Travel

48 Hours in Bordeaux

by Lily Heise

Bordeaux is famous for the region’s prized wines, however, the city itself has a lot to offer. Less than 2.5 hours by high speed train from Paris, it’s never been easier to get away for a weekend break to the elegant capital of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. What to do if you have two days in the city? Wander its picturesque streets, sample delicious bordelaise cuisine and discovering local hangouts. This itinerary is your guide for what to do and where to go when you have 48 hours to spend in Bordeaux.

Left: A view of a sunny street in historic Bordeaux with bicycles on the sidewalks and people in the distance. Right: A view of a structure in Bordeaux's historic center with light shining through the archway and people walk through.
Top: Juan Di Nella
Above: Zdenek Klein / Zakaria El Bazi

Day 1

Spend your first day exploring Bordeaux’s historic center. Wander the narrow streets of the Saint-Michel district, popular with locals. The area’s namesake, the gothic Saint-Michel church, dominates the Place Meynard where you’ll find a weekly market on Saturday mornings. After browsing its colorful stands, move towards la Grosse Cloche, once a gate of Bordeaux’s medieval walls. It leads to la rue Saint James, where you can find cool boutiques, grab a cup of coffee at Books and Coffee, made with beans roasted in-house, or stop in at Cassonade for a canelé, Bordeaux’s iconic pastry.

Left: A pair of tongs displays a canele, Bordeaux's iconic pastry with dozens more lined up in the background. Right: Caneles are lined up behind a small green card with gold letters that reads "Cassonade", the name of the bakery in Bordeaux.
Cassonade

Rue Saint James ends at the pretty Place Fernand Lafargue, bordered by cafés, shops and Glacier Fernand, an artisanal ice-cream shop. Afterwards, make your way to la Porte Cailhau, another medieval gate whose whimsical tower boasts gorgeous views over the city. If you’re ready for lunch, nearby is Les Recoltants, an eco-responsible cantine using ingredients from their farm or local suppliers no further than 20 kilometers away.

Left: Light wooden picnic tables are seen inside Les Recoltants, a cantine in Bordeaux. Right: A plate of cheese, bread, jam, sausage, and a small pumpkin are displayed in Les Recoltants' kitchen.
Les Recoltants

In the afternoon track down some of Bordeaux’s grander sites. You’ll inevitably come across Rue Sainte-Catherine, Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street. Le Grand Théâtre, the city’s neoclassical opera house is a must-see. Also impressive is la Place des Quinconces, a regal square home to the majestic Monument aux Girondins. You can either end your stroll around the refined Jardin Public park or at the Place de la Bourse and its Miroir d’Eau, the world’s largest reflecting pool, an unmissable photo op in Bordeaux.

Left: A light wooden oval-shaped table is set with six places, a cactus as the centerpiece and a few other succulents in the background on a shelf in Modojo Restaurant in Bordeaux. Right: An appetizer from Modojo, complete with a wine glass nearby.
Modojo

There are many options for your Saturday night in Bordeaux. Sample Bordeaux wines and cuisine at Au Bon JaJa, a wine bar serving unique local wines including natural and organic labels. Le Point Rouge has inventive wine cocktails and dishes inspired by wine. For Bordeaux’s best bistronomique cuisine try La Gigi, known for its gastronomic street food and creative cocktails. Symbiose, is a speakeasy-style venue also with its own garden. To try modern Bordeaux cuisine, book a table at Modjo, which has a chic minimalist decor and vegetarian options. End your night with inventive cocktails and dancing at CanCan, a hidden bar found behind a telephone booth.

Left: Two wooden chairs at a small wooden table with a candle on it are just next to the light brick wall in CanCan. Right: A dark shot of the bar in CanCan, complete with liqour, wine, and glasses.
CanCan

Day 2

Get your second day in Bordeaux off to a tasty start at one of the city’s top modern brunch spots, such as Contrast or Sauvages. Fueled up, make your way to the charming Chartrons district. Akin to Paris’s Marais, Chartrons’s ancient streets are lined with local designers, art galleries and antique shops. If you didn’t already have brunch, you can grab a meal at the area’s Place du Marché des Chartrons, packed with cafés including La Vie en Rose, a tea salon serving brunch, great quiches and exquisite cakes.

