Bordeaux 2-Day Travel Guide – What to See and Do on a Weekend Getaway

  • 12.12.2023 14:53
  • Bruno Arcos

Have a look at our Bordeaux 2-day travel guide and discover the best the city has to offer, including hotels, restaurants, tips to avoid tourist scams and even a detailed list with everything you must see and do in Bordeaux in 3 days.

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Regarded as one of the main hubs of the French wine region, Bordeaux stands out as a city of excellent wine, delicious cuisine and rich cultural offerings, making it the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. Plus, getting there couldn’t be any easier (or cheap)!

With its UNESCO-recognized historic center, famed for its ancient churches, exquisite palaces and Roman ruins, Bordeaux is truly a photographer’s delight. Plus, the city was originally one of the main stops along the Way of Saint James, and many pilgrims still visit it on their long walk to the iconic Spanish Cathedral.

That being said, we invite you to have a look at our Bordeaux 2-day travel guide and discover the best the city has to offer, including hotels, restaurants, tips to avoid tourist scams and even a detailed list with everything you must see and do in Bordeaux in 2 days.

Bordeaux 2-Day Travel Guide

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How to get to Bordeaux – Flights from the UK

Officially one of the 10 biggest cities in France, Bordeaux is served by the Bordeaux–Mérignac International Airport.

As such, if you’re traveling from the UK, it is possible to fly directly to Bordeaux from London-Gatwick (British Airways and Easyjet), London-Luton (Easyjet), London-Stansted (Ryanair), Belfast (Easyjet), Bristol (Easyjet), Glasgow (Easyjet), Manchester (Easyjet and Ryanair), Birmingham (Ryanair) and Edinburgh (Ryanair).

How many days do I need to visit Bordeaux?

Given the geographic proximity, the city’s dimensions and the abundance of affordable flights from our country, Bordeaux definitely stands out as a fantastic destination for a weekend getaway.

As such, two days should be plenty for you to check out the city’s highlights. Nevertheless, if you’ve got an extra day to spare, you might want to check out some of the best day trips from Bordeaux.

Bordeaux 2-day travel guide – Best time to visit the city

Located in the mild and sunny southwest of France, close to the border with neighboring Spain, Spring, Summer and Fall are definitely the most sought-after months when it comes to booking a trip to Bordeaux, with the period between May and September standing out as the most researched. However, keep in mind accommodation prices will be through the roof in the peak of Summer!

On the other hand, you may choose to visit during shoulder-season, when temperatures tend to be more pleasant, the streets less crowded and the prices smaller.

Finally, if you’d like to experience the grape harvesting process at one of the many vineyards around Bordeaux, then you might want to plan your visit for September/October.

Documents needed for your trip to Bordeaux

Since France is part of the EU, British citizens do not need a visa to visit. You’ll just need your passport, which must have been issued within the last 10 years and remain valid for at least 6 months from the date of your trip.

However, keep in mind that starting in 2024, British passengers will need to apply for ETIAS in order to enter any EU country.

Bordeaux 2-day travel guide – Withdrawals, banking fees and travel budget

With the Euro (€) as France’s official currency, any withdrawal using a UK bank card might incur in the payment of several different fees. Besides the percentual fee referring to the currency conversion, some UK banks may also charge a flat commission for withdrawals made outside the UK. In some instances, you may well end up paying 5%-6% of your original withdrawal in banking fees.

On the other hand, exchanging money before your trip is not a viable solution either. Besides not being any cheaper, it’s also not safe or wise to carry so much money on you during your trip. As such, we recommend using the services of online banking fintech companies such as Revolut, N26 or Monzo.

Although each have their own limitations and fees, they allow you to withdraw a certain amount in foreign currency without any fees involved. And even after that threshold is reached, costs are much smaller when compared to traditional banks. Sign up for Revolut for free >> to get 3 months of Premium.

Bordeaux 2-day travel guide – Common scams and frauds

Unsurprisingly, Bordeaux is an extremely safe destination, consistently ranking among the safest cities in France (a destination that welcomes millions of tourists every year). Besides, since Bordeaux hasn’t experienced overtourism yet, you don’t really have to worry about pickpockets and/or travel scams like you would in several other destinations across the country.

