Studying Abroad

10 reasons to study abroad in Bordeaux

April 29, 2024

Whether you’re looking to soak up some culture, improve your language skills or just live in a beautiful city, then you must study abroad in Bordeaux. A perfect mix of a busy city center and easy access to the beach, Bordeaux might be the right place for you! Offers so much to anyone wanting to explore a major part of France outside of Paris, and despite an increase in tourism in the summer months, Bordeaux holds on to its charm and character. Keep reading to know more about my Bordeaux study abroad experience and find out why you should study abroad in Bordeaux and top things to do in Bordeaux.

1. Wine

Of course, how can someone miss Bordeaux’s Wine Culture! Bordeaux is known for its ‘prestige’ in the world of wine, but forget the stereotype that it’s too elite for us students. If you’re anything like me and only have a glass of rosé here and there, then prepare to be converted. The first step on your wine journey is to visit the museums – the famous being Cité du Vin. The building itself was designed to look like a decanter, and the abstract thinking doesn’t stop there. 

Inside, you follow a number of extremely interactive exhibitions, taking you from stories of the first wine ever drank, all the way up to modern day gastronomy in France and the essential role that wine plays. It really is an immersive experience of all the senses, especially taste – as after you’re finished in the main section, you go up to the top floor to taste a glass of wine of your choosing whilst taking in a stunning view of the city. Tickets are around 20 €, but are definitely worth it for a once in a lifetime experience.

Musée du Vin et du Négoce

However, my personal favourite was the Musée du Vin et du Négoce. A much smaller museum, but one much more intimate. It’s set up in two old wine cellars, with a written guide about both the history of wine in Bordeaux and how it has been traded. At the end, you have a tasting of two or three Bordeaux wines (including a white!) with a host who talks you through which wines are made in which regions of Bordeaux and why, and you even get to sample some sweet treats! At 5 € a head for students, you can’t really go wrong. This isn’t to say that wine is expensive though, you can get some great bargains on local wines, from whites, rosés, reds, and anything in between – just remember your corkscrew. Check out our Top Picks for Bars & Clubs for some fresh inspiration for when you arrive to study abroad in Bordeaux.

2. Architecture

This could be one of the top reasons to choose Bordeaux for Study abroad. Bordeaux is home to some of the most beautiful buildings in Europe that are definitely underrated. The major influence of the architecture is from Louis XIV, but let me not bore you with a history lesson and instead show you some highlights. Up first is probably the most recognisable, Place de la Bourse. Situated on the river, it’s a huge building curving round a large square with a fountain in the middle. Sounds pretty standard, right? Wrong! In front of the square is what’s known as the miroir d’eau which is a layer of water on huge granite slabs that reflects the building.

During the day, you can find kids playing in it, but come evening and Bordeaux nightlife becomes a hub of music and dancing for young people. A perfect place for a picnic and drinks with green spaces either side. Other top spots to see are the Grand Théâtre, Pont de Pierre (the bridge joining the two sides of the city), the Grosse Cloche (or a bell tower) and the cathedral.
Place de la Bourse

3. Access to Beaches

Despite its status a port city, Bordeaux isn’t directly located on the coach travel route. However, it’s extremely easy to reach a range of different kinds of beaches. To get an easy access to Beaches in Bordeaux, there are three places you’ll hear mentioned the most are: Arcachon, Cap Ferret and Lacanau. Arcachon is a small village on the west coast which is home to amazing seafood restaurants; nut is also the name of the bay home to many of the beaches closest to Bordeaux. Cap Ferret forms part of this bay, with one of the most popular beaches. Then, if you’re more into your water sports, than Lacanau is what you’re looking for. Not far from the previous places, this stretch of coast is extremely popular with surfers. Finally, if you’re looking for something a bit more chilled and closer to the city when you study abroad in Bordeaux, then the lake just a bit out of the centre is easily reachable – and to be fair, so are the other spots.

4. Public Transport

As I’ve just mentioned, getting to the beaches is pretty easy, and the same goes for the rest of the city. Talking about public transport in Bordeaux, the easiest and quickest way around is definitely by tram. There are 4 lines named A, B, C and D, which are spread pretty evenly across the city. There’s also plenty of buses which are mostly regular, as well coaches and trains to take you a bit further afield. The trams and bus tickets function of one app (TBM), meaning you can use the same ticket for both within the same hour. 

