The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Bordeaux on a Budget

The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Bordeaux on a Budget

Despite its luxury front and prestigious position at the heart of a legendary wine-making region, Bordeaux is also home to students who have added an affordable dimension to the city.

Here’s our Bordeaux budget travel guide, perfect for backpackers who want to experience everything the city has to offer – all on a budget.

Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

Bordeaux is a city that caters to a variety of budgets, from shoestring backpackers to luxury wine connoisseurs.

Suggested Budget per person

  • Low Budget: €50-80
  • Mid-Range: €80-150
  • High-End: €150+

Detailed Costs: is Bordeaux expensive to visit?


  • Low-Budget: Hostels or budget guesthouses (€25-40 per night)
  • Mid-Range: Mid-range hotels or B&Bs (€60-80 per night)
  • High-End: Luxury hotels or upscale apartments (€150+ per night)

Read: best hostels in Bordeaux.

Public Transportation

  • Single Metro Ticket: €1.80
  • Daily Pass: €7
  • 3-Day Tourist Pass: €34 (includes unlimited public transport and discounts on attractions)

Entrance Fees

  • Low (Mostly Free): Place de la Bourse, Cathédrale Saint-André, Jardin Public
  • Mid-Range: La Cité du Vin (City of Wine): €20, Musée des Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts Museum): €11
  • High-End: Private wine tour in the Saint-Emilion region: €100+, Hot Air Balloon ride over the vineyards: €250+


  • Low-Budget: Kebab, falafel, or pizza (€8-12)
  • Mid-Range: Brasserie or bistro lunch (€15-20)
  • High-End: Fine dining experience with wine pairings (€50+)

Can’t-Miss Bordeaux Food: Canelés: Gooey custard pastries with a caramelized crust

  • Low: €1.50
  • Mid-Range: €2
  • High-End: €3+


  • Low-Budget: Takeaway coffee at a local cafe (€1.20)
  • Mid-Range: Cafe au lait in a terrace cafe (€2.50)
  • High-End: Fancy coffee drink at a trendy spot (€4+)

Beer & Wine

  • Low-Budget: Local beer or glass of house wine at a bar (€3-4)
  • Mid-Range: Craft beer or mid-range bottle of wine at a restaurant (€5-7)
  • High-End: Special vintage wine or private wine tasting (€10+)

Exploring Bordeaux: Things to See & Do

Bordeaux is a city that seduces your senses. Wander through its elegant squares, marvel at its grand architecture, and of course, indulge in the world-famous wines. But Bordeaux offers so much more than just grapes! Here’s a taste of what you can see and do:

Bordeaux Must Do

  1. La Cité du Vin: Dive into the world of wine through interactive exhibits at this architectural masterpiece shaped like a giant decanter. (Tip: Purchase the Bordeaux CityPass for discounted entry!)
  2. Place de la Bourse: Take a mirror selfie at the iconic Water Mirror, a reflecting pool that creates a stunning illusion on a clear day.
  3. Saint-André Cathedral: Climb the Pey Berland Tower for panoramic views of the city and its terracotta rooftops.
  4. Chartrons District: Stroll along the Garonne River, browse antique shops in this charming historic quarter, and admire the old warehouses converted into trendy bars and restaurants.
  5. Wine Tasting Day Trip: Escape to the Saint-Emilion or Médoc wine regions for a day of vineyard tours, tastings, and learning about Bordeaux’s prestigious wines.
  6. Basilica of Saint Michael: Explore this Gothic masterpiece with its flamboyant gargoyles and stained-glass windows.
  7. Musée d’Aquitaine: Delve into Bordeaux’s rich history and archaeology, from prehistoric times to the wine trade.
  8. The Golden Triangle: Discover the prestigious wine appellations of Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, and Pauillac on a luxurious day trip.
  9. Bassin des Lumières: Immerse yourself in dazzling digital art exhibitions projected onto the former submarine base’s monumental walls.
  10. Opéra National de Bordeaux: Catch a performance at this grand opera house, or simply admire its impressive neo-classical architecture.

Free things to do in Bordeaux

  1. Jardin Public: Relax in these beautiful public gardens, perfect for picnics, people-watching, or a peaceful stroll.
  2. Free Walking Tours: Explore the city with a knowledgeable guide and learn fascinating facts and hidden gems, often with tips for the best cafes and restaurants. (Consider leaving a tip at the end if you enjoyed the tour!)
  3. Exploring Neighborhoods: Wander through the historic center, admire the Haussmannian architecture of the Golden Triangle, or soak up the bohemian vibes of Chartrons.
  4. Porte Cailhau: Marvel at this impressive 15th-century gateway, once the main entrance to the medieval city.
  5. Grosse Cloche: Climb the bell tower of this Gothic gate for fantastic city views (small fee applies).
  6. Quays of Bordeaux: Take a walk or bike ride along the Garonne River, soaking up the riverside atmosphere and admiring the Pont Chaban-Delmas, a unique lifting bridge.
  7. Marché des Quais de Bordeaux: Browse the stalls at this lively market offering fresh local produce, flowers, and regional specialties.