However, and much like you would do in any other big city, using your common-sense is key. That means no taxis whose drivers refuse to start the meter, no accepting help from strangers when you’re using an ATM or trying to buy metro tickets and always keeping an eye out for your stuff when you’re walking through busy areas. To sum up: don’t do anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in any other city!

Where to sleep in Bordeaux – Hotels and Accommodation

If you’re looking out for a place to stay on our Bordeaux 2-day travel guide then we got your covered!

Considering this is one of the biggest cities in France, Bordeaux isn’t exactly budget-friendly. Although flights are usually dirt-cheap, food and accommodation can make a dent in your wallet if you’re not careful. Still, if you look hard enough, there are always a few good options suited to every budget.

That being said, here are a few hotel options which have passed our value-for-money test:

Bordeaux 2-Day Travel Guide – Transportation between the airport and the city centre

Once you land in Bordeaux, the best way to reach the city center is to rely on the local tram system. The stop is located right outside the airport (just follow the signs) and is served by line A, which will take you to the downtown area in just 40 minutes. You can get out at either Hôtel de Ville, Sainte Catherine, Place du Palais or Porte de Bourgogne. The tram runs every day, from 05h00 to midnight. Tickets cost €1,80 and can be bought from the stop’s automatic machines or through the TBM app.

Alternatively, you can also use the 30’Direct, a shuttle service that transports passengers between the airport’s Hall B and the Saint-Jean Railway Station in about 30 minutes. This service is available every day between 07h00 and 20h00, with a new shuttle bus leaving every 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the time of the day. Tickets cost €8,00 and can be bought online with a special 10% discount.

Bordeaux 2-Day Travel Guide – Public transportation

Despite being served by a highly efficient and diverse network of buses, trams and even ferries, the truth is that Bordeaux city center is so compact that you’ll barely need to use any public transportation. Aside from the commute between the airport and the city, and unless you’re staying in the outskirts, your legs will be more than enough to cover the distances.

Be that as it may, we’ve decided to round up some info on the local tram system, just in case it comes in handy!

Trams in Bordeaux – Maps, Tickets and Fares

Although Bordeaux isn’t served by any metro/subway, the local tram system is a network of over 130 stations spread across 4 distinct lines, serving as an essential mode of transportation for residents commuting between their homes and their places of work and study. Plus, it covers the entire downtown area! To find out which tram to hop on (and where) for a specific route, you can check out the planning tool on the TBM website (the public transport management in Bordeaux), or you can simply use Google Maps since the schedules are integrated in the platform.

The tram operates every day from 04h30 to midnight.

As for tickets, each individual ride will set you back 1,80€, allowing you to switch between lines and even different modes of transportation within 60 minutes of validating your ticket. Tickets can be bought from the automatic machines located inside each station/stop, or directly through the TBM app, with your smartphone serving as your ticket.

That being said, if you plan on using the tram frequently, it’s worth looking into the daily and multi-day options available:

  • 24-hour Pass: 5,00€
  • 7-Day Pass: 14,20€

Bordeaux CityPass – Transportation and tourist attractions

On the other hand, for a more complete alternative, you can consider getting the Bordeaux CityPass, a card that grants unlimited access to public transportation, plus free admission at various museums and tourist attractions, including the Cité du Vin, the Pey Berland Tower or Les Bassins des Lumières. Plus, you can also take a city tour of your choosing!

The card is currently available in three different versions:

  • 24 hours: €34,00
  • 48 hours: €44,00
  • 72 hours: €50,00

Bordeaux 2-day Travel Guide – Free walking tours

While in Bordeaux, you have the option to explore the Old Town with a free walking tour. These tours, led by local guides or tour companies, offer guided visits to the historic center, sharing intriguing stories about each place and providing valuable cultural context. Even though these tours are technically free, it’s customary to show appreciation for the guide’s efforts by leaving a tip at the end. In Bordeaux, a reasonable minimum tip would be around 7,00€.

That being said, here are a few companies that run free walking tours in Bordeaux:

Bordeaux 2-day Travel Guide – Hidden Treasures

As mentioned earlier, and despite being a great tourist destination on its own, this French city is far from the sheer size or magnitude of other more popular European stops. That being said, 2 days in Bordeaux will be enough for you to explore the city’s main tourist attractions and highlights.

