Bordeaux on a Budget
We arrived in Bordeaux excited to indulge in the region’s excellent wine, but we were concerned about the ability to experience Bordeaux on a budget. Yet with some sensible spending, there is still plenty of value to be had in this wine lover’s paradise.
But even while employing budget-friendly techniques, Bordeaux wasn’t particularly cheap. Still if you make the right moves, you can stand to save over a thousand euro during a weekend trip to the historic city and the famed vineyards that surround. So here’s a guide to Budget Travel Bordeaux that will allow you to have all those quintessential experiences and still maybe have enough leftover to splurge on that vintage Grand Cru wine bottle you’ve been drooling over.
Bordeaux: Do This! Not That!
The table below shows how you can save nearly a thousand euro by being strategic with your trip planning during a three-night stay. None of these less expensive recommended options sacrifices much quality compared to the more expensively priced alternative. This article provides all the details you’ll need to do “this” and not “that” to have a blast in Bordeaux without emptying your wallet.
Note: prices reflect the cost for two people and are in local currency, euro.
While €400 Euro is still a lot to spend on just a 3 night / 4 day trip, you must keep in mind that Bordeaux (and much of France) is simply an expensive place to travel to (relatively speaking) and there’s no way to completely avoid that if you really want to experience what you came here for. So this sample budget of about €50 per person per day, which is filled with nice meals, plentiful drinks, and even a few tours is actually not too bad at all! While Bordeaux may not be entirely budget-friendly, there is still some great value to be found.
Top 5 Things To Do Around Bordeaux on a Budget
You don’t have to break the bank to experience Bordeaux. Here’s our top five recommendations for things to do in Bordeaux on a budget.
1) Take a Medoc Vineyard Trip: The Inexpensive Way
You absolutely must go on a vineyard trip while visiting Bordeaux. But doing often involves an expensive day tour. Even half day minibus tours to two wineries can cost between €70-€99 per person, while full day tours can be as much as €155 per person. That’s €310 (nearly $400) for a couple – ouch!
Pass on all those, because you can book a Medoc bus tour for only €40. During these tours, a large coach carries up to 53 people to the area’s vineyards, so it’s a less intimate experience than riding in a small private van. But in our opinion, the savings of €140-€240 per couple is absolutely worth it! It’s a nice bus a very comfortable. There’s only one of these €40 bus tours each day, so be sure to book in advance in order to secure your spots.
The area and chateaus visited vary each day, so reserve your preferred day according to where you’re most interested in going. Among the most famed regions is Medoc, which is what we opted for during our visit. During summer 2017, Medoc trips are running every Thursdays and Saturday.
The tour is run directly by the Bordeaux Tourist Office, which is where it departs from everyday at 1:30 pm. You can book this €40 Bordeaux Vineyards bus tour on Viator and advanced bookings are definitely recommended in the summer high season months. Being that this is the most economical vineyard tour available from Bordeaux, it sells out just about every day in the summer.
And to reiterate, although a half-day bus vineyards tour can be booked for €40 every day, only the Thursday and Saturday tours will take you to Medoc chateuas. Tours on the other days of the week can be worthwhile too, and you may even want to consider taking this vineyard tour on multiple days. Below is the complete schedule for Summer 2017 of this economical Bordeaux vineyards tour:
- Sunday: Saint-Emilion
- Monday: Côtes Bourg & Blaye
- Tuesday: Bordeaux & Entre-deux-Mers
- Wednesday: Saint-Emilion
- Thursday: Medoc
- Friday: Graves & Sauternais
- Saturday: Medoc
None of those would be bad options, yet we stick with our recommendation with the famed Medoc vineyards.
Also, before you commit to the tour, just know that the Medoc trip is heavy on driving and small in tastings. Don’t come on this wine tour looking to drink copious amounts of wine by the glass, because you won’t find it. But what is tasted tends to be excellent quality. Plus the French countryside makes for a nice drive too. Yet the Medoc chateaus themselves were a true highlight of this half-day wine tour, making it worth the trip. Our Medoc vineyard tour included Chateau D’Arsac as one of the stops. The artist installations throughout Chateau D’Arsac were just awesome and we’d argue it’s among the best wineries to visit around Bordeaux!
