The historic town of Saint-Émilion is one of France’s top viticulture centers. Set on a hill and surrounded by vineyards, it is comprised of clusters of golden-stone structures and narrow, sloping cobbled streets lined with bakeries, cafés and bars. Explore the town’s medieval monuments, stroll through subterranean passageways and learn about local wines in intimate wine cellars.
The vineyards in Saint-Émilion were first planted by the Romans, although the town itself wasn’t founded until the 8th century, when a miracle-working Benedictine monk named Émilion settled in a nearby cave. Successive generations of monks carved a church into the limestone slope and began commercial wine production in the region. Join other wine-lovers visiting Saint-Émilion, now recognized by UNESCO for its historic vineyard landscape.
Visit the famous Église Monolithe, a Romanesque church carved from solid rock between the 9th and 12th centuries. Weave through the network of underground passages and descend farther below ground to see the catacombs. Climb 196 steps to reach the summit of the church’s bell tower for views over the medieval village.
Stroll along the well-preserved 13th-century ramparts and look for the Porte Brunet, the only remaining gate from the original fortifications. The ramparts also lead to Château du Roi, a castle said to have been built by either Louis VIII or Henry III. Climb the King’s Tower for views extending beyond the town to the undulating green expanse of the Dordogne valley.
Enjoy a drink or people-watch in outdoor cafés on Place du Marché, a pleasant town square. Taste the prestigious local wine. Take a trip out to local wineries or indulge in a tutored tasting at Maison du Vin to learn more about the region’s time-honored wine-making traditions.
The area has a mild climate year-round, although temperatures are at their most pleasant from mid-May to mid-July. Explore the small town easily on foot.
Saint-Émilion is located 22 miles (35 kilometers) northeast of Bordeaux. Trains depart several times daily from Bordeaux and take about 45 minutes to reach Saint-Émilion.