Top Museums in Bordeaux

  1. CAPC Musée d’art contemporain: Immerse yourself in contemporary art with a focus on emerging artists.
  2. Musée des Beaux-Arts: Admire European paintings from the 14th to the 20th centuries, including works by Rubens, Titian, and Delacroix.
  3. Musée National des Douanes: Learn about the history of customs and taxes in France, housed in a beautiful 18th-century mansion.
  4. Musée Merlet: Discover a collection of decorative arts and everyday objects from the 17th to the 19th centuries.

Where to Stay on a Budget

Bordeaux may be famous for its fancy vineyards, but you don’t need a king’s ransom to find a decent place to stay. Here’s a breakdown of some budget-friendly neighborhoods:

The Golden Triangle (Not Your Budget Zone): Sure, staying in the heart of the swanky Golden Triangle puts you steps away from luxury boutiques and Michelin-starred restaurants. But for the price of a night here, you could buy a whole case of decent Bordeaux!

Read: best hostels in Bordeaux.

Budget Areas: Backpacking Bordeaux 

Saint-Michel: This historic neighborhood is a budget backpacker’s paradise. Think narrow streets lined with charming guesthouses and hostels, all within walking distance of the main attractions. Just be prepared for the occasional whiff of something, shall we say, “interesting” coming from a nearby bakery (they take their bread seriously here).

Chartrons: Across the river, Chartrons offers a more relaxed vibe. Antique shops and trendy cafes mingle with old warehouses converted into hip bars. Weekend mornings at the Marché des Quais de Bordeaux, a market overflowing with fresh produce, are a must-do. Just remember, “relaxed” can sometimes translate to “slightly less likely to find an early bird breakfast.”

Bastide: Bordeaux’s left bank isn’t just for the fancy folks. Bastide is a cool, up-and-coming neighborhood with a youthful energy. Independent art galleries and local boutiques line the streets, and there’s a real sense of community here. Be prepared for slightly fewer tourist spots, but that just means more opportunities to discover hidden gems!

Gare Saint-Jean: Convenience is king for some travelers, and you can’t beat the location of Gare Saint-Jean, right next to the main train station. This area is a good choice if you’re planning day trips to other parts of France. The neighborhood itself has a more modern feel, with plenty of chain hotels and restaurants. Just pack your earplugs if you’re a light sleeper – trains do make noise, after all.

Passing by Paris? check out our guide to the best hostels in Paris.

Eating and Drinking

Ah, Bordeaux. The very word conjures images of rolling vineyards, sprawling chateaux, and, of course, exquisite (and sometimes eye-wateringly expensive) wines. But fear not, budget backpackers! Bordeaux offers a delicious and affordable culinary scene for those who know where to look. Here’s how to keep your stomach happy (and your wallet full) while exploring this charming French city.

Water: Unlike some countries, tap water in Bordeaux is perfectly safe to drink, so fill up your reusable bottle whenever you can and avoid unnecessary plastic waste (and expense).

Affordable Eats: Bordeaux Travel Guide

  • Formule Friends: Lunchtime is your best friend in Bordeaux. Many restaurants offer a “formule” (set menu) with a starter, main course, and sometimes dessert for a very reasonable price. Look for these lunchtime deals, especially in brasseries and bistros.


  • Marché des Capucins: This covered market is a haven for fresh produce, local cheese, and cured meats.
  • Marché des Quais: Stroll along the Garonne River and browse the stalls at this lively market, offering everything from fresh seafood to local honey.
  • Marché Saint-Michel: This historic market is a great place to find everyday groceries at affordable prices, plus a few tasty takeaway options.
  • Beyond the Boulevards: Tourist traps tend to inflate prices, so avoid restaurants directly on major squares or pedestrian walkways. Venture a few streets back and you’ll find more local gems with friendlier price tags.