2) Explore the Historic City Center of Bordeaux
The UNESCO-listed city of Bordeaux for its architectural ensemble created in the age of Enlightment. While you may have been attracted to Bordeaux for its wine, you should really take some time out to explore this fascinating and beautiful city. You’ll find loads of historic landmarks and local culture by just wandering around the historic city center.
You can instead pick up some complimentary literature and maps at the tourism office to create your own walking tour of the monuments and sites.
Yet for a more formal background about the city, take the this informative and highly-rated Bordeaux Walking Tour, which is only €12 per person. The tour departs each day at 10:00 am and lasts about two hours.
Or for a little more speed and fun, you can try Bordeaux’s new segway tour, which is surprisingly affordable! Segway tours throughout most major cities across Western Europe tend to get quite pricey (the Paris segway tour is €70). Yet this 90-minute segway tour of Bordeaux will only set you back a mere €30.
Also consider wandering these sites after the sun goes down as many of the monuments are lit up in the evenings!
Whether on your own or as part of a tour, we would suggest planning to spend a full day exploring the the city itself. Make sure you don’t miss some of Bordeaux’s most famous landmarks and monuments that are free or inexpensive:
Place de la Bourse and the Water Mirror – This is one of Bordeaux’s signature sights and is something you likely won’t miss. Any tour of the city will most certainly include this as a stop or you can easily wander there on your own. It’s free to view. Come back at night to see it lit up
Bordeaux Cathedral (St Andrew Cathedral) – The French National Monument constructed mainly in the 14th-15th century is a grand church where the still acts as the seat of the Archbishop today. It’s free to go inside but you should consider leaving a donation.
Pey-Berland Tower – Climb the 233 spiral stairs to get a birds-eye view of Bordeaux for €6 admission. (Do this before you begin drinking wine. 😉 )
La Cite Du Vin – Bordeaux’s brand new wine museum is full of technology-enabled exhibits to give you a flashy education about the history of wine. There is a €20 entrance fee, but you can easily spend a few hours here and your admission also includes a glass of wine while enjoying panoramic views on the 8th-floor wine bar.
Bordeaux Money-Saving Tip: Get The Bordeaux CityPass
If you are planning to pursue some of the activities suggested above, then you should definitely consider the Bordeaux CityPass. The CityPass provides access to nearly all of Bordeaux’s museums including the €20 admission to La Cite Du Vin if you go before Noon. The CityPass also includes the €12 walking tour, a €13.50 bus tour of Bordeaux, and the €6 Pey-Berland Tower admission. The pass further includes free access to all of Bordeaux’s public transport network.
There are 48-hour and 72-hour CityPasses, but we suggest simply buying a 24-hour CityPass which should enable you do take the tours, climb the tour, and visit the Cite Du Vin all in one day, at a significant cost savings.
Just those activities and attractions I’ve mentioned above would add up to €56 on their own, but the CityPass costs only €29. And I’ve only scratched the surface on all the entries and discounts it includes. See here for a full list. Even if you only went to the Cite Du Vin and one tour of Bordeaux, and did nothing else, the CityPass still pays for itself.
3) Embark on a Saint Emilion Day Trip
The medieval village of St Emilion is another must-do site just outside of Bordeaux. It’s a perfect full day trip from Bordeaux and only takes about a half hour by train to get there. When arriving to St Emilion, you find the stunning site of this compact town towering up from a sea of vineyards. The main highlights of this awesome village is to tour the famed “underground,” visit a winery & cellar, and tour the historic sites above ground in St Emilion’s centre. Quaint shops and cafes dot the narrow streets along with magnificent churches and towers in the background.
Yet you don’t necessarily need to book a packaged group tour to visit this awesome UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can have a similar experience on your own and you can check out our separate post with all the details on a DIY Day Trip from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion. And at about €45 per person, this suggestion has a cost savings of €200 for two people when compared to a similar group tour.
While we recommend the DIY day trip, we’d be remiss to mention one other affordable option to get to St. Emilion. There is a €40 coach tour that goes from Bordeaux to St Emilion, which includes a stop at one winery with tastings and a tour of the St Emilion underground. Advance bookings are recommended during the summer months. However, this €40 tour to St Emilion only goes there on Sunday (year-round) or a Wednesday (April 1-Nov 15). Note: although this tour appears to be offered every day of the week, it actually only goes to St Emilion on those two days of the week.
