All the bars and restaurants are currently closed which probably makes you want to skip this Valentine’s day altogether. But during these tedious times, celebrating love is more important than ever and nature could be a magnificent scenery for that. In this article, I gathered a few fun ideas for couples to do together this Sunday on Saint Valentine’s day. So grab your bottle of wine, maybe even a picnic, and follow me to the most romantic places around Bordeaux.
See the sunrise from Plage de la Pointe aux Chevaux
The Pointe aux Chevaux beach in Petit Piquey is one of the most magical beaches in Cap Ferret. Surrounded by pine trees and a few oyster cabanes, it looks like a place taken for a movie. The beach worth a visit any time of the day but if you’re a morning person, I would really recommend leaving the house early that day and go see the sunrise, nothing will give you more romantic vibes than that.
Dune du Pilat
Our beloved Dune cannot is a permanent resident on a list like this. The panoramic view of the forest and the ocean is quite hard to compete with. Of course, the ultimate pleasure would be to see the sunset from the top, but as there’s a curfew at 6pm, you’ll have to do with a romantic picnic on the top of the dune instead.
Saint Croix du Mont
This is one of my personal favorites in the region. Saint Croix du mont is a small village located in the south of the Entre Deux Mers region and is known thanks to its excellent white sweet wine. There’s not much to do there but the view from the top of the village is absolutely stunning. During the summer there is a nice bar there but currently, you’ll have to bring your own bottle of wine to enjoy the view. You can also do a little hiking trail from the top of the village.
Visit a winery
Did you know that many of the wineries in the region are open for visits? They are allowed to have up to 6 visitors but as there aren’t any tourists here, you’ll most likely be alone and have a romantic wine tour and tastings just for yourself. The choice, of course, is enormous so you’ll have to do some work to see which are currently open. Here are a few suggestions of wineries to visit in Saint Emilion.
Go biking together
There are plenty of beautiful biking paths in the region. If you want to stay in the city, you can cycle on the promenade from both sides of the Garonne. But if you don’t mind getting a little farther away, Roger Lapébie Bicycle path can be a great romantic adventure.
You can start your path from Pont Pierre in Bordeaux and cycle on the right side of the river until you get to Latresne, where the official path starts (follow the river bike path to Latresne). The official path is 57km long and it goes through the Entre Deux Mers region until it gets to Sauveterre-de-Guyenne. Here’s an article with more instructions.
Visit the smallest village in France
There’s something cute and romantic about being the smallest village in a country and in our case the smallest village in France is located in Gironde and called Castelmoron d’Albret.
There’s not a whole lot to do there, the town is simply very cute and you can have a picnic while enjoying a beautiful view. If you want to visit another place in that region you can stop by Duras or Sauveterre-de-Guyenne. For more info about villages to visit in Gironde read this article.
There are plenty of beautiful hiking routes in this region and if the weather is good, it can make a perfect Valentine’s day activity. Hostens is definitely one of the best hiking trails in this region but if you prefer going to Arcachon over the Landes forest, The Domain of Certes-Graveyron is a perfect place to spend the day.
For hiking ideas in Bordeaux, be sure to check out my article.
Do a fun street art day
If you love street art there are many places to discover in the region but nothing can be compared to Angouleme, the street art and comics capital of France. Tens of beautiful mural and funny comics decorate the city walls and it will take you hours to spot them all, a full fun, and romantic day :). It’s only 1.5 hours drive from Bordeaux and you can even reach there by train. Check out my guide to the street art of Angouleme before going.
Go to the Pyrenees to see snow
There’s so much snow this year, you must go see it before spring starts. Spend the day in one of the lovely ski towns in the Pyrenees and enjoy the tranquility created by the beautiful white powder. All the ski facilities are closed this year but you can go to Cauterets and enjoy this charming ski resort town. Then drive up the mountain to Pont D’Espagne for a hike in the snow.
That’s it for our romantic weekend!
I hope you find it useful and if you travel to one of these places don’t forget to tag me in your stories on Instagram @lost_in_bordeaux.
You can also get plenty of tips on things to do in the Southwest of France via lost in Bordeaux’s social media accounts and email list, check them out here:
In the last few weeks I’ve been writing a lot about places in Gironde, rather than Bordeaux itself and that’s because I really want to encourage you to discover the amazing area we live in. Gironde is the biggest department in France and one of the most varied ones in terms of what you can see and do. In my previous articles I’ve written about the beautiful beaches surrounding Bordeaux, the best parks around Bordeaux and on some great hiking trails in Gironde. Now that you know all about the magnificent nature we’re surrounded by, it’s time to explore some of the most charming villages in France! So today, I am taking a short break from nature to invite you on a journey to discover Gironde’s beautiful architecture and heritage. In this article I gathered some of the most beautiful villages in Gironde. If you follow my articles, you know that I really like variety and that’s why I included towns and villages from all over the department. Beach towns on the Atlantic coast, beautiful villages in the middle of Bordeaux’s wine routes and plenty of medieval towns in the South of Gironde.
If you take my advice and visit these beautiful villages, I’d love it if you could use the hashtag #lostinbordeaux so I can share your photos on my stories on my Instagram page Lost_in_bordeaux. Also, come and share your experiences and get plenty of new ideas for day trips in Nouvelle Aquitaine in my Facebook group – Travel in the southwest of France.
*Before we start I have an important announcement! I am upgrading my newsletter and from now on I will send a weekly email with suggestions of things to do every weekend. The email will be sent on Friday! So if you want to recieve cool plans for the weekend (especially during this period without obvious events taking place in Bordeaux) be sure to subscribe to my newsletter here!
Now let’s hit the road and discover the most beautiful villages in Gironde.
Entre deux mers and South Gironde
I decided to start my list with the Entre deux mers region and the South of Gironde as they’re usually my go to places when I’m in a mood for beautiful medieval towns. This is one of the most beautiful parts in the southwest of France, embodying the historic and cultural richness of this region. Most of the villages on my list are located close to one another so you can visit them all in one weekend. Public transport is not extremely developed in this part of Gironde so it’s better to travel by car or bike if you like cycling a lot. I did, however, add public transport routes to these places just for completeness.
First on my list is Saint Macaire, a little medieval town located on the banks of the Garonne river, about 50km from Bordeaux. Saint Macaire is a very attractive destination for those interested in history and beautiful architecture. What today seems like a sleepy town in the Entre deux mers wine appellation was once an important city under British rule and was declared the “ville royale d’Angleterre” (An English royal city) in 1341. During the 13th and 14th centuries it was one of the most prosperous cities in Aquitaine due to its significant agricultural and trade activities.
Visiting Saint Macaire can be a great half-day trip if you take the time to discover its rich heritage, the narrow streets, and beautiful old houses and monuments. Place Mercadiou, surrounded by beautiful medieval houses is the main square of the village, where the market takes place every Thursday morning. Another monument not to miss is Porte de la Benauge, the main gate to the old city whose historic center is surrounded by ramparts. Probably the most important monument of Saint Macaire is its Eglise de Saint Sauveur et Saint-Martin. The big church, built in the 12th and 15th centuries has impressive murals that are really worth seeing. Every year at the end of August, Saint Macaire hosts one of the best medieval festivals in the region.
How to get there: It’s a bit complicated to get to Saint Macaire without a car as there’s no regular direct public transportation going there from Bordeaux (there’s one train a day to Saint Macaire). However, you can take a train to Langon and then cross the Garonne to the other side and bike or even go for a nice hike along the river until you reach Saint Macaire.
Cadillac is a little town located on the right bank of the Garonne river at the Entre Deux Mers wine region. It’s quite a popular destination attracting many tourists, especially during summer. Cadillac is hard to miss when driving the D10 route to the south of Gironde. You will be greeted by a big defensive wall and the main gate into the old medieval center built in the 13th century. However, it’s undeniably most famous monument is the Château des Ducs d’Épernon, built by the Duke of Épernon in the 17th century. The chateau is very impressive and is best known for being a women’s prison starting from the French revolution and up until 1950. It now serves as a museum that mostly displays the life of the royals who were occupying the estate before it became a prison. However, on the last floor, you can actually still see the cells and a small exhibition about the prison.
The town is also known for its wine, the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. You can visit the maison des vins of Cadillac in order to learn about the wine of this region and taste it of course 🙂
How to get there: You can get there by bus number 501 from the Bastide neighborhood in Bordeaux, see the schedule here.
About 5km from Cadillac you will find Rions, a small medieval town located on the banks of the Garonne river. Like other towns in this region, Rions is also characterized by cute narrow streets and medieval houses. During medieval times it was an important town which was greatly affected by the Hundred years war between France and England. In 1295, Rions, which was at the time under British rule, was conquered by the French Charles of Valois who took down its defensive walls. In 1313, England was able to take the city back and surround it with ramparts, making it one of the Fortified English cities of British ruled southwest of France (Guyenne). It went back into French hands right before the end of the long war and, despite all the turmoil, was left with its impressive architecture and charm, perfect for a few hours trip. If you want to make the best of your day trip to the region, you can go on a 5km hike and see the beautiful surroundings of this medieval town. Read more about the hiking trail from Rions, in my article about hiking around Bordeaux.
How to get there: You can take bus number 501 from the Bastide neighborhood in Bordeaux, see the schedule here.
Castelmoron d’Albret is the smallest village in France and in my opinion one of the most charming ones in the southwest of France. This tiny medieval village is brimming with charm! Almost every house here is covered with colorful roses and other beautiful flowers spilling from eclectic pottery that is made here in the village. No house here looks the same, every window and door has its own particularity. There are almost no signs of modern life here, no cars, no sidewalks, just a beautiful village frozen in time. There are only about 50 people living here and only three businesses operating in the 3.5 hectares village so the atmosphere is incredibly relaxing. I think my kids were the loudest thing this village has experienced in a while.
It will take you about an hour of a scenic drive over the hills and along the vineyards of Entre Deux Mers to reach the little town from Bordeaux. If you want to combine the visit with any other activity, I recommend visiting the impressive bastide town of Sauveterre-de-Guyenne, which is located just a few minutes drive from Castelmoron d’Albret. There are also several hiking and cycling routes you can do in this part of Entre deux Mers. In this link you can find two great hiking trails that start from the village itself.
How to get there: Getting there by bus is fairly complicated and I would advise going only by car. The closest train station tho this village in La Reole but the bus from there to Castelmoron d’Albret is not very regular.
La Réole is a small hilly town situated on the banks of the Garonne river about 50 km from Bordeaux. Although the town developed around a monastery founded in the 7th or 8th century, it’s golden era was in medieval times when it became the second largest city in the region after Bordeaux. Still today, it’s one of the biggest towns in the south of the Gironde department with plenty of interesting events and a very lively weekly market on Saturdays. There are quite a few impressive houses and monuments to see in this little town, among them is the historic 12th century Town Hall, the Saint Pierre church and the Benedictine abbey, the old remparts of the city and more. Get lost in the narrow charming streets of the historic center of La Réole and let the beautiful architecture take you back in time. If you happen to arrive in La Reole when the tourist office is open, be sure to take a map of all the monuments in the city.
How to get there: This is a great destination for those who don’t own a car. You can get to La Réole in 40 minutes by train from Bordeaux. The train leaves from Gare Saint Jean every two hours.
Bazas is one of my favorite towns in the south of Gironde not only because it’s a beautiful place but also due to its rich heritage embodying the Gascony culture. It’s located at the eastern edge of the Gascon Landes forest, about 65 km from Bordeaux. A stroll in the historic center will allow you to discover the impressive architecture of the city and its past role as an important bishopric. At the main square of the town you will find its famous gothic Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste which appears on the UNESCO world heritage list. When strolling the historic center don’t miss the charming old houses on the smaller streets as well as the gardens.
Architecture is not the only attraction of Bazas which is actually quite famous for its gastronomy, especially its meat. You can enjoy the Bazadaise meat in one of the restaurants located on the main square. True meat lovers could also buy meat in one of the many butcher shops in the center. If you’re looking for a full gastronomic experience to discover the cuisine of the region, there’s one tour you shouldn’t miss. Anne, an American living in Bazas is an expert on everything related to food in the region. She knows all the farmers and chefs around Bazas and her guided farm to table tours are an unforgettable experience. Check out her website.
How to get there This is the most complicated place on my list to get to by public transport and I wouldn’t recommend doing it. If you still want to go there by public transport you can take a train from Bordeaux to Langon and then bus number 512 to Bazas.
