Experiencing Bordeaux by bike as a visitor is both convenient and enjoyable, with plentiful options for bike rental and little need to step foot on a crowded bus or tramway. Chris Cooley, co-owner of Musette Bicycles and Coffee shop, shared his perfect route for soaking up Bordeaux by bicycle. This itinerary takes in the Gothic Saint-André Cathedral, the Basilica of Saint-Michel and the vibrant Capucins Market.
Bordeaux’s public bike rental service, V3, offers a hassle-free and cost-efficient way to cycle around the city. With 1,700 bikes stationed around Bordeaux, V3 simply requires online registration – then you’re ready to grab a bike and go. The first half an hour is free each time you use a V3 bike, after which it costs €2 (£1.85) per hour. Alternatively, hire a bike from Esprit Cycles – a conveniently placed bike shop at Gambetta where service is friendly and the bikes of decent quality. Rentals start at €15 (£13.75) per day, with the option to book online too.
Admire the Cathédrale Saint-André
Once you’ve picked up a bike (this works perfectly if you hired one from Esprit Cycles), start the tour by passing Cathédrale Saint-André, one of Bordeaux’s most impressive architectural monuments. Also known as Bordeaux Cathedral, this Roman Catholic church dedicated to Saint Andrew is admired for its Gothic style and freestanding bell tower, which can be seen from afar. For a closer look, enter the church and absorb the religious scenes and imposing gargoyles that are intricately sculpted around the doorway and walls.
Fuel up at Musette Bicycles and Coffee
To get you in the cycling spirit and ready for a day on two wheels, swing by Musette Bicycles and Coffee. Offering speciality coffee and delicious homemade cakes, this spot is perfect for a light breakfast, or a more substantial vegetarian brunch on Saturdays, to fuel you for a day exploring Bordeaux. At Musette, staff are experts in the field of coffee and bikes, so don’t forget to pick up any insider cycling tips before setting off on your bike for the afternoon.
Get lost in the Capucins Market
Just a stone’s throw away from Musette lies the bustling Capucins Market. Here you’ll find row after row of market stalls, selling everything from fresh flowers and fruit to vegetables and the region’s finest meats and cheeses. Pick up some local French produce (in preparation for an evening picnic) and absorb a truly authentic experience at one of Bordeaux’s best traditional French markets.
Soak up the history of Bordeaux’s old town
As you cycle from the Capucins Market, glide in and out of the narrow streets and through the old town. Be sure to stop by the Basilica of Saint-Michel to admire more ornate Gothic architecture and a second vibrant market that surrounds the church. This time you’ll find items such as antiques, bric-a-brac and work by local artists.
While exploring the old town, the Place de la Bourse is a must-see square which is (quite literally) dripping in French culture and history. Designed by Louis XV’s favourite architect, Jacque Jules Gabriel, the square’s magnificent architecture and prime location, just next to the Garonne River, makes it a picture-perfect scene. Don’t miss the Miroir d’Eau, which reflects a spectacular, symmetrical mirror image in the shallow water pool opposite – framing the best photo op in the city!
After snapping the perfect shot, hop back on your bike and head over the beautiful Pont de Pierre (Stone Bridge). Commissioned by Napoleon, the Pont de Pierre has 17 spans (which is the same number of letters as Napoleon Bonaparte) and was the first ever stone bridge built in Bordeaux. Today it is one of many bridges along the Garonne River, but for close to 150 years the Pont de Pierre was the only bridge that connected the centre of Bordeaux on the left bank and La Bastide district on the right bank.
Discover modern Bordeaux
After taking in the history of the old town, it’s time to take a ride on the modern side of Bordeaux. Continue along the right bank of the river until you reach the city’s counterculture and hipster hangout spot, Darwin.
Darwin is a sustainable ecosystem built in a former barracks, adorned with reworked furniture and other recycled materials. Creative expression is at the heart of this popular hangout space, as an open-air graffiti gallery and vibrant skate park offer eclectic bursts of colour to the otherwise mellow, calm atmosphere. Grab a beer from Darwin’s hip bar and restaurant, Magasin Général, and sit back for a moment in the sunshine. Darwin also hosts exhibitions and events, so have a wander before jumping back on your bike.
Next, follow the dedicated cycle path along the river and cross back over to the left bank via Europe’s largest vertical lift bridge, the Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas.
Immerse yourself in world wines at the Cité du Vin
Once you’ve crossed the Jacques Chaban-Delmas bridge, make a beeline for the Cité du Vin – notable for its uber-modern architecture. Earning the title as Bordeaux’s most famous wine museum, the Cité du Vin is a wine lover’s dream. Inside, visitors explore the world of wine through workshops and exhibitions, with a ticket to the permanent exhibition also granting access to the museum’s wine-tasting bar. The Belvedere is located on the eighth floor and overlooks the entire city – the panoramic views, world-class wines and spectacular architecture make this spot well worth a visit when in Bordeaux. Don’t forget to pick up a bottle of wine from the museum’s wine shop, as next on the agenda is a picnic in the park.
Explore the Jardin Public and have dinner al fresco
From the Cité du Vin, follow the Garonne River and see the vibrant riverside life along the Quai des Marques. Continue past Skate Park Colbert and the Quai des Chartrons before turning right and into the Jardin Public for a well-deserved picnic and glass of wine in the park.
With abundant wildlife and scenic views over the lake, the Jardin Public is a blissful spot to enjoy a relaxing picnic after an active day of cycling. Indulge in the local produce that you picked up earlier at the Capucins Market and savour every last drop of the Bordeaux wine you bought at Cité du Vin.
End the day with cocktails at Le CanCan
As the sun goes down and the day draws to an end, return your bike (if hired) and walk over to Le CanCan for an unforgettable soirée of unique cocktails. A hidden gem on the Bordeaux bar scene, this spot takes customers on a journey from a calm and quaint side street to a vibrant retro speakeasy bar. Ask the bar staff for advice when choosing a cocktail; their house collection is carefully curated with passion and expertise.