Things to Do in Saint Emilion: The 15 Best Highlights and Points of Interest
You’re planning to visit Saint Emilion and you’re looking for the best things to do?
You’re at the right place!
Saint Emilion, with its world-class wineries and stunning medieval village, offers a unique blend of history, culture, and wine that promises an unforgettable travel experience.
In order to help you plan your stay, I have prepared this guide of the best things to do in Saint Emilion, with all must-see attractions and activities.
At the end of this article, I will also give you itineraries for 1, 2, or 3 days in Saint Emilion, as well as my selection of the best of the best hotels depending on your budget.
So, what are the best things to do in Saint Emilion? Where to stay?
Let’s find out!
- Things to Do in Saint Emilion: The 15 Best Highlights and Points of Interest
- 1. Visit World-Class Wineries and Vineyards
- 2. Explore the Village of Saint-Émilion
- 3. Discover the Underground Monolithic Church
- 4. Climb the King’s Tower for Breathtaking Views
- 5. Stroll Through the Picturesque Vineyards
- 6. The Cordelier’s Cloister
- 7. Go Shopping for Local Products and Souvenirs
- 8. Attend a Wine Workshop or Masterclass
- 9. Relax at the Spa at the Château Hôtel Grand Barrail
- 10. Attend the Harvest Festival
- 11. Other Wine Festivals in Saint Emilion
- 12. Day Trips to Saint Emilion from Bordeaux
- The 3 Best Things to Do Around Saint Emilion
- How Many Days in Saint Emilion?
- Where to stay in Saint Emilion?
- Where to Eat in Saint Emilion?
- How to Get to Saint Emilion?
- Where to park in Saint Emilion?
- Tourist map of Saint Emilion
- You’re traveling in France? These articles will help you!
- You’re traveling in France? These articles will help you!
1. Visit World-Class Wineries and Vineyards
No visit to Saint Emilion would be complete without exploring its famed wineries and vineyards.
The region is renowned for producing some of the world’s best wines, and a visit to these estates offers an opportunity to taste these exquisite wines and learn about the winemaking process.
Many wineries offer guided tours where you can delve into the history of wine production, explore the vineyards, and visit the cellars where the wine is aged.
During my stay in Saint Emilion, I had the chance to visit 2 wineries. Both are very different and equally interesting.
Let met tell more about it!
The Couvent des Jacobins
Le Couvent des Jacobins is located in the heart of the village of Saint Emilion.
The interior of this old convent has been preserved and renovated and now houses many bottles of wine in its underground passages. During your visit, you will also discover the concrete vats and the room dedicated to the storage of the barrels.
The Convent offers several kinds of tours (all with wine tasting of course!). You should book the tour that includes a tuk tuk tour through the vineyards. The tour is very nice and also allows you to enjoy beautiful views.
You can find all visits offered by the Couvent des Jacobins and book the one that suits you best by clicking on the button below:
The Château Bernateau
Château Bernateau, a wine estate owned by the same family for several generations, has been producing organic wines since 2012.
I really enjoyed the visit, as the owner goes quite in depth in her explanations. It’s really interesting, especially if you want to learn about more about the technical side of wine making!
During your visit, you will learn about the different appellations of Bordeaux wine, the quality of the soils needed for each grape variety and to create a good wine, and a lot more.
You will also get to see the vines up close.
Of course, the visit ends with a tasting of 3 red wines.
You need to book your wine tasting at Château Bernateau here:
2. Explore the Village of Saint-Émilion
One of the best things to do in Saint Emilion is to simply wander through the cobblestone streets of the medieval village.
With its charming old houses, historic monuments, and beautiful views, the village itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You’ll find plenty of photo opportunities around every corner.
Here are the best places to visit in Saint-Emilion:
- The monolithic church and its bell tower – You will find more about it in #3 of this article
- The King’s keep (#4)
- The Cordelier’s Cloister (#6)
- Cadene’s house and gate: with its 16th century façade, it’s the last timber-framed house in the village
- The collegiate church and it’s cloister, one of the largest churches in the region
- The Ursuline’s Convent, where the famous Saint-Emilion macaroons were created by the Ursuline nuns themselves
- The Great Wall
- Brunet Gate, one of the 6 medieval gates
- The market hall
- The Cardinal Palace, unfortunately, only a section of the façade of this grandiose 12th century residence remains.
3. Discover the Underground Monolithic Church
The Underground Monolithic Church is for sure the most iconic place to visit in Saint Emilion.
Carved entirely out of a limestone cliff in the 12th century, it is one of the largest of its kind in Europe!