Before we continue to our next region I just wanted to remind you that I also share plenty of day trips ideas on my Facebook/Instagram pages, so if you’re not there yet, what are you waiting for? Like/follow me on social media and you will never be bored on a weekend again 🙂
The right bank – Saint Emilion and Pays Blayais
You can’t really do a list about villages around Bordeaux without including Saint Emilion in it, can you? This medieval village is known all around the world for its splendid wine but it’s also undoubtedly one of the most beautiful villages around Bordeaux.
Important historical monuments can be found in abundance in this medieval town, some of which date back as far as the 11th and 12th centuries. One of the famous monuments is the 11th-century Monolithic church, carved from a limestone cliff, it’s the largest underground church in Europe. Its picturesque center, densely filled with wine shops and fancy restaurants, turns this little town into a prominent attraction for tourists in the area. If you’re visiting Saint Emilion in the high season of July-August beware that you need to book everything in advance, it gets very busy!
Blaye is one of the most interesting places in the Bordeaux area, located only about 50 km north to Bordeaux center. This little town has a long military and strategic history and is mostly known for its remarkable Citadel. The Citadel and city walls are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can easily spend half a day discovering them. The entrance to the Citadel is free and you can explore the streets and ramparts admiring the view of the Gironde estuary which can be seen from the top.
Blaye is also well known for its red wine which honestly is really excellent and very reasonably priced. You can visit the Maison du Vin on the main street (12 Cours Vauban), where they would gladly introduce you to the wines of the region and the chateaux you can visit around Blaye.
How to get there? The easiest way to get there is by car or by ferry if you’re coming from the other side of the Gironde estuary. The ferry is leaving from Lamarque, you can see all the details about the tariffs and hours in this link. Beware that masks are currently required onboard the ferry. There are also several bus lines going to Blaye – check all the info here.
Bourg (Previously called Bourg sur Gironde) is a picturesque village at the heart of the wine appellation of Côtes de Bourg located at the confluence of the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers. Bourg has played a key role in the region’s history, it was built in Roman times, fortified by the English and visited by several kings, such as Louis XIV in 1650. Just like its neighboring town of Blaye, Bourg too has a very impressive citadel called Château de la Citadelle. While it’s not one of the main tourist destinations in the Medoc area, those who do get to visit this beautiful place, quickly fall in love with it. Apart from the citadel, the historic part of the city also has a cute central square with restaurants and shops, the market takes place every Sunday.
Bourg is however quite known for its great Côtes de Bourg wine! Don’t miss a visit to the Maison des Vins des Côtes de Bourg, a 19th century former residence with a warm atmosphere that acts as a venue for exhibitions, talks, receptions, tasting classes, meetings with winegrowers and more. You can also see the map of all the wineries here, it’s better to call them prior to your visit.
How to get there: Two bus lines of TransGironde (201, 202) from Lormont pass through Bourg. However, unless you live or stay on rive droite of the Garonne it will take you some time to get to Lormont from the center of Bordeaux. So here too, going by car is recommended.
Arcachon and Medoc
L’herbe is a traditional oyster farming village located on the Cap Ferret Peninsula. Here you won’t find the characteristics of a typical French village, no central square with a bakery, no old houses or medieval gates. Nonetheless, it’s one of the most beautiful villages in the southwest of France, in my opinion at least.
There’s something raw and authentic about L’herbe. You get to walk between the colorful cabins of oyster farmers and see them in action on their special workboats. If you like oysters, you’re going to love this place. Plenty of oyster restaurants are spread along the beach serving only the freshest oysters, pork paté and white wine. This is a perfect destination for a sunny half-day trip from Bordeaux, or a full day trip if you add a visit to the beach as well.
How to get from Bordeaux to L’herbe: by car is the best way to get here as the bus is not a direct one and it takes almost two hours to get to L’herbe from Bordeaux. But if you have no choice take bus 601 (Trans Gironde) from Bordeaux center.
Cap Ferret is a little town located on the Western part of Bassin d’Arcachon and has been traditionally known as a summer getaway for the French upper class. Although it’s been recently gaining popularity among tourists visiting the south of France, it has yet to lose its relaxing beach village atmosphere, especially if compared to Arcachon city.
Cap Ferret is shaped like a narrow tongue with a long string of beautiful sandy beaches on the Atlantic ocean and a view of the eastern side of the Bassin. Apart from its dreamy beaches it’s also known for its ostréiculture industry, which produces some of the best oysters in France. Dozens of oyster cabins and restaurants with a view on the Bassin give Cap-Ferret a unique character that’s worth a visit. If you want to really profit from the day, rent a bike and cycle along the beaches and through the pine forest that covers a large part of the Cap Ferret peninsula. There are plenty of bike rentals in Cap Ferret, one of them is Bike rental Cap Gyro (7 Boulevard de la Plage, 33970 Lège-Cap-Ferret).
How to get there: Bus 601 will bring you to Cap Ferret but it’ll take you at least two hours to get there, so a car is definitely a better option here. You can also take a ferry from Arcachon or le Moulleau beach, you can see the schedule here.
Soulac Sur Mer
This charming little town is one of the highlights of the Medoc region. It’s located on the very top of the Medoc Atlantique, about 90 km from Bordeaux. If you ever had the chance to visit the town of Arcachon, you will find Soulac sur Mer a bit familiar, and many actually call it “little Arcachon”. Its city center resembles Ville d’été while the northern part of the town with its charming 18th-century villas is similar in style to the impressive villas of Ville d’Hiver in Arcachon. Soulac has some of the most beautiful beaches on the Atlantic coast, attracting many French tourists to the area. There are plenty of cute little restaurants both in the center and on the promenade. Seafood is a very important part of the local cuisine and so many restaurants will serve oysters and large shrimps.
Every year Soulac hosts one of my favorite events in Gironde, called Soulac 1900. A celebration of music, dance, ancient cars and costumes from the beginning of the 20th century.
We came to the end of my list of the most beautiful villages in the Southwest of France, Gironde (at least until I find another treasure that has a place on this exclusive list :)). There are of course more charming villages around Bordeaux such as le Canon in the Cap Ferret Peninsula or Monsegur in Entre deux mers, but I narrowed down the list to the ones I find most special.
If you missed my announcement from the beginning of the post I will repeat it again because I think it’s so cool 🙂 I am upgrading my newsletter and from now on I will send a weekly email with suggestions of things to do every weekend. The email will be sent on Friday mornings! So if you want to recieve cool plans for the weekend (especially during this period without obvious events taking place in Bordeaux) be sure to subscribe to my newsletter here!
I started writing this article mostly for myself about a week before the end of confinement. I wanted to come up with a long enough list of places I could go to with my kids or even alone (if that’s ever possible) where we can enjoy the wonders of the region but still keep social distancing. (If you’re reading this in 2050, we were all locked in our houses for two months, just google COVID-19). Gironde is one of the most beautiful departments in France and actually the largest one as well, so within the permitted 100 km radius you can find an overwhelming amount of hiking options. You can discover the parks and lakes around Bordeaux metropole or combine your trips with some heritage in Entre Deux Mers, or the vineyards of Saint Emilion. There are long hiking trails for fit walkers and shorter ones for families with kids. I had so many ideas that I just had to come here and share them with you. I included hiking trails from every part of Gironde to give a big landscape variety. There are of course plenty of other options for hiking around Bordeaux and I will slowly update this list with more trails so bookmark this page and come back whenever you’re in a mood for a walk. I also publish quite a lot of my daily trips on social media so you are of course invited to follow me on Facebook/Instagram. Now let’s start!
Hiking in Bordeaux Metropole
Let’s start with destinations closer to Bordeaux and its suburbs. There are dozens of big and small parks in the metropole that can be perfect for a nice and easy hike, so you don’t even need a car to be able to enjoy the green areas of Bordeaux. The ones I particularly love are Parc de l’Ermitage in Lormont, Parc Majolan in Blanquefort, and Parc Bordelais in Bordeaux. There are of course many more green and lush places in the city and I’m working on an article with the full list which will be published soon. But for now, I wanted to introduce you to a few great hiking trails in Bordeaux Metropole through which you can discover the towns and forests surrounding the city.
Au fil de l’eau bourde – From Talence to Gradignan
I live in Talence so the first one on the list is close to my home, a 5km trail through some of the green areas of Talence and Gradigan. It’s important to mention though that while most of your hike is going to be accompanied by green scenery, this is not a classic nature trail, meaning that you will have to walk through some urban areas to get from one location to another. Having said that, it’s a beautiful path and you will be surprised by some of the parks and monuments located on the footsteps of Bordeaux.
The starting point is Bois de Thouars, a forest located on the border of Talence and Gradignan (it’s recommended to enter the forest from Avenue de Thouars in Talence). Don’t be in a rush here, take your time strolling around the lake, it feels more unspoiled here than many of the other lakes in the area. From this point, you can follow the markup of GR® métropolitain throughout the entire route. But just to make sure you’re in the right direction, here are a few interesting points you should check on the way. From the forest cross the bridge of the rocade (highway) to get to Gradignan (you should reach rue de Bénédigues in Gradignan). After a few more minutes walking, you’ll be on rue Saint-François-Xavier and will enter a green area that follows the Eau Bourde, a little stream of the Garonne river. Your second destination on the trail is Parc de Pelissey in Gradignan. From there continue along the Eau Bourde to enter one of the biggest parks in this town – le Parc du Moulineau. This park is a gem for kids. Not only can they enjoy a big playground but it’s also home to the Maison de la Nature that inhabits nearly 50 different animal species from rabbits to the black and white goat of the Pyrénées. The animal park is unfortunately still closed due to Covid 19, but that should not bother you to enjoy the vast green Parc du Moulineau (or Le parc René Canivenc by its other name).
When you leave le Parc du Moulineau continue along the stream to get to Parc Mandavit. From here you will continue to the last destination of this trail – le Parc de Cayac, a historic monument on the Saint-Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage road. From here you can take bus line number 10 to get back to the Thouars forest. There’s also an option to continue to another 9 km hike through Gradignan. You can find more info about this and other hiking trails in the Metropole here.
Réserve écologique des Barails
If you prefer to forget that cars exist for a couple of hours, this next trail is for you! I’m happy to introduce you to the Réserve écologique des Barails, a beautiful natural reserve spreading over 156 hectares which also includes the beautiful Parc Floral of Bordeaux. Located in the North of Bordeaux (the Bordeaux Lac district), it’s actually the biggest green space in Bordeaux. The reserve consists of different parts each with their own characteristic: the forest, the park, the meadows, the wetlands, and the ecological corridors. It’s so rich with nature that most visitors don’t cover it in one visit.
There are three entries to the park. If you enter through Entree bois you’ll have the pleasure to discover more than 6km of hiking trails in the beautiful green forest. Enter the entree roseraie (next to the Golf de Lac) and you can enjoy a beautiful flower park with more than 500 varieties of roses. The reserve is also perfect for an easy stroll with kids and in fact, it was the first place I took mine after the deconfinement. Before heading there check out the information about the different entrances and parking on the official site of Bordeaux.
Floirac – fil vert – the green path
Le Fil vert on the right side of the river has more than 25 km of hiking to offer, passing through Parc des coteaux, the green space that encompasses most of the parks of Floirac, Cenon, Lormont, and Bassens. There are numerous hiking trails you can do here, depending on what part of “rive droite” you want to discover. You can see some of the trails here.
In this article, I’ll focus on hiking in Floirac and Boulac, a trail called Boucle de Floirac – Bouliac, which starts at Parc Castel in Floirac. The park itself is very cute with an impressive chateau, which is the starting point of your walk. Before you start the green path you can climb to the heights of the park to see the “belvédère” for a nice view. Then go down again to find the green loop path (boucle vert) in the le Chemin de Montagne. After about 500m take a left on the main street (Chemin des plateaux) that you will have to follow to reach le Domaine de la Burthe, the biggest park of Floirac. Enter the park through Chemin de Beaufeu and follow the red and white markup in the park, this will lead you to Ruisseau de Jacotte (a little stream of water). You will then have to go down under the highway to cross to the next town – Bouliac. Continue following the markup until it leads you to the next destination – le Bois de Loc Boué in Bouliac. The final destination on this route is the 12th-century church of Saint-Siméon. From here you can start your way back to Floirac. To avoid repeating the same path, you can take a different route through rue de Bourg. Before leaving rive droite you can also take a walk on Quai Deschamps and enjoy the beautiful view on the Garonne river.