However you get there, don’t miss this lovely village and UNESCO World Heritage Site that is just a stone’s throw from Bordeaux.
4) Eat Your Way Across Bordeaux on the Cheap
In France, eating is a thing to do. And if you can’t afford a table at Michelin-starred Le Gabriel (€240 menu per couple), don’t fret, because there are still plenty of reasonable alternatives around town.
Where to Eat in Bordeaux on a Budget
If you’re really on a shoestring, skip to the latter few entries in of this section. But when in such a culinary capital, it can be very worthwhile to spend a bit more. While there may be more economical options to eat on the cheap, the following provides our favorite quality-to-price (value) recommendations that are unique to Bordeaux.
Chez Jean Mi at Marché des Capucins
Blend in with the locals and head down to the market known locally as Marché des Capucins. Wade past the produce and seafood vendors and you’ll find a few casual eateries serving up fresh seafood directly from the nearby Atlantic Coast. We wandered here in the morning hours and found Chez Jean Mi.
It was at Chez Jean Mi where everyone seemed to be slurping down raw oysters and sipping on white wine. Who are we to argue with that? An order of a half dozen raw oysters with fresh bread and a glass of wine currently runs €7. We found other restaurants in Bordeaux listing a half dozen of the mollusks for about €10 without any wine, so Chez Jean Mi definitely has fantastic value.
The oysters are good. They carried a heavy brine flavor, which the accompanied lemon cuts through nicely. It’s all pairs excellently with the white wine pours. Also of note to consider ordering here is the “assortment of fruits of the sea.” It’s meant for two people, which is an artfully crafted tower of crabs, shellfish, mollusks and oceanic indulgences for €21, which is of incredible value considering what you get.
And if that didn’t quite fill you up, there’s still plenty of other snacks and goodies to snag throughout the entire market.
People often tout the mussels from Brussels are the best in Europe. But while we found plenty to love about Belgium, we actually preferred the mussels in France (gasp!), particularly those in Bordeaux. And mussels were one of the few menu items that we found to be more affordable in France compared to Belgium! You can find moules frites throughout many restaurants in Bordeaux and it’s actually one of the more economical dining options to be had in the city. Plus, Bordeaux’s status of a port town only adds to the likelihood of freshness when it comes to seafood like mussels.
There are several places with moules frites on the menu for less than €10 and many even include a glass of wine! They’re often advertised on the chalkboards outside of restaurants. And even if you can’t read French, the phrase “Moules Frites“ should be decipherable.
While many other midrange set menus in the city run upwards of €25 without wine, Moules Frites can be true bargain. Whether you choose moules marinières or à la crème, an uncharacteristically gut-busting portion of mussels will likely be delivered to your table, so be hungry! Keep your eye out for this meal deal at the eateries near the train station and even in the more touristic areas in the heart of town (although perhaps €1-€2 more in the centre).
Le Cheverus Cafe
This busy café must have the best value set lunch menu in the city center. For just under €12, you can treat yourself to a set menu of the day including wine! During our visit, the main course was a delicious stewed beef of some sorts. And if the main course option doesn’t appeal to you, there are other set menus available that range around €15-€25. Be sure to snag a table early in the day though as the place gets packed and tends to run out of their daily special. And be prepared to give your French a try or put your translator to work, as there’s not much English writing or speaking going on at Le Cheverus.
Eating around Bordeaux on a Shoestring
You can find a number of quick-serve restaurants and cafes with decent French lunch meals of salads and sandwiches in the €5+ range on Rue Ste Catherine. These are great for a quick mid day bite. And if that’s too much, there are a few Turkish doner kebab shops for even less. But you’re in France, so we’d always encourage you to explore the local cuisine!
Picnic on the Garonne: Another consideration is to head to the supermarket and pack a picnic lunch to enjoy while sitting on the Garonne River, as we saw many locals doing. The Monoprix supermarket in town has a great selection of all sorts of delicious French staples and even some pre-made items like sandwiches and salads, all at pretty good prices.