The church is a stunning testament to the ingenuity and faith of the people who built it centuries ago.
The interior is surprisingly spacious, with a tall nave, an altar, and side chapels. The most striking feature, however, is its gigantic bell tower that stands above the ground and is visible from many parts of the village.
To visit the Monolithic Church, you will need to book a guided tour.
During your visit, you will discover the church, as well as the catacombs and the Hermitage of Saint Emilion, a small cave where the monk Émilion supposedly lived in the 8th century.
These tours are the only way to visit the Monolithic Church as it is not open to the public for individual visits. The tours are conducted in several languages and last about 45 minutes.
Be sure to book your tour in advance, especially during the high season, as they tend to sell out.
You can buy tickets at the tourist office, directly in Saint Emilion.
For the visit, you should wear comfortable shoes as the ground can be uneven inside the church and bring a warm jacket, as it’s pretty cold inside!
4. Climb the King’s Tower for Breathtaking Views
Climbing the King’s Tower, also known as the Tour du Roy, is a must for anyone visiting Saint Emilion.
From the top, you get a panoramic view of the village and the vineyards stretching as far as the eye can see.
To go to the top of this 13th-century tower, one of the village’s oldest buildings, you will need to pay a 2€ entrance fee.
The Tour du Roy is open from February to November, usually in the afternoon only.
5. Stroll Through the Picturesque Vineyards
You can’t visit Saint Emilion without taking a stroll through the picturesque vineyards. They are, after all, the heart and soul of this region!
Whether you’re a wine lover or just a nature enthusiast, you’ll enjoy the peace and beauty of these vineyards.
In addition to the classic walking tour, there are several ways to discover the vineyards of Saint-Emilion:
Visit the Vineyards of Saint Emilion by Bike
Exploring the vineyards of Saint Emilion by bike is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the region’s stunning landscapes. As you pedal along the quiet country lanes, you will pass by endless vineyards, wine estates, and quaint little villages.
Bike rental shops are available in the village, offering a range of bicycles for adults and children, including electric bikes for those who prefer a more leisurely ride. Many also provide maps and suggested routes to help you navigate the vineyards.
There are several well-marked bike trails that meander through the vineyards and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. You’ll find plenty of spots to stop for a picnic or to take photos.
Visit the vineyards of Saint Emilion with the tourist train
If you’re not up for cycling, another great way to explore the vineyards is by taking a tourist train tour.
This is a fun and convenient option, especially for families with young children or those who prefer a more relaxed pace.
The tourist train departs from the center of Saint Emilion and takes you on a 45-minute journey through the vineyards, providing panoramic views of the stunning landscapes, wine estates, and the medieval village.
Along the way, you’ll learn about the history of the region, the winemaking process, and the different vineyards through an audio guide available in several languages.
Some tours also include a stop at a winery where you can enjoy a wine tasting session. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the famous Saint Emilion wines and perhaps even pick up a bottle or two to take home.
Tickets for the tourist train can be purchased at the Espace Villemaurine, in Saint Emilion or online by clicking here.
Visit the Vineyards of Saint Emilion by Tuk Tuk
For a unique and entertaining experience, you can tour Saint Emilion vineyards in a tuk tuk. These three-wheeled motorized vehicles, originally from Asia, offer a novel way to explore the region.
The tuk tuk tours typically start from the village center and take you on a scenic ride through the vineyards, providing unobstructed views of the rolling landscapes, historic castles, and Saint Emilion village.
The open-air design of the tuk tuk allows you to feel the fresh air and enjoy the scents of the vineyards and countryside.
During the tour, your experienced guide will share fascinating insights about the region’s history, the winemaking process, and the vineyards you pass by.
Some tours also include a stop at a winery for a wine tasting session.
6. The Cordelier’s Cloister
Hidden away in the heart of Saint Emilion, you’ll find the Cloître des Cordeliers, or the Cordeliers Cloister.
This historical site dates back to the 14th century and once served as a Franciscan monastery.
Today, it’s renowned for the production of Crémant de Bordeaux sparkling wine, made following traditional methods.
A visit to the Cordeliers Cloister is like stepping back in time, with the chance to explore the ancient ruins of the cloister, stroll through the tranquil gardens, and delve into the ancient cellars.
To make your visit even more special, you can participate in a wine tasting session. Savor the delightful Crémant de Bordeaux while soaking up the serene atmosphere of the cloister’s gardens.
Opening hours for the Cloître des Cordeliers vary depending on the season, so it’s worth checking the official website before your visit.
7. Go Shopping for Local Products and Souvenirs
In Saint Emilion, there are many craft stores and souvenirs shops.
