Are you trying to decide between Bordeaux or Nantes for your upcoming break in France? Both cities are incredibly enticing and attract travellers from across the globe. Bordeaux, a veritable world of elegance, is famed for its acclaimed vineyards and captivating architecture. On the flip side, we have Nantes, a city of history and innovation that brims with artistic vibrancy and boasts the intriguing charm of the Atlantic coast. Picking between the two can be a real challenge. In this blog post, we’ll delve into each city in detail, comparing their must-visit landmarks, unique experiences, delectable local cuisine, and much more.
Bordeaux, often referred to as the “Wine Capital of the World,” is a port city on the Garonne River in southwestern France. It’s known for its Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, 18th- to 19th-century mansions, and public gardens lining the river’s curving banks. The city’s historic centre, with 347 listed monuments, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
Bordeaux had a population of approximately 250,000 people, making it the sixth-largest city in France. The city is the hub of the famed wine-growing region and is home to the world’s main wine fair, Vinexpo. With its pedestrian-friendly layout and vibrant food scene, Bordeaux offers an immersive cultural experience that caters to a wide range of travellers.
Nantes, often touted as the most liveable city in Europe, is a delightful fusion of history and innovation, seamlessly intertwining its rich heritage with a progressive mindset. This Atlantic Coast city, once the capital of Brittany, has a vibrant culture marked by the stunning Château des ducs de Bretagne, the whimsical Machines de l’Île, and the lush Jardin des Plantes.
Its dynamic art scene is alive not just in the many museums, but also on the streets with an array of public art. Nantes is also a city of festivals, with music, film, and art celebrations occurring throughout the year. Add to this a blossoming food scene with a fondness for local produce and seafood, and it’s clear why Nantes is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.
While we’re comparing Bordeaux and Nantes in this post, we’ve also looked at how Bordeaux stacks up against other cities like Strasbourg and Lille. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!
Pros and Cons of Bordeaux and Nantes
- 🍷 World-Class Vineyards: Bordeaux’s reputation as a premier wine-producing region is undeniable. It’s a haven for wine enthusiasts who can explore countless vineyards and enjoy exquisite wine tastings.
- 🏛 Architecture: The city’s stunning neoclassical architecture, particularly in the city centre, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, offering a feast for the eyes and a journey back in time.
- 🥐 Culinary Scene: From the renowned canelés pastry to local cheeses and oysters from nearby Arcachon, Bordeaux’s gastronomic offerings are diverse and delightful.
- ⛴ Scenic Riverfront: The charming Garonne riverfront, adorned with beautiful buildings, gardens, and a biking path, is perfect for relaxing strolls.
- 💶 Can Be Pricey: Bordeaux, especially its upscale vineyards and dining establishments, can stretch your budget.
- 👫 Crowded During Peak Season: With its global popularity, Bordeaux can get quite crowded, especially in the summer and during wine festivals.
- 🏛 Historical and Cultural Richness: Nantes boasts a robust historical heritage, evident in sites like the Château des ducs de Bretagne and the Passage Pommeraye.
- 🎨 Innovative Art Scene: From the dynamic Machines de l’Île to vibrant street art, Nantes offers an immersive and innovative cultural experience.
- 🍤 Food Scene: With its proximity to the sea, Nantes offers fresh seafood and a variety of local dishes. The city also has a burgeoning organic food movement.
- 🎸 Diverse Festivals: Whether you’re a fan of music, art, or film, Nantes hosts a variety of festivals year-round that celebrate diverse art forms.
- 🌧 Weather: Being in the Atlantic Coast region, Nantes can be subject to frequent rain and cooler temperatures.
- 🧳 Less Tourist-Focused: Nantes may not be as widely known among international tourists compared to other French cities, resulting in fewer tourist-focused amenities and English-speaking locals.
Which City Has Better Food? Bordeaux or Nantes?
Bordeaux, in the southwest of France, is famous for its food and wine. The city is known for delicious meals like fresh oysters from the nearby Arcachon Bay and a special steak dish cooked in wine and shallots called ‘Entrecôte à la Bordelaise’. For dessert, ‘canelés’, a small pastry with a soft centre and caramelized crust, is a local favourite.
Nantes, on the other hand, is on the west coast of France and is a great place for seafood lovers. You can find many dishes made with mussels, oysters, and a special creamy, curry mussel dish called ‘Mouclade Nantaise’. If you have a sweet tooth, try ‘Gâteau Nantais,’ a local cake flavoured with almonds and rum.
