idea the region produced the equivalent of 587 million bottles of wine in some years. 
  • Bordeaux’s existence goes back at least 2000 years, its winemaking dates back to 43 AD, during the Roman occupation of Gaul, when the Romans introduced the culture of wine and established vineyards. 
  • The city played a pivotal role during the two World Wars. During the first World War, the French government relocated temporarily to Bordeaux; During the second one, it was a hub for the French Resistance movement against the Germans, even though they occupied it until 1944. 
  • Over 86% of Bordeaux wines are red, but there was a time when the highest percentage of wines produced in the region was actually white

Are Bordeaulais friendly? Do they speak English?

French people are not known to be open when it comes to speaking English. What we’ve noticed when visiting different cities in France, is that the level of English and people’s willingness to speak it differs from place to place. Of course, if you speak just a little bit of French, your travel experience will be much better. 

In Bordeaux, we found people to be super friendly, comfortable with English, and open to foreigners. It was probably one of the French cities where we had the best experience as tourists who speak limited French. It was easy to communicate and we always got good advice on what to eat and drink. 

When to go to Bordeaux?

Bordeaux has a temperate climate, with mild winters and hot summers. We can recommend going there in April. The days were warm and sunny and we were wearing t-shirts all day long. There are also fewer tourists, making walking easier in a city that gathers almost 250 000 inhabitants and many more tourists throughout the year. 

When to visit the wineries in Bordeaux?

Depending on when you go to Bordeaux in the year, you’ll have a different experience:

  • Between Mid-August to October: when harvesting is done, followed by the wine production in the cellars. It might even be hard to find winemakers that have time to give you a tour.
  • Between November and March: the cold weather sets in, and wines are quietly maturing in the barrels or tanks. This is the low season and winemakers will be freer to discuss all those juicy winemaking process details.
  • Between April and May: things are starting to pick up on the side of the vineyards. Buds are coming out and the flowers start blooming. 
  • Between June and mid-August: this is when the rhythm is high in the vineyard and outside. Winemakers take the opportunity to organize events during the summer and take advantage of the longer and hotter days. You can feast your eyes with full bloom and lush vineyards. The weather is hot, and booking tours should be done early. 

Bordeaux Wine tasting and Vineyard experience

Bordeaux can offer some of the most exquisite wine experience(s) in the many wineries that surround the French city and are heavily located in the medieval town of St Émilion. You don’t need to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy any of these. 

You do need to do your research if you don’t want to pay about €70 or more for a half-day wine experience bought online. We found most individual wineries would charge between €14-€35 for 1-2 hours depending on which one you choose and also what is included in each of these, e.g. only wine tasting or also a tour of the vineyard. 

If you really want to make the best out of your Wine experience you need to consider:
  1. Where the winery is located? How far and how easy is it to get there without a car? 
  2. What is included in the experience? Can it be done in English?
  3. Do your online search: check terms like winery experience, vineyard tours, etc.
  4. Price is not everything: maybe you pay more, but if it includes a full tour of the vineyard, wine, and cheese for example, why not do it? Do a proper comparison between the experiences available. 
  5. Reserve in advance: depending on the time of year you go, you should try and reserve in advance, especially during the high season.

Where to stay in Bordeaux?

To explore Bordeaux at a comfortable pace and without worrying about taking transportation to go around, we recommend you stay close to the city center. 

We booked a room for 3 nights in a hotel called Eklo Bordeaux Centre Bastide via Booking.com. The hotel was a 25min walk from the center across the river via the famous Pierre bridge or Pont Pierre. Although it sounds a bit far, we are actually glad we stayed there, because we were able to have a nice view of the city from the other side of the river during the day, but also at night. The hotel room was clean and comfortable, but it was a bit too small and it was missing basic toiletries. The staff was friendly, and the building itself was modern with elements of wood.

How many nights should you stay in Bordeaux? 

We recommend staying a minimum of 4 or 5 nights in Bordeaux. We stayed 3 nights, and we would have liked to stay one or two more at least. The city itself is small and can be seen in 2 days. However, you should really take advantage to visit the surrounding sights like St-Émilion for the vineyards and Arcachon for the Atlantic coast and oysters.

How expensive is it to visit Bordeaux?

Overall daily budget: We spent an average of €40 per person per day, which included one breakfast, one early dinner, snacks, drinks, and activities during the day.

Accommodation: Bordeaux is not the cheapest place, but it is reasonably priced when compared to other mid-size cities in Europe. We paid €30 per night per person for a double room at a hotel without breakfast. This was fairly cheap, compared to the prices we checked for hotels and other bed & breakfast-type places in the city.

Transport: Transportation in Bordeaux is cheap if you don’t consider taxis. The city is very well connected by trams, buses, and trains. 

