3 days in Bordeaux in October: what could be more ideal? We've spent many a food and wine-filled weekend in France including 3 days in Lyon, Paris for Valentine's Day, Carcassonne and Toulouse, and Nice for Carnaval. Visiting Bordeaux France would bring us into the heart of one of the top French wine regions at the time of the harvest. We quickly learned that there are some fantastic things to do and places to eat in Bordeaux. Read on to experience the best of our 3 day Bordeaux itinerary.
3 Days in Bordeaux: Within the City Gates
Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport Vineyards
We landed in Bordeaux Airport on our direct flight from Dublin. My jaw simply dropped when we walked outside. There is a small vineyard nestled against the airport terminal. I quickly got the feeling that Bordeaux would be my sort of place! For less than 2 EUR you can catch the public Bordeaux airport bus (Line 1) which takes about an hour to get to Bordeaux city. There is also a more expensive Jetbus for 7 EUR but isn't that much faster. We opted to take the public bus from the airport to Bordeaux.
Where to Stay in Bordeaux
We opted to stay within the old city gates to make the most of our 3 days in Bordeaux. The Best Western Plus Hotel Bayonne Etche Ona was an excellent choice for our stay. Situated just a block from Opéra National de Bordeaux, this particular Best Western is in a great location that is very walkable but with decent transit connections too. We also loved that our Bordeaux hotel had an Art Deco flair in the lobby.
Explore within the Bordeaux City Gates
Stop for a Sweet Snack in Bordeaux
France in general is great for bakeries and Bordeaux is no exception. Stop for a dense buttery sweet treat or chocolate at Maison Georges Larnicol, a biscuiterie and chocolaterie near the Opera House.
Dinner at Bordeaux's Le Chaudron
Finish the first of 3 days in Bordeaux with a proper dinner and bottle of local wine. In general, it's a good idea to make a reservation for dinner in Bordeaux. On our first night we simply wandered into a couple of the places that rank highly on Google Maps but they were all booked solid. Thankfully, pretty much all the restaurants in Bordeaux are of a high standard and quality and we were lucky enough to nab one of the last tables at Le Chaudron. Pea soup and warm brie were perfect starters after a chilly day walking around in the rain in Bordeaux. We followed that up with steak and frites and a chicken dish before finishing with Ile Flottante, a heavenly soft meringue floating like a little island in a pool of custard. Of course, we washed the meal down with a bottle of Bordeaux wine. At the time, we didn't know much about how to select a Bordeaux wine so we made our best guess. We definitely looked forward to filling in gaps in our knowledge on Day 2 of our 3 day Bordeaux itinerary.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other wine-focused trip ideas in France? Check out this Loire Valley road trip itinerary where you can taste amazing wines and explore some of the most decadent castles in the world. If you are short on time, you could also consider taking a day trip from Paris to Reims to taste champagne.
3 Days in Bordeaux: Wine Tasting in the Médoc AOC
Pick Up Some Bread and Breakfast Pastries at a Bordeaux Bakery
Since we were planning a wine-tasting trip to Médoc on the 2nd of our 3 days in Bordeaux, it was important to lay a solid foundation for the day. We took a short wander from our hotel and discovered Gllm-Guillaume Boulanger/Pâtissier/Glacier nearby. A French baguette was just what we needed for breakfast to start the day.
Visit Église Notre-Dame
3 days in Bordeaux is actually a pretty short amount of time to see all the sights. We decided to pack in as much as we could and squeezed in a quick stop at Église Notre-Dame on the cobbled lane just behind our hotel. The square that the church sits on features cozy cafes with some outdoor seating in the shadow of the church.
The facade of Église Notre-Dame is simply stunning and drew me right in. The doors were open the morning we visited so we had a look inside at the vaulted stone ceilings, historic paintings, and bright stained glass windows.
Wine Tasting Tour to the Médoc Appellation in the Bordeaux Wine Region
We spent the day with about 8 other wine enthusiasts on a tour of Médoc AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) in the Bordeaux Wine Region. Médoc AOC includes the sub-regions of Saint-Estephe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Margaux, Haut-Medoc, Sauternes and Barsac. In real life, each sub-region is a small village or town featuring a number of chateaux.
In addition to great wine, Médoc offers fantastic photo opportunities because the local wineries are all housed in stunning chateaux. It's only in the last 10 years or so that Bordeaux wineries have opened up their doors to the public and a guided tour is the best way to make the rounds (with an added bonus of not having to drive while sampling wines; never a good idea). We visited 3 wineries (Chateau Lagrange, Chateau Lafon-Rocher and Château Prieuré Lichine) and made a stop for a three course menu of the day (with more Bordeaux wine, of course!) in Pauillac.
There is a rich history of wine-making and structured regulation in Bordeaux that dates back to 1855. The Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 was decreed by Napoleon III and rates the various vineyards in Médoc in terms of importance from 1st to 5th growths (crus). The Premier Crus include world famous wine houses like Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour and Château Margaux. We merely stopped to take pictures of these world-famous chateaux.
The vineyards that we visited were part of the 1855 classification but ranked in the 3rd and 4th crus. One very important pro-tip that we learned on our wine tasting tour was the following: the highest quality wine from any chateau is named after that chateau. The lower quality wines have different and often more creative names. The 2nd or 3rd wines are also very good but often don't need to be aged as long as a 1st quality wine from a given chateau. A first quality Bordeaux wine may need to age for at least 10-15 years.
