Visit Saint-Emilion (Aquitaine, France)
Saint Emilion is a town 35km north east of Bordeaux, in the Gironde department (in the Aquitaine region of south-west France). It is best known (indeed renowned the world over) for the vineyards which surround the town, Saint Emilion being one of the four Bordeaux red wine regions, but is also an exceptionally attractive small town.
The history of the town dates back almost 2000 years when the Romans planted vineyards in what was to become Saint-Émilion as early as the 2nd century AD, while the town itself dates from the 8th century when Emilion, a Breton Monk, came to settle in a hermitage carved into the rock.
Explore Saint Emilion
Saint Emilion is entered by way of one of the seven gates that are part of the original medieval fortifications. Inside you will discover steep narrow streets with beautiful buildings, and several more open squares, each more attractive than the one before. Saint Emilion is not to be missed if you are in the region!
Built from, or rather hacked out of, the local yellow limestone, Saint Emilion is centred around a large square with a church on one side - a quite remarkable church, because it is more or less hewn into the the rock face. You can also climb the steps inside the 13th century bell tower which sits on the square above for stunning views across the rooftops and countryside.
For more views and history you can also climb to the top of the Chateau du Roy, the keep that is part of the medieval castle that once stood here.
Other particular places of interest also include the collegiate church and its splendid cloister; the Cordeliers monastery and cloister; and the underground pottery museum, built in a 12th century quarry and containing pottery from 2000 years ago up to the present day.
To really appreciate Saint Emilion you also need to descend underground on the guided tour that will show you the catacombs, the 'monolithic' church - biggest of its type in Europe- and the 'grotte de l'Ermitage' in which Saint-Emilion spent the last 17 years of his life. The tour also includes the Chapelle de la Trinité which contains some extremely well preserved medieval frescoes. This tour takes about 45 minutes and is highly recommended.
Back in the daylight there are plenty of cafes, restaurants, artisan shops and boutiques to keep you entertained if the historical interest starts to wane.
The town has managed to prevent the development that might have spoiled it, and now Saint Emilion and the surrounding region is a listed and protected UNESCO 'World Heritage Site', so future development is more or less impossible.
Note: I noticed in the Saint Emilion tourist brochure that they give some 'Helpful Hints', and the very first of these is "Ladies, try to avoid high-heeled shoes as some of the streets are steep and paved with cobblestones". Good advice I'm sure, although I don't remember so many holidaymakers teetering around in high-heeled shoes!
For wine enthusiasts no trip to Saint Emilion would be complete without a visit to one or more of the local wine chateaux. There are several of these that welcome the public for wine tasting - ask for details at saint Emilion tourist office.
The tourist office also offer guided tours to a local chateau if you are a bit nervous about just driving up to a chateau yourself, and also courses in wine tasting based in the 'Saint Emilion wine school'.
If all that sounds a bit serious just buy a bottle of wine in one of the local shops and enjoy it with a picnic!
As a rough guide to the Saint-Emilion wines; the best are the Premier Grand Cru Classées though these will set you back some hundreds of euros, next best are the Grand Cru Classées and then the Grand Crus. However even your non-Grand Cru Saint Emilion wines tend to be very good so don't be put off if your purse is not big enough for the Grand Cru Saint-Emilion wines!
Photos of Saint-Emilion
Click any picture to start the gallery
Tourist classifications for Saint-Emilion
Saint-Emilion has received the following tourist classifications: ; historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé)
Address: Saint-Émilion, Libourne, Gironde, Aquitaine, 33330 || GPS: latitude 44.896, longitude -0.155
Map of Saint-Emilion & places nearby
Highlights close by
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Saint-Emilion, France
- Collégiale et chapelle de la Trinité (Saint-Emilion) - religious monument
- Eglise de Saint Pierre (Petit-Palais-et-Cornemps) - religious monument (12km)
- Jardins du château de Vayres - remarkable garden (12km)
- Jardin du Fond de l’or - remarkable garden (16km)
- Montcaret Archaeological site - national monument (18km)
- La Sauve Majeure abbaye (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site (19km)
- Sauve-Majeure Abbey - national monument (19km)
- La Sauve église St Pierre (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site (19km)
- Jardins du Sardy - remarkable garden (21km)
- Jardins du château de Mongenan - remarkable garden (31km)
The French version of this page is at Saint-Emilion (Francais)