The Saint Emilion region
Discover the lamprey capital of Gironde – Sainte Terre – 6.4 km
I’m sure that many of you are familiar with the beautiful Saint Emilion region. Even if you haven’t had the chance to do any hiking there, most of you living here had the chance to drive through the stunning vineyards of the famous wine region. This trail, however, is different from the usual view you see from Saint Emilion as it goes along the Dordogne river. This is a good opportunity to learn about another product the Saint Emilion region is famous for, the lamproie (lamprey in English). The little village of Sainte Terre is the capital of Lamprey. Start your tour from Église Saint-Alexis, the church of Sainte Terre and walk on Rue du Parlement until you reach the river. Take a nice long stroll along the river until you reach the prohibited area sign, then turn left with the path. Follow the path until you reach the town again and then turn left on Rue du Parlement to reach the town center. On normal days you can also visit the Lamprey’s garden, a small park and the museum of lamprey, however, I believe that it’s still closed for visits. You can see the map of the trails with the points of interest here.
The chateaux and restaurants are still closed, but once they’ll re-open I really recommend combining this hike with a visit to a winery or a nice meal in one of the villages around Saint Emilion. If you want more information on what to do in Saint Emilion, check out my article with everything you need to know about visiting this beautiful village.
Entre Deux Mers
Boucle de Rions – heritage and hillsides
Entre Deux Mers is one of the most beautiful parts of Gironde. An abundance of medieval villages scattered along the Gironde river, centuries-old historic monuments, wineries and a lot of nature makes it a perfect place for day trips from Bordeaux. And above all, it’s also a great region for hiking with several paths mixing heritage and nature. Today I want to focus on hiking around one of my favorite towns in the region – Rions.
Rions is a small medieval town on the hills on the banks of the Garonne river that played an important role in the Hundred Years War and was occupied by England during the 13th century. Even if you come here specifically for hiking, don’t be in a rush and take some time to admire the beautiful houses with old shatters and the colorful flower pots decorating the narrow streets of the village. After you got inspired by the beautiful architecture we can start the hike. Leave the city center following rue Lavidon, through Porte Lavidon, and enjoy a pleasant 4.5 km path with a stunning view of the Garonne hillsides and vineyards. You will enter back through the most impressive gate in Rions, Porte du l’Hyan, the only gate that was kept fully preserved to this day. Before you leave, visit the old ramparts of the city, built in the 14th century and restored in the 18th century. You can find the map and all the details here
The South of Gironde
Hostens is one of the highlights of the South Gironde region. Domaine des Lacs d’Hostens is located at the heart of the Landes de Gascogne forest (50 km from Bordeaux) and offers some of the best hiking trails you can find near Bordeaux. The Domain consists of five different lakes with plenty of water activities as well as hiking trails, mountain bike trails, and more. If you’re after a good hike, head to the second lake, Lac du Bousquey. On the way you can see horses, butterflies and other wonders of nature. There are three trails in the Domain of Hostens: 8, 11 et 16 km long so there is something for both fit walkers and people who just want to enjoy a relatively short walk in nature.
In Hostens you will also find one of the best beaches in Gironde, this one located on the shores of another lake, the lake of Lamothe. So if the weather is good this would be the best way to end your hike.
Lac Vert and Lac Bleu
I really love hiking around lakes! I think that water in combination with the greenery around it gives it a very meditational vibe 🙂 Luckily there are a few beautiful lakes around the area where you can have a lovely walk and admire the colors of the water. The first one is Lac Vert (the green lake) in Canejan and the second one is Lac Bleu (the blue lake) in Leognan, both located about 15/20 minutes’ drive from Bordeaux. Their names derive from the color of the water and they are both stunning.
Did you know that the largest man-made forest in Europe is located just an hour’s drive from Bordeaux? The huge Landes forest has a few hiking trails, one of them starting in Saint Symphorien, a village located about 50 km south of Bordeaux. The route starts from the center of Saint Symphorien, which by itself is not very interesting. But it’s nice to dedicate a few minutes to see the town hall, the gothic Saint Symphorien church, and the cute little Maison Cammunale, which was built during the great depression. To start the walk, leave the city center and walk about 5 minutes on Cours de Verdun until you reach Le Chalet Mauriac. In this house the famous novelist, Francois Mauriac used to spend his vacations as a child. The chateau itself is probably closed right now, but the nice park around it might be open.
Your next destination is Moulin de Marian, an old windmill standing close to the Hure river. This is a nice walk that should take you about 30 minutes. From here continue on the path until you reach the department route number D220. Don’t turn to D220, instead continue straight on D115 until you reach Landes de Lassus, turn left here. Then continue north until you get to l’Atelier des Chemins de fer économiques de la Gironde. The building, built in the 19th century is a testimony of what was one of the main economic activities of this village. The site was closed in 1978 but you can still see some of the machines they used back then. You are now almost back to the center of Saint Symphorien, where our tour ends.
One of my favorite hiking places in the region is Lanton on the Arcachon bay. There are of course many other great places for a promenade around the Bassin but I love the fact that you rarely see any people in Lanton and that the drive is not very long. You can start your walk from Plage de Suzette, which is a little port with a few restaurants on it, from there just follow the trail surrounding the little port. If you’ve ever been to the Bassin d’Arcachon you know that the view changes a lot depending on the tide. This trail goes along the bay and that’s why, depending on the time you arrive, it may feel like walking along the beach or in an apocalyptic desert. The scenery and tranquility are just magical and it’s less than an hour from Bordeaux! To discover more places in Bassin d’Arcachon go to my article about the best day trips to Arcachon Bay.
Ville d’Hiver in Arcachon
Here’s an idea for those who like urban trails. The touristy city of Arcachon currently feels very different from its usual lively vibes. Tourists are yet to flood the region and the restaurants will stay closed until at least June. Why not use this opportunity to discover the beautiful architecture of ville d’Hiver in Arcachon city. The winter city of Arcachon was mainly built in the 19th century and among its 300 villas, you can find some architectural treasures. Here are a few villas you don’t want to miss: Teresa, Toledo, Brémontier, Trocadero, Alexandre Dumas, Bayard, and Athena. Before you go, don’t miss the beautiful Parc Mauresque which separates the winter city from the summer city. If you can read some French, here’s a site with a short history of the most famous villas in the winter city. For more info on what to do in Arcachon city check out my article about Arcachon.
There are of course many more hiking routes in the region. We are surrounded by forests, lakes, parks, old villages, and a lot of heritage, so there’s an endless amount of ideas for a walk. But I wanted to release this article as soon as possible so you can start enjoying the weather and the deconfinement. I will add more ideas for walks in this article in the next few weeks, so I invite you all to return to this page. If you enjoyed reading the article, you can always share it with friends and make them go on a hike instead of the crowded city center 🙂
Before I go, I just wanted to let you know about all the other places you can get my information about traveling in Bordeaux and the Southwest of France.
My Facebook/Instagram pages where I share almost all my travels and experiences in the region on a daily basis.
Newsletter – I decided to go on a little break with my emails during the confinement being that most of the content there is about villages, restaurants, museums, and heritage sites, which is not content anyone currently needs. But I’m coming back with my weekly emails soon so you are all welcomed to join me there – subscribe here.
Wine enthusiasts don’t need an introduction to Saint Emilion. The small wine appellation (comprising only 6% of the vineyards in the Bordeaux denomination ) has long gained a reputation as one of the greatest wine regions in the world. It’s no wonder it attracts more than a million tourists every year. However, when many visitor plan their day trip to Saint Emilion they don’t realize it’s also one of the most beautiful and fascinating villages in the Southwest of France, registered as a heritage site by UNESCO.
For many decades this picturesque town has been an economic and religious center attracting royals, winegrowers and pilgrims. Every square in the small village center is packed with history and some incredible architecture. Thousands of hectares of vines surround the medieval village making the landscape an unforgettable scenery. And so, many tourists arriving to Bordeaux become overwhelmed when trying to construct their own trip. In this article, my goal is to tell you about all there’s to do and see in Saint Emilion, where to eat and how to get there. While you can still take guided tours, I hope this complete guide to Saint Emilion will make you want to do it by yourself and at your own pace. If you still prefer to take a guided tour, I have a few to recommend, so you can continue reading or go directly to my article on how to get to Saint Emilion (with or without a tour).
I previously published an article about the best wineries to visit in Saint Emilion so you can skip all my explanations about the city center and jump straight to wine tasting if you wish, simply click here.
Saint Emilion has an integral part in the history of Bordeaux and the region. The history of wine in Saint Emilion (or Ascumbas as it was called back then) can be traced to the 3rd century BC, when the Romans planted the first vines in the region. It originally had a mere 200 hectares dedicated to vineyards, clearly not the wine empire it is today.
In the 8th century, a monk named Emilian arrived to the little village in search of a quiet simple life and decided to make it his home. He lived in a little cave, receiving the many followers who traveled all the way to Saint Emilion to get his blessing. That’s actually how the village received its name, Saint Emilion. In the following decades, many religious orders would follow the steps of the monk and move to Saint Emilion to build their churches and convents, which explains the abundance of religious buildings in such a small village. The city became an important landmark for many of the pilgrims following the Camino de Santiago pilgrim way to Spain. The cave of Saint Emilion inspired the construction of the most impressive monument of Saint Emilion, the monolithic church.
In the middle ages, during the 300 years of British rule, Saint Emilion was an autonomous city with a lot of financial and governmental power. In 1199 the British king established the Jurade, a group of magistrates governing the city. In return for the economic and political autonomy, the British received in return the best wines of Saint Emilion. That’s how the wine of Saint Emilion become so popular in England.
The rich history of this little town left many traces in the city center. Many books have been written about its historic monuments, but here I want to share with you a few places that are in my opinion a must on your day trip to Saint Emilion.
Take a tour to discover the underground of Saint Emilion
Probably the most famous monument of Saint Emilion is the 12th-century Monolithic church that as its name suggests is carved from one stone. It’s the largest Monolithic church in Europe and it’s construction required the extraction of 15 000 m3 of stone. When looking at its modest front, it’s hard to imagine how big it is from the inside. I saw many pictures of the Monolithic church before going to Saint Emilion for the first time but I was still amazed when I saw this masterpiece firsthand.
As it’s a preserved site, to visit the church you will need to take the tour proposed by the tourist office. I know that many people are not big fans of guided tours but this one is really worth it. During the tour, you get to also visit other underground sites which tell some of the history of the city. Apart from the church itself, you will visit the catacombs, where the important people of Saint Emilion used to be buried in the middle ages. You will get to sit on a fertility chair in the original cave of Saint Emilion (according to the tourist office many babies have been born following this ritual) and to see the impressive paintings on the 14th century Chapelle de la Trinité.
Two English tours are offered two times a day. At 11:00 you can take a general tour in Saint Emilion which ends with the underground tour. While the 14:00 tour is dedicated only to the underground sites. Times may change according to the season. See more details on the official tourist office page.
The bell tower of the Monolithic church.
While the church itself is well hidden in the rock, its bell tower is standing tall and can be seen from every spot in the city. If you’re interested in architecture, the tower is a fascinating monument by itself, built in both Romanesque and gothic styles. You can climb the bell tower and see a magnificent view of Saint Emilion from the highest point in the city.
The Collegiate church
The Collegiate church is a beautiful monument built between the 12th and 15th centuries and you can visit it all by yourself, without taking a tour. Here again, you can see an interesting mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles, reflecting the long period of its construction. The west door of the church was built in a pure Romanesque style during the 12th century while the north door is a Gothic one from the 14th century. It’s located behind the tourist office and you can enter it through one of the two doors or through its beautiful cloister. If you pay close attention to the walls of the cloister you will see quite a lot of interesting items such as graves, statues and even a little dragon.
La tour du Roy
The 13th century King’s Keep is one of the most famous military architecture monuments in Gironde. There’s still a debate between historians on who ordered its constructions but one thing is sure, it’s a beautiful monument well worth a visit. It’s also a great spot to see the view of the vineyards of Saint Emilion. The tower is open daily for visits, consult the opening hours and prices here.
Les Cordeliers – drink sparkling wine in an old cloister
Red wine is not the only famous product of Saint Emilion, you can surprisingly find also one sparkling wine as well, called Cremant de Bordeaux. The producer of the sparkling wine sits in a beautiful old cloister that is worth a visit even if you’re not a fan of bubbly wine. The Cordelierscloister was established in the 14th century by the Franciscan brothers. For several centuries that’s where they used to live, pray and grow vegetables in their beautiful garden. Most of the building was destroyed during the French Revolution and was later sold to private owners. In the 19th century, the new owners of the place decided to use the enormous underground galleries to produce and store sparkling wine.