Be that as it may, and because we believe a good traveler must always be able to explore beyond the obvious, we wanted to add a few more obscure places to your list of things to see and do in Bordeaux in 2 days:

Palais Galien: Although the city’s most visible architectural legacy is linked to its medieval era and the subsequent 18th-century renovations, Bordeaux also boasts a history of ancient Roman occupation. While very little remains of that period, these ruins, pertaining to an 1800-year-old amphitheater/arena, are probably the most famous remnant.

Darwin Eco-système: Located on the east bank of the Garonne River, overlooking the picturesque Chartrons quarter on the other side, this innovation hub is one of the trendiest places in Bordeaux, with plenty of co-working spaces, urban art stations, impromptu street markets and even a skateboarding school. All within the walls of abandoned military barracks.

Les Halles Bacalan: Inaugurated in 2017 and boasting stands from some of the city’s most beloved eateries and chains – but also from local farmers and organic suppliers – the Les Halles Bacalan is the cool version of the often-phony (and soulless) Time Out Markets currently popping up all over Europe.

Saint Michel Quarter: Often overshadowed by the Bordeaux contained inside the former city wall limits, Saint Michel is one of the most charming and authentic quarters in the city center, where you can find quirky flea markets and classic commercial arcades.«

Bordeaux 2-Day Travel Guide – What to See and Do in 48 Hours

Looking for a weekend getaway? In just 48 hours, you can get a taste of the very best of Bordeaux, including its gorgeous historic center, the scenic riverbanks of the Garonne and the countless churches that were (and still are) part of the original Camino de Santiago. Along the way, don’t forget to explore Bordeaux’s deep link to the business and culture of wine-making.

Without further ado, here’s what to see and do in Bordeaux in 2 days:

Bordeaux 2-Day Travel Guide: Day 1 – The Historic Center

For your first day exploring Bordeaux, you’ll dive straight into its historic center. Originally surrounded by medieval walls, this district went through deep renovations in the 18th century, adopting the classic and imperial look we can see today. Even though the wall was dismantled, local authorities chose to keep some of the original gates, like the Grosse Cloche, the most famous of the remaining city gates, due to its old clock and distinct belltower. However, before stepping into the medieval center, we recommend taking a quick detour to the Saint Michel Quarter. Often overshadowed by the Bordeaux contained inside the former city wall limits, Saint Michel is one of the most charming and authentic quarters in the city center, where you can find quirky flea markets and classic commercial arcades. Plus, this quarter is also home to the extraordinary Basilica of Saint-Michel.

Afterwards, it’s finally time to wander into downtown Bordeaux, walking through Porte Cailhau – another of the original city gates – and heading straight to the Cathedral of Saint-André. Regarded as the most important religious building in the city, and one of the most beautiful in all of France, this cathedral was a crucial stop on the original version of the Way of Saint James, welcoming pilgrims hailing from other parts of France and even from the UK. Standing right next to the cathedral, you can also climb its official belfry – the Pey Berland Tower (€6,00) – and enjoy some of the best views over the historic core of Bordeaux. Standing from across the square, don’t miss out on the Hôtel de Ville, the fabulous building that serves as Town Hall, and take a walk through the serene Jardins de la Mairie nearby. Back in the hustle and bustle of the old town, going on a stroll through Rue Sainte-Catherine is an absolute must. Considered the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe, this thoroughfare is filled with old shops, cafes and more of the classical architecture Bordeaux is so famed for. Plus, it goes right through the majestic Grand-Theatre (€10,00 for a guided tour), before ending at the expansive Esplanade des Quinconces, an open square where you can usually find all kinds of events going on, such as street markets, concerts and even protests.

However, before you reach the end of Rue Sainte-Catherine, make a quick detour towards the river and visit Bordeaux’s most iconic spot: the Place de la Bourse! If you’ve done any kind of online research on this city, chances are you’ve come across dozens of photos of this particular place – a riverside square adorned with a reflecting pool and a complex of city palaces and monumental fountains. A small cluster of all the little things that make Bordeaux such a great destination for a weekend-getaway! Finally, you’ll wrap up your day at Palais Galien. Although the city’s most visible architectural legacy is linked to its medieval era and the subsequent 18th-century renovations, Bordeaux also boasts a history of ancient Roman occupation. While very little remains of that period, these ruins, pertaining to an 1800-year-old amphitheater/arena, are probably the most famous remnant.

