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Photograph: Nicolas Duffaure

The 9 best things to do in Bordeaux

Bordeaux has more to offer than its grapes. Discover the city’s best bits, from a pioneering eco-district to vintage stores and chic art galleries

Written by
Time Out editors
Translated by
Megan Carnegie

It might be the world’s capital of wine, but Bordeaux has far more to offer than grapes and vines. The UNESCO-listed port city offers a beautiful mix of small pedestrian streets, historical monuments, bouji boutiques and mega-museums. Plus, being just over two hours from Paris on a high-speed train, it makes for the perfect weekend break. 

So, are you ready to crack open the capital of France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine region? Great. From vineyards to vinyls, these are the top nine things to do in Bordeaux. 

Planning your next trip? Check out our latest travel guides, written by local experts.

Best things to do in Bordeaux

Visit an ultra-modern wine museum
Photograph: Teddy Verneuil - @lezbroz, XTU architects

1. Visit an ultra-modern wine museum

You can’t miss La Cité du Vin. This museum on the banks of the River Garonne is one of the city’s architectural showstoppers, with curves that mimic a drop, a vine, or a carafe, depending on your interpretation. Launched in 2016, the museum is a love letter to wine from every area and era imaginable. But it’s not the corkscrews and ageing Gothic script you might expect – here everything is super modern. You’ll learn about history, wine-making practices, and grape varieties through interactive screens, videos and games. The visit ends – of course – with a drink on the 8th floor, and with a view over the whole city. Look out for the themed tasting workshops on Thursday evenings. Santé!

Sup at a winery designed by Philippe Starck
Photograph: Château les Carmes Haut-Brion

2. Sup at a winery designed by Philippe Starck

Hop on a tram or bus from the centre of Bordeaux and you’ll find yourself among the vines at the city’s only wine estate, Château les Carmes Haut-Brion, which translates as ‘hilltops’. The vineyards are planted with an unusually small quantity of Cabernet Sauvignon (the grape variety Bordeaux is known for) with the lion's share going to Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes. And though the estate dates back to the sixteenth century, at its heart is a modern winery designed by Philippe Starck and the architect Luc Arsène-Henry. It’s shaped like an upturned boat and is partly submerged in water, so it harmonises with the beautiful natural surroundings. Don’t miss the guided tour (and tasting)!

Take in giant installations at the CAPC
Photograph: CAPC

3. Take in giant installations at the CAPC

CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain de Bordeaux is housed in a former nineteenth-century warehouse, where Bordelaise merchants once stored goods produced by enslaved people, such as coffee and cotton. Reopened as a contemporary art gallery in 1975, its high-ceiling brick and stone vaults make it the ideal backdrop for large-scale installations. Alongside its regularly changing exhibitions, the CAPC has a few permanent works by Richard Long, Keith Haring, and Christian Boltanski. 

Hang out at a legendary mechanics workshop
Photograph: Garage Moderne

4. Hang out at a legendary mechanics workshop

While ultra-slick new buildings continue to pop up around Garage Moderne, this repair shop-café hybrid hasn’t changed since the turn of the millennium. A giant warehouse that hosts workshops and studios for mutual aid and repairs, many locals take their cars and bikes here – but even if you have nothing to fix, Garage Moderne is a great place to hang out. It’s a construction lab, a cultural hub, a place to admire vintage cars, and a spot beloved by the city’s artsy types and families alike. Enjoy home cooking at the café and terrace, or stay late in the summer months for live music and events.  

Lose yourself in psychedelic digital art
Photograph: Bridgeman Images

5. Lose yourself in psychedelic digital art

Opened in 2020, Bassins de Lumières is the world’s largest digital art centre – and certainly the only one housed in a former submarine base. It’s run by Culturespaces, which also has the Carrières de Lumières in Baux-de-Provence and the Atelier des Lumières in Paris under its belt. Although it hasn’t been open long, there have been several blockbuster immersive exhibitions here, including those showcasing the work of Gustav Klimt and Paul Klee. Expect high-definition video animations projected across the gigantic concrete walls in an explosion of colours and light, plus some pretty trippy reflections on the water.

Check out contemporary art at MÉCA
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Check out contemporary art at MÉCA

A new quartier has emerged along the quai de Paludate, in front of the nightlife strip. The star of this hyper-modern district is Frac Nouvelle-Aquitaine MÉCA (or MÉCA for short). Danish architect Bjarke Ingels designed the eye-catching building, which seems to be built around an arch framing the Garonne river. Inside, vast spaces host cutting-edge exhibitions of contemporary artists’ work, focusing on those from the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. Head here to discover up-and-coming creatives and take in stunning views over the city from the terrace.

Explore an urban ecosystem
Photograph: Teddy Verneuil - @lezbroz

7. Explore an urban ecosystem

Darwin, an ambitious eco-responsible and social renovation project, is housed on the site of a former military barracks in Bordeaux’s Bastide district. It’s hard to define Darwin: you’ll find an indoor skate park, a surf shop, vintage treasures, urban permaculture farms (with bees!), a coffee roastery, a bookstore, studios, and Magasin Général, the largest bistro-dining hall in Europe. Darwin has many faces – come for a quick coffee and you’ll end up staying all day.

Browse a vinyl treasure trove
Photograph: Clem Onojeghuo

8. Browse a vinyl treasure trove

Jean-Jacques Arnould has been selling records in his shop Bam Balam on Cours Pasteur since 1982. Expect to find mostly psychedelic, experimental rock and folk-rock – think rare ’70s albums for upwards of €1,000, but also The Cure, film soundtracks, and forty-fives. Since 2006, Bam Balam has kept its finger on the pulse with its own label of experimental music, including new music from French guitarist Richard Pinhas.

Shop at a charming concept store
Photograph: La Gaîté

9. Shop at a charming concept store

Head to the heart of the Chartrons district, a neighbourhood known for its antique dealers, to find La Gaîté. Sophie Le Roy's small but perfectly formed concept store is a vision of calm in light, Scandi-style wood and sandy stone walls. As well as big brands like Antik Batik, Le Roy’s store showcases garms from indie fashion designers like Heimstone and Modetrotter. You’ll also find scented candles, linens, locally-made artisan cosmetics, colourful crockery, and glossy travel magazines. Trust us, you’ll struggle to come away empty-handed.

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