Today the production has moved to a remote location but they still store their bottles in the caves underneath the cloister and they offer daily tours where you get to visit the caves and taste the sparkling wine of Saint Emilion. Although the tour is nice, it’s not a must unless you really want to see the underground galleries.
They also have a nice bar outdoors where you can grab a glass of Cremant de Bordeaux (the sparkling white or rosé) together with a picnic basket and sit in the beautiful garden. For more details about the tours and the history of the place click here. Address: 2 Bis Rue de la Porte Brunet, 33330 Saint-Émilion
Enjoy the vibes of the Local markets
The markets in the Southwest of France are a treat so visiting at least one should always be on your list. The market in Saint Emilion takes place every Wednesday and Sunday between 8 am and 1 pm in the city center. It’s a nice small market that can give you a little taste of how a typical French village market looks like. However, if you want to experience a real big regional market with tens of stands of local cheese, wine, charcuterie, oysters and more you must visit the Libourne market that takes place every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Libourne is located just a few minutes drive from Saint Emilion so it’s really in the neighborhood.
If you’re about to visit Bordeaux on your trip, don’t miss a chance to visit Bordeaux’s main market, Marché des Capucins. It’s truly one of the liveliest markets in France and a great place to try local food. There are plenty of restaurants at the market and you can read about the best ones in my article about where to eat at the Capucins market.
Like many small villages in the area, Saint Emilion holds a weekly night market during the summer months. The market takes place at Parc Guadet and has a very fun local vibe to it. Every year it attracts many tourists and locals to enjoy the best local food and concerts. If you arrive to Saint Emilion in July-August you can get all the details about the night market in the tourist office.
Try regional sweets
If you’re tired of wandering around soaking history and sipping wine it’s time to stop for some local sweets! Yes, the Bordeaux region has special sweets that you can’t find anywhere else in France and one of them is coming straight from Saint Emilion. Did you know that the original Macaron was actually born in Saint Emilion? The macaroons of Saint Emilion are produced there since 1620 when the Ursulines sisters established their convent in the village. The recipe is being passed from generation to generation and hasn’t been changed ever since. You can get a box of macarons at the little sweets shop “Fabrique de macarons” ( Address: 9 rue Guadet). Or have a cup of tea with a great variety of local sweets and pastries at Au Parvis des Thés, a nice coffee shop, located behind the tourist office. Address: 1 Place Pioceau, 33330 Saint-Émilion
If you want to learn more about the macarons and other Bordeaux sweet specialties go to my article about the sweets of Bordeaux.
The Saint Emilion wine route – visiting wineries
How to visit wineries in Saint Emilion
We’re finally getting to the topic most visitors come for – how to visit the wine chateaux of Saint Emilion. If you just want to drive around the Saint Emilion area and taste and buy some wine directly from the wineries, it’s quite straightforward. Many of them will happily welcome you to the chateau and will happily let you taste their wine. However, if you’re interested in a tour (even a basic one), you usually have to either make and appointment or book online. So it will require some communication on your part, but I highly recommend visiting at least one chateau when in the region.
Here’s a good tip for those of you who don’t like to plan and would just love to visit a few properties. The tourist office in Saint Emilion publishes a list of two to four chateaux on a daily basis that are open for a visit without prior reservation. It allows you to be both spontaneous and to discover some wine chateaux you may have never heard of. You can see the daily list of wine chateaux here.
Having said that, I know that most people traveling such a long distance to the southwest of France would love to know ahead what chateaux are the best ones to visit. There are more than 130 wine producers in the great Saint Emilion area, many of which are open to visitors. So obviously choosing only one or two is not easy. But as I had the chance to visit many chateaux in Saint Emilion in the last two years, I’ve gathered a list of some of the best wineries to visits in Saint Emilion. This list is very limited and surely there are many other excellent wineries in the region but I found those to be particularly friendly and interesting to visitors. At least half of my list is dedicated to small family estates rather than big wineries owned by big companies. I personally prefer this kind of visits as they feel more personal and allow you to discover the passion and history stretching several generations of winegrowers in one family.
Most of the winery owners and their employees speak English so contacting them should not be a problem. However, If you don’t want the hassle of contacting the chateaux you can always book a visit through Rue des Vignerons.
Discover the Pomerol Appellation
If you’re really passionate about wine I would also recommend discovering the luxurious neighbor of Saint Emilion, the Pomerol Appellation. It’s located very close to Saint Emilion but is considered a separate wine area and while it’s one the most prestigious appellations in the area, it’s not included in the official classification from 1855. It’s the smallest wine appellation in the Bordeaux wine region, covering roughly 800 hectares of vines. Chateau Petrus is the most famous one in Pomerol. Unfortunately, most of us cannot visit this chateau as they are open only to wine professionals and honestly, most people can’t afford it either. But there are several Pomerol wineries who will be more than happy to welcome you to their estate. The most impressive one, in my opinion, is Chateau Beauregard with the most impressive wine tanks I’ve ever seen. Another one I really like is the smaller family-owned Chateau Bel Air.
Even if you don’t have the time to visit a winery in Pomerol you can still taste it in one of the wine shops in Saint Emilion. It’s really a great wine so I strongly recommend it. Many call it a ladies wine because it’s easier to drink than a Saint Emilion, but don’t say that to a Pomerol producer, they don’t like that label 🙂
Taking a guided tour to Saint Emilion
While I believe that Saint Emilion is a great trip to do on your own, I know that many visitors love to take guided tours. So for those of you who would rather not drive in France or just don’t want to spend time planning their visit, here are a few recommended tours that will take you from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion.
This is one of the most popular half-day tours from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion. Besides the ride to Saint Emilion from Bordeaux the tour also includes several wine tastings and a visit to two wine chateaux which for many people is plenty for one day. The price is €94 per person. You can find all the details of the tour and book directly here.
This is a half-day tour in Saint Emilion with a visit to one winery for € 75 per person. It’s rather intimate as they book small groups meaning you get to actually listen and ask questions. You can check out the details and get your ticket here.
A full day trip from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion, visiting three different chateaux at € 125 per person. This is a great option if you want to see different techniques of winemaking and taste different wines from the same area. You can see all the details and get your ticket here.
One of the cheapest tour options (€ 42 per person) is a half-day trip to Saint Emilion leaving on Wednesdays and Sundays that also includes a visit to a chateau. The downside is that these groups are quite big so don’t expect an intimate experience. See all the details and get your tickets here.
What to eat in Saint Emilion
The village of wine must take itself seriously when it comes to gastronomy and indeed there are dozens of great restaurants in Saint Emilion. Nevertheless, as I already mentioned, Saint Emilion is a very popular tourist destination which means that there are plenty of tourist traps to watch out from. Also, it’s crucial to make reservations in advance! Most of the good restaurants are booked so avoid trying to enjoy a spontaneous meal there. I gathered a shortlist of good restaurants in Saint Emilion, which includes both high-end gastronomic institutions and more simple but very good restaurants.
Logis de la Cadene – I dare say that this one Michelin star restaurant is the most praised restaurant in Saint Emilion. If you’re celebrating a special event or just want to have a culinary treat, this is the place for you. Address: 3 Place du Marché au Bois, 33330 Saint-Émilion
L’Envers du Décor – It’s the first wine bar in Saint Emilion that became one of the best restaurants in town. The place is a bit pricey but the food and the overhaul experience are worth it. Plus, they have a nice little garden which is super fun when it gets warm. It’s currently owned by the Perse family, the owner of the famous Château Pavie so perfect wine matching won’t be a problem. The restaurant is open daily. The address is 11 Rue du Clocher, 33330 Saint-Émilion
Delices du Roy – a delicious menu of local cuisine with a more relaxed atmosphere than many of the other restaurants in Saint Emilion. One of their trademark dishes is the duck burger. Address:1 Rue de la Porte Bouqueyre, 33330 Saint-Émilion
L’huitrier-pie – a creative restaurant with great food. It feels very fancy but the prices are not too high compared to the more expensive restaurants in Saint Emilion. Address: 11 Rue de la Porte Bouqueyre, 33330 Saint-Émilion
Comptoir des Arts – If you don’t want to spend a lot of money or just prefer a light lunch head to Comptoir des Arts. This small little restaurant serves nice quiches and salads at very reasonable prices. The restaurant is located at the very pleasant Cour des Arts in the center of Saint Emilion.
Chateau de Candale – If you want to take full advantage of the wine region you can have lunch between the vineyards. Chateau de Candale has a nice gastronomic restaurant in their wine chateau and you can even combine it with a great wine tour. Click here to book a wine tour in Chateau de Candale.
Attend some of the best events in Saint Emilion
Saint Emilion is a small but very lively town with plenty of events taking place throughout the year. This wine region celebrates everything from wine to gastronomy to Jazz music so check out if there’s an event lining up with your planned trip. I write monthly and weekly posts about the events taking place in and around Bordeaux (including Saint Emilion) so all the events will eventually appear on my blog. But here are just a few of the major ones:
The open doors in Saint Emilion – a weekend at the beginning of May when tens of wineries open their chateaux and welcome the public for free tours, wine tastings, exhibitions, concerts and more.
Saint Emilion Jazz festival – The Saint Emilion Jazz festival is one of the biggest music festivals in the region taking place at the end of July. Plenty of local and international Jazz bands arrive to Saint Emilion to celebrate music and good wine.
Montgolfiades de Saint-Emilion – a hot air balloon festival taking place every year in October above the vineyards of Saint Emilion. This event is absolutely stunning!
Ban des Vendanges – a ceremony taking place on the King’s Keep in September, officially starting the harvest season in Saint Emilion.
What’s the best time to come to Saint Emilion
Let’s start with when not to come to Saint Emilion! try to avoid coming at the beginning of April as it’s the primeur week. The En Primeur way of buying wine is very common in Bordeaux thus most wineries are busy with hosting wine traders and won’t have time to offer you a tour. Also, once in two years in June, Bordeaux hosts one of the biggest wine events in the world – Vinexpo, meaning that many wineries will send their staff to the expo and will welcome only a minimal amount of tourists. The next one is about to take place in June 2021. Also, avoid coming to Saint Emilion in the last week of December and the first week of January. While many wineries stay open for visits even during the winter, in those two weeks you will have a hard time finding an open chateau. Don’t forget that many of the wine estates employ only a small number of people and these usually leave for their Christmas vacation.
Is Summer a good time to visit Saint Emilion?
Generally, summer is a good time to visit the Southwest of France and the Bordeaux area in particular. It’s the official tourist season and most places are open and offering you a world of activities and adventures in this lovely area. On the other hand, arriving in August, the most touristic month, can also be a disadvantage. Saint Emilion is one of the most popular destinations meaning that during the summer it gets packed with tourists flooding its narrow streets. Even getting a simple lunch in the city center can become a real hassle. And while the big chateaux are all open for daily tours some of the small family-owned chateaux can close their wineries for a few weeks in August. I’m not discouraging you from coming in August of course but I want you to be prepared. If there’s a particular winery you’d like to visit, contact them in advance. And most importantly, book your lunch and dinner in advance as well or else a homemade sandwich might be your only friend in August 🙂
When is the best time to come to Saint Emilion?
In my opinion, the best time to come is from Mid April to July and then in September through October. May and June are excellent months for a visit as all the tourist attractions are open for the summer season but it’s not too crowded yet. September and October are the magical harvest season and if you’re interested in wine it’s something you wouldn’t want to miss.
How to get to Saint Emilion
My directions here mostly focused on people coming from Bordeaux for a day trip. I will just mention that the two closest airports to Saint Emilion are the Bordeaux airport in Merignac and the little airport in Bergerac.
How do you get from the center of Bordeaux to Saint Emilion
Saint Emilion is one of the easiest destinations to get to from Bordeaux as there’s a direct train from Gare Saint-Jean (Bordeaux’s main train station) to Saint Emilion. The station in Saint Emilion is located about 15-20 minutes walk from the city center. If you want to know in detail about the train’s time schedule, where to buy tickets and how to get a transport from the station to the city center, read my article about how to get from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion.
Nonetheless, if your day trip to Saint Emilion includes a visit to more distant wineries I do recommend coming with a car.
Where to park in Saint Emilion?
There’s the free parking lot of the Gendarmerie (police station). However, this parking is often full on busy days in which case you can leave your car at the free parking next to the train station. There are also several paid parking lots (about 2 euros/hour): around the collegiate church (the upper town) and Place Bouqueyre (bottom town).
