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We all know of Cognac for its famous alcoholic drink. It’s not brandy as any Cognac lover will tell you, it’s eau de vie, the water of life. There’s no real translation for it into English that conveys quite the same meaning.

Cognac is also a rather lovely town in the Charente department, where the pace of life is relaxed, the historic buildings are beautiful and the history is tangible.

5 Things to do and see in Cognac

Cognac tasting

You can’t go to Cognac and not try a tasting of the famous eau de vie. There are plenty of places to do it but one of the most unique and truly special venues is Chateau Royale de Cognac, home of the Baron Otard Cognacs.

It’s located on the river front, in a magnificent castle built on the site of a 10th century fort, in which the French King Francis I was born in 1494. As soon as you enter the castle you can smell the Cognac maturing in the cellars. Baron Otard, the founder of the house, bought the castle because he knew the thick walls and damp cellar over the River Charente would be perfect for the slumbering Cognac. He wasn’t wrong.

A fabulous tour and tasting can be had here and there’s a super boutique area where you can buy some to take home.

Wander the ancient cobbled streets

The old town is small but lovely and houses dating from the 15th century to the 19th century can be spotted in the cobbled streets. Pick up a walking route map from Cognac tourist office and follow the “King’s Walk” trail which takes you through the old town, pointing out the historic buildings which date back to the days of the salt trade that Cognac was famous for before it became known for eau de vie.

Take a break in the public park where there are peacocks strutting, ducks quacking and tinkling fountains to soothe.

Take a boat ride

The River Charente runs through the middle of Cognac, wide and gentle it’s perfect for a boat ride. Maison Hennessy include a solar powered boat ride in their behind the scenes tour, following in the ripples of the ancient wooden gabarre barges that used to carry the Cognac barrels up and down the river.

Take in a museum

Cognacians are proud of their famous product as you’ll discover when you visit the Espace Découverte en Pays du Cognac. Located in one of the oldest Cognac houses in the town, you’ll learn everything about the heritage and history of Cognac country. Right next door is the Musée des Arts du Cognac in a modern building with exhibits which retrace the history of eau de vie. Themed visits, lectures and workshops also take place here.

Wine and dine

There are lots of great restaurants in Cognac. Two of our favourites are: Le Bistro Claude and L’Atelier des Quais.

Le Bistro Claude serves superb fresh food picked by the chef and owner and made into an imaginative and utterly delicious menu, and of course there are lots of cognac brands to choose from.

L’Atelier des Quais doesn’t look like anything special from the front door on the bridge but it’s very misleading – this place is fabulous. Enter downstairs through the gates leading off the river and you’ll find yourself in a beautiful little courtyard. The restaurant is smart, bistro-ish and the menu is superb.

French Connections has lots of excellent holiday rentals in the Charente department – we love to help you make your holiday dreams come true