From wine and gastronomic delights to art and craft, you’ll find a wide range of products reflecting the rich culture of the region.
Look for items like local wines, foie gras, truffles, and Saint Emilion macarons – they make great gifts for friends and family back home!
8. Attend a Wine Workshop or Masterclass
If you’re a wine enthusiast, then you should definitely consider attending a wine workshop or masterclass in Saint Emilion.
These sessions are usually conducted by expert sommeliers and provide insights into the wine-making process, as well as tips on wine tasting and pairing.
It’s more expensive than a regular wine tasting session, so these workshops are aimed more at seasoned wine enthusiasts.
You can participate in this type of workshop at Saint Emilion Wine House or in Château de Ferrand.
For a more advanced wine tasting session, you can also opt for a gastronomic lunch and the wine estate visit by going to the Château de Candale and opt for their excellent “The Prestige Private visit”.
It includes a visit to the chateau, the tasting of 3 wines and a gastronomic lunch.
And it’s not that expensive, especially considering it’s a private visit!
You need to book it here:
9. Relax at the Spa at the Château Hôtel Grand Barrail
Nestled amidst the vineyards of Saint Emilion, the Château Hôtel Grand Barrail is a luxury hotel, home to a world-class spa.
The spa at Grand Barrail is the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring Saint Emilion’s charming streets and vineyards.
The spa offers a variety of treatments designed to soothe, rejuvenate, and refresh. These include body scrubs, massages, facials, and wellness therapies, each designed to provide the ultimate relaxation experience.
A highlight of the spa is its wellness area, featuring a sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi, perfect for soothing tired muscles. The spa also features a fitness room, for those who wish to maintain their workout routine during their stay.
Reservations for treatments at the Spa at Château Hôtel Grand Barrail should be made in advance.
10. Attend the Harvest Festival
If you happen to be in Saint Emilion during the harvest season (usually in September), you shouldn’t miss the Harvest Festival.
This annual event is a celebration of the grape harvest and the wine-making tradition of the region.
During the harvest festinval, you can participate to numerous activities such as wine tastings, parades, and even grape stomping!
11. Other Wine Festivals in Saint Emilion
Wine is at the heart of Saint Emilion, and this is celebrated with various wine festivals throughout the year.
These festivals offer a unique opportunity for wine lovers to discover the rich wine culture of this UNESCO World Heritage-listed region.
Saint Emilion Open Doors
The Portes Ouvertes or Open Doors festival typically takes place in early May.
During this festival, many châteaux open their doors to visitors, providing a great chance to learn more about winemaking in Saint Emilion, meet the winemakers, and, of course, sample some fantastic wines.
It’s also the perfect opportunity to purchase wines directly from the producers.
Saint Emilion Wine Festival
Held once every two years, the Saint Emilion Wine Festival is another event for wine enthusiasts.
Celebrating the new vintage, this festival is held over three days and features wine tastings, a wine market, traditional music, and dances.
The highlight of the festival is the traditional Jurade parade, a procession of winegrowers and officials in medieval costumes.
12. Day Trips to Saint Emilion from Bordeaux
If you prefer to stay in Bordeaux, you can visit Saint Emilion with an organized day trip.
As the village is only 40 km from Bordeaux, a guided tour is a great option to explore the wine region and Saint Emilion medieval village.
Day trips usually include transport, wine tasting sessions, a guided tour of the village, and a visit to the Monolithic Church.
It’s really the hassle-free solution to visit multiple wineries in a day!
Here are the 2 best wine tours to visit Saint Emilion (simply click on the orange links for more info and to book):
- Wine tasting in 2 Saint Emilion châteaux – Small group (maximum 8 people) – 5 wines to taste + 1 aperitif board + visit to the village of Saint Emilion
- Visit and wine tasting at 3 wine estates listed as Châteaux de Saint-Émilion + Guided walking tour of the village of Saint-Émilion – Small Group tour of 8 people maximum.
The 3 Best Things to Do Around Saint Emilion
Now that you know all the best things to do in Saint Emilion, it’s time to explore the surroundings!
Here are the 3 best things to do around Saint Emilion:
As I told you before, Bordeaux is just a short drive away and is thus an excellent day trip from Saint Emilion.
Here are the best things to do and places to visit in Bordeaux:
- The Cité du Vin
- The place de la Bourse and the miroir d’eau
- The Pey Berleand Tower
- Bassins des Lumières
- Take a river cruise
You can find all the best things to do in Bordeaux in my detailed article: The 33 best things to do in Bordeaux.