So, if you love gourmet food and world-class wines, you might prefer Bordeaux. But, if you’re more into fresh seafood and farm produce, then Nantes could be your choice. Either way, make sure you try the local dishes wherever you go.
Which City is Better For Couples? Bordeaux or Nantes?
Bordeaux: If you and your partner are wine enthusiasts, Bordeaux might be the perfect romantic destination. Known for its top-notch wineries, Bordeaux offers countless opportunities for wine tastings and vineyard tours. Besides wine, Bordeaux boasts stunning architecture.
A sunset walk along the Garonne River or a visit to the water mirror across from the Place de la Bourse could be quite romantic. Additionally, the city’s excellent restaurants provide an intimate setting for a special meal.
Nantes: If you’re a couple seeking a blend of city exploration and coastal charm, consider Nantes. The city’s old district, with its winding streets and hidden courtyards, offers a lovely setting for romantic strolls. Given its coastal location, you can also enjoy a romantic day at the beach or a sunset dinner by the sea.
Nantes’ food scene is a mix of traditional French and coastal cuisine, making for an exciting culinary adventure. Plus, for nature-loving couples, a visit to the nearby marshes, “Marais de Grande Brière”, would be quite memorable.
Both cities have their unique romantic elements. Bordeaux may win you over with its wines, beautiful architecture, and fine dining, while Nantes could charm you with its coastal allure, diverse cuisine, and nature excursions. It all depends on what you and your partner want from your romantic getaway
Which City is Better For Families? Bordeaux or Nantes?
“Bordeaux: Bordeaux is a great city for families, combining rich history with lots of kid-friendly activities. Kids will love playing at the Miroir d’eau, a giant water mirror that’s perfect for cooling off in the summer. The interactive exhibits at the Cap Sciences Museum are educational and fun. If your kids love animals, a day trip to the Zoo de Bordeaux Pessac is a must-do. The city is also easy to get around, which is always a plus when travelling with children.
Nantes: Nantes is another great family destination. It has city attractions and natural beauty in equal measure. Kids can play in parks like the Parc de Procé, and parents can enjoy a picnic. Being close to the coast means beach days are always possible. The city’s old district is educational and pleasing to the eye. And for an exciting day out, the Planète Sauvage, a safari park just outside the city, is a hit with families.
So, both cities are family-friendly, offering a range of experiences. Whether it’s Bordeaux with its easy navigation and educational attractions, or Nantes with its mix of city and beach activities, it depends on your family’s preferences.
Which City is Better For Partying? Bordeaux or Nantes?
Bordeaux: Bordeaux is a lively city with a vibrant nightlife scene. Here you can find everything from traditional wine bars and modern cocktail lounges to energetic nightclubs, especially in the Saint Pierre district. For a unique experience, check out I.Boat, a club on a boat that’s popular with electronic music fans. Bordeaux also hosts many music and wine festivals throughout the year, adding to its appeal for those who enjoy a good night out.
Nantes: Nantes also offers a great nightlife scene, with a mix of trendy cocktail bars, cosy pubs, and busy nightclubs. The city has a large student population, which helps keep the nightlife scene active, especially in the areas around the Bouffay district. Le Lieu Unique, a former biscuit factory turned cultural centre, is a popular spot that hosts a variety of events and performances. Like Bordeaux, Nantes also has many cultural events and music festivals throughout the year.
In the end, both cities have a lot to offer for nightlife. Bordeaux might be the better choice for wine lovers and music fans, while Nantes is likely to appeal to a younger crowd with its variety of nightlife venues.
Which City is Safer? Bordeaux or Nantes?
Bordeaux: Bordeaux is considered a relatively safe city for tourists, with a low crime rate compared to other major cities. While incidents such as pickpocketing or minor theft can occur, particularly in crowded tourist spots, they are generally rare. Always stay aware of your surroundings, especially at night, and take care of your personal belongings to ensure a safe visit.
Nantes: Nantes is also generally safe for tourists. Like any city, certain areas might have higher crime rates and incidents like pickpocketing can occur, especially in crowded areas. Some neighbourhoods with active nightlife can be more lively, so be cautious, especially at night. As with any city, maintaining basic safety precautions, like being aware of your surroundings and keeping your valuables secure, can help you have a safe visit.