More Wine and Cheese with New Friends at Les Bistrot des Frerots
After our day trip to Médoc, we kept the fun going with an evening of cheese and wine at Les Bistrot des Frerots back in Bordeaux city. We were joined by a wine enthusiast from Switzerland who we met on our day trip and his partner. While we prefer to travel independently, organized day tours have the added benefit of putting you in touch with interesting people from around the world.
Catch a Bordeaux Sunset
We finished Day 2 of our 3 days in Bordeaux with a stunning sunset before calling it a night. We'd eaten and drunk so much during the day that didn't think we could manage dinner.
Canelé for Dessert
Instead of dinner, we opted to eat a small dessert instead. You can find canelé a small French pastry that comes in various sizes with a carmelized crust and soft inside at various outlets in Bordeaux city. Sweet tooth sated, we could barely keep our eyes open and called it an early night.
3 Days in Bordeaux: St. Emilion Day Trip
Stroll Bordeaux's Jardin Public
We started our third of 3 days in Bordeaux with a morning walk in Jardin Public. Admire the classic French facades of the homes lining the park. Explore the fountains of Jardin Public and the ponds lined with trees and filled with frolicking ducks and other wildfowl.
Morning Walk Along the Bordeaux Promenade
From Bordeaux's Jardin Public, we made our way to the Promenade along the Garonne River. A wide footpath lined with decorative lamps lines the way and makes for a very pleasant walk. Soak in the sun and get a bit of exercise in the morning in Bordeaux. The Bordeaux Promenade is also a super-useful connector between Jardin Public and the Bordeaux train station (Gare de Bordeaux Saint-Jean). Bordeaux has an excellent tram system but we decided in this case that walking would give us a better chance to explore on the way. It takes about 45 minutes to walk from Jardin Public to the train station along the promenade. Allow extra time for the short detours below.
St. Michel Basilica and Spire
Did you notice the spire in the distance in the photo of the Bordeaux Promenade? That's St. Michel Basilica and spire. We veered away from the Garonne and made our way toward Bordeaux's iconic church. A huge market surrounds the basilica and tower on a Saturday morning. Take time to look inside the grand church before continuing on your way.
Marché des Capucins
Marché des Capucins is worth a short detour between St. Michel Basilica and Gare de Bordeaux Saint-Jean. Stalls selling delectable sweets, savories, cheeses and more line the aisles of this quintessential Bordeaux food hall. Pick up a snack for the train ride to St. Emilion.
From Bordeaux to St. Emilion by Train
It takes about 40 minutes to get from Bordeaux to Saint-Emilion. The round trip from Bordeaux to Saint-Emilion and back again costs less than 20 EUR. The train station is located about 20 minutes on foot from the village of St. Emilion and takes you through idyllic vineyards and past imposing hillside chateaux.
A Half Day in St. Emilion
Saint-Emilion is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wander the cobbled streets, enjoy lunch with a glass or two of Bordeaux wine from the local appellation and enjoy the opportunity to get some amazing photos.
Visit the Water Mirror in Bordeaux and Watch the Sunset
Dinner at Les Drôles in Bordeaux
We booked ourselves in for dinner at the highly rated yet great value-for-money Les Drôles in the heart of Bordeaux. Bordeaux is famous for duck dishes and Les Drôles serves up some delicious variations. We sampled Parmentier de Canard, a duck dish that is prepared a bit like a Shepherd's pie in a casserole dish with potatoes atop the duck meat. We also tried Magret de canard du Sud-Ouest sauce aux Cèpes, duck breast with an onion sauce. This all paired really well with a bottle of Bordeaux wine. Not surprisingly, my favorite part of the meal was dessert. I ate one of the best chocolate fondants (homemade at Les Drôles) I've ever had. I would definitely go back to Bordeaux for the food alone. So good!
3 Days in Bordeaux: La Cite du Vin
Make sure to take a lap around the outside of the church to admire the architecture from all sides.
La Cité du VinLa Cité du Vin (city of wine). It takes about 20 minutes by a combination of tram and walking to get to La Cité du Vin from the city center. Bordeaux's world famous wine museum is located along the Garonne River and the building is designed to resemble a glass of wine being swirled. La Cité du Vin is pricey with a 20 EUR per person entry fee. However, La Cité du Vin is totally worth a visit. The exhibits are all incredibly interactive and high tech. Learn about wine regions from around the world.
My favorite exhibit at La Cité du Vin were the aroma jars. You can squeeze a bulb and put your face at the end of a tube to catch of whiff of various aromas that you might encounter in the nose of a wine. We discovered traditional fruit and floral aromas but La Cité du Vin then took things one step further with aroma of wet dog, musty books and more.
Les Halles Bacalan
Just across the street from La Cité du Vin is Les Halles Bacalan, an ultra-modern food hall. Pop into Les Halles Bacalan for a browse. Pick up a sandwich for lunch or another delectable treat so your stomach isn't rumbling on the way to the Bordeaux airport.
Bordeaux Street Art Near the City Gate
As we were rolling our luggage through the streets of Bordeaux on the way to the airport bus, we noticed some really cool street art. Keep your eyes peeled near the Bordeaux city gate for some fascinating street art creations.
Hop on the Bordeaux Airport Bus to Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport
And with that, our 3 days in Bordeaux had come to an end. Board the Bordeaux Airport bus for the very economical one hour journey to Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport.
Bordeaux Map of Points of Interest
We covered a lot of ground with 3 days in Bordeaux. Check out this useful map of Bordeaux points of interest covered in this post.