8 Day Trips from Bordeaux, France by Direct Train

August 3, 2017

porte cailhau in bordeaux, france - a gorgeous clock tower that looks like a castle

Bordeaux is a beautiful walled city with many things to do, but the region it’s in is equally worth exploring. From historic ports to renowned vineyards, there’s so much diversity within a couple hours of Bordeaux.

After living in Bordeaux for 4 months, here are some of my favorite day trips from the city. All are accessible by train.

First, a some logistics:

Transportation

I took the train most frequently, so approximate prices I list are for train tickets with SNCF. The lower end of the range is for Carte Avantage Jeune holders (those ages 12-27 who’ve purchased a discount card). The higher end is for any adult without a discount card.

You may also have some luck with BlaBlaCar, a car rideshare service. I haven’t had the greatest experience with BlaBlaCar, but you can read the pros and cons of the service in this post.

8 Day Trips by Bordeaux, France by Train (no car needed!)

This post contains affiliate links, meaning that I earn commission on any bookings completed through these links, at no extra cost to you. If you find this post helpful, it’s a great way to support my blog 🙂

1. Arcachon

La Dune du Pilat
La Dune du Pilat

Distance by train: 1 hour
Roundtrip cost: €10-25
Known for: tallest sand dune in Europe, beaches, forests, seafood

Arcachon is an unexpected fusion: thick forests, miles of sand, and vast ocean. Perfect for a summer outing, Arcachon boasts plenty of beaches, shops, and restaurants. It’s also home to the tallest sand dune in Europe, the Dune du Pilat.

To reach the Dune du Pilat (also spelled Pyla), take bus 1 from the train station. Be sure to bring lots of water and be ready for a sand-walking workout. Adrenaline junkies can also go paragliding (check the seasons and operators), and those who want a more “chill” outing can lie out on the beach at the foot of the dune.

Don’t want the hassle of planning? Check out this small group tour that leaves from Bordeaux and takes you to the Dune, where you can also sample oysters and drink wine.

2. St-Jean-de-Luz

St-Jean-de-Luz beach
St-Jean-de-Luz
St-Jean-de-Luz

Distance by train: 2 hours
Roundtrip cost: €30-50
Known for: beaches, mountains, artisan shops, food (desserts and seafood)

The Pays Basque, a region near the Spanish border, is famous for beautiful weather and warm people. Saint-Jean-de-Luz is one of the most popular destinations in the Pays Basque. You really just can’t beat the quaint town, cliffside views, and calm beaches. While you’re there, be sure to try a gâteau basque, a mini-cake traditional to the region. 

If you want to extend your trip and spend more time in the region, Bayonne and Biarritz (listed next) are only 10-30 minutes away from Saint-Jean-de-Luz by train. I personally visited all 3 in one trip of a few days, and would recommend that itinerary, though if you can only visit one, go to Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

3. Bayonne

The half-timbered houses of Bayonne view of Bayonne's half-timbered houses
Photos of Bayonne by Jenny of Peak District Kids, used with permission

Distance by train: under 2 hours
Roundtrip cost: €20-50
Known for: Basque Museum (cultural museum of the region), chocolate shops, medieval architecture, Fêtes de Bayonne (a 5-day summer festival and the largest festival in France)

Bayonne is a riverside town with beautiful half-timbered houses and medieval architecture. One of the top attractions is the Bayonne Cathedral, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a stop on the St. Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage, a 1600-kilometer route from France to Spain. You might be thinking: “Man, another cathedral?” Even if you’re tired of European cathedrals, this one is worth a stop, especially for its beautiful cloisters and intricate interior.

You might also enjoy the Basque Museum to learn more about the history and culture of the Pays Basque. Collections include paintings, photos, artifacts, and more.

Fun fact: If you take a bus in Bayonne, you’ll notice that locals personally thank the driver before getting off at their stop. So, remember to thank your driver if you take the bus 🙂

4. Biarritz

view of the Biarritz beach and the buildings behind it

Distance by train: under 2 hours
Roundtrip cost: €20-50
Known for: beaches, Musée de la Mer (Aquarium of Biarritz), artisanal shops, City Ocean (virtual reality ocean exhibits)

Biarritz is a popular summer destination, mainly because of its beaches. Beyond beaches, you’ll also find unique museums, such as City Ocean. You’ll be able to learn about the ocean and its mysteries through simulations, virtual reality exhibits, and other 3D experiences. Popular exhibits include surfing simulations and an interactive submarine base.

Similarly, the Aquarium of Biarritz draws many visitors, and though some complain that not all animals have enough space. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to support the aquarium or not (like zoos, I feel that aquariums fall into an ethical gray zone).