You can also get monthly and annual memberships, which aren’t too expensive if you’ll be using them a lot. Click here to download from the App Store. Of course, the culture of striking and protests often disrupts the services, but the app is mostly good at keeping you updated. I’d also strongly recommend citymapper and Google Maps for when you study abroad in Bordeaux.

5. Day Trips

With good public transport within the city, it’s no surprise that Bordeaux offers good options to travel even further too. When it comes to day trips from Bordeaux there are a plethora of options. Its super easy to reach loads of other major cities in France, with a fast train to Paris, but this can be a little spenny. I did a day trip to Toulouse by coach which as extremely affordable, as well as weekend away to Nantes by train. It’s also very easy to travel southbound into northern Spain, with some beautiful spots along the way, like Biarritz. If you’re willing to spend a few hours there and back, you really can use Bordeaux as a base for your travels.

6. Saint-Émilion

My favorite was Saint-Émilion day trip a to the village of Saint-Émilion, which was about 45-minute drive inland (there’s also train and coach options), it really can’t be missed. It’s known pretty much for making wine, but there’s so much to do. You can visit a vineyard, explore the small cobbled streets, take in the stunning views and enjoy the restaurants. It can be a little expensive to eat and stay there, but it still enjoyable on a student budget! I would really recommend going in the late afternoon and staying for sunset, the whole village becomes golden and I have to say it’s a very special moment.

7. Food

Bordeaux offers pretty traditional French food, with many restaurants focusing on the pairing of the meat and the wine. Even as a vegetarian, I found it easy to navigate. My favorite fast food was French tacos: fries, sauce and usually meat in a wrap and then pressed – it sounds basic but I promise is life-changing (especially after a night out!). The specialty Bordeaux is known for is a sweet treat named canalé which is best when I say Bordeaux food experiences. It’s hard to compare to anything else, but it basically a small cake which is glazed on the outside, chewy on the inside and infused with rum and vanilla flavors. The rumour of their creation is that due to lots of egg whites being used in the clarifying process of wine-making, the left over yolks went to the nuns and they put together a recipe – how true this is I’m not too sure! You can find them on every corner in the centre, but I would recommend getting them from the brand La Toque Cuivrée – they’re meant to be the most traditional. Need help? Here are our top picks for restaurants in Bordeaux.

8. Nightlife

Clubbing isn’t the biggest part of Bordeaux nightlife, but it does offer a lot! The best spots are the ones that are more of a bar-vibe, that get clubbier as the night goes on. My favourite spot was a LGBTQ+ bar called Coco Loko in the center, it was quite small but played great music and the people are super friendly – and you can’t go wrong with 2 € drinks on a Wednesday evening! If you’re looking for a bigger LGBTQ+ club, then Ultra Klubs is the place to go. There’s also a lot of Latinx bars, so be sure to visit those with your international friends from Spain. If you need help when you decide to study abroad in Bordeaux, check out our list of recommendations.

9. Green Spaces

If you prefer to spend your time in nature or are looking for the perfect picnic spot, then this place offer you just that with it’s beautiful and serene green spaces in Bordeaux. There are the small patches down by Place de la Bourse if you’re looking for something central, or Jardin Public which is a bigger green area, and the botanical gardens on the other side of the river for something more exotic. Or, there’s always the lake just outside the center.

10. Bordeaux Arts and Culture
Bassins de Lumières

Bordeaux hosts a real range of artsy and cultural spaces. There’s the traditional Musée des Beaux Arts, the contemporary CAPC and everything in between. A real highlight for me was the Bassins des Lumières, a disused navy base that they’ve converted into an exhibition space. They project famous works inside the huge space and on the water, but the projections move and they play music – it’s a very dynamic experience. It’s also worth checking out Darwin on the other side of the river. It’s a cultural space with shops, eateries, a skate park and a second-hand shop, and its core focus is creating an eco-friendly environment. And one last tip – excluding July and August, you can go to most public museums for free on the first Sunday of every month.

All in all, I honestly can’t recommend Bordeaux enough to study abroad. Whether you’re working or studying, you truly will make friends for life in an amazing place, and I would move back there in a heartbeat.

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