Where to stay in Saint Emilion
I know that many visitors go to Saint Emilion only for a day trip but consider staying a night in the medieval beautiful city as it can really be a beautiful experience. Here are a few recommended hotels for those who decide to stay in Saint Emilion.
Logis de la Cadene
This is one of the most recommended hotels in the center of Saint Emilion. The hotel, with an amazing view of the historic center, has a warm and elegant design to it. And as I mentioned above it also has one of the best restaurants in town. Book it here.
Hostellerie de Plaisance
One of the most luxurious and beautiful hotels in the center of Saint Emilion. The hotel is located just next to the Monolithic Church of Saint Emilion and offers a magical panoramic view of the medieval village and the vineyards. Book it here.
Les Chambres d’Ovaline
Les Chambres d’Ovaline is a cozy and beautiful B&B located a few minutes walk from the center of Saint Emilion. The rooms are beautifully designed and you can enjoy your breakfast in their cute garden. It’s also much more affordable than the other options in Saint Emilion. Book a room here.
Château Hôtel Grand Barrail
A luxury hotel located in the middle of the vineyards a few km from the center of Saint Emilion. The hotel has a pool and a SPA facility as well as a gastronomic restaurant. This is a great place if you’re looking for a more isolated vacation. Book it here.
Le Relais de Franc Mayne Saint Emilion
A magical B&B with the most beautiful view on the vineyards of Saint Emilion. The rooms are quite spacious and beautifully decorated. To book a room click here.
If you don’t mind driving a bit, this cute B&B is located in an old wine farm, about 14 km from the center of Saint Emilion. Their price is really great and the setting is quite amazing. Book a room here.
I know that this article was very long so if you got to the end, “Bravo” as the French say. Here are a few other articles you’ll find useful when traveling to the area.
Hope you find this article helpful! If you do, please share it with your friends!
*Note – Some of the links in this article include affiliate links for which I earn a small commission. It adds absolutely nothing to your cost and helps me continue writing about this amazing region. Don’t worry, I’m not getting rich here, I’ll never recommend anything I don’t believe in 🙂
The harvest season in Saint Emilion or the ”vendange” as the French call it, is an old tradition that attracts many locals and foreigners to the area. While the prestigious wine region enjoys a steady stream of visitors starting from early Spring, Saint Emilion’s harvest season in September seems to be the busiest time of the year. It’s hard labor no doubt, but it doesn’t stop the flock of mostly young locals and foreigners taking part in this beautiful tradition. These days, the wineries are reluctant to take volunteers because of strict working regulations and their desire to control the quality of the harvest. That doesn’t mean however that you cannot take part in events related to the harvest in Saint Emilion and Bordeaux. In this article, I want to help you explore all the harvestrelated activities and make the best out of the harvest season of Bordeaux wines. Some Cheateaux I’ve been talking to are still planning their activities so I’ll update here with more events as they become available.
The ceremony of the harvest in Saint Emilion – Ban des Vendanges
The ceremony that kicks off the annual harvest in Saint Emilion is called Ban des Vendanges, meaning ‘the harvest ban’. The exact term is actually lifting the ban of the grape harvest, which historically allowed the winegrowers to start collecting the grapes from the vineyards. The ceremony is held in front of the beautiful front collegiate church of Saint Emilion by the Jurade, winegrowers dressed in red caps and robes. The Jurade is a brotherhood of 140 Jurats (members) founded 800 years ago with the mission to supervise the production and making of fine wines. Today they have a more symbolic role of maintaining the traditions of the Saint Emilion wine area.
This year the events of the “Ban des Vendanges” will take place on the weekend of September 21-22, as part of the European heritage days. The first ceremony of the Jurade will take place on the evening of September 21st (Starting at 22:15) at the Tour du Roy and will end up with a sound and light show. The second day of the ceremonies (September 22) is a celebration of the new vintage.
The day includes the Jurade ceremony which will be followed by a lunch reserved for wine professionals, many of whom attend the event only for this great networking event. Learn more about the Jurades ceremony here.
If you want to see how the harvest process is actually done you can join the Journée Vendanges at Château Mangot (September 28). It’s a half-day activity where you get to visit the vineyards accompanied by in-depth explanations about the “vendanges” and the tradition and history of the château. You will also visit the cellars and taste the 2018 wines from the barrels. The day includes lunch at the park of the chateau. The price is 39 euros per person and you can book it here.
As it’s the patrimony days, it a good opportunity to discover some of Saint Emilion’s most emblematic sites. On September 21-22 you are offered free visits to fascinating places like the Monolith Church and the collégiale of Saint-Émilion, guided free tours in the city, tours for kids, light shows and more. You can see the full program for the weekend here.
If you’re going to spend the weekend in Saint emilion it is highly recommended to try and book a visit to one of the wineries in the area. Some of them will probably be busy with the harvest season but others have enough personnel to welcome you in their domain. To chose a chateau, go to my article about the best wineries to visit in Saint Emilion.
Grapes harvest in Bordeaux – other activities
The harvest season celebrations in Bordeaux are not limited to Saint Emilion. Bordeaux will host the big “Bordeaux fête ses vendanges” event on the weekend of September 12-15. On September 12, the Triangle d’Or district will host a jazz concert to celebrate the new harvest. On September 13-14 the city center will transform into a huge terrace with plenty of restaurants that will help you discover the different wines of Bordeaux. For more info about “Bordeaux fête ses vendanges” click here.
The grape harvest celebration will end with the Vign’en ville festival, hosting winemakers in Jardin Public that will teach you all about wine production through a series of workshops and activities. You can read more about the Vign’en ville event in my post about things to do in Bordeaux in September.
Another great harvest event will take place at the Sauve-Majeure, the ruins of the 11th-century Benedictine monastery. The site also hosts the Maison des Vins de l’Entre-deux-Mers, one of Bordeaux’s wine regions known for its white wines.
This is a very kids friendly event with pony and tractor rides, collecting grapes and a musical aperitif. The Fête des Vendanges will take place on September 14 at Place Saint-Jean in La Sauve Majeure, starting at 14:00. Click here for more info and reservation details.
If you’re a wine enthusiast and you want to discover more than just Saint Emilion, check out my guide to the wine trip in the Medoc wine region. It is a beautiful region with some of the most impressive chateaux in the area and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Bordeaux (even if you don’t like wine). If you don’t have enough time to discover all the wine regions of Bordeaux you can simply taste many of the wines at wine bars in Bordeaux. For that, you just have to read my article about wine tasting in Bordeaux.
If you are looking for another fun and delicious activity in Bordeaux, check out my food tours in which I’ll take you through a three-hour journey in the culinary scene of the Southwest of France.
Bordeaux is located in one of the most beautiful areas in France, surrounded by charming villages, impressive chateaux, vineyards and sandy beaches. When visiting the city, many are looking for day trips from Bordeaux that will allow them to discover the area without driving for hours. And you can indeed easily fill your visits here with amazing day trips from the city. However, many of these places are hidden secrets to most tourists and information is not easy to find online. That’s why I decided to make this list of places to visit around Bordeaux. I tried to make it as diverse as I could to help anyone find its perfect spot for a day trip. It’s important to notice that most of these locations are not very accessible by public transport, so renting a car is recommended. For those of you that prefer not to go by car, be sure to check up my article about the best day trips from Bordeaux by train.
Wine related day tips around Bordeaux
Saint Émilion is probably the most famous wine related day trip from Bordeaux. Its picturesque center, densely filled with wine shops and fancy restaurants, turns this little town into a prominent attraction for tourists in the area. Saint Émilion is mostly famous for its wines so a visit to one of the châteaux (wineries) is a must. The charming town, however, is worth a visit even if you’re not a wine lover. Important historical monuments can be found in abundance in this medieval town, some of which date back as far as the 11th and 12th centuries. One of the famous monuments is the 11th-century Monolithic church, carved from a limestone cliff, it’s the largest underground church in Europe.
There is a direct train from Bordeaux to Saint Émilion however if you want to visit some of the distant chateaux in the region, coming by car is recommended. There is just one problem is Saint Émilion, there are just too many beautiful spots to visit and it’s really hard to choose just a few! In my article about the best wineries to visit in Saint Emilion, I cover both the most interesting chateaux and the most welcoming wine producing families in the area so check it out!
The Medoc Wine Route
The Medoc is one of the most famous wine regions in the world, attracting many wine enthusiasts to the Medoc wine route. The famous route is a never-ending road (the D2) leading from the northern part of Bordeaux Metropole (start in Blanquefort) to almost the northernmost point in Gironde. An infinite landscape of vineyards adorned with mesmerizing châteaux. A view that will leave you speechless even if you don’t like wine.
There are about 600 châteaux along the Medoc wine trail. You probably won’t have time to visit most of them, but luckily, some of the most beautiful ones can be seen from the road so all you have to do is stop for a quick photo. The most famous wine houses (like Château Margeaux and Château Mouton Rothschild) are open only to professionals but don’t worry, there are plenty of beautiful properties you can visit. Some of the prettiest and more interesting are Château d’Arsac, Château Siran, Château Beychevelle and Château Cos d’Estournelle. If you don’t mind going a little further to the north I highly recommend visiting the last chateau on the trail, Château Loudenne. This charming (it’s pink!) old château has a huge garden and its own port so apart from the wine visit, you can have a lovely picnic or take a boat tour. Make sure you book your visit to the wineries before going there as it can get quite busy in the summer.
Wine is not the only alcoholic drink the Southwest of France is known for! Bordeaux is located about 120 km (75 miles) from Cognac, an area that produces one of the most luxurious spirits in the world. The town of Cognac, located in the Charente department, is a charming and interesting place that’s worth a visit even if you’re not a big fan of Cognac. The old center of the city is characterized by narrow paved streets with houses dating from the 16th and 17th century. Some of the most famous Cognac houses are located right in the city center, among them, you’ll find Hennessy, Martell and Rémy Martin. All of them offer tours which normally include a visit to the cellars and Cognac tastings. You can read more about Cognac in my post about the 10 best things to do in Cognac. While it’s possible to get to Cognac by train, it’s quite a long journey so going by car is recommended.
Discover the sandy beaches around Bordeaux
Arcachon is one of the most popular summer destinations in the southwest of France. A seaside resort town renowned for its beautiful beaches, impressive architecture and vibrant atmosphere. Within an hour drive from Bordeaux you get to swim in the ocean, eat oysters and see beautiful villas. A day trip from Bordeaux to Arcachon can easily take a whole day but many tend to combine it with a visit to the Dune du Pilat, the tallest sand dune in Europe and one of the most popular destinations in France.
I recently wrote a post about the best things to do and see in and around the town of Arcachon, which is one of the main tourist destinations on the Arcachon Bay. So take a look at it before you head to the area. You can reach Arcachon by train, however coming by car will allow you to easily access the dune and to visit other places on the bay, such as Gujan Mestas and the Teich bird reserve.
Soulac sur mer
This charming little town is one of the highlights of the Medoc region. It’s located on the very top of the Medoc Atlantique, about 90 km (55 miles) from Bordeaux. If this is too far for you, you can combine it with the wine trail in Medoc which I mentioned above.
Soulac sur Mer is a resort town that resembles Arcachon, with the city center looking like Ville d’été and the impressive 18th-century villas that look just like Ville d’Hiver. Soulac has some of the most beautiful beaches on the Atlantic coast, attracting many French tourists to the area. There are plenty of cute little restaurants both in the center and on the promenade. Seafood is a very important part of the local cuisine and so many restaurants will serve oysters and large shrimps.
When there, take a map in the tourist office and go on a discovery tour of the most interesting villas. I highly recommend coming here at the beginning of June during the festive weekend of Soulac 1900, a really fun Jazz festival.
Cap Ferret is a charming town located on the Western part of Bassin d’Arcachon (Arcachon Bay) and has been traditionally known as a summer getaway for the French upper class. Although it’s been recently gaining popularity among tourists visiting the south of France, it has yet to lose its relaxing, uncrowded beach village atmosphere.
Cap Ferret is shaped like a narrow tongue with a long string of beautiful sandy beaches on the Atlantic ocean and a view on the eastern side of the Bassin. It’s also one of the main producers of oysters in France due to its location on the bay that creates perfect conditions for the ostréiculture industry. Dozens of oyster cabins and restaurants with a view on the Bassin give Cap Ferret a unique character that’s worth a visit and a taste.