5. Saint-Émilion

Lussac vignoble

Saint-Emilion

Distance by train: 45 mins
Roundtrip cost: €10-25
Known for: vineyards and wine châteaux, medieval architecture

I ran a half-marathon here in October, but never actually had a chance to walk through the city itself (I’m cheating a bit—the first two photos are actually from Lussac, a neighboring town where my airbnb was).

Saint-Émilion is a must-do as a Bordeaux resident—it’s just a hop away by train, and also one of the more cost-efficient day trips. Here, you’ll find sprawling vineyards, a quaint medieval town, and some of the best-reputed red wine in France.

Don’t want the hassle of planning? Check out this small group tour from Bordeaux that takes you to Saint-Émilion, where you’ll visit 2 châteaux and sample wine with appetizers.

6. Toulouse

chapelle des carmélitesChapelle des carmelites in Toulouse, France with stunning paintings on the ceilingToulouse

Distance by train: 2 hours
Roundtrip cost: €30-50
Known for: colorful buildings, violette candy

The “ville rose” (pink city) had some of the most insta-worthy buildings. I was awestruck when I stumbled upon La Chapelle des Carmélites, a very unassuming color-coordinated chapel that’s covered in stunning paintings, from walls to ceiling. I also loved La Bibliothèque d’Etude et du Patrimoine, a public library with gorgeous art deco architecture. Le Musée des Augustins, an art museum free to students, is also worth a see.

Be sure to also try some bonbons de violette, a candy that tastes a bit like lavender (“violette” is a type of purple flower). I especially liked violette dark chocolate.

7. La Rochelle

La Rochelle port
La Rochelle vieux port
Tour Saint-Nicholas La Rochelle

Distance by train: 2.5 hours
Roundtrip cost: €30-60
Known for: history, port/tower views, seafood

La Rochelle remains one of my favorite trips in France. The town is bustling enough to keep you busy, but also very walkable. The views from the historic towers are also stunning—the ships in port are so colorful, and the seawater is such a pure blue. The three towers you can visit are: tour Saint-Nicholas, tour de la Chaîne, andtour de la Lanterne.

Other popular attractions include the La Rochelle Aquarium and the Maritime Museum. The Musée maritime de La Rochelle is actually made up of 8 ships that are in port, which are the museums themselves.

The food scene is impressive as well—for lunch, I munched on a quick vegan meal, and for dinner, I scarfed up a traditional galette (savory crêpe) and lychee-rose sorbet (there’s lots and lots of ice cream shops). If you like seafood, you also won’t be disappointed.

8. (Bonus) Paris

Distance by train: 2.5 hours
Roundtrip cost: €30-70
Known for: Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Louvre, Montmartre…basically just being an iconic and dreamy destination.

This is perhaps too obvious of a destination, but Bordeaux is only 2.5 hours away from Paris by the TGV (high-speed train). If you’re wanting to stop by the capital of France, this is definitely an option as a day or weekend trip from Bordeaux.

Housing if You Prolong Your Day Trip

If you’re looking to prolong the day trip and need housing, I normally use Airbnb, Booking.com, and Couchsurfing.

On Airbnb, you can rent a room or entire lodging through locals. I’ve been able to find well-reviewed places for as low as $20/night. Booking.com is great for finding good deals on hotels and hostels.

On Couchsurfing, you can stay with locals for free. This might sound sketchy, but I promise that there are many incredible hosts who really just want to share their culture and town with tourists. I’ve taken 4 trips with Couchsurfing, and had all positive experiences (check out my couchsurfing review and tips, plus a storytime). Just be sure to reach out to hosts with many good reviews (10+ is best!) and reach out with personalized messages (read hosts’ profiles and comment on how you might get along).

And of course, if you have any questions, shoot away via comment/email/insta!

Happy travels,

You might also like:

A Vegan/Vegetarian Guide to Bordeaux
3 Days in Bordeaux: Most Instagrammable Places

2 Comments

  • Daley February 20, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    Great post, Lily! I live in Bordeaux and have been meaning to check out La Rochelle for a while now 🙂

    • Lily February 20, 2020 at 7:44 pm

      It’s really such a lovely town! Thanks for stopping by, Daley 🙂

    Leave a Reply

    I accept the Privacy Policy

    About Me

    About Me

    I'm Lily, and I run races and go places (& blog about it). I also try to advocate for the planet & its people.
    Here is where I document my (mis)adventures and try to offer some helpful advice. Feel free to join me for the ride. Read More

    Follow Along

    Subscribe by Email

    Get monthly-ish email updates, from recent posts to other news

    ×