Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond
Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Cruising the Garonne for Stunning Riverfront Views
One of the best ways to take in the sights of beautiful Bordeaux is from the deck of a boat cruising the Garonne River. The serene waters of the Garonne offer a unique vantage point to admire Bordeaux's magnificent architecture and vibrant culture. Gliding along the river, you'll be treated to panoramic views of the city's iconic landmarks.
Start your river cruise at the Quai des Chartrons, Bordeaux's bustling riverfront district. As your boat eases away from the dock, the 18th-century buildings lining the waterfront promenade come into focus. Notice the stately neoclassical facades and steeply-pitched roofs typical of the area. Up ahead, the striking spires of Bordeaux Cathedral pierce the skyline. Constructed between the 11th and 16th centuries, this Gothic marvel is a must-see when exploring the city.
Further along, the river bends, opening up to stunning views of the Place de la Bourse. This grand public square is home to the majestic buildings of Bordeaux City Hall and the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce. Admire the symmetry and ornate details of the buildings' limestone facades, commissioned in the 1730s. Fun fact: The buildings were designed by the same architect who created the illustrious Place Vendôme in Paris.
As your cruise continues, look to the riverbanks to spot remnants of Bordeaux's past as an important trading port. Massive stone walls, built to reinforce the riverfront quaysides and prevent erosion, hark back to the 18th century when Bordeaux prospered from maritime commerce. Several old loading docks still remain as well.
Farther along the Garonne, the striking contemporary architecture of the Cité du Vin comes into view. This eye-catching structure resembles an undulating wine decanter. Inside, interactive exhibits immerse you in the rich history and culture of winemaking worldwide. Check out the building's upper floors for soaring views over the river.
No Garonne river cruise is complete without gliding under the Pont de Pierre, or Stone Bridge. This stately bridge opened in 1822 and remains a well-known Bordeaux landmark. As you pass underneath, admire the 17 graceful arches spanning the river. Fun fact: The bridge was designed by Napoleon Bonaparte while he was in power.
What else is in this post?
- Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Cruising the Garonne for Stunning Riverfront Views
- Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Must-Visit Vineyards Within Cycling Distance
- Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Pedal Through History in Médoc Wine Country
- Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Indulge in Local Seafood at Riverside Restaurants
- Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Cycling Bordeaux's Charming City Center
- Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Navigating Bike Share Programs and Bike Paths
- Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Where to Stay for Easy Access to Bikes and Boats
- Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Enjoying Bordeaux's Café Culture on Two Wheels
Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Must-Visit Vineyards Within Cycling Distance
With over 10,000 wine producers in the region, Bordeaux is an oenophile’s paradise. Luckily, many of the area’s most famous vineyards and châteaux are located just a short bike ride from the city center. Pedaling from vine to vine is one of the best ways to experience the essence of Bordeaux’s wine country.
Just across the Garonne river, the vineyards of the Left Bank await. This premier winemaking region benefits from ideal growing conditions thanks to its gravelly, well-draining soils. Within an easy 10 km bike ride are legendary estates like Château Margaux, whose elegant Cabernet Sauvignon-based reds epitomize the Bordeaux pedigree. Don’t miss Château Pichon Longueville Baron either, surrounded by 117 hectares of vines. Schedule a tour to glimpse the château’s grand turreted castle and sample stellar Pauillac wines.
Venture further south to Graves, another Left Bank appellation. Here, cyclists can wind through vineyards dotted with charming wine estates. Stop at Château Haut-Brion, the aristocrat of Graves wines. Its renowned reds are among the world’s most expensive. Or head to Château Carbonnieux to admire its medieval castle and sample crisp, flinty whites.
Across the river, the vineyards of Bordeaux’s Right Bank also tempt cyclists. One must-visit is Saint-Émilion, just 35 km east of Bordeaux city. With its cobbled streets and medieval buildings, this charming village is straight out of a fairy tale. Visit the Monolithic Church, carved into a hillside, and the countless wine shops offering tastings. Then tour Château Ausone to admire its French gardens and sample the powerful, tannic reds made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes.
Pomerol is another Right Bank standout, just a quick ride from Saint-Émilion. Though small, Pomerol produces some of the world’s most coveted wines. pedal past the estate of Château Petrus, whose bottles can fetch over $4,000 each. Schedule a visit to Le Pin too, one of Pomerol’s cult classics. With an annual production of just 500 cases, you won’t find Le Pin wines anywhere else.
