Bordeaux is a beautiful city with many things to do, but the surrounding region 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 and visiting a few times after that, here are some of my favorite day trips from the city. All are accessible by direct train, so you won’t need a car.
Where to Buy Train Tickets
You can buy tickets directly on SNCF, which is France’s national rail company. You can also download the SNCF Connect app.
If you’re between ages 12-27, I recommend buying the Carte Avantage Jeune, which is a youth discount card. The card costs 49 euros, and in return, you get at least a 30% discount on train tickets for a year. If you’ll take at least a few train trips, it pays for itself and more (it paid for itself in just one trip for me from Paris to Dax).
Day Trips by Bordeaux, France by Train
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Distance by train: 1 hour
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, 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.
Distance by train: 20-45 mins (depending on if you take the high-speed train or local train)
Known for: vineyards and wine châteaux, medieval architecture
Saint-Émilion is a must-do as a Bordeaux visitor—it’s just a hop away, and it’s also one of the more cost-efficient day trips since many local trains run through there daily.
Here, you’ll find sprawling vineyards, a quaint medieval town, and some of the best-reputed red wine in France. I really enjoyed walking through the cobblestone streets (some of which are quite steep, so be careful!).
There were countless photo spots and viewpoints on the perimeter of the town, so I recommend strolling around. You can also stop for a drink or bite to eat at the Cloître des Cordeliers, which are medieval cloisters with a restaurant inside.
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.
Distance by train: 25-50 mins (depending on if you take the high-speed train or local train)
Known for: wine châteaux, markets, swimming lake, farm with animals
Libourne is the stop right after Saint-Émilion, and it’s a lovely little river town. There’s an open-air market every Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday that fills the town square.
If you’re looking to cool off, you can take a dip in the Lac de Dagueys, which has a small beach and an inflatable obstacle course. You can also walk around the perimeter, which is quite pleasant.
Near the lake, there’s also the Ferme de la Barbanne, a farm with endangered or threatened animals from the region.
These two spots are a ways out from the town center, but could be reached on a long walk of 45 minutes to an hour.
You may also consider biking from Libourne to Saint-Émilion—that’s what I did with a friend, and it was a beautiful ride through vineyards. The route is around 5 miles (8km) and it’s hilly on the way there, but if you take your time and walk your bike up the hills, it’s not too difficult.
Distance by train: 1 hour 30 mins
Known for: thermal baths, aviation museum, Saturday market
Dax has a beautiful town center with many pedestrian-only streets that are lined with restaurants and shops. The town is best-known for its thermal baths that date back to the Roman empire. Legend has it that a Roman soldier left his dog with arthritis in Dax, and when he returned, his dog was in great health.
There is also an aviation museum (Musée de l’ALAT et de l’hélicoptère) that has dozens of different aircraft, and teaches you the history of helicopters in the French army.
True to the French tradition, there is also a Saturday market that basically takes over the entire town. It’s a truly impressive market for a small town.
5. La Réole
Distance by train: 35 mins
Known for: Saturday market, medieval walls
La Réole is a charming medieval town along the Garonne river. Despite being a tiny town, La Réole was nominated as having one of the best markets in France in 2023, representing the Aquitaine region. The market has all kinds of stands, including produce, street food (including ethnic food!), meat, cheese, flowers, and clothing.
After you stroll through the market along the river, you can make your way to the walled town. Wander through the cobblestone streets and visit the townhall, which has a nice view of the river.
La Réole is very small, so you probably won’t need more than a couple hours here. I would only recommend visiting on a Saturday during the market, as there isn’t much to do otherwise.
Distance by train: 2 hours
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.
Distance by train: under 2 hours
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 🙂
Distance by train: under 2 hours
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.
Distance by train: 2 hours
Known for: colorful buildings, violette candy
The “ville rose” (pink city) had some of the most Instagram-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.
10. La Rochelle
Distance by train: 2.5 hours
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.
Distance by train: 2.5 hours
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.
Map of Day Trips from Bordeaux by Train
Here’s a map of all these day trips so you can better situate where these destinations are.
Let us know if you visit these places and how you liked them in the comments!
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