The Biscarrosse lake
This one is a great option for a day in nature. If you don’t mind driving a bit longer, the beautiful Biscarrosse lake is located about 70 km (45 miles) from Bordeaux. It is one of the biggest lakes in the area with plenty of amazing beaches and pine forest surrounding it. As it’s so big there are several beaches to choose from, some of which are Plage Navarrose and Plage de Caton. Aquapark, the biggest inflatable water park in France is located on Plage Maguide. If you’re into surfing, head to the beaches on the Atlantic coast. You can also start the day with a biking trail on the canal, connecting the big and little lakes.
A day trip to beautiful villages
Bazas is a beautiful town with lovely people and a great heritage embodying the Gascony culture. It’s located at the eastern edge of the Gascon Landes forest, about 65 km (40 miles) from Bordeaux. A stroll in the historic center will allow you to discover the rich history of the city and its past role as an important bishopric. Its beautiful architecture includes the gothic cathedral (recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO), old mansions, gardens and historic monuments.
Heritage is not the only attraction of this charming town, it’s actually quite famous for its gastronomy, especially its meat. You can enjoy the Bazas meat in one of the restaurants that are perfectly located on the main square. True meat lovers could also buy meat in one of the many butcher shops in the center. If you’re looking for a full gastronomic experience to discover the cuisine of the region, there’s one tour you shouldn’t miss. Anne, an American living is Bazas is an expert on everything related to food in the region. She knows all the farmers and chefs around Bazas and a guided tour with her is an experience you don’t want to miss. Check out her website.
Blaye is one of the most interesting places in the Bordeaux area, located only about 50 km (30 miles) from the center of Bordeaux. This little town has a long military and strategic history and today it’s mostly known for its remarkable Citadel and red wine. The Citadel and the city walls are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can easily spend half a day discovering the old city walls. The entrance to the Citadel is free and you can explore the streets and ramparts admiring the view of the Gironde estuary which can be seen from the top.
Blaye is also known for its red wine. You can visit the Maison du Vin on the main street (12 Cours Vauban), where they would gladly introduce you to the wines of the area and the chateaux you can visit around Blaye. The easiest way to get there is by car or by ferry if you’re coming from the other side of the Gironde estuary. The ferry is leaving from Lamarque.
Visit castles in the South of Gironde
South Gironde is a magical area with a landscape colored with history, tradition and character. It’s a rural area, abundant with beautiful medieval villages and ancient castles. One of the most impressive castles is Château de la Brede which is located only 30 minutes from Bordeaux. It is a 14th-century castle that was built in a Gothic style. The house has a historic importance as it was the residence of Montesquieu. The château is open for visits from April to November (consult their opening hours here).
Another interesting castle to visit is château de Cadillac located in a charming little town that goes by the same name. The chateau is very impressive and is best known for being a women’s prison starting from the French revolution until 1950. Now it serves as a museum that mostly displays the life of the royals who were occupying the estate before it became a prison. However, on the last floor, you can actually still see the cells and an exhibition about the prison.
Bergerac is one of the main cities in the Dordogne area, quite close to the eastern border of the Gironde department. While it’s not as appealing as some of the small beautiful villages in Dordogne, it’s a lively city with a lot of charm to it. In the city center, you will find plenty of restaurants, a great market and long shopping streets. Bergerac is seated on the banks of the Dordogne giving it a beautiful view of the river. You can take a tour on the traditional boats (les gabarres) and discover the history of the city as well as the natural reserve around it.
The area is also known for its wine and you can combine your trip there with a visit to a château. One of the most famous ones is the beautiful Château de Monbazillac, which is located only 15 minutes away. It’s known for its sweet white wine. If you’re going to Bergerac on a Saturday, don’t miss the great market in Saint Foy la Grande which is just on the way from Bordeaux.
Finally, if you are looking for a fun and delicious activity in Bordeaux, check out my food tours in which I’ll take you through a three hours journey in the culinary scene of the Southwest of France.
Lost in Bordeaux helps you enjoy the city and region in many ways so be sure to follow us on facebook /Instagram for more daily updates on things to do and see. Or better yet, join my newsletter where I share a lot of exclusive info about Bordeaux and the region – sign up here.
Saint-Émilion is one of the most prestigious wine areas in the world. With more than 800 wine producers, an endless landscape of vineyards, and its vicinity to Bordeaux, it became one of the top destinations in the southwest of France. More than a million visitors arrive each year to explore the nine communes of the Saint-Émilion region: Saint-Émilion, Saint-Christophe des Bardes, Saint-Sulpice de Faleyrens, Saint-Hippolyte, Saint-Etienne de Lisse, Saint-Laurent des Combes, Saint-Pey d’Armens, Vignonet and parts of Libourne.
With so much excellent wine and beautiful châteaux, choosing which wineries to visit in Saint-Émilion can be quite a difficult task. The fact that many of the well-known châteaux are only open to professionals in the wine industry doesn’t help either. So to help you build your trip to this amazing wine region, I gathered my list of the best wineries to visit in Saint-Émilion. The list includes wineries having great wine (obviously), beautiful properties and interesting tours. I featured both small family run wineries and bigger châteaux, and if time permits I would recommend combining both in your visit. If you’re planning a day trip to Saint Emilion and want to visit the charming village as well, check out my article about the best things to do and eat in Saint Emilion. The article also includes recommendations for hotels if you plan to spend the night in Saint Emilion.
Just a quick note before we start. If you’re coming to Bordeaux in September, you should know that it’s the grapes harvest season, with events and activities that will allow you to witness one of the most interesting processes in the wine production. To learn more about that go to my article about the harvest season in Bordeaux and Saint Emilion. Also if you’re interested in disccovering other regions of the Bordeaux wine area, check out my article about the Medoc wine route. Now let’s dig in!
This elegant château is located about 20 minutes’ walk from the center of Saint-Émilion. The property has a 400-year history as it has been handed down from generation to generation since at least the early 17th century. Today, the family’s 14th generation lives in the property and runs the winemaking business. One of the things that won me over when I first visited was their amazing garden with its own pond and ducks. Combine that with a glass of wine and you will enjoy an amazing picturesque scenery. It’s particularly great if you’re visiting with kids as they can enjoy the garden while you’re taking the wine tour. The David-Beaulieu family is very welcoming and they guide the tours themselves giving a very personal feel to it.
There are two tours to choose from: The “Tradition” (45 min – 5€) which includes the history of the estate, a visit to the winery and the family cellar, and wine tasting. And the “Prestige” visit (1h30 – 12€), which is for 8 people max, and also includes a tour through the vineyards and an exploration of Coutet’s treasures. The tours have to be scheduled ahead. To book a visit call ++33 (0) 5 57 74 43 21 or ++33 (0) 7 82 22 01 05 or write an email to [email protected] . Website:http://chateau-coutet.com/en/wine-tour/ Address: Coutet, 33330 Saint-Émilion
Château Bernateau is also a family run winery owned by the 11th generation of the Lavau family. The tour is run by the lovely Karine who is married to one of the sons running the family business. The visit, which lasts around an hour and a half, takes you from the vineyard to the glass. You will see 60 years old vines as well as new ones, visit their beautiful new gravity vat house and then taste wine from different years and styles. It’s a beautiful property with a green and charming garden and a small playground for kids. So if you want to spend some time in the château beyond the tour itself and maybe have a picnic, this place is highly recommended.
They are open daily and offer tours in English and French. The price is 6 euros if you join a group and 10 euros for a private tour. Click here to book a tour online. Address: Château Bernateau, 33330 Saint-Étienne-de-Lisse
The Beaurang winery is located in the southern part of Saint-Émilion, about 5 km from the center. This isn’t a fancy château, but if you’re looking for a warm welcome, a family feel and great wine this is the right place for you. Claude Puyol and his daughter Delphine represent the third and fourth generation in this artisanal wine-making family. They have an interesting history as they are descendants of Spanish immigrants who came to the region in the early 20th century as simple workers and were eventually able to buy the château and start making their own wine.
The visit will teach you quite a lot about the wine in the region and about the life of a winemaker. In a fascinating way, Claude presents both the beauty and the struggles of wine growers including the effect weather has on their business. At the end of the tour, you will taste some of their great wine, which was one of our favorites in Saint-Émilion. The tours are offered every day from 10:00 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 18:00. They offer the visit for free but require a reservation. You can book a tour by phone (++33 (0) 6 81 56 35 58) or by email: [email protected] Website: https://www.chateau-beaurang.com/ Address: Château Beaurang, 1, Beaurang, 33330 Saint-Emilion
Château La Croizzille
Château la Croizille offers a fascinating journey combining old and new. The modern château stands right next to the traditional Château of Tour Baladoz, owned by the same family. This tour allows you to discover the differences between the traditional techniques and the innovative ones for which Château la Croizille is known for. One of the highlights of this tour is the amazing view from the tasting room overlooking the vineyards from the top. The basic tour is offered daily and includes the modern cellars and tastings. Click here to book the tour. Address: lieu-dit Baladoz, 33330 Saint-Laurent des Combes (Saint-Emilion)
Château Guibeau is a bit far from Saint-Émilion (15 minutes drive) but totally worth the ride. It’s considered a big winery in Saint-Émilion, with 38 hectares on which they produce around 120,000 bottles a year. It’s owned and run by Brigitte and Eric Destouet. Brigitte is the one running the tours and she will easily make you fall in love with their property and bio wine.
The visits to the chateau are possible from Monday to Friday from 10h30 to 12h and from 14h to 18h for only 5€ per person. You can also take the gourmand tour, with a delicious basket to take to a picnic in the garden of the chateau with an amazing view. Book both tours here or by email to [email protected] or by phone: ++33 (0) 5 57 55 22 75. The owners also have a guesthouse on their property so if you’re looking for an immersive experience that includes a stay in a wine chateau, this is a great opportunity. Click here to book a room. Website: http://www.chateau-guibeau.com/ Address: 51 Guibeau Ouest, 33570 Puisseguin
At a mere 10 minutes walk from the center of Saint-Émilion stands the impressive 18th-century Château Soutard. If visiting a beautiful château is high on your list, this is a great option. Since 2006, its owned by La Mondiale company, so it doesn’t have the cozy family feel like many of the other chateaux on this list. But it’s a very popular and highly rated experience. The Château offers plenty of fun activities such as a wine blending workshop, biking in the vineyards, a gourmet picnic and of course, wine tours. Their basic wine tour (12€ / person) starts at 14h every day from April to October, no reservation is required. It includes a visit to their vineyards and cellars. At the end of the tour, you have the chance to taste their renowned Grand Cru Classé wines. To book any of their activities click here. Website: http://www.chateau-soutard.com/ Address: Soutard, 33330 Saint-Émilion
Another charming family-run winery is Château Cantenac, built in 1870 on the locality “Cantenac”. The property and its vineyards are located about 3.5 km west of the center of Saint Emilion. Since 1937, the winery is owned by the Roskam-Brunot family, which are now in their 3rd and 4th generations of winemakers. The family is very friendly and their tours are full of knowledge about the winemaking process. The tours are guided by a family member, who is really passionate about the heritage, the wine and the whole process of producing it. The tour ends up with a comparative and educational wine tasting experience. The winery offers two tours: The one-hour classic tour (10 € / person) and the Prestige tour ( 25 € / person ) which also includes some snacks and more wine. You can visit the château from Monday to Friday (10h30 to 14h) upon reservation. Click here to book the tour directly through their site. Website: https://www.chateau-cantenac.fr/histoire/la-famille-roskam/ Address: 2 locality Cantenac, 33330 Saint-Emilion
Château de Ferrand
Another impressive château on our list is Château de Ferrand, located about 6km from the center of Saint-Émilion. Part of the tour will include the history of the Château that dates back to the 17th century. The wine is a Grand Cru Classé and with its 32-hectare, it’s considered a big winery in the Saint-Émilion wine region. During the tour, you’ll get to visit the vineyard and their big wine cellars. While many of the wineries on this list have a family feeling to them this one is a bit different. It’s much more professional and the wine tasting part is conducted by a professional sommelier that will teach you how to taste wine. Tour prices range between 17 and 21 euros depending on the number of glasses you’re going to taste. The most expensive tour (21 euros) includes tastings of cheese and charcuterie. Click here to book a visit through their site. You can also book by phone + 33 (0) 5 57 74 47 11 or email: [email protected] Website: http://www.chateaudeferrand.com/en-gb/home.aspx Address: Château de Ferrand, Saint-Hippolyte, 33330 Saint Emilion
If you come to Saint-Émilion by train and you really don’t want to leave the village, Château Villemaurine is perfect for you as it’s a short walking distance from the village center. The Château combines tradition, modernity, centuries of history and the refined production of great wines. Château Villemaurine offers three guided tours. The first one is a group discovery tour (15€ / person) where you get to visit the vineyards and the monolithic cellars which are located underneath the vines of the estate. Second is the Heritage tour (15€ / person ) where you will discover the stunning network of quarries owned by the Château Villemaurine. Last is a private tour (45€ / person) which is personally designed for wine enthusiasts. All the tours include wine tasting in the end. Click here to book the tour online. Address: 23 Villemaurine-Sud, Saint-Émilion
Visiting with kids
If you’re visiting Saint-Émilion with kids and you’re afraid that a visit to a winery will bore them, take the train tour. The little train leaves every 45 minutes from Espace Villemaurine (next to the bus parking). It’s a 35 minutes tour (7€ / person) that takes you through the vineyards and the big châteaux of Saint-Émilion. If you wish to combine that with a winery visit, the 11€ tour includes a stop at Chateau Rochebelle and its stunning, beautifully lit monolithic cellars (with wine tastings at the end). The tickets can be bought in the tourist office in Saint-Émilion or online (24 hours in advance). For all the details and to book a train tour click here.
