A popular destination in northern Spain, Bilbao is just 75 miles (120 kilometers) by road to the border of France. It's 208 miles (335 kilometers) from the wine-famous region of Bordeaux, and the three-hour drive takes you straight through the famously scenic Basque Country (known for its stunning Bay of Biscay views) and Landes de Gascogne Regional Natural Park, a vast protected pine forest and wetland. However, if you're planning a car-free vacation, you can also travel by train, bus, or plane.
|Bus||6 hours||from $20||Minding a budget|
|Train||4 hours, 30 minutes to 8 hours||from $35||Exploring Basque Country without a car|
|Plane||4 hours, 45 minutes||from $150||Earning air miles|
|Car||3 hours, 15 minutes||208 miles (335 kilometers)||Exploring the local area|
What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Bilbao to Bordeaux?
The cheapest way to get from Bilbao to Bordeaux is to take the bus. According to Omio, the average ticket price is $20 and the ride typically takes about six hours—almost twice as long as it takes to drive. FlixBus, ALSA, Eurolines Switzerland, and other operators run the route regularly. Most include stopovers in San Sebastián, a Spanish resort town just 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the French border.
What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Bilbao to Bordeaux?
The fastest way to get to Bordeaux—and perhaps the most scenic—is to drive. The French city is 208 miles (335 kilometers) from Bilbao, which takes roughly three hours and 15 minutes to drive. The best part is that the most direct route—via the AP-8 and A63—cuts right through the picture-perfect Basque Country, where you're guaranteed to see some of Spain's best waterfront scenery, and a 315,300-hectare nature preserve with sweeping wetlands and lush pine forest. Road tripping (by way of San Sebastián, which is deserving of an overnight stay itself) is the fastest and most entertaining way to get from northern Spain to southwestern France.
How Long Is the Flight?
Flying is not an ideal option because there are no airlines that connect Bilbao to Bordeaux directly. Instead, air travelers will often have to transfer in Paris (hundreds of miles north of Bordeaux), Barcelona, or elsewhere. The quickest you can get from one to the other—with a stop in Paris—is four hours and 45 minutes, which is actually less time than the average bus would take. Flights depart from the Bilbao Airport and arrive at the Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport. Tickets start around $150 one way.
How Long Is the Train Ride?
The train is not especially cheap or fast, either, but it will allow you to travel by ground rather comfortably and to explore the beautiful Basque Country without a car. Euskotren trains frequent this region, but it'll take a series of transfers (from E1 to E2 on the Spanish side to a TGV train on the French side) to get you to Bordeaux. The trains stop all along the coast—Deba, Zumaia, and San Sebastián—making it easy to plan a tour of the coastal region; however, if you're in more of a hurry, you can take an Iberocoach bus straight from Bilbao to Bayonne and catch the TGV train to Bordeaux from there. The former takes eight hours and starts at $39 and the latter takes four and a half hours and starts at $35.
When Is the Best Time to Travel to Bordeaux?
The best time to travel to Bordeaux is between late August and October, when the local vineyards harvest their grapes. Anytime between May and November is conducive to sunshiny walks and wine drinking, but near the end of that window is ideal for both weather and crowds. The later you go in the season, the cheaper and more available public transportation will be.
Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Bordeaux?
Spain and France are both included in the Schengen Area, a collection of European states that share mutual borders. U.S. passport holders may visit this area for 90 days without a visa.
Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?
The only way to get from the Bordeaux airport to the city center without taking a taxi is by the Navette Shuttle 30’ Direct. This shuttle departs from the airport every 30 minutes on weekdays and every hour on weekends. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the city center and costs about $9 for a one-way ticket.
What Is There to Do in Bordeaux?
The most popular thing to do in this region of France is drink wine. It wouldn't be a trip to Bordeaux if you didn't get out of the city for at least a day and explore the vineyards. The best way to do this is to book a wine tour with Rustic Vines Tours or Rendez-Vous Au Chateau. In town, you should be sure to explore Place de la Bourse—not as if you could miss it—one of the grandest examples of classical French architecture around, and perhaps catch a show at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, home of the National Opera.