Europe, Travel

What to see and do in Saint-Émilion, France

I had a couple of holiday days to use before starting my new job in October, so we booked a trip to Bordeaux after finding some cheap flights. In addition to exploring the city of Bordeaux we took the opportunity to visit the medieval town of Saint-Émilion, renowned for it’s wine production.

Many people visit Saint-Émilion via an organised day trip from Bordeaux but we wanted to explore the town at our own pace without being herded onto a coach with a big group of people. Saint-Émilion is only about a 40 minute drive from Bordeaux Airport so we picked up a hire car there and spent a couple of nights in this region before heading to the city of Bordeaux.

Here’s what we got up to during our time in Saint-Émilion:

Wine tasting

You can’t walk very far in Saint-Émilion without seeing a wine shop and most shops offer wine tasting so you can try before you buy. If you are travelling with hand luggage only don’t worry as many of the wine shops will ship internationally, although you may have to buy a few bottles to justify the shipping costs. Shipping to the UK was incredibly fast as well, it only took a couple of days for our bottles to arrive.

Admiring the view from La Tour du Chateau du Roy

You have to climb 118 steps to get to the top of this 13th century tower but you will be rewarded with panoramic views over Saint-Émilion and the surrounding vineyards. It’s easily the best view in town and entry only costs €2.

Taking an underground tour

Some parts of Saint-Émilion are hidden underground and to see these you will need to take a guided tour. These can be booked through the tourist office and will lead you through 4 monuments: Émilion’s hermitage, the Trinity Chapel, the catacombs and the underground church. I recommend taking one of these tours in the afternoon as the cooler underground temperatures are a welcome relief from the hot weather above ground.

Tips for visiting Saint-Émilion

  • Inside the village there is a limited number of parking spaces so you are better off parking in one of the parking lots just outside the village. These are marked on the city map. I recommend arriving as early as possible to get a parking space. We arrived around 11am on a Saturday when there was plenty of parking available but it did get very busy later in the day.
  • If you want to take an underground tour you should book this at the tourist office as soon as you arrive. There are usually two English tours per day and they do fill up. Tours cost €9 and last between 45 minutes to an hour. Unfortunately they do not allow photography on the tour.
  • La Tour du Château du Roy is usually closed between 12pm – 1:30pm so plan your visit in the morning or after lunch.
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