Overall, both Bordeaux and Nantes are generally safe cities to visit. Bordeaux has a slightly lower crime rate, but both cities are relatively safe compared to other major cities. Always remember to take the usual safety precautions when visiting any city.
How long to stay in Bordeaux
Figuring out the ideal duration for your stay in Bordeaux can be tricky. As someone who’s been there, I can tell you that the city has enough to keep you occupied for days. However, the optimal length of your stay depends largely on what you want to do and see.
If you’re in Bordeaux primarily for the wine, you’ll want at least a few days. This will allow you to visit several châteaux, take part in wine tastings, and possibly engage in a wine-making workshop. Remember, the Bordeaux wine region is vast, and it’s worth taking the time to explore it thoroughly.
For those interested in the city’s rich history and culture, a two to three-day stay might be sufficient. This should give you enough time to visit major attractions like the Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, the Musée d’Aquitaine, and the contemporary art installations at CAPC, not to mention leisurely strolls along the Garonne River and through the charming city streets.
However, if you’re like me and enjoy immersing yourself in the local culture, you might want to stay longer. A week in Bordeaux would give you ample time to visit the city’s attractions, dine in its best restaurants, explore the surrounding vineyards, and simply soak up the atmosphere.
How long to stay in Nantes
Deciding how long to stay in Nantes can be a tough call, given the city’s rich history, captivating art scene, and vibrant culture. The duration of your stay primarily depends on your personal interests and how leisurely you wish to explore.
If your goal is to soak up the city’s lively vibe, stroll through the historic city centre, and sample some local gastronomy, a stay of 2 to 3 days should be enough. This gives you sufficient time to wander through the cobbled streets of the Bouffay district, take a relaxing walk along the Erdre River, and indulge in regional cuisine at a traditional French restaurant.
However, if you wish to delve deeper into Nantes’ cultural heritage and history, consider extending your visit to 4 to 5 days. This will allow ample time to discover historical sites like the Château des ducs de Bretagne, appreciate modern art installations of the Voyage à Nantes, and visit the Machines of the Isle of Nantes without feeling pressed for time.
For those seeking a more immersive experience, spending a week in Nantes can be an excellent choice. This period will not only provide time to thoroughly explore the city’s attractions but also leave room for relaxing moments in the beautiful Jardin des Plantes, embarking on day trips to nearby gems like the charming vineyards of the Loire Valley, and truly immersing yourself in the vibrant lifestyle of Nantes.
Which City is More Budget Friendly? Bordeaux or Nantes?
Bordeaux, globally recognized as the wine capital, is a city with an elegant aura, rich history, and of course, vineyards that are simply out of this world. However, the charm and high quality that Bordeaux offers comes with a higher price tag. It’s not just the food and wine – although these are exceptional – but also accommodation and general living expenses tend to be higher here.
Contrastingly, Nantes, a lively city in the west of France, is known for its impressive architecture, intriguing history, and flourishing art scene. When it comes to costs, Nantes is generally easier on the pocket than many other major French cities. You can enjoy dining out, staying in comfortable accommodations, and exploring the city’s many attractions without spending as much, especially if you’re savvy about choosing local eateries, shopping in traditional markets, and visiting less touristy areas.
In a nutshell, while both cities have a range of options for different budgets, your money will generally go further in Nantes than in Bordeaux. So if budget is a key consideration for your trip, Nantes might be the better option.
How much is food and drink in Bordeaux and Nantes?
|Glass of wine
|Meal at midrange restaurant
How much is it to stay in Bordeaux or Nantes?
When is the best time to visit Bordeaux?
Choosing the perfect time to visit Bordeaux can be as important as deciding what to see and do. The city has a temperate oceanic climate, which means it can be visited at any time of the year, but some seasons offer unique experiences.
Spring (March to May) in Bordeaux is a beautiful time, with moderate temperatures and the vineyards coming alive with new growth. This is a great time to visit if you’re interested in wine, as many châteaux begin to offer tours and tastings for the new season.
Summers (June to August) in Bordeaux are warm and sunny, perfect for exploring the city’s historical sites or enjoying a cruise on the Garonne River. This is also the time for numerous festivals such as the Bordeaux Wine Festival and the River Festival, offering an extra layer of entertainment for visitors.
Autumn (September to November) is grape harvest time, a significant event in any wine region. This season allows visitors to experience the winemaking process firsthand. The weather during this period remains pleasant, and the changing colours of the vine leaves add an extra charm to the city’s surroundings.
