10 Ways Bordeaux is absolutely nothing like Paris (at all)!

Bordeaux in the south of France is often referred to as the ‘Paris of the south’ or ‘Little Paris’. As I’ve visited Paris multiple times and spent some time in Bordeaux, I came to the conclusion that Bordeaux is nothing like Paris. Maybe you’d like to visit but you’re wondering: Is Bordeaux worth visiting?

Because you might have been to Paris before. And when you hear that Bordeaux is called ‘little Paris’ you might think the two cities are very similar. Is it worth your time to visit Bordeaux too? I think you should! And here are my 10 ways Bordeaux is completely unique on its own and some very good reasons why you should visit Bordeaux!

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What is it like to travel from Amsterdam to Bordeaux train? I'll share practical tips and useful information for the train to Bordeaux France
Early morning exploration in Bordeaux

Is Bordeaux worth visiting? My 10 very good reasons why you should visit Bordeaux

As soon as I arrived in Bordeaux, breathed in the fresh air, and looked at the light, reflected off the gray slate roof tiles, a huge smile came across my face.

It is safe to say, I fell absolutely head over heels in love with the city. I had a marvelous time in Bordeaux, wandering around, exploring both sides of the river Garonne, and sipping her famous wines.

And yes, I do understand why some people want to draw parallels with the famous city of Paris. Yes, it is a big city in France, just like Paris. And yes, Bordeaux is also divided by a river, full of amazing museums, and good food, and some of the architecture resembles Paris. Yes, that is all true.

But if you dig a little deeper, delve a little bit beyond the first impressions, and scratch a bit at the surface, you’ll discover a whole different, unique layer and identity to Bordeaux, that is nothing like Paris!

Here are 10 must-have experiences in Bordeaux, that you’ll not find anywhere else in France. They make Bordeaux unique and worth a visit.

1. Drink Bordeaux wine in Bordeaux

You can taste Bordeaux wine anywhere in the world but it doesn’t taste quite the same as to taste it in Bordeaux!

Even if you don’t like red wine, or don’t like Bordeaux wines that much, you must have at least a sip of the ruby red liquid that made Bordeaux so famous across the world.

You can order a glass of Bordeaux over dinner, at a wine bar, at a wine tasting, or on the top floor of the Cité du Vin, the wine experience center in Bordeaux.

Whatever you do, savor it, let it swirl in your mouth, look at the city or vineyards, and take in the moment: you’re drinking Bordeaux in Bordeaux!

If you love (red) wines and are a wine enthusiast, then Bordeaux is definitely worth a visit!

Is the Bordeaux City Pass worth it? Read my honest review with practical tips for best use of your Bordeaux Pass during your first visit to the French city of Bordeaux.
I decided to try one of the rare rosé wines of Bordeaux

2. Have a Cannele – an unexpected treat in Bordeaux

Bordeaux is famous for their canelé. It is a small pastry, flavored with rum and vanilla. It has a tender cake-like texture in the middle but the outside is made up of a caramelized crust.

For some reason, I figured it would have a hint of cinnamon (canelé and cannelle (=cinnamon in French) are quite similar words), but I was surprised by the combination of flavors and textures. It really is a must-try treat when you’re in Bordeaux.

Where to get THE best ones? Try Cassonade, a small canelé and pastry shop beside the Grosse Cloche in Bordeaux.

Join a Food Tour in Bordeaux to find the best Bordeaux foods. Check my review of the Ultimate Bordeaux Food Tour and why it was perfect
A delicious Cannele with a view of one of the biggest monuments in Bordeaux.

3. Put your teeth into some delicious breakfast treats

You can’t go anywhere in France, and not eat your heart out. And Bordeaux is no exception to that.

I have had some pretty amazing flaky, buttery croissants in Paris, but the chocolatine I had in Bordeaux beat everything I ever tasted in my life.

As soon as I put the giant fluffy pastry under my nose, all my senses awakened. I felt like the food critic in the Disney movie Ratatouille, as I stood still but moved across time and space to this wonderful moment of savoring this buttery flaky breakfast treat with rich chocolate inside.

As I chomped on the hundreds of layers of puff pastry, I felt all these different notes and tastes pop up in my brain and memory. It was really one of the best things I ever tasted.

Try it! If you’re wondering what the difference is between a chocolate and pain au chocolat, check out this explanation.

What is it like to travel from Amsterdam to Bordeaux train? I'll share practical tips and useful information for the train to Bordeaux France
The journey to Bordeaux is 100% worth it once you’ve tasted one of these bad boys.

4. Learn about Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of France and England

Did you know that Bordeaux once was under English rule? No? Neither did I.

I was especially surprised to learn about this amazing woman: Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was, at one time, not only the queen of France but also of England. She was once one of the most powerful women of the High Middle Ages in this part of Europe. Now that is what I call girl-power.

And how have I not learned about this in school or history class, and why is there no amazing block-buster movie about her? I’d watch it!

When you’re in Bordeaux, definitely join a walking tour of the old city. It is included if you buy the Bordeaux City Pass.

5. Explore the historic town in a day

Although Bordeaux is the 9th city in France if you look at population numbers, it is actually the 2nd largest city in France, in square meters.

But the historic town center is actually pretty manageable in one day. I did a self-guided walking tour of the historic town, roamed around the streets, wandered up little alleyways, sat at tiny squares, had ice cream in front of long-forgotten churches, and marveled at the ancient city walls and gates.

It was on this walk that I saw the light change during the day, reflected on the gray-slate roof tiles and soft yellow sandstone facades of impressive buildings. And fell a little in love with the city.