Alternatively, a short walk will take you to the Marché du Quais, a vibrant outdoor market along the Garonne River. Here you can pick up some regional food products for a picnic or lunch on fresh oysters from the nearby Bay of Arcachon. You can enjoy your picnic along the water’s edge, preferably across the river in the relaxed Parc aux Angéliques, a nice place to also stroll and take in beautiful views. This side of the river is more local and is home to Darwin, an eco-district located within a former military barracks. Here you can hang out with the hip bordelais over a craft beer or café crème with oat milk at their social tables. Don’t leave without browsing its sustainable shops and taking a look at its street art section.

Left: A shot of a building in Bordeaux's historic district on a cloudy day, the building and the sky's reflection shown in the foreground. Right: a view directly in front of Bordeaux cathedral on a pedestrian street.
Cab / Mathias Reding

Wine lovers might want to spend the afternoon at La Cité du Vin, a wine museum and education center found within a sleek modern building not far from the Chartrons neighborhood. It’s a wonderful place to immerse oneself in the region’s wine heritage without even having to leave the city!

Where to Stay

Bordeaux has a wide range of great accommodation, from hip budget hotels to chic retreats. The city’s outpost of Mamma Shelter has rooms to suit all budgets as well as a fabulous rooftop bar. If you’re looking for a little pampering, consider Hotel de Sèze, a central four-star boutique hotel with a spa. For stylish design, you can’t go wrong with Yndō, a five-star hotel within a 19th-century mansion. Or if you’re seeking home away from home, try L’Hotel Particulier, a cozy former private mansion with a charming courtyard and apartment rooms named after Bordeaux wine appellations.

Addresses

Left: A morning view of a street in Bordeaux, coffee shop Books and Coffee to the left with chairs out front and a man walking past it. Right: A dark wooden table with an arrangement for two, gold and silver themed place settings and centerpiece.
Books and Coffee / Lauriane Lartigot for Symbiose

Books and Coffee,  26 rue Saint-James, 33000 Bordeaux

Cassonade, 53 rue Saint-James, 33000 Bordeaux

Glacier Fernand, 15 pl. Fernand Lafargue, 33000 Bordeaux

Les Récoltants, 18 rue Sainte Colombe 33000 Bordeaux

La Gigi,  32 rue des Allamandiers, 33800 Bordeaux

Symbiose, 4 quai des Chartrons, 33000 Bordeaux

Modjo, 5 rue des Herbes, 33000 Bordeaux

CanCan, 7 rue du Cerf Volant, 33000 Bordeaux

Contrast, 16 cr du Chapeau-Rouge, 33000 Bordeaux

Sauvages, 49 cr de la Martinique, 33000 Bordeaux

La Vie en Rose 8 rue Sicard, Pl. du Marché Chartrons, 33000 Bordeaux

Darwin, 87 quai des Queyries, 33100 Bordeaux

La Cité du Vin, 134 quai de Bacalan, 33300 Bordeaux

A shot of a bridge in Bordeaux lit nicely with a dark blue sky above and the lights reflecting off of the dark water with trees in the foreground.
Pierre Blaché

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Written By

Lily Heise

Lily Heise has been living in Paris for more than 10 years. When she's not getting into romantic mischief, she writes on dating, travel, and culture. Her writing has been featured in Frommer’s Guides, the Huffington Post, Conde Nast Traveler, City Secrets, DK Eyewitness Guides, and other local and international publications. She is the author of Je T'Aime, Me Neither, and Je T'Aime... Maybe? lively novelized memoirs on her romantic misadventures, and continues to share dating tips, stories and travel features on her blog www.jetaimemeneither.com. View Lily Heise's Website

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