Tucked away in the vast vineyards of Bordeaux, lies Saint Emilion, a historic and picturesque, UNESCO world heritage site - not to mention one of the most famous wine villages on the world.
What to see and do in Saint Emilion
Wander: Every corner is a photo opp here, it’s seriously pretty, a town of terracotta roof tops, medieval architecture and cobbled streets lined with wine shops, wine bars, restaurants, galleries and boutiques. It’s an easy town to discover on foot – as long as you don’t mind hills. It’s traditional to climb the steep hill in the centre of the village, but make sure you wear flat shoes, you really won’t want to go up or down this cobbled challenge with heels on! There is a central railing part of the way and hardly anyone makes it without clinging on at some point, even the locals are respectful on this hill. You’ll get the most beautiful views from the bell tower or the square above the church – simply stunning.
Vineyard on the edge of St Emilion
Tour the Vineyards: Surrounded by miles and miles of beautiful vineyards, you can just stroll to the outskirts of town to take in the sight but better still, take a tour and see the vines up close and learn the history of the area. You can book a guided tour with the tourist office or a tuk tuk, Segway or ebike tour – all roads lead to the vineyards. There are more than 1000 wine makers here spread out over 5,500 hectares producing 2.5million cases each year – cheers!
Take a break: There are around 40 restaurants in the town ranging from snack food to Michelin starred. Push the boat out at the Logis de la Cadene – Chef Alexandre Baumard and his team prepare utterly exquisite food in a gorgeous location for a memorable dining experience, though its not formal or stuff, just delicious. On a hot day, buy an ice cream and dip your feet in the ice-cold waters from the natural spring that flow into the ancient wash house where town folk once gathered to launder their clothes. Enjoy a bit of shade and tranquil ambience with a glass of wine at the 14th century Cordeliers Cloisters, a listed Historic Monument. Nibble on one of the famous Saint Emilion macarons, they’re very moreish and perfect for keeping your energy up as you saunter the streets, visit the vineyards and drink in the delectable sites.
Discover the history of the monk Emilion, after whom the town is named: You’d never know from looking at the monolithic Church (the largest in Europe) in the main square that it hides an incredible secret. You’ll need to book a tour at the tourist office to get inside this now private venue to discover the cave where Emilion, a humble man of God, arrived in the 8th century. It’s also the location for what was the town’s catacombs and don’t be surprised to see a bone or two still sticking out of the ground! It’s a fascinating place, the sense of history is evident, and very cool on a hot day – well worth booking up for (at the tourist office).
Wine tasting: You can’t really visit Saint Emilion and not do a wine tasting – there’s loads of choice, so just pick what appeals. If you want to have a really fun tasting and learn loads while drinking some of the best and mostly organic Saint Emilion wines, head to Le Wine Buff St Emilion, 2 rue du Marche, where you’ll meet Paddy O’Flynn, an affable Irishman whose been in Saint Emilion for decades - and what he doesn’t know about wine doesn’t count. Enjoy a wine tasting, the most delicious tapas in a shady courtyard and get a bottle or several to take home from the excellent selection in store.
There’s also La Maison du vin close to the tourist office which holds workshops, wine tastings and has a very good boutique of wine.
Top tip: Head to Saint Emilion tourist office first and pick up a map and lots of info about the town.