Saint-Emilion a Remarkable Wine Destination in France

Saint-Emilion is well known for its wine but this charming village in the southwest of France and also pleases visitors due to its rich history and abundance of culinary delights. Last year, on our way to Spain, we decided to visit this beautiful Bordeaux region and after being positively impressed we made a list of the best things to do in Saint-Emilion.


History of Saint-Emilion

History catapults us back to ancient times in the 3rd century BC when the Romans planted the first vines in the area. They knew exactly how to make use of the favourable climate and soil conditions and started viticulture and a quality wine tradition.

It was the Breton monk Emilian or Emilion who arrived in the 8th century to live a simple life in solitude. He found a little natural cave where he settled and became known for his act of kindness and healing blessings for people. Many of these stayed in the village and as an honour of the monk they decided eventually to name the village after him.

In the following years and centuries many religious orders also settled in Saint-Emilion where they built their churches, convents, and monasteries and thus the village became an important pilgrimage stop for travellers walking the Camino de Santiago to Spain. 

It was under British rule from the 12th to the 15th century that Saint Emilion prospered economically and the town equally enjoyed more autonomy under the reign of King John of England who established the Jurade.

Things to do in Saint-Emilion

The historic centre

The village is small and the inviting narrow streets with cobblestones are ideal for a leisurely stroll and to enjoy the mediaeval architecture with its limestone buildings, picturesque squares and many wine shops and museums. The village is registered and protected as a heritage site by UNESCO.

The Monolithic church

This unique underground church is an essential visit. It is impressive and completely carved out of the limestone rock with a hint to the town’s religious history and rich heritage. Only available to visit with a guide and these can be booked at the tourist office.

Guided tours 

As with the church you can only visit the network of tunnels and catacombs with a guide. At the time of our visit there were no tours available, but book in advance and don’t miss out on visiting the ‘underground’ where many of the caves and quarries now serve as wine cellars.

The Bell Tower

It’s a bit of a climb to get to the top, but definitely worth the effort as this is the best place to enjoy panoramic views of the village and surroundings. 

The wine museum

Get to know everything about winemaking in Saint-Emilion in the museum showcasing the history and heritage. The museum is quite interesting with interactive displays and fascinating exhibits. 

wine museum

Wine tasting and vineyard tours

There are many tours available to discover the scenic beauty of the region and get into the heart of the vineyards. Tours are organised by bike or a little local train, but you can also choose to hike around.

chateau rozier

At the tourist office in Saint Emilion there is a daily list with information about two to four chateaux that are open for a visit without reservation. We did check the list but we found a small family owned shop in the village and after a short chat we got invited to visit the vineyard. Château Rozier from family Saby was not disappointing. We got a private tour into their cellars and also got to see where and how they make the wine and lots of information was provided. The approach was very personal and after tasting some of their fine wines we not only decided to buy some bottles of wine, but we also ordered a few cases to receive only the following year…call us adventurous! Unfortunately we won’t have time to pick up the wine but they offer service and send it wherever you live! (depending on the location, there might be an extra cost)

inside the wine cellars of chateau Rozier

Culinary treats

As everywhere in France, St-Emilion is also a great destination for foodies with many good restaurants around, but there are two culinary treats you can’t miss out on. Cannelés are a typical but complex French pastry with a particular shape that was invented near Bordeaux and available in every bakery in the region. Saint-Emilion is not an exception and offers really tasty ones in many shops.

Macaroons are another sweet treat that were created by the sisters of Ursuline. The ones available in the village are made following the original recipe and are slightly different from the macarons that are widely known today.

Planning your trip to St-Emilion

You can choose to stay in the region for a longer time or you can make it part of a tour through France and Europe. Check all possibilities at Travelstride and you might find what you are looking for.

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