Winter (December to February) in Bordeaux is relatively mild, with fewer tourists around. While not the peak season for outdoor activities, it’s the perfect time to explore the city’s museums, enjoy its culinary delights, and perhaps get a chance to attend the Bordeaux Christmas Market.
Weather: The weather in Bordeaux is usually pleasant, with mild temperatures year-round. Summers can get a bit sticky, but winters are mild and rainy. For the best weather, plan your visit during the shoulder season of April to June or September to October.
When is the best time to visit Nantes?
Nantes has a temperate oceanic climate, making it an enjoyable destination throughout the year, with each season offering unique attractions.
Spring (March to May) in Nantes sees the city’s many gardens in full bloom, creating a picturesque backdrop for sightseeing. This season also hosts the Nantes Carnival, one of the largest carnivals in France, known for its vibrant parade.
Summer (June to August) in Nantes is typically warm, ideal for exploring the city’s architectural gems or taking a boat trip along the Loire River. The summer also welcomes “Le Voyage à Nantes”, an annual event transforming the city into a vast art gallery with installations and exhibitions.
Autumn (September to November) in Nantes is a fantastic time to sample the region’s fresh produce at local markets, particularly during the grape harvest period. This season also hosts the Nantes Vintage Fair, attracting antique lovers from all over.
Winter (December to February) in Nantes is generally mild with fewer tourists. This is a great time to explore the city’s rich museum scene or enjoy its culinary delights. Christmas markets, twinkling lights, and festive events lend a magical atmosphere to the city.
Average Monthly Temperatures
|Bordeaux Rainfall (days)
|Nantes Rainfall (days)
|10° / 3°
|9° / 3°
|12° / 3°
|10° / 3°
|15° / 5°
|13° / 4°
|17° / 7°
|16° / 6°
|21° / 11°
|19° / 9°
|24° / 14°
|23° / 12°
|27° / 15°
|25° / 14°
|27° / 15°
|25° / 14°
|24° / 13°
|22° / 12°
|19° / 10°
|17° / 9°
|14° / 6°
|13° / 5°
|11° / 3°
|10° / 3°
Please note that the data includes the average high and low temperatures in Celsius (°C) and the number of rainfall days per month for Bordeaux and Nantes.
Getting around Bordeaux:
The city’s public transportation system consists of trams, buses, and a bike-sharing service. The trams are well-connected and cover most of the city’s major attractions. The tickets allow you to use any form of public transport for a certain period of time, (usually an hour). So if you needed to get one bus and a tram to get somewhere you’d only need one ticket if the journey was less than an hour.
Bike sharing is a good option for people that want to be a bit more active. Bordeaux has a lot of small windy streets so we spent most of the time walking, which I feel is the best way to see a city. Taxis and Ubers are readily available but you might struggle to get one right in the heart of the old town where a lot of it is pedestrianised.
Getting around Nantes:
Nantes boasts an efficient and user-friendly public transportation system, which includes trams, buses, and a bike-sharing scheme called Bicloo. The tram network in Nantes is one of the most extensive in France, with three lines covering many key attractions in the city. Your tram ticket will also allow you to hop on and off buses within a set period, typically an hour, which makes getting around the city a breeze.
For those who prefer a more active mode of transport, the Bicloo bike-sharing scheme offers an excellent option. Nantes is known for being a bicycle-friendly city with numerous dedicated cycle lanes and routes, making it easy and safe to navigate.
Walking is another great way to explore Nantes, especially in the compact city centre where many of the key sites are located. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the city’s beautiful architecture and vibrant street life up close.
Taxis and Ubers are readily available in Nantes. However, be aware that in the pedestrianized zones of the city centre, you may need to walk a short distance to catch a ride.
Top things to do in Bordeaux
- Place de la Bourse: One of the city’s most iconic sights, Place de la Bourse is a must-see. Be sure to check out the ‘Miroir d’Eau’, the world’s largest reflecting pool, located directly across from the square.
- La Cité du Vin: A modern museum dedicated to the world of wine, La Cité du Vin is a unique experience. Learn about the wine production process and enjoy tastings with an amazing view of the city.
- Saint-André Cathedral: This impressive Gothic cathedral offers a stunning view over Bordeaux from its bell tower, Tour Pey-Berland.
- Rue Sainte-Catherine: As one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe, Rue Sainte-Catherine is perfect for shopping enthusiasts. It’s lined with a variety of shops and restaurants, offering a real taste of Bordeaux’s vibrant culture.