Fueling Up for Less:

  • Crêperie Capers: Bordeaux has a strong Breton influence, making crêpes a popular and affordable option. Savory galettes (buckwheat crêpes) are perfect for lunch, while sweet crêpes filled with Nutella or fruit are a delicious (and cheap!) dessert.
  • Kebab Kings and Queens: As in most European cities, kebabs are a reliable and budget-friendly choice. Head to a “kebaberie” for a quick and filling pita or durum loaded with meat, veggies, and sauces.
  • Canelé Connoisseurs: Bordeaux’s claim to sweet fame is the canelé, a small custard tart with a caramelized crust. While not exactly a meal, they’re a delicious and affordable way to indulge your sweet tooth (and experience a local specialty).

Grocery Gems – Backpacking Bordeaux:

  • Lidl: This German discount grocery chain offers a wide variety of budget-friendly staples, from fresh produce to pasta and canned goods.
  • Carrefour Contact: These smaller Carrefour supermarkets are perfect for grabbing essentials or picnic supplies without breaking the bank.
  • Marché U Express: This local chain has several locations throughout the city, offering a good selection of groceries at competitive prices.

Bonus Tip: Like in Paris, many bakeries in Bordeaux offer discounted “la veille” (the day before) pastries. Look for these deals in the afternoon to snag a fresh croissant or pain au chocolat at a fraction of the price.

Bordeaux Nightlife

  • Skip the Tourist Traps: Steer clear of bars and clubs in the heart of tourist areas. 
  • Happy Hour: Many bars in Bordeaux offer a magical time known as “happy hour” (heure apéro), where drinks are discounted for a set period. This is your prime opportunity to snag a glass of Bordeaux’s finest (or a frosty beer) at a fraction of the usual price.
  • Wine Bars are Your Wine Friends: Bordeaux is all about wine, so why not explore it further at a cozy wine bar (bar à vins)? Many offer a wide selection by the glass at reasonable prices. Plus, you can often pair your vino with a cheese plate or charcuterie board for a complete and affordable experience.
  • Student Quarter: Head to the Place de la Victoire, a lively square known for its student population. The surrounding streets are brimming with pubs, bars, and cafes offering affordable drinks and a fun, youthful atmosphere.
  • Live Music on a Budget: Bordeaux boasts a hidden gem – Thélonious Café Jazz Club. With entry fees often starting around €5 on show nights, you can catch amazing live music, from soulful Creole beats to toe-tapping rhythm and blues, without breaking the bank. Pair it with a glass of local wine and some tapas for a truly Bordeaux evening.

Popular street in Bordeaux

How to Get Around

Forget Cinderella’s pumpkin chariot, backpackers! Bordeaux offers a variety of affordable ways to navigate this charming city. Here’s the lowdown on getting around without blowing your travel budget.

Understanding Bordeaux’s Public Transportation

Bordeaux boasts a fantastic public transportation network operated by TBM (Transporte Bordeaux Métropole). This network consists of sleek trams and a comprehensive bus system, whisking you just about anywhere you need to go, and it’s super affordable.

Ticketing Treasures: Single tickets (€1.70) are a decent option for occasional rides, but for budget-minded travelers, multi-day passes are the real champions. Consider a “T10” (10-journey ticket – €13.70) for flexibility, or a 24-hour pass (€4.70) for a full day of exploration.

Here’s a breakdown of your ticketing options and Bordeaux city passes:

  • Ticket à l’Unité (Single Ticket): Valid for one trip on trams or buses within 1 hour, including transfers. Purchase these on board from a machine or with exact change from the bus driver (not all buses offer this option).
  • T10 (10-Journey Ticket): A great option for multiple journeys. This ticket allows 10 individual trips within the network and is valid for one year. Purchase these at TBM ticket booths or authorized retailers like newsstands.
  • T jour (Day Pass): Perfect for a full day of sightseeing. This pass offers unlimited travel on all TBM trams and buses within a 24-hour period from first validation. Purchase these at TBM ticket booths or authorized retailers.
  • Bordeaux CityPass: Feeling extra frugal and want to pack in the museums and attractions? This magic ticket not only grants you free access to many museums and attractions, but also includes unlimited public transportation use for 24, 48, or 72 hours. Prices start at €29 and can be a true money saver for sightseeing enthusiasts, especially if you plan on visiting several museums and attractions. Purchase these online or at the Bordeaux Tourist Information Office.
  • Ticketing Tips: Remember to validate your ticket (stamp it in the machines on board trams or buses) when you first use it to avoid any fines. Download the TBM app for real-time tram and bus schedules and to purchase tickets electronically (requires a French phone number for some features).

Two Wheels on a Budget:

  • Bordeaux is Basically Amsterdam (but with Wine): Okay, maybe not quite Amsterdam, but Bordeaux boasts over 200km of cycling paths! These designated routes weave through the city and surrounding areas, making it easy and safe to navigate.
  • Borrowing a Bike: Several bike rental shops are scattered throughout Bordeaux. For a few euros a day, you can rent a trusty steed and conquer the city at your own pace.
  • V3! Bordeaux’s public bike-sharing system: Bikes are stationed around the city. Unlock them with the V3 app for quick trips or to explore a specific neighborhood.