5) Drink Wine.
Ok, so you’ve visited the wineries, had your tastings, and now its time for more. Most restaurants throughout Bordeaux tend to offer wines by the bottle, which can be expensive. Even if you can find a cafe with wines by the glass, you’re looking at about €8 per glass for anything decent. That’ll add up real quickly. Go as a couple, sip on three glass and next thing you know there’s a €50 check waiting to be paid.
Instead, we highly recommend a place where wine by the glass starts at only €2. That’s essentially four glasses of wine for the price of one! We’re not just talking about wine tastings. These are full pours. View our “Where to drink” recommendations to see where you can relish in amazingly affordable €2 glasses of Bordeaux’s finest!
Where to Drink in Bordeaux on a Budget
There actually aren’t too many bars in the city and a lot of drinking instead occurs in restaurants or cafes. These restaurants throughout Bordeaux tend to offer wines by the bottle, not the glass. But if you do find a restaurant or the elusive wine bar with wines by the glass, you’re looking at about €8 per glass.
Bar a Vin Ecole du Vin Bordeaux = €2 Glasses of Wine!
So instead, we strongly recommend a visit to the Bar a Vin Ecole du Vin Bordeaux. This is where you’ll find glasses starting at €2 a pop! It may possibly be the best value for wine in all of France. The steep discount is thanks in part to the Bordeaux Wine Council, whose mission is to promote the wine producers of the region.
Bar a Vin Ecole du Vin Bordeaux is also known as Maison du Vin and is easy to find, as it’s located directly across the street from the tourism office in the city center.Maison du Vin offers a few dozen wines by the glass each day with generous full-glass pours starting at a mere €2! Better bottles and vintages can also be found for steals in the €5-€10 range, whereas they’d likely set you back triple that elsewhere. Yet about half of their selections were priced below €5 per glass. We stuck almost entirely to these more economical glasses and there wasn’t a choice we didn’t like.
The servers are properly trained sommeliers. They were friendly, atypically unpretentious, and quick with helpful recommendations even for the uninitiated. They also have a few different reasonably-priced cheese boards to compliment all those glasses of wine you may consume while here. We strongly recommend the Gruyere cheese plate, but you probably can’t go wrong with any of them.
If you want to try a number of different wines while in Bordeaux, this is a “Must Do.” You could really spend a good few hours here determining what you like and don’t like. And with the money you save, you’ll now be able to consider spending on a few bottles of your favorites to bring back home with you.
Frog & Rosbif Bordeaux Happy Hour
If you’ve been following our blog, then you know we have a love affair with craft beer. So when we discovered there was a brewpub in this wine-centric region, we just had to give the Frog & Rosbit a try. The verdict: meh, the beer is okay (not great, not bad at all either). But it’s one of the few places in Bordeaux with a happy hour, which makes it a good bet if you want to enjoy a pint of decent beer at a decent price.
The brewpub is centrally located, has quick service, and a great place to catch a game. During happy hour, which runs Monday-Friday from 5:30 – 8:00 and all day Tuesday, pint prices drop to €4.50. They have six different beers on tap, which were heavy on English styles. We tried all six and I’d recommend their stout, Dark De Triomphe, above the others. Yet if in the mood for something lighter, try their Belgian-style witbier, Froegaarden.
Where to Stay in Bordeaux on a Budget
Bordeaux is a very popular summer tourist destination, so booking as early as possible will yield much better room rates and a greater selection. Rooms tend to book up very quickly here!
The city center is a good choice stay for obvious reasons. But it’s also a popular choice and prices will reflect that. If you have the budget for it and you find availability, then it may be a nice and centrally located place to stay.
Yet our Bordeaux on a Budget recommendation is to stay near the train station. Here you have easy access to the city center via the inexpensive and futuristic-looking tram line and a convenient point to get in & out of the city (and to Saint Emilion). Accommodation near the train station tends to offer much better value than around the city center.
Hostels in Bordeaux France
If you are a solo traveler, one of Bordeaux’s two hostels may be your best bet. But if you are traveling as a couple, you can likely find other budget-friendly accommodation in Bordeaux for around the same price point (for two people) or perhaps only few euros more.