- Bordeaux Riverfront: Take a stroll along the picturesque Garonne River, which offers lovely views of Bordeaux’s historic facades. Consider a river cruise to truly appreciate the city’s beauty.
Top things to do in Nantes
- Château des Ducs de Bretagne: A must-visit landmark in Nantes, this impressive castle is home to the Nantes History Museum. With its beautiful architecture and fascinating exhibits, it offers an insightful look into the city’s past.
- Les Machines de l’île: This unique artistic project is one of the city’s major attractions. Here, you can see gigantic mechanical animals, including the famous Grand Elephant. It’s an unforgettable experience for both kids and adults.
- Passage Pommeraye: An architectural masterpiece, this three-level shopping arcade dating from the 19th century is a great place to shop or simply admire its artistic beauty.
- Jardin des Plantes: This stunning botanical garden is the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxing stroll. It’s home to a variety of exotic plants, beautiful greenhouses, and even a few art installations.
- The Island of Nantes: This creative district located on a former shipyard site is a hub of culture and innovation. It’s home to various creative projects and installations, making it a must-visit for any art and culture lover.
How to spend three days in Bordeaux
Day 1: Discover the City Centre
Start your Bordeaux adventure in the city centre. Begin at the Place de la Bourse and marvel at its grandeur. Don’t forget to take a memorable picture at the Miroir d’Eau. Continue to Rue Sainte-Catherine for a spot of shopping and lunch. In the afternoon, explore the Gothic Saint-André Cathedral and climb the Tour Pey-Berland for panoramic city views. End your day with a delicious dinner at a restaurant in the historic Saint-Pierre district.
Day 2: Dive into Wine and Culture
Begin your second day at La Cité du Vin. Immerse yourself in the world of wine and enjoy a tasting with a view. After lunch, head to the Musée d’Aquitaine to learn about Bordeaux’s history from prehistoric times to the present. Spend the rest of the afternoon at the CAPC, Bordeaux’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Finish the day with a relaxing dinner at the Chartrons district, known for its wine trading history and trendy eateries.
Day 3: Explore the Outskirts
On your last day, consider exploring beyond the city. Take a half-day tour of the Saint-Émilion wine region, where you can visit vineyards, enjoy tastings, and discover the charming namesake village. Back in Bordeaux, spend the rest of your afternoon strolling along the Garonne River, or explore the Public Garden for a leisurely end to your trip.
How to spend three days in Nantes
Day 1: Exploring the Heart of Nantes
Begin your Nantes adventure in the city centre. Visit the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, home to the Nantes History Museum. Enjoy exploring the medieval fortress and its surrounding gardens. Afterwards, head to the Gothic-style Nantes Cathedral nearby. For lunch, find a local restaurant to sample some regional cuisine.
In the afternoon, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the scenic Loire River. Then, head to the Passage Pommeraye, an elegant shopping arcade from the 19th century. Round off your day with a delicious dinner at one of the city’s gourmet restaurants.
Day 2: Delving into Art and Innovation
Start your second day at Les Machines de l’île, a unique attraction inspired by the works of Jules Verne. Here, you can ride the gigantic Grand Elephant or the Marine Worlds Carousel. Post lunch, explore the creative district on the Island of Nantes, which is home to various artistic projects and installations.
In the evening, take a walk around the Trentemoult district, a former fishing village known for its colourful houses. Enjoy dinner at a riverside restaurant with views of the Loire River.
Day 3: Enjoying Nature and Leisure
Dedicate your last day to Nantes’ beautiful green spaces. Begin with a visit to the Jardin des Plantes, a stunning botanical garden. After a picnic lunch in the park, take a short boat ride to the quaint village of Trentemoult.
In the afternoon, explore the unique vineyards of the Nantes Wine Region or consider a short trip to the Atlantic coast, just a stone’s throw away from the city. End your trip with a farewell dinner in Nantes, reminiscing over your favourite moments from the trip.
Gareth is an avid city adventurer with a particular passion for finding amazing food! There’s quite literally nothing he doesn’t like. He spends most of his travelling time trying to find great restaurants and cafes to eat at. Alongside trying local street food which he loves! He’s done most of his travelling in Europe so far but would love to visit Japan and Mexico
When not travelling you can find Gareth boxing, running, or in the gym. He’s got a passion for exercise and loves physical challenges.
You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org