Walking: Bordeaux’s historic center is surprisingly compact and easily explored on foot. Lace up your walking shoes, ditch the transportation costs altogether, and discover the charming pedestrian streets, squares, and hidden alleyways. Plus, walking is a great way to burn off those delicious canelés you might have indulged in for breakfast.

Cheapest Way to Get To and From the Airport in Bordeaux

Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport (the city’s main airport) is located about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) west of the city center. Here are your budget-friendly options for getting to and from the airport:

  • Bus: The TBM bus network (line 30) connects the airport to the city center for a very reasonable price (€1.70). The ride takes about 45 minutes, so be sure to factor in travel time when planning your arrival and departure. Buses run every 20-30 minutes from the airport departure hall. Look for the blue and white TBM bus stop signs outside the airport.
  • Shuttle Service: Several private shuttle companies offer rides between the airport and the city center. While generally more expensive than the bus (around €15-20), they can be a convenient option if you’re traveling with a group or have a lot of luggage. You can find these companies online or through information booths at the airport.

Best Time to Visit Bordeaux

Bordeaux is a city that charms year-round, but the best time for your visit depends on your priorities. Here’s a breakdown of the seasons to help you choose the perfect time for your Bordeaux adventure:

  • High Season (June-August):

Pros: Long sunny days, great atmosphere, opportunity to experience outdoor festivals and events.
Cons: Peak tourist crowds, higher accommodation prices, possibility of hot and crowded weather.

  • Shoulder Season (April-May & September-October):

Pros: Pleasant weather, fewer crowds, good balance of sunshine and mild temperatures, the possibility of finding better deals on accommodation.
Cons: Some businesses may have shorter hours, and some events and festivals may not be running.

  • Low Season (November-March):

Pros: Lowest accommodation prices, a chance to experience the city like a local, fewer crowds at museums and attractions.
Cons: Weather can be unpredictable with rain and occasional chilly days, some wineries may have shorter hours or be closed for harvest.

National Holidays & Peak Festivals:

  • French National Holidays: Keep in mind that French national holidays like Bastille Day (July 14th) and Assumption Day (August 15th) can lead to higher accommodation prices and busier tourist attractions.
  • Carnaval de Bordeaux (February): A  carnival celebration with parades, music, and costumes. Expect higher tourist numbers and accommodation prices during this time.
  • Bordeaux Wine Festival (June): A major event showcasing the region’s wines, with tastings, talks, and celebrations. Prepare for crowds and book accommodation well in advance.
  • Bordeaux Fête du Fleuve (September): A lively festival celebrating the Garonne River with boat races, fireworks, and riverside entertainment. Accommodation prices may be slightly higher during this event.
  • Christmas Markets (December): The city transforms into a winter wonderland with charming Christmas markets offering festive food, drinks, and crafts. Expect higher tourist numbers and book accommodation in advance.

Essentials, Money & Safety Tips

So you’ve booked your flight, researched the best budget eats, and planned your exploration route. Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: what essentials do you need to pack and how can you stay safe while navigating this charming French city?

Bordeaux Safety Tips

  • Mind the Pickpockets: Bordeaux, like most major cities, has its share of petty theft. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas like public transportation and tourist attractions. Avoid carrying valuables in easily accessible pockets, and consider a money belt for extra security.
  • Night Time Navigation: While generally safe, some areas around the train station can feel a little sketchy at night. Stick to well-lit streets, avoid walking alone in deserted areas, and consider pre-booking taxis or using ride-sharing apps for late-night journeys.

Things Not to Do in Bordeaux

  • Don’t Forget Your Manners: A little “bonjour” and “merci” go a long way in Bordeaux. While most locals will appreciate your efforts to speak French, even basic courtesy goes a long way in creating a positive impression.

Bordeaux Budget Passes

  • TBM Tickets & Passes: Bordeaux’s public transportation network, TBM, offers a variety of tickets and passes to suit your needs. Snag a “T10” (10-journey ticket) for flexibility, or a 24-hour pass for a full day of exploration. Remember, these will save you euros compared to buying single tickets for every ride.
  • Bordeaux CityPass: If you’re planning on visiting several museums and attractions, the Bordeaux CityPass is a lifesaver. This magic ticket not only grants you free entry to many sights, but also includes unlimited public transportation use for 24, 48, or 72 hours. Do the math and see if it makes sense for your itinerary.

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