14. Visit the Medoc Region and its Wine Estates
If you’re looking to discover more wines of the Bordeaux appellation, you should head to the Medoc region.
Also known for its prestigious wine estates, it’s located about an hour drive from Saint Emilion.
There, you can visit some of the region’s famous chateaux, taste their finest wines, and enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the region.
I particularly recommend that you visit one (or more!) of these wineries. Simply click on the orange links below for more details and to book your visit:
- The Château du Taillan, a family winery run by 5 sisters
- The Château Marquis de Terme, renowned for its Margaux appellation wines
- The Château Lamothe Bergeron for an interactive and immersive visit.
If you want to visit other wine estates during your stay, here is a list of all the wineries that offers visits and tastings in the Medoc region:
15. Discover Château-Pétrus, a Wine Lover’s Paradise
Château Pétrus is one of the most renowned and prestigious wine estates in the world, located in the neighboring Pomerol appellation, just a short drive from Saint Emilion.
They produce some of the most sought-after and expensive wines.
The vineyard covers approximately 11.4 hectares and is planted mainly with Merlot grapes. The estate’s location on the highest hill in the Pomerol region, and the unique composition of its soil, contribute to the exceptional quality of Pétrus wine.
The fame of Château Pétrus is such that its wine is considered a symbol of luxury and prestige around the world. It’s well known for its rich, powerful, and concentrated taste, characterized by notes of ripe black fruit, truffles, and exotic spices.
How Many Days in Saint Emilion?
The number of days to spend in Saint Emilion depends on your interests and the pace at which you like to travel.
If you just want to visit the village and a wine estate, 1 day in Saint Emilion is enough.
If you want to discover several wine estates, the village and maybe the surrounding wine regions, spending 2 to 3 days in Saint Emilion will be perfect
Here are my suggested itinerary depending on the duration of your stay:
One Day in Saint Emilion
Even if you only have one day in Saint Emilion, you will be ablet to discover the best places to visit of the village.
Start with a visit to the village, then explore the underground Monolithic Church.
After lunch, you can go to the King’s tower and visit a winery or take a stroll through the vineyards (or rent a bike!).
If you wish to, you can mix a gastronomic lunch and the wine estate visit by opting for “The Prestige Private visit” I mentioned earlier in this guide.
It includes a visit to the chateau, the tasting of 3 wines and a gastronomic lunch.
You need to book it here:
2 Days in Saint Emilion
With 2 days in Saint Emilion, you have more time to explore.
On the first day, follow the one-day itinerary I mentioned above. On the second day, you can visit more wineries or attend a wine workshop, such as the “Create your own wine experience” of Château Fombreauge (click here for more info).
Or if you haven’t been yet, you can also spend the second day visiting Bordeaux.
3 Days in Saint Emilion
If you’re lucky enough to have 3 days in Saint Emilion, you can truly immerse yourself in Bordeaux wine region.
In addition to the 2-day itinerary I mentioned above, you should spend your 3rd day visiting the Medoc region.
Where to stay in Saint Emilion?
As Saint Emilion (and Bordeaux wine region in general!) is very touristy, you should really book your accomodation as early as possible.
In order to help you choose, here are my favorite hotels in Saint Emilion and in Bordeaux:
Best hotels in Saint Emilion
- Les chambres d’Ovaline: 5 minutes walk from the village, double room from 75€, breakfast 15€. Strong points: the warm welcome, the cleanliness, the calm. It’s the best choice for a budget stay in Saint Emilion!
- La Gomerie Chambres d’Hôtes: located in the middle of the vineyards, 2 km from Saint Emilion. Spacious and cosy double room from 100€, breakfast from 13.50€. Strong points: the pool, the beauty of the place, the warm welcome, easy parking.
- Clos des Jacobins: located 2 minutes from the centre of Saint Emilion. Modern and comfortable double room from 170€, breakfast included. Strong points: the location, the quietness, the excellent breakfast.
- Hôtel Au logis des Remparts: located in the heart of the medieval city. Comfortable double room from 200€, breakfast from 16€. Strong points: the outdoor spaces and the swimming pool, the location in the centre of the village, the staff.
- Le logis de Valandraud: located 10 minutes drive from Saint Emilion. Very spacious double room with view on the vineyards, from 250€, breakfast included. Strong points: the comfort, the view, the copious breakfast.
- Badon Boutique Hotel: located in Saint Emilion. Double room with refined decoration and view on the village from 310€, breakfast from 14€. Strong points: Zen atmosphere, quality of service, location.
- Château Hôtel Grand Barrail: luxury hotel located 3 km from Saint Emilion. Double room with elegant and chic decoration from