Cycling also allows you to experience Bordeaux’s bucolic landscape and charming villages. Pedal along quiet country roads shaded by leafy trees and take in vistas of orderly vineyards rolling across gentle hills. Stop at a roadside farm stand to pick up a flaky pastry or creamy goat cheese. Refuel at a cozy bistro in one of Bordeaux’s medieval bastide towns like Creon or Cadillac.
Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Pedal Through History in Médoc Wine Country
Pedaling along quiet country roads through the Médoc wine region allows you to immerse yourself in an area steeped in history. As you cycle past endless rows of vines and elegantly tapered cypress trees, it’s easy to imagine you’ve been transported back to the 17th or 18th century, when many of Médoc’s most prized châteaux took shape.
Château Margaux provides an ideal starting point for this historic wine country bike tour. Heading north from Bordeaux city, it takes just an hour to reach this iconic estate, home to one of only five Premier Cru Classé wines. As you wander through the impeccably manicured gardens and tour the striking neo-Palladian château, you’ll learn how winemaking techniques here have changed little over the centuries. Pause to sample Château Margaux’s silky, complex Cabernets—the pinnacle of refined Left Bank wines.
Pedal onward to Pauillac, heart of the Haut-Médoc. Regal Château Latour comes into view, recognizable by its watchtower and twin turrets. Production on this estate dates back to the 14th century. Take a tour of Latour’s incredible winemaking facilities, unchanged since the 1800s, and view its vast cellar filled with thousands of oak barrels.
Nearby, Château Lafite Rothschild awaits. As you cycle up the estate’s tree-lined allée, admire the elegant château, built in the 19th century but winemaking here goes back much further. Records show vines being cultivated on this land as early as 1234. Descend into Lafite’s incredible cave network, galeries dug deep into limestone bedrock, for the ultimate trip back in time.
Venture to Saint-Julien next to visit Château Léoville Las Cases, enclosed by a picturesque stone wall. This classic estate was established in the early 16th century and still embodies the elegance of traditional Médoc. Las Cases is also pioneering sustainable practices like using horses to plow between vine rows instead of tractors.
End your history tour at Château Pichon Longueville Baron in Pauillac, the Médoc’s only castle constructed entirely in stone. Built in 1851, its regal turrets and spires are stunning. Tour the ornate rooms, including the wood-paneled library preserving books from the 1600s. Then sample wines from Pichon’s 160 hectares of vines—a blend of the old and new.
Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Indulge in Local Seafood at Riverside Restaurants
With its prime location on the Garonne River, it's no surprise that seafood stars on the menus of Bordeaux's riverside restaurants. Savoring just-caught fish and shellfish with a sweeping view of the water is a quintessential Bordeaux experience.
Start at Le Gabriel, an upscale restaurant situated right on the Quai des Chartrons. Request a table on the terrace overlooking the river and watch ships glide by as you dine. Le Gabriel is celebrated for its outstanding seafood, like plump local oysters served ice-cold with shallot vinegar and rye bread. Don't miss the fried baby squid, crispy on the outside and tender within. For an indulgent main, order the sea bass roasted in flaky salt crust, aromatized with fennel—a simple preparation that lets the pristine flavors shine. Compliment your meal with a crisp, vibrant white Bordeaux like an Entre-Deux-Mers.
For a cozier vibe, head to La Tupina in the Bastide neighborhood. Housed in a charming 18th-century building, the dining room has rustic stone walls, exposed beams, and checkerboard floors. Their specialty is seasonal seafood sourced from the nearby Arcachon Bay. Feast on plump Arcachon oysters, fresh lobster, or the catch of the day, perhaps sea bream or John Dory, grilled to perfection. Baked oysters with garlic butter are another must-try. Pair your meal with one of La Tupina's excellent Bordeaux blends.
In the Chartrons district, try Bistrot du Sommelier for seafood with a modern twist. Their riverside terrace offers breathtaking views of the Bourse Plaza across the water. Begin with their tuna tartare seasoned with soy sauce and ginger for an Asian flair. For the main event, the roasted cod with chorizo broth and clams is a delight. The chorizo adds a smoky, spicy touch that pairs beautifully with the tender cod and briny clams. Expand your Bordeaux wine horizons and order something from their extensive list of natural wines.
Le Chapon Fin is a Bordeaux institution, housed in a lavish 18th-century mansion just steps from the Palais de la Bourse. Request a table beside one of the grand arched windows and enjoy watching the boats glide by as you dine in old-world elegance. Their seafood platter heaving with oysters, langoustines, crab, and shrimp is perfect for sharing. Or try their specialty sole meunière, the tender fish drizzled with lemon and brown butter. Cap your meal with their riff on pineapple carpaccio with coconut sorbet. Treat yourself to a glass of prestigious Sauternes for dessert—the luscious sweet wine complements fruit-based dishes perfectly.
Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Cycling Bordeaux's Charming City Center
Pedaling through the heart of Bordeaux allows you to experience the city’s captivating blend of medieval charm and 18th-century elegance up close. Glide along quiet backstreets, admiring the gorgeous architecture around every corner. From stately plazas to the UNESCO-listed old port, Bordeaux’s compact city center is ideal for exploring by bike.
One central must-see is the Place de la Bourse, home to Bordeaux’s most iconic buildings. Pedal across this grand public square to admire the symmetrical limestone facades of Bordeaux City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce. Notice the elaborate friezes and decorative flourishes. Then let your eyes drift upward—the buildings’ steep slate roofs are clad with decorative urns and statues. Wheel your bike right up to the facades for selfies with these magnificent landmarks as your backdrop.
The lively Quinconces Esplanade, one of Europe’s largest public squares, invites leisurely cycling as well. Lined by towering plane trees, this sprawling plaza comes alive on sunny days as locals relax on benches or stroll through gardens centered around monumental fountains. Look east down the esplanade for views of the Garonne River with the Pont de Pierre bridge arching gracefully across it.
For an Instagram-worthy spot, make your way to the Gate of Bourgogne. Flanked by two circular stone turrets, this medieval city gate is the sole remaining vestige of Bordeaux’s old ramparts. Frame the gate just right as you cycle by for that perfect shot. Then continue to the adjacent Place Gambetta ringed by cafés with shaded terraces—the ideal refueling stop after your photoshoot.
No cycling tour of central Bordeaux is complete without seeing the old port district. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this neighborhood along the Garonne preserves 18th-century warehouses once used for storing goods like coffee and sugar from the New World. The massive riverfront facades, with their steeply-pitched roofs and large loading doors, exemplify Bordeaux’s prosperous past as a trading port.
Don’t miss the lively Place du Parlement either, situated just steps from the port. Buskers and mimes entertain the crowds on this bustling square framed by the arches of the Parliament Building. Grab an outdoor table at one of the restaurants lining the plaza, order a glass of Bordeaux, and do some people-watching while you rest your legs.
Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Navigating Bike Share Programs and Bike Paths
Bordeaux’s flat terrain and extensive network of bike paths make pedaling around the city a breeze. To fully experience Bordeaux under your own power, take advantage of the city’s bike share programs. With convenient pickup and drop-off points across the city, these shared bikes provide the freedom to explore Bordeaux at your own pace without the hassle of arranging bike rentals.
One of the largest bike share operators is VCUB, Bordeaux’s public bike system. With over 1,800 bikes available at more than 180 stations, you’re never far from a set of wheels. Bikes feature adjustable seats, automatic lights, and a front rack for stashing your stuff. Purchase a 24-hour ticket at any VCUB kiosk and you can take out a bike and return it to any station when you’re done.
For longer rentals, check out companies like Gäbi and Cyclocity. Their rental shops around the city offer standard bikes, e-bikes, tandems, kids’ bikes, trailers, and more. Opt for an e-bike if you want a motor assist for Bordeaux’s bridges. Staff will provide helmets, locks, child seats, trailers, even guided tours.
Wherever your ride takes you, Bordeaux’s dedicated bike lanes make cruising safe and stress-free. Well-marked paths along the quai run past major sights like the Bourse Plaza and St. Pierre Bridge. A scenic trail on the Left Bank of the Garonne offers serene cycling with river views. Cycling on the Right Bank is delightful too—the path hugging the Garonne provides easy access to Saint-Émilion.
Away from the river, Bordeaux’s bike-friendly boulevards feature wide lanes separated from vehicle traffic. The sprawling Esplanade des Quinconces in the city center is ideal for leisurely rides, as is the lush Jardin Public park. When hunger strikes, just coast into one of Bordeaux’s many bicycle-friendly cafés and bistros.
For ambitious riders, Bordeaux serves as the starting point for the Roger Lapebie cycling trail. This ultra-scenic 250 km route winds through vineyards, peaceful hamlets, and nature reserves en route to the Atlantic coast. Whether you tackle the entire epic journey or just pedal a portion for a day trip from Bordeaux, it’s an incredible way to experience the region.
Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Where to Stay for Easy Access to Bikes and Boats
When visiting cycle-friendly Bordeaux, your accommodation choice plays a big role in determining how easily you can tap into the city’s bike culture. Select lodging with convenient access to bike share stations, rental shops, and the riverside cycling paths, and Bordeaux truly becomes your oyster. Whether you prefer pedaling along the scenic Garonne or venturing deep into the surrounding vineyards, the right hotel location makes embarking on two-wheeled adventures a breeze.
For easy access to the VCUB public bike share system, consider staying near the picturesque Place de la Bourse. Stroll out your hotel door and collect a set of wheels from the station right on the square. This Instagrammable plaza, home to the Chamber of Commerce building, makes a glorious starting point for your ride. Pedal along the riverfront, admiring Bordeaux’s stately 18th-century architecture. Or use the station as your endpoint after a day spent cruising the nearby wine regions of Médoc, Saint-Émilion, or Pomerol.
The Quinconces neighborhood is another ideal home base for pedal power thanks to plentiful bike share stations. After breakfast at your hotel, pick up a bike at the station by the lush Esplanade des Quinconces. With its sprawling gardens and monumental fountains, this expansive square invites leisurely morning rides under its towering trees. Venture across the pont de pierre into the Bastide district, filled with cycling-friendly cobblestone streets and cafés for refueling with a café au lait.
For easy bike rentals, position yourself near one of Bordeaux’s many cycle shops. Hotels around Gambetta Square put you steps from Cyclocity, which rents everything from city bikes to tandems. From here, you can quickly escape the bustle of the city to meander along quiet vineyard lanes and riverside trails. Stop for picnic provisions at a rustic country auberge before heading into the pastoral landscape.
Along the Left Bank, lodging in the Chartrons district provides fast access to riverside bike paths and sunset river cruises. After a morning tasting stellar vintages at a nearby chateau, collect your rental ride from a shop like Gäbi and pedal north, keeping the Garonne always in sight. Roll through scenic parks and pause when the impressive contemporary architecure of the Cité du Vin comes into view. As the evening light softens, return your wheels and stroll to the river for a twilight cruise. Watch the city glide by as you toast the end of a perfect Bordeaux bike day with a crisp glass of Entre-Deux-Mers.
Pedal and Sip Your Way Through Charming Bordeaux: A Guide to Navigating the City by Bike, Boat and Beyond - Enjoying Bordeaux's Café Culture on Two Wheels
Bordeaux's vibrant café culture springs to life as the weather warms. Sun-dappled terraces fill with locals leisurely sipping espresso, enjoying the languid pace of life. Cycling allows you to fully immerse yourself in this quintessential part of Bordeaux's essence. Glide from cafe to cafe, soaking up the relaxed vibe unique to this riverside city.
Begin your cafe crawl along the bustling Allées de Tourny in the heart of the city. Cycle past the stately arcades as you scan for the perfect terrace. Grab an outdoor table at Café de l'Apollinaire, a local favorite. Sip a velvety cappuccino as you watch the world go by. Strike up a conversation with the locals at the next table—the gregarious Bordelais love chatting with visitors.
Meander east to Place du Parlement, where cafes encircle the broad square. The terrace at Le Bistrot d’Ernest overlooks the central fountain—the ideal vantage point for some people-watching. From students and young professionals to businessmen in suits, the diversity of patrons echoes Bordeaux’s cosmopolitan vibe. Grab a creamy latte and a flaky croissant and relax under the umbrellas.
Cruise across the Pont de Pierre to the Left Bank next. La Maison du Vélo Café faces the riverfront promenade, making it a favorite cycle-friendly hangout. Lock your bike on their racks and snag a table facing the Garonne. Sip a glass of organic Bordeaux rosé—crisp with bright red fruit flavors—as the late afternoon sun dances on the water. Ahhh, pure bliss.
The Bastide neighborhood’s cuisine conviviale invites lingering over coffee and beignets. Le Troquet's cozy mismatched chairs and vintage décor exude shabby-chic charm. Their vanilla bean cappuccino garnished with a perfect rosetta will make your day. For an energy boost, try their pain au chocolat - the decadent chocolate inside oozes with every bite.
Venture to the Chartrons quarter and stake out your spot on Café Piha’s laidback terrace. Their fresh juice combinations like carrot, ginger, and orange make a delightfully healthy accompaniment for your café noisette. Relax with a newspaper or chat with fellow patrons as boats ply the nearby river. The vibe here encapsulates the easygoing Bordelaise lifestyle.