Surrounded by the vineyards of Bordeaux, the medieval village of Saint-Emilion is pure eye candy. The picturesque town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, takes its name from a Benedictine monk who—according to local legend—took refuge in a cave here in the eighth century. Centered around a monolithic church that was painstakingly carved from limestone in the 12th century, the village comprises a cluster of cobbled streets lined with historic stone houses, Romanesque ruins, and shops selling Saint-Emilion wines.
Saint-Emilion is easily accessible from Bordeaux on a day trip. Many visitors opt for an organized group or private tour, which often includes a guided walk around town as well as free time to wander at will. Some tours also include wine tastings and occasionally lunch in a chateau in Saint-Emilion, or in the neighboring wine regions of Pomerol or Medoc. Active travelers can do a cycling tour around the vineyards of Saint-Emilion, stopping at a winery along the way. Many Bordeaux wine tours also allow time for participants to explore the village of Saint-Emilion. The local tourist offers loans out keys for the Monolithic Church’s bell tower; the views from the top are superb.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wear comfortable shoes as Saint-Emilion’s streets are cobbled and sloping.
- Organized tours from Bordeaux typically last for between four and nine hours.
How to Get There
Trains for Saint-Emilion depart from Bordeaux several times a day, with the journey taking around 35 minutes. From the Saint-Emilion train station, it’s a 1-mile (1.5-kilometer) walk into town.
When to Get There
One of the best times of the year to visit Saint-Emilion is in September and October, after summer crowds have dissipated. If you do go during summer, try to get there early in the day. To see the town without the crowds, stay overnight. After the day-trippers have left, things quiet down considerably.
Wines of Saint-Emilion
Saint-Emilion is as much famed for its fine wines as it is for its beauty. First classified in 1954, Saint-Emilion is now one of France’s most lauded wine-making appellations. Its wines are labelled as premier grand cru classe A (the highest classification), premier grand cru classe B, and grand cru classe. The region is particularly well known for its silky smooth merlot and cabernet sauvignon–based red wines.