Any suggestions for a small city stopover (in France) between Bordeaux and Madrid?

My backpacking tour this Fall is starting in The Netherlands and then I will be in Paris for a week Bordeaux for 3 days and then I will go through Spain and then stop in Nice on my way to Italy. However, these are 3 big French cities (Paris, Bordeaux and Nice) and I would like to supplement on my way down to Spain with a provincial town. The reason for this is that if I don't... it would be a VERY LONG day of train travel (just over 10 hours with one connection and arriving just before midnight). Anyone have a good idea for a stopover in France? Thank you?

Posted by Adam
2925 posts

In your place I would rethink Bordeaux, or fly.

It's probably an outlier on your itinerary, not easy to get to and clearly a long way from Madrid. It is really worth it?

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

The logic doesn't make sense, but Bayonne should fit the bill.

Posted by Philip
Hobe Sound, FL
366 posts

I agree with Ed about Bayonne - some nice sights, great chocolate and a taste of the Basque!

Posted by Linda
Santa Rosa, CA, USA
336 posts

I would pick St Jean de Luz over Bayonne - just personal preference, I guess...

Posted by Stephen
Dolores, CO
13 posts

It is not in France, but San Sebastian is awesome. Great walking town, world class food. Check out excellent Basque Museum, walk around the point, take the funicular. And, the train station is there to forward you to Madrid.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
9942 posts

Trains from Bordeaux to Madrid always require a connection at the border station of Irun and San Sebastian would be my nearby choice of stopover. On the French side, still in the Basque region, you could make it St-Jean-de-Luz, Biarritz or Bayonne. FYI, Rick says "Bordeaux must mean 'boredom' in French." If you don't have things you need to do there, then try the Dordogne region, around Sarlat and Beynac. Note that Barcelona to Nice is also a 10-hour train ride; compare flights to Nice or to Italy (e.g., Pisa) at

Posted by Grier
Carmel, IN
1185 posts

Laura, Rick must have gone to a different Bordeaux. I really enjoyed my few days there. :)