What is it like to travel from Amsterdam to Bordeaux train? I'll share practical tips and useful information for the train to Bordeaux France
The lovely Cathedral of Bordeaux is a must-see

6. Take a day trip to the beach or the vineyards

Okay, I have to admit, Paris has impressive day trips, like the Versailles Palace. But what it doesn’t have, and Bordeaux does have, are other amazing day trips!

I took several day trips to the vineyards around Bordeaux. If you’re a wine lover, you can visit the Medoc or Margaux wine region, on half-day trips or even full-day trips.

Very popular is the town of Saint Emilion, a historic town, surrounded by some of the best Bordeaux vineyards of the region. I took a full-day tour where we explored the vineyards by e-bike, had an amazing lunch, visited the town of St. Emilion, and had copious amounts of wine for tasting. Curious about this tour, you can book it here.

But day trips to the vineyards are not all there is to do outside of Bordeaux. Bordeaux is located close to some of the most impressive coastlines in Europe.

A day trip to the lovely town of Arcachon, at the bay of Arcachon is a great way to escape to the seaside. Taste amazing oysters, freshly caught right this morning, or climb the highest dune, the Dune du Pilat.

You can easily arrange this yourself by train, or join a tour from Bordeaux. As I’ve spent all of my childhood summers near the bay of Arcachon, I can highly recommend it for some seaside vibes.

With so many interesting day trips, it is worth it to give Bordeaux a couple of days of your itinerary.

The historic town of Saint Emilion with vineyards as far as the eye can see
The historic town of Saint Emilion with vineyards as far as the eye can see

7. Explore Bordeaux’s parks and nature

Although Bordeaux has plenty of museums to entertain you on a rainy day, Bordeaux is best experienced outdoors. Stroll along the banks of the River Garonne (or take the bus boat across it!) and take in the lovely flowers, parks, and fountains.

Bordeaux is lovely in early spring when everything comes to bloom and the scent of the blue Wisteria fills the streets of the city. Or cool off in summer at the Miroir d’eau (the mirror of water) across the famous Place de la Bourse.

In Autumn, you can explore the parks or the botanic garden of Bordeaux for gorgeous autumn colors.

The Mirror d'eau is great for cooling off in summer, but also really impressive at night
The Mirror d’eau is great for cooling off in summer, but also really impressive at night

8. Visit a vineyard in the city of Bordeaux

Do you know of many cities with actual working vineyards in their city limits? Bordeaux surprisingly has a few, and you can easily visit them, on your own, by public transport.

You don’t have to go on expensive tours with a guide, just buy a ticket for the tram or bus and take a tour or tasting at the Château.

I visited two within the city limits of Bordeaux, each completely different from the next. And tasted some wines, even some surprising white Bordeaux wines!

Is the Bordeaux City Pass worth it? Read my honest review with practical tips for best use of your Bordeaux Pass during your first visit to the French city of Bordeaux.
You can take a tour at the Chateau Pape Clement, located in the city of Bordeaux

9. Have Michelin star-worthy dinners for middle-range prices

I found there are so many bistros, gastro-wine bars, restaurants, and other places to eat in Bordeaux, that you can never go hungry.

What do all these places have in common? It is the quality of the food!

Amazingly crispy bread, ripe tomatoes, and veggies, freshly caught fish, carefully raised meats and everything is prepared with dedication. Even at a regular burger place, the food tasted gourmet style!

There are numerous restaurants in Bordeaux where you can have a Michelin-star quality meal, for pretty regular prices. Okay, the French take their food seriously (with serious prices), and a bottle of Bordeaux doesn’t come cheap, but overall, I found the prices pretty fair. Especially for such great quality!

Tip: Book a table in advance. Places are small and people take their time for dinner.

Fancy grilled cheese sandwiches with truffle sliced into squares
Even something simple as a grilled cheese sandwich (croc monsieur) is elevated to a whole different level in Bordeaux

10. Enjoy the city without the crowds

As you know by now, I don’t like busy streets and big cities. However, Bordeaux almost felt like a big village as it wasn’t too crowded.

There are not that many daytrippers that crowd the sights and streets. No hordes of selfie-stick-clicking tourists by busloads, but mainly tourists and locals, taking their time and enjoying the city.

Bordeaux’s shops are also open on Sundays, and wandering through the streets and alleyways, exploring the small boutique shops with original stuff to bring home made me very happy!

So pack an extra big suitcase if you like shopping, because Bordeaux is great for a shopping trip!

Is the Bordeaux City Pass worth it? Read my honest review with practical tips for best use of your Bordeaux Pass during your first visit to the French city of Bordeaux.
The lovely Cailhau gate houses a small museum and a view of the Garonne river

Does Bordeaux then have nothing in common with Paris?

As you can tell from the above, I think Bordeaux is well worth a visit. And it is nothing like Paris. But even I have to admit, there are some similarities:

  • Bordeaux is equally enchanting with charming architecture
  • The city is also divided by a river
  • At night, Bordeaux transforms into a small city of lights and I can recommend exploring by night
  • You can easily reach Bordeaux by train from Paris, and Bordeaux is well connected by TGV with the rest of France
  • You can fall in love with Bordeaux, just as easily as with Paris

So if you have been to Paris, and looking for something new, then I think Bordeaux is certainly worth visiting!

Have you ever visited Bordeaux? Do you think it is like Paris? I hope I was able to convince you that Bordeaux is more than a smaller version of Paris and is worth your time to explore. If you have any questions, let me know in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.

Bordeaux is called 'little Paris'. So is Bordeaux worth visiting? Read 10 ways Bordeaux is nothing like Paris and why it is worth a visit!
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