  • From Airport to the city center: we took Bus 1 which comes more or less every 10 mins. At the airport, there are machines where you can buy tickets with a card, these are located outside when you exit the arrivals.
  • For the local bus and tram ticket, the standard rate in April 2022 was € 1.70. You can buy it in machines or directly on the bus. One ticket can be used to change several times within a period of fewer than 2 hours. After that, you have to buy a new ticket. The best way to pay is to have the correct change to pay the bus driver. They usually don’t have change and also not all buses accept debit/credit cards as a form of payment. 
Food & Drinks

We found food prices in Bordeaux to be slightly cheaper than in Dublin. A meal for two people in a mid-range restaurant can cost up to €40. The best was the wine, which was half-price (€2.5-4€ per glass) and much better quality than in Dublin (€7-8 per glass). There are quite a few places to try food from, for different budgets.   

When in France, regardless of the city you’re in, always consider the eating times. Usually, restaurants open at around 7 pm for dinner and close at around 10-11 pm. 

What to do and see in Bordeaux in 3 days?

How to spend 3 days in Bordeaux: the city of wine, cheese, and canelé

There’s plenty to see and do during a 3-day stay in Bordeaux. Here’s a quick overview of what you can do during your 3 day-visit to Bordeaux:

  • Take a Free walking tour – 3-hour duration, usually in the morning and afternoon. You can get really good tips for all budgets, on where to try the best food, and spots to have snacks and drinks.
  • Walk Rue Saint Catherine – measuring 1.2km,  this is the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe. It has more than 250 stores, cafés, and restaurants.
  • Cool off your feet at the Miroir d’Eau during the day, or at night and witness the fluorescent colors. Continue alongside the Garonne river and make a loop crossing into the richer neighborhoods of the city. In the same direction, walk alongside Quais de Bordeaux, and appreciate the architectural edginess of the Chartrons neighborhood.
  • Explore the alternative Darwin Ecosystem: located on the other side of the river, it is a place that inspires creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit through its co-working space and artistic vibe. There’s a café/bistro that offers local food, a bit on the pricey side though. 
  • Enjoy the sunset in the sea city of Arcachon. 

Wine experiences

  • Visit the City of Wine or Cité du Vin: located 20 mins by tram from the city center, it is a cultural center or museum dedicated to the “heritage of wine”. It is an incredibly modern building that has plenty of content to feed your senses. Although we didn’t go this time, we will definitely visit it next time we are in Bordeaux. 
  • Wine Tasting & Vineyard tours: La Vinotèque is a wine shop in Bordeaux that not only sells wine but also has free tasting (in English) from Mon-Sat in December and Saturdays throughout the year. You can also visit the many vineyards located throughout the city and region.
  • Visit St. Émilion on a day trip from Bordeaux – it is located 1 hour by bus and you can book a wine tour. We left at 11 am and had enough time to do a 2-hour tour and wine tasting, as well as explore this small medieval town at a comfortable pace.

Restaurant closing times in France

In France, most restaurants and food places will usually open at around 7 pm for dinner and close after 10 pm. This is what happened to us in Bordeaux and also we noticed in other French cities, the closing times were very similar. Of course, you can always find the fast food place around the corner, but in case you were thinking of eating something French in a nice Bistro, forget about it. 

Where to eat in Bordeaux?

Compared to other French cities, we didn’t find Bordeaux to have as many options as other cities like Toulouse and Nice. However, for the time we were there the places we tried food in were quite good. We can recommend 4 places to eat and drink.

  • La Talenquère – this was a great spot to enjoy some nice tapas and drink cheap but good wine. The atmosphere was vibrant and full of people and the staff was very friendly. They spoke English and recommended to us what to eat and drink. The place is located in a historic square right in the center of town. Arrive early enough though, otherwise, you might not find a free table.
  • Le Michel’s – we enjoyed a very nice duck there. The food they serve is typically French and the price for the main course cost us €12 per person. The atmosphere was casual and we sat on the patio outside, where we enjoyed people passing on the street and hearing people speaking with each other.
  • Café Kokomo – it is a great place for Brunch. The vibe was very hipster in this place and we really loved it. We paid between €10- €12 for the main course and the cappuccinos were €4. Although not cheap, the quality of the food was great, the portions were sufficient to feed us all day until dinner time. The café was in a good spot and the staff spoke English quite well and were very friendly.
  • Cassonade – We had one of the best canelés (iconic dessert from Bordeaux) in this café, next to the 18th Century Grosse Cloche. They had different types and sizes of Canelés that were perfect with a nice cappuccino or espresso.

Canelé – Bordeaux’s iconic dessert

Dated between the 15th-18th centuries, this simple and custardy sweet originated in various convents around the region of Bordeaux. It’s the most iconic and ancient dessert in Bordeaux and can be found everywhere in the city. It consists of a mix of vanilla, rum, egg, butter, sugar, and flour. 

The way to distinguish between a good and a real canelé is the texture. The real one is not too cakey and more like a custard. You can eat ones with chocolate, or simple ones. Our advice is to try them all, you can buy boxes to take with you as well.

We hope you got inspired and got some useful tips to start planning your trip to Bordeaux.  We’ll be publishing an article about our day trip to St-Émilion so stay tuned!

If you’re planning other long weekend travels and need inspiration, check out our French city tours, Nice and Toulouse