Until recently, there was surprising only one hostel in Bordeaux. The Auberge Jeunese Bordeaux (Bordeaux Youth Hostel) is a bit more than a half kilometer walk from the train station and has beds in shared dorms starting at €24.
Now Hostel 20 is now a second hostel in Bordeaux, which enjoys a better location in the city center, about a 10-15 minute walk north of where all Bordeaux’s main attractions and restaurants are. Shared dorms start at about €28 per night for a bed in this 18th-century building. Unlike Auberge Jeanese, you can book a bed at Hostel 20 online using Hostelworld.
Budget-Friendly Bordeaux Hotel Recommendations
Here are some budget-friendly hotel recommendations in Bordeaux that meet the following three criteria:
- Within a two-minute walk of the Bordeax train station,
- Have a consistent record of good reviews, and
- Summer rates start at less than €75 per night.
Don’t expect the Ritz luxury with any of these. But if you’re looking for a budget-friendly room to stay in Bordeaux with convenient access to the train station & tram line, these are a few suggestions that may suffice. Note: Each of these links will open in a separate window and conveniently take you to the associated hotelscombined.com page for the hotel. There, you can enter your dates and it will automatically search all the top booking websites (e.g., Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Agoda, etc.) to find out which site offers you the best price for your specific dates.
- Hotel du Faisan: fairly basic (no air-con) yet good-enough 2-star hotel with summer rates starting at €42
- Ibis Bordeaux Centre Gare Saint Jean: standard Ibis-brand hotel with summer rates starting at €49 – a fantastic value if you can find a room near that rate!
- Hotel California: A decent budget-friendly hotel with super friendly staff and summer rates starting at €69. (We’ve stayed here and found it to be good for the price.)
- Ibis Styles Bordeaux Gare Saint Jean: standard Ibis Styles hotel with summer rates starting at €71 including breakfast.
- Hotel Mercure Bordeaux Centre Gare Saint Jean: Probably the nicest hotel to make it on our budget-friendly list, this 4-star property has rooms with summer rates starting at €71, and absolute steal if you can score a rate that low.
If you’ve clicked on the links and found that each of these hotels is already booked up for your dates or that the rates far exceed what we have listed, then you may want to broaden your search. Hotels book up very quickly in Bordeaux, so it is important to reserve a room as soon as possible. Try using Hotelscombined.com (or use the widget below) to search all of the top booking websites for a budget-friendly room in Bordeaux.
Apartment Rentals and Boutique Hotels
Smaller hotels and B&Bs are also a great choice in Bordeaux and there are plenty of them if you book early enough. Apartment rentals are another fantastic option to consider in Bordeaux for budget-friendly accommodation. This is an exceptionally great option if traveling in August when many Bordeaux residents are vacationing elsewhere and hence will list their apartment as a short-term rental while they’re away. And what better way to live like a local!
Airbnb.com has a great selection of apartment rentals in some wonderful locations throughout the city. Most are really good value and you can find some great deals if there is a group of you to share the cost of an apartment with multiple bedrooms. If you’ve never tried Airbnb before, you can use this link to save $40 off your first booking.
Bonus Bordeaux Budget Tip: Meet A Bordeaux Greeter
Before your trip to Bordeaux, consider reaching out to the Bordeaux Greeters. This organization of volunteers shows visitors around Bordeaux free of charge. It’s best to give them plenty of advance notice in order to get matched up with someone. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to organize. Be sure to let them know a little bit about yourself, hobbies, and if you have any specific interests while in Bordeaux. They’ll use this information in order to find a greeter that best matches your interests.
Have Fun in Bordeaux!
We hope you found this guide to Bordeaux on a Budget helpful, you have a great visit, and drink lots of wine! If this blog post did help, we’d love to hear from you in the comments. Or if you have your own Bordeaux budget travel tips, please do share with the rest of us 😉 We’re always on the lookout for additional budget-friendly places to try out for whenever we visit Bordeaux again.
And for additional travel tips, join us and the other thousands of savvy travelers over on our Facebook Page where we’re continuing to give out regular doses of travel inspiration from wherever we may be roaming around today.
Happy travels to Bordeaux!