First day wrap-up:

  • Grosse Cloche
  • Saint Michel Quarter
  • Basilica of Saint-Michel
  • Porte Cailhau
  • Cathedral of Saint-André
  • Pey Berland Tower
  • Hôtel de Ville
  • Jardins de la Mairie
  • Rue Sainte-Catherine
  • Place de la Bourse
  • Grand-Théâtre
  • Esplanade des Quinconces
  • Palais Galien

Where to eat in Bordeaux – Cheap restaurants in the historic center (downtown):

Bordeaux 2-Day Travel Guide: Day 2 – The Garonne Riverbanks and the Quarter of Chartrons

If your first day was all about the charm of downtown Bordeaux, the second and final leg of this short adventure will lead you to some of the city’s lesser-explored neighborhoods. Without further ado, you’ll start off by crossing the Stone Bridge, the prettiest bridge over the Garonne, and take a pleasant stroll along the eastern riverbank. Because the natural curve of the riverbed resembles the shape of a crescent, Bordeaux was poetically nicknamed “the Port of the Moon”. As you look at the opposite side of the river, you’ll be treated to unobstructed views of the classical façades of the historic center. However, before heading all the way up to the Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas and cross back to the western bank, we recommend stopping by the Darwin Eco-système. Overlooking the picturesque Chartrons quarter on the other side, this innovation hub is one of the trendiest places in Bordeaux, with plenty of co-working spaces, urban art stations, impromptu street markets and even a skateboarding school. All within the walls of abandoned military barracks.

Once you’ve finally crossed back the river, you’ll find yourself in the Bacalan district, a good 3 km north of the city center. While you’re here, checking out the Cité du Vin (€22,00) is well worth it, since this state-of-the-art museum is dedicated to the rich history of wine. While spending another day in Bordeaux to visit the surrounding vineyards would be ideal, experiencing this interactive museum still offers an excellent opportunity to witness the city’s deep connection to this famous drink. When hunger strikes, check out the nearby Les Halles Bacalan. Inaugurated in 2017 and boasting stands from some of the city’s most beloved eateries and chains – but also from local farmers and organic suppliers – this market is the cool version of the often-phony (and soulless) Time Out Markets currently popping up all over Europe. Once you’ve had something to eat, cap off your day with a walk through the Chartrons quarter, one of the city’s most bohemian and picturesque neighborhoods, before bringing your adventure to a close with an amazing sunset from the Quais de Bordeaux. A fitting end to a wonderful weekend!

Second day wrap-up:

  • Stone Bridge
  • Darwin Eco-système
  • Cité du Vin
  • Les Halles Bacalan
  • Chartrons Quarter
  • Quais de Bordeaux

Where to eat in Bordeaux – Cheap restaurants in Bastide, Chartrons and Bacalan:

Got more than 2 days in Bordeaux? Then you might want to check out the best day trips from the city:

  • Saint-Emilion: Regarded as the ultimate day trip from Bordeaux, this medieval village is the perfect combination between all the little things that make this lovely corner of France such a cool tourist destination. Besides its ancient and historic architecture, Saint-Emilion is filled to the brim with an abundance of wineries and vineyards, hosting hundreds of visitors every single day, eager to try some of the country’s highest rated wines.
  • Cognac: Located about 120 km away from Bordeaux, this is yet another picturesque village associated to a well-known local drink. However, this time we’ll be trading wine for cognac, a subtly aromatized brandy, while keeping the medieval alleys and old façades you’d find in Saint-Emilion.
  • Arcachon: For something more fitting for the warmer months, you may also consider a visit to the coast and a refreshing dip in the beaches of Arcachon. While you’re there, don’t miss the chance to see the largest sand dune in Europe – the Dune du Pilat!
  • La Réole: Considered one of the prettiest settlements in France, also tucked along the Garonne riverbanks, La Réole is an historical village that was once the region’s second-largest city (after Bordeaux).
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