Are you visiting Saint-Emilion, France, for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in this UNESCO World Heritage village.

What to Do in Saint Emilion

Soak up the history

In addition to being known as phenomenal wine country, Saint-Emilion has a long history, going back to Roman times. The Roman ruler Decimus Magnus Ausonius retired in what is now known as Saint-Emilion in AD 383, and was the village’s first officially-recorded resident.

saint emilion monolithic church, bell tower, france

Looking for some exercise? Climb 196 steps up the bell tower for non-stop views of the medieval town. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

When you come to Saint-Emilion,  you’ll immediately notice this Monolithic bell tower that will help orient yourself in the city. The Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion was listed by UNESCO in 1999 for its cultural landscapes. 

Insider Tip: Check out the often underrated Brunet Gate in Saint-Emilion. I’ll bet you didn’t know that some sheep are living there right now.

Explore the great outdoors

In Saint-Emilion outdoor lovers will want to discover the surroundings by bike (over 15 loops created by the Saint-Emilion Tourist Office), with an electric tuk-tuk or in a side-car. 

I’ve heard there is horseback riding through the vineyards, but we were visiting in the winter and I think this is a summertime option.

Looking for a little exercise? Walk along the “tertre” of Saint-Emilion, some old and steep streets.

Attend one of their annual festivals

In the summer you should attend the Saint-Emilion Jazz Festival on the third weekend of July. It was started in 2011 and has attracted 25 million listeners.

 Did you know that Saint-Emilion is known for the “Jurade” celebration?  To discover what the Jurade is, plan a visit to this medieval village in the fall on the third weekend of September.

The “Sud Ouest” will keep you posted on all other happenings in Saint-Emilion and its surroundings.

What to Eat and Drink in Saint Emilion: Experience Historic Basque Cuisine or Have an Authentic Wine Experience

Saint Emilion is rich in food and wine history and culture, and anywhere you turn, you’ll immerse yourself in it.

Savor Saint Emilion wines

chateau corbin, grand cru classe, family estate, saint emilion, france, winery

Visit Chateau Corbin, Grand Cru Classe family estate. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

To experience this region you really have to indulge in the Saint Emilion wines. You’ll have to visit at least one wine estate before you leave. We had a tour at the beautiful Château Corbin. Be sure to arrange for a tasting in advance as you’ll need an appointment.

For a local, authentic experience, I recommend heading to some underground wine galleries.

saint emilion, vineyards, french wine region, dordogne valley, france

Climb the King’s Keep and look out to Saint Emilion and vineyards throughout the region. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

In the spring you should attend the Open Doors of the appellation of Saint-Emilion. On the last weekend of April, hundreds of wine estates open their doors for you.

lauriane, chateau corbin, saint emiliion, vineyard pruning, dordogne valley, grand cru classe vineyards, france

Lauriane prunes vines at Chateau Corbin. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

If you visit Saint Emilion in the winter, as we did in January, you won’t have to deal with crowds and the chateau owners will take time to wine taste with you if you call ahead and make a reservation. Just outside of Saint-Emilion you can visit hundreds of “Châteaux” and even have lunch in some of them like the restaurant La Terrasse Rouge of Château La Dominique or L’Atelier de Candale, the restaurant of Vignobles Magali et Thibaut  De Coster.

READ  Insider Tips to Coit Tower in San Francisco

Basque Food in Saint Emilion

fabrique de macarons, saint emilion, france, basque food, nouvelle aquitaine dessert

Taste the macarons, a specialty of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

If you are looking for typical Saint-Emilion cuisine, I recommend the famous macarons of Saint-Emilion. The recipe was invented by some Ursulines nuns in the 15th century. On my visit, the women of Fabrique de Macarons were busy baking and boxing this regional specialty made of almonds, sugar and egg whites.

The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat is Boulangerie Premier. Only a few meters from the center of Saint-Emilion, they have the most delicious French pastries.

Looking for good food that is not too expensive in Saint-Emilion? Go to Chai Pascal or L’Envers du Décor. If salmon is on the menu at Chai Pascal order it – delicious – and the chocolate mousse was incredible. L’Amelia Canta is the spot for late-night dining or drinks.

For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to La Table de Plaisance that has 2 Michelin stars since 2017 or to le Tertre for a more intimate meal.

salmon, cassoulet, chai pascal, saint emilion, france, basque food, nouvelle aquitaine

Fresh salmon & cassoulet at Chai Pascal. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Looking for good food that is not too expensive in Saint-Emilion? Go to Chai Pascal or L’Envers du Décor. If salmon is on the menu at Chai Pascal order it – delicious – and the chocolate mousse was incredible. L’Amelia Canta is the spot for late-night dining or drinks.

For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to La Table de Plaisance that has 2 Michelin stars since 2017 or to le Tertre for a more intimate meal.

Where to Stay in Saint Emilion: Luxury in Every Direction

It’s easy to find a hotel in the Saint Emilion region that will allow you to indulge all your senses. Stay in a chateau and feel like royalty at the Hotel Grand Barrail, which holds the title as one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World (there are only 520 globally). After a day of adventure, it is the best place to go for a spa treatment.

Or enjoy luxurious serenity while still being close to the action in Saint Emilion at Hostellerie de Plaisance. The property has its own vineyard, which appeals to wine lovers.

For additional insider tips follow Nancy D. Brown on Instagram and Twitter @Nancydbrown and Saint-Emilion Tourisme on Twitter (if you speak French)  or #mysaintemilion on Instagram.

Article, video and photography by travel writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Nouvelle Aquitaine while writing about things to see and do in Saint Emilion, France, however, all opinions are my own. For more information on Saint Emilion click here.