Now for the more practical part. While some châteaux will welcome spontaneous visitors, most of the wineries require prior reservations. So be sure to book the tours in advance. In addition, unless you’re coming during the summer, some of the châteaux are closed on the weekends, so if you have the chance, try visiting during the week. Lastly, while visiting Saint-Émilion is a beautiful experience any time of the year, there are some months that are less recommended for wine tours. During the winter (from December to March) and especially in January when it gets cold, many wineries are closed for visits. September is one of the most interesting times in the area as it’s the harvest season but take into account that many small châteaux don’t have enough staff to offer tours during that time so make sure to contact the château in advance.
Saint-Émilion is the queen of wine tourism and one article cannot possibly cover all the tours you can take in the area. In this article, I simply wanted to highlight some of the tours I personally enjoyed and to offer a variety of both big and small châteaux to help my readers plan their trip to the area. Hope you liked it 🙂
If you want to learn more about wine (from Bordeaux and other regions) you can also visit the Cite du Vin, the amazing wine museum of Bordeaux. I wrote a whole article about it and you can read it here.
Finally, If you are looking for a fun and delicious activity in Bordeaux, check out my food tours in which I’ll take you through a journey in the culinary scene of the Southwest of France.
Need more ideas for things to do in and around Bordeaux? you should definitely join my newsletter where I share a lot of info about the area – sign up here.
When staying for more than a weekend in the area, many tourists are looking for day trips from Bordeaux. And rightly so, as Gironde (Bordeaux’s department) is one of the most fascinating areas in France, rich with beaches, beautiful villages, nature and heritage. There are plenty of beautiful locations around Bordeaux and some are even accessible by public transport. Thus, in order to help those who don’t want to rent a car, I gathered a list of the 10 best day trips from Bordeaux you can do by train.
* If you do rent a car you have much more options for day trips around Bordeaux – check out my article about day trips with a car.
All the tickets to the suggested destinations can be bought directly at the Gare Saint Jean train station in Bordeaux. The only one I would recommend ordering ahead of time is Angouleme, only because it’s on the direct line to Paris and the tickets might be expensive if you buy them last minute at the train station. So let’s start discovering the Bordeaux area by train with this list of the 10 best day trips around Bordeaux.
Arcachon and Dune du Pilat
Arcachon is one of the most popular summer destinations in the southwest of France. A seaside resort town renowned for its beautiful beaches, impressive architecture and vibrant atmosphere. The town is divided into four districts, named after the four seasons. Ville d’Été, covering the touristic center, main beach, restaurants and boutiques. Ville d’Hiver – the historic center adorned with glamorous 19th century villas. Ville de Printemps in the west is closer to the most beautiful and less crowded beaches and Ville d’Automne is the amazing port area of Arcachon packed with great sea food restaurants. A day trip from Bordeaux to Arcachon can easily take a whole day but many tend to combine it with a visit to the Dune du Pilat, the tallest sand dune in Europe and one of the most popular destinations in France. Words can’t describe how impressive this sand monster is, you’ll have to climb it to fully appreciate its beauty. For more info:www.arcachon.com *If you want to learn more about Arcachon check out my guide to what to do and eat in the Arcachon.
How to get there by train? There is a direct train to the center of Arcachon from the Gare Saint Jean train station (or Pessac train station). To continue to Dune du Pilat, take bus number 1from the train station in Arcachon. The train leaves Bordeaux every 30 minutes from 6 am to 11:30 pm.
Saint Émilion is probably the most famous wine related day trip out of Bordeaux. Its picturesque center, densely filled with wine shops and fancy restaurants, turns this little town into a prominent attraction for tourists in the area.
Saint Emilion is mostly famous for its wines, with four appellations d’origine controlee (AOC) – Saint Émilion, Saint Émilion Grand Cru, Lussac Saint Émilion and Puisseguin Saint Émilion. A visit to one of the châteaux and participating in some wine tasting is a “must” when coming to the area. If you’re having a hard time choosing a wine château for a visit, check out my article about the best wineries to visit in Saint Emilion.
The charming town, however, is worth a visit even if you’re not a wine lover. Important historical monuments can be found in abundance in this medieval town, some of which date back as far as the 11th and 12th centuries. One of the famous monuments is the 11th century Monolithic church, carved from a limestone cliff, it’s the largest underground church in Europe. Check out the tourist office’s website for all the information about châteaux in the Saint Émilion area – http://www.saint-emilion-tourisme.com/
How to get there by train? You can get to Saint Emilion by train from the Saint Jean station in Bordeaux. There’s a 15 minutes walk from the station to the city center.
Another option is to take a guided tour that picks you up from Bordeaux and brings you to Saint-Emilion and back. Here are some of the best guided tours from Bordeaux to Saint-Emilion:
La Réole is a small hilly town situated on the banks of the Garonne river about 50 km from Bordeaux. Although the town developed around a monastery founded in the 7th or 8th century, it’s golden era was in medieval times when it became the second largest city in the region after Bordeaux. Still today, it’s one of the biggest towns in the south of the Gironde department with plenty of interesting events and a very lively weekly market on Saturdays. Get lost in the narrow charming streets of the historic center of La Réole and let the beautiful architecture take you back in time. For more info: http://www.lareole.fr/
How to get there by train? It takes about 40 minutes to get from Bordeaux to La Réole train station. The train leaves from Gare Saint Jean every two hours.
Wine tasting in Margaux
Visiting châteaux in the Médoc area is definitely easier by car, but if you prefer going by train that’s totally doable. You can always do this day trip the DIY way. A train from Bordeaux will bring you to the center of Margaux in the Haut Médoc wine making region. Margaux is also the name of one of the most famous wine appellation d’origine which includes châteaux in the village itself and several villages around it. Some of the wine châteaux are within a walking distance from the train station allowing you to have the route du vin experience without renting a car.
*If you do rent a car you should check out my article about a two-day itinerary in the Medoc wine region.
Here are the names of several recommended wine châteaux which are close to the train station (all require prior reservation):
Château Lascombes: 1 Cours de Verdun, 33460 Margaux
Château Marquis de Terme: 3 Route de Rauzan, 33460 Margaux
Château Ferriere: 33bis Rue de la Tremoille, 33460 Margaux
Château Les Barraillots: 4 Rue Corneillan, 33460 Margaux
The beautiful Château Margaux is only a 25 minutes walk from the train station. Unfortunately their tours are only open to professionals but you can walk around the winery, see the beautiful vines and take photos of the famous chateau.
How to get there by public transport: There’s a train leaving Bordeaux to Margaux every couple of hours.
This is not a familiar destination to most people visiting Bordeaux, but it’s definitely worth a day trip. Saint Macaire is a medieval city located some 50 km from Bordeaux on the banks of the Garonne river. In the 13th and 14th centuries Saint Macaire was one of the most prosperous cities in Aquitaine due to its significant agricultural and trade activities. This charming town with its narrow streets and beautiful old houses is a great place for those looking to get a sense of the region’s heritage.
How to get there by public transport? You can get to Saint Macaire by train from the Saint Jean station in Bordeaux. In the middle of the week, however, the train leaves very early in the morning and the next one leaves only in the evening. Several trains are running between Bordeaux and Saint Macaire on Saturdays so this is the recommended day to go if you want to get there by public transport. A more flexible option would be to get to Langon, from which there are more frequent trains from Bordeaux and then take a taxi (it’s a 10 minutes ride from Langon). Or if you have a bike you can take it with you on the train to Langon and then ride about 15 minutes to Saint Macaire.
Libourne is a beautiful town located at the confluence of the Isle and Dordogne rivers. The city was founded as a Bastide town in the 13th century and has been for many years an important port city central to the wine and wood trade done on the river. Surrounded by some of the world’s most renowned wine labels such as Saint Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac, it used to play an important role in the economy of the region. While it’s not as attractive as Bordeaux, it’s the main city in northern Gironde and it’s rich with history and beautiful architecture.
Due to its location, many people see it as a wine destination from which you can visit the numerous chateaux in the area. But this city has more to offer and is worth a separate visit. You can start your visits at Place Abel-Surchamp, the main square of the city hosting the outdoor market every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. This is one of the main markets in the area, attracting people from all the little towns around Libourne. It’s recommended to visit the city on one of the market days as it really lifts the atmosphere. You can see a lot of interesting buildings on the little streets leading to the main square, some worth mentioning are Rue Victor Hugo and Rue Fonneuve. Don’t forget to take a walk on the beautiful quais of the Isle river. For more info: http://www.tourisme-libournais.com/
How to get there by train? There’s a train from Bordeaux to Libourne every 20-30 minutes.
Sainte Foy la Grande
This beautiful bastide town, situated in the north east of Gironde, is one of the most charming towns in the Libournais area. The Dordogne river runs through the town, unusual for bastides which are typically situated on hilltops. Many of the buildings in the center of this medieval town date back to the 15th century and give St. Foy la Grande it’s charming look. It’s a small lively town with little cafés on the main central Place du Marché square. Although it’s not a very touristy destination it does get quite busy during Saturday’s market. The market is one of the biggest in the area and it’s the recommended day to visit Sainte Foy la Grande. If you want to spend the whole day there you can cross the river to the other side and visit a small river beach called Plage des Bardoulets. For more info: http://www.tourisme-dordogne-paysfoyen.com/
How to get there by train? It takes about an hour by train from Saint Jean station to Sainte Foy la Grande.
Gujan-Mestras is a little town known as the capital of oyster farming on the Bassin d’Arcachon. It has seven oyster ports which you can visit and watch oyster farmers work. You can even join one of the farmers and take part in their work for a few hours. Find the list of farmers providing that experience on the tourist office website. One “must” stop is the “Maison de Huitre”, an interactive museum where you discover everything about oyster farming. And finally, don’t forget to taste the freshest oysters in one of the cabanes along the coast line, many of which are located at the famous Port de Larros. If you’re planning to spend the whole day there, check out the Plage de la Hume. For more info on what to do in Gujan-Mestras check out: https://www.gujanmestras.com
How to get there by train? Gujan-Mestras is one of the stations on the way from Bordeaux to Arcachon. The train leaves every 30 minutes from Bordeaux Saint Jean or Pessac Centre stations.
Visit Châteaux in Bordeaux by tram or bus
Many people are looking for châteaux in the Médoc region or next to Saint Emilion, but actually there are some famous châteaux in Bordeaux metropole and you can easily reach them by tram or by bus.
Some of the more familiar ones are: Château Pape Clément in Pessac Take line B to Pessac Centre and then continue 20 minutes by foot or take a direct bus from Place Tourny in Bordeaux (line 4). You can book the tour online – just click here.
Château Haut brion in Pessac You can reach it by bus 4 from Place Tourny in Bordeaux. For more info click here.
Château du Taillan in Le Taillan-Médoc You can reach it by bus 5N from Place Tourny in Bordeaux. For more info click here.
Château Saint Ahon In Blanquefort Take line C to the Blanquefort train station and then continue 20 minutes by foot or take bus 29 from the Blanquefort train station. For more info click ere. All of them have amazing wine and are beautiful destinations, be sure to make reservations before you go.
