We may be a bit biased (clue’s in the name), but we’re confident in saying that the best day trips from Bordeaux are done by train. Trains in France are a comfortable and reliable way to get around, with the option of the famous high-speed TGV trains to get you to your destination faster. So, you’ve got no excuse for refusing to indulge your inner explorer and see what lies beyond Bordeaux’s city limits. Here's a taste of the best places to visit on a day trip from Bordeaux -
- St Emilion
- Périgord Noir
Keep reading to find out what to expect on a visit to these fantastic destinations.
1. St Emilion
One of the most popular Bordeaux day trips is to St. Emilion, an area famed for its lush vineyards and the resulting fine wines. There’s plenty to see and do here, whether that’s arranging a tasting tour of all the vintages of the area, cycling around its pretty pathways or taking in the charm of the village, itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site. St Emilion is just about as picture-perfect as France can get, with narrow roads and pretty architecture all around as well as great weather in the summer months. Its appeal is nothing new either – even the Romans planted wine in this area.
The Bordeaux St Jean to St Emilion takes a little over half an hour, so you can be whisked from the city and into the quaint charm of this commune in no time at all.
Where better to enjoy the tasty tipples you’ve picked up on your journeys so far than the beach? Arcachon is located just south of Bordeaux and offers a stunning dose of nature to your French escape. The train from Bordeaux St Jean to Arcachon will take you a mere 50 minutes. Remember to pack a swimsuit and the sun cream because here is where the beach is calling, and with more than its fair share of sand at that, Dune du Pilat - Europe’s largest dune - makes for one Arcachon beach that’s well worth visiting.
Once no more than a pine forest, this commune is now popular for swimming, enjoying the sun and all the fun that comes with a day at the seaside. The charms of this area have been known to inspire - Alexandre Dumas, the famed French author of The Three Musketeers, once called Arcachon home. So, pour yourself a glass of wine, tuck into the local oysters, lay back on the sands and see if you can divine up your next destination (but don’t worry if you can’t, we’ve done that for you).
Keeping on the boozy theme, Cognac is a fantastic destination for a day of adventure and even more tasty tipples. Just two hours away, the train journey from Bordeaux to Cognac barely makes a dent in your day, meaning you can make the most of your time in the area. Start with a charming riverside walk along the Charente to get acquainted with your new surroundings before wandering up through the charming cobbled streets – be sure to keep an eye out for the impressive salamander sculptures and gargoyles, a hint to a royal past, King Francis I was born here.
For those who are seeking out its namesake, the King’s birthplace is still the best place to head. Chateau Royal de Cognac became the areas first cognac house, with the vaulted cellars serving as regal surroundings to this spirit’s creation. Or, for fans of perhaps the world’s most famous cognac, the House of Remy Martin awaits. Here you can tour the grand estate, sample the premium spirit and even try your hand at cocktail mixing.
After your liquid lunch, take a moment to gather your thoughts at the Cognac Public Garden, a sprawling park with fountains, English-styled gardens and, also within its grounds, the Museum of Art and History.
4. Périgord Noir
One of Bordeaux’s closest neighbours, there’s no excuse for missing out on the stunning area of the Dordogne and its most visited area of Périgord Noir. We recommend heading for the Vézère Valley as a priority. Set along the Vézère River, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is full of natural beauty and also has a rich history to share. Scattered around the valley are ancient caves full of prehistoric cave paintings – perhaps not quite what you expected on your wine-fuelled getaway, but an awe-inspiring addition to any visit for sure.
Sarlat is the most famed town in this region and your perfect stop for an indulgent lunch (the specialities here are truffles and foie gras, after all). Sweet-lovers can also sample the locally made nougat, the ideal sugar rush to energise the rest of your exploration. The indoor market is a great place to head for some edible souvenirs too. The town itself is precisely what you would imagine from the words ‘French countryside town” – every corner provides some new wonder that will have your social media crammed with beautiful shots, from half-timbered houses to cobbled streets, gothic arched windows to sun-drenched town squares. There is also a panoramic lift over the town, so you can catch a prize snap.
The train from Bordeaux to Périgord takes a mere 1.5 hours to see you to the heart of the Dordogne, for a French day trip you’re sure to remember.
Well, why not? Day trips from Bordeaux don’t have to be all about wine country. The capital is only 2.5 hours away if you hop a train from Bordeaux to Paris, so if after a few days of pretty countryside and plenty of wine you’re looking to nurse your hangover with some retail therapy, delectable food or just more wine, the city of lights will happily provide.
An early start can even get you to Paris in time to beat the main tourist crowds, letting you take in the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph or the Louvre in relative peace. Spend an afternoon wandering the shopping opportunities of Champs-Elysées or swap boutiques for boulangeries and join the local Parisians in their passion for croissants. Once evening falls, sample the Paris nightlife, perhaps with a visit to the famous Moulin Rouge, just in time to catch a late train back to Bordeaux where you can enjoy waking up the next morning to much more tranquil surroundings.
With so much on its doorstep, a bit of out-of-city adventuring is almost irresistible, so head out, experience all that the area has to offer, and be back in your hotel just in time to raise a glass to fantastic new memories.