Flowing down from the Spanish Pyrenees all the way to France’s Atlantic coast, the Garonne River is the most important river of southwestern France. Passing through two major cities—Toulouse and Bordeaux—the Garonne also runs into the Gironde estuary, the largest of its kind in Europe.
A boat cruise along the Garonne River is a popular choice for visitors to Bordeaux, and there are numerous options available. Take a sightseeing cruise past riverside landmarks, such as the Basilica of St. Michael, Louis XV's grand Place de la Bourse, and Quai Richelieu; enjoy lunch or a wine tasting on board; or set sail on an evening dinner cruise, with a view of Bordeaux’s illuminated skyline. In Toulouse, sightseeing cruises along the Garonne often link up with the Canal du Midi, offering views of the Chateau d’Eau, Notre-Dame de la Daurade, and the Pont Neuf.
Walking and Segway tours also take in sights along the Garonne River.
Things to Know Before You Go
- River tour options include cruise ships, Viking-style sailboats, jet boats, and canoes.
- Bring warm clothing if traveling on an open-air boat—it can get chilly, especially at night.
- Many boat cruises are wheelchair accessible, but it’s best to check in advance.
How to Get There
The Garonne River runs for 274 miles (441 kilometers) through southwest France and Northern Catalonia. In Bordeaux, most boat cruises set sail from Quai Richelieu or Cité du Vin. In Toulouse, boats set sail close to the Pont Neuf.
When to Get There
Garonne River cruises in Toulouse run from July to October, while cruises run year-round in Bordeaux. For the most impressive views, opt for a sunset sightseeing cruise or a night cruise.
The Gironde estuary, located where the Garonne and Dordogne rivers meet the Atlantic, is the biggest in Europe and teems with wildlife. The estuary’s nine uninhabited islands and surrounding marshlands are home to a wide variety of migratory birds, including storks, spoonbills, ospreys, and black-winged stilts, while the waters have eels, river lampreys, and wild sturgeon.