One of the biggest cities in the south west region is Angoulme. The town is located on a plateau overlooking the Charente river, attracting many tourists thanks to its beautiful historic center and vibrant cultural life. Stroll the streets to explore the historic part of the city and the beautiful boulevards with their view on the original ramparts. It’s a vibrant city with plenty of cafes and restaurants, a big market, museums and historic monuments worth visiting. It’s also famous for its comics festival taking places in January and its interesting comics museum. You can admire the comics art by just strolling the streets. There are 20 murals of comics and illustrations on buildings in almost every neighborhood around the city. For more info: http://www.angouleme-tourisme.com/
How to get there by train? The TGV train to Paris stops in Angouleme, so even though it’s located 130 km from Bordeaux, you can still get there from Bordeaux in about 35 minutes.
If you have more time and you’re looking for a weekend destination to go to by train check out my two posts about things to do in Biarritz and in Cognac.
Need more ideas for things to do in and around Bordeaux? you should definitely join my newsletter where I share a lot of info about the area – sign up here.
December is the magical season in France when cities, big and small, get decorated with Christmas lights and shiny shop vitrines. Bordeaux too is joyfully embracing the Christmas spirit with a huge Christmas tree, in front of the city hall and the traditional Christmas market on Allees des Tourny. But Christmas doesn’t have to be only about traditional stands of chestnuts, cheese and hot wine. It can also be innovative, creative, social and generally inspiring. This is one of the strong sides of Bordeaux, the city is really good at combining the traditional with the new and creative. And so, alongside the traditional Christmas market, Bordeaux offers some alternative markets that will inspire your Christmas gifts list. This is a great month to be in Bordeaux! In this post, I gathered a list of Christmas markets worth visiting in and around Bordeaux in 2019. Remember that we are at the end of October now and many markets have not yet published their dates. So be sure to come back to this page for updates later in November and December. Also, if you’re in Bordeaux in November, check out the list of events taking place in and around Bordeaux during the month. Here we go!
Marché de Noël de Bordeaux
The traditional Christmas market of Bordeaux will open its gates between November 27 and December 29. This is one of the biggest Christmas markets in the region with 150 pavilions selling all the traditional Christmas merchandise such as clothes, decorations, jewelry, toys and local products. Even if you don’t intend to buy any gifts at the market you can still enjoy the Christmas spirit with some hot wine and roasted chestnuts. For more info click here.
When: November 27 – December 29 from 10:30 to 21:30/ Where: Allées de Tourny, 33000 Bordeaux
Xmas Market – Darwin
This market is gradually gaining status as one of the main Christmas markets in Bordeaux. Like Darwin itself, the Xmas market is an alternative event with craftsmen and regional creators. The market will include stands of clothes, jewelry, accessories, art objects, books, sports accessories and organic products. To make it more entertaining many activities will take place during these three days, among them workshops for kids, tastings, concerts and other surprises. The market will take place on December 13-15, for more info click here.
When: December 13-15 / Where: 87 quai des Queyries, 33100 Bordeaux
Arcachon fête Noël
The city of Arcachon invites you to its traditional Christmas celebration with a Christmas market and an ice skating rink. The event will take place from December 14 to January 5 on Place Thiers. For more details click here.
When: December 14 – December 5 / Where: Place Thiers, Arcachon
Le Marché de Noël Solidaire
The Solidarity Christmas market is part of the Social Economy and Solidarity month. This is a unique market, organized by the city hall of Bordeaux and the local social development fund aiming to support young local creators who founded their company thanks to microcredits. The market will take place at the Maison écocitoyenne on December 6-24. See more details here.
When: December 6-24 / Where: Maison écocitoyenne, Quai Richelieu, 33000 Bordeaux
Marché de Noël de Talence
The city of Talence invites you to their big Christmas celebration taking place on December 20-22in Park Peixotto. You can see the program for the festive weekend here.
When: December 20-22 / Where: Peixoto, 33400 Talence
Le Grand Bazar des Créateurs
The Garage Modere in the Bacalan district will hold a very fun and creative event on December 7-8 called the Big Creators market. Around 20 local craftsmen and creators of clothes, jewelry, leather goods, accessories, sewing and photography, will offer their original items for sale. The event is free, for more details click here.
When: December 7-8 / Where: 1 rue des Etrangers, 33300 Bordeaux
Marché de Noël Japonais
This special Christmas market has become a tradition. Every year the Japanese restaurant Little Tokyo hosts a Japanese style Christmas celebration with workshops of origami, calligraphy and other beautiful Japanese traditions. This is one of the early Christmas markets, taking place on November 9-10. For more info click here.
When: November 9-10 / Where: 21 allée de Megevie, 33170 Gradignan
Marché de Noël in Saint-Émilion
The traditional Christmas market in Saint Emilion will take place on December 7-8. You will find more than 60 exhibitors at the main locations of the historic center: the square of the monolithic church, the old market hall and the cloister of the collegiate church. For more details click here.
When: December 9-10 / Where: Saint Emilion – center
Marché de Noël in Bazas
Bazas will host its traditional Chrismas market at the main square on December 22nd. Besides the traditional Christmas stands, the market will have activities for kids, concerts of local bands and Santa Clauss of course :). The beautiful town of Bazas is known for its annual Chrismas market that includes several traditional ceremonies at the main square, so if you’re in the region check it out. For more info click here.
When: December 22 / Where: Place de la Cathédrale, 33430 Bazas
Marché de Noël à Sarlat
If you’re in the mood to travel a bit, why not go to one of the most impressive Christmas markets in the South of France, the Sarlat Christmas market. Sarlat is a magical place that is worth a visit any time of the year, but this market makes it even more worthwhile. The village includes 70 chalets selling local products, clothes, decorations, hot wine and more. For more info click here.
When: December 4-30 / Where: Place de la Grande Rigaudie , 24200 Sarlat-la-canéda
Noël à Bergerac
Another great destination in Dordogne which is much closer to Bordeaux is Bergerac. Bergerac is one of the best Christmas markets in the south-west region with tens of stands, beautiful decorations and activities. The market takes place at place Louis de la Bardonnie on December 14-24. For more details click here.
When: December 14-24/ Where: place Louis de la Bardonnie, 24100 Bergerac
I hope you enjoyed my Christmas market list!
Throughout the month I’ll give plenty of updates about Christmas related events in and around Bordeaux in my newsletter so be sure to subscribe here.
Finally, if you are looking for a fun and delicious activity in Bordeaux, check out my food tours in which I’ll take you through a three hours journey in the culinary scene of the Southwest of France.
This weekend the European Patrimony Days will take place all over France. Like all major cities, Bordeaux offers a rich program of more than 100 historical locations to discover. Many famous places such as the Opera of Bordeaux will be open to the public. However, popularity means big lines, so be prepared to wait patiently.
There are also plenty of great tours offered by the Bordeaux Metropole but many of them require a prior reservation and finding one that hasn’t been fully booked yet is quite a daunting task.
But fear not, I’m here to make your life easier and help you plan this weekend. While you might miss some of the more popular venues, there are plenty of gems in the city with less buzz around them or that do not require a reservation which are still worth visiting.
Here’s a list of places you can visit this weekend in and around Bordeaux that do not require a prior reservation.
Heritage Days in the center of Bordeaux
CAPC – the museum of contemporary art
During the weekend the Museum of contemporary art will hold tours of ongoing exhibitions with access to special areas, workshops and body painting activities. When: Saturday and Sunday 11:00 to 18:00 / Where: 7 rue Ferrère, 33000 Bordeaux
Restaurant le Chapon Fin
Established in 1825, Le Chapon Fin is one of the first restaurants to receive 3 Michelin stars in the history of the guide. Upon its establishment, the main clients visiting the restaurant were wealthy travelers and Bordelaise merchants and it was regarded as an English Café. Today, however, Le Chapon Fin became a French institution of fine food, beautifully decorated by the architect Cyprien Alfred-Duprat. This Sunday you have a chance to admire this beautiful restaurant from within without having an expensive meal. For more info check out the site of the restaurant or contact 05 56 79 10 10 When: Sunday from 9:30 to 13:00 and from 14:00 to 17:30 / Where: 5 rue Montesquieu
Synagogue de Bordeaux
There are plenty of beautiful churches in Bordeaux and you have probably entered at least some of them while discovering Bordeaux. How about discovering the structures dedicated to other religions? This Sunday you can visit the synagogue of Bordeaux and learn about the history of the Jewish community in this city. When: Sunday 9:30 to 18:00 / Where: 8 rue du Grand Rabbin Joseph Cohen, Bordeaux
Visit the beautiful city hall of Bordeaux, Palais Rohan. During the weekend, plenty of performances and activities will take place in the courtyard of Palais Rohan as well as guided tours at the city hall itself. When: Saturday 14:00-16:00 and Sunday 10:00-12:00, 14:00- 18:00 / Where: Place Pey Berland
Collections du Muséum d’Histoire naturelle.
Are you curious to see how the backstage of a museum looks like? The renovated Museum of Natural History in Bordeaux offers a guided visit to the backstage of its collection’s conservation center. When: Saturday and Sunday 14:00-17:00 / Where: 5 place Bardineau, 33000 Bordeaux
This beautiful monument can’t be missed when touring Bordeaux. The Grosse Cloche is the city’s former belfry and one of the last monuments remaining from the defensive wall built in the 14th century. The tower will be open to free visits during the weekend, however, the visit is limited to 5 people at a time so the queue is expected to be quite long so be sure to come early. When: Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 13:00 to 19:00 / Where: Quai Louis XVIII, Placette de Munich
Académie Nationale des Sciences, Belles lettres et Arts de Bordeaux
Hotel Calvet, or Hotel des Sociétés Savantes, is a prominent example of a 19th century Bordeaux mansion, with a spacious staircase, reception rooms and a library. Today it is the home of the National Academy of Science, Literature and Art of Bordeaux, founded by Louis XIV. This weekend, academics from the institution will be there to answer all of your questions during your free visit. When: Saturday and Sunday from 13:30 to 18:00 / Where: Hôtel des Sociétés Savantes, 1 Place Bardineau, 33000 Bordeaux
Site archéologique de Saint Seurin
Visit one of the most ancient sites of Nouvelle Aquitaine – Site archéologique de Saint Seurin. This free visit to the underground site gives you a glimpse into how an early Christian cemetery used to look like. The visit is limited to 20 people at a time, so you’ll probably have to stand in line. When: Saturday and Sunday 10:00-12:00 and 13:00-19:00 / Where: Place des Martyrs-de-la-Résistance
Places to visit in Bordeaux Metropole
Journées européennes du patrimoine à Mérignac
Mérignac opens the doors to some of its interesting sites including among others the château de Bourran and the Chapelle de Beutre. Guided tours will be offered throughout the weekend. For more info click here.
Cité Frugès – Le Corbusier
Cité Frugès in Pessac is a very interesting site that looks like no other place in Bordeaux metropole. It was designed by the notable architect Le Corbusier and includes about 70 housing units. The site is registered on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites. Guided tours will be offered during the weekend. For more details about the Heritage days in Pessac click here. When: 10:00, 11:00, 14:00, 15:30 and 17:00 / Where: Cité Frugès
Château de Laurenzane in Gradignan
The beautiful Château de Laurenzane in Gradignan was built in the 18th century and is now the town hall of Gradignan. The Chateau is surrounded by a large park with ponds and bridges and sculptures by the artist Bigata Escale, which definitely make the visit worthwhile. When: Sunday from 11:00, 15:00 and 17:00 / Where: Allée Gaston-Rodrigue, 33170 Gradignan
What to do around Bordeaux
Saint Emilion is one of the best places to go to on the European heritage weekend. This little town is home to some of the most important historical monuments in the region and all of them will be open to the public. Moreover, the tourist office offers plenty of interesting guided tours and activities in the city center. For the full program click here.
Some of the activities and ceremonies on the Heritage weekend are related to the start of the harvest season in the area. So if you decide to go there be sure to check out my article about the harvest season in Saint Emilion.
Château de Vayres
The beautiful Château de Vayres will open its doors for two days of free visits and activities for kids. For more details click here.
When: Saturday and Sunday 14:00 – 18:30 / Where: château de Vayres, 33870 Vayres
Enjoy the Journées européennes du patrimoine! If you want to take a look at all the places you can visit in Bordeaux during the Journees Europeennes du Patrimoine, click here.
Want more updates about things to do in Bordeaux and the area? All you have to do is follow me on facebook/Instagram ! Or better yet, join my newsletter where I share a lot of exclusive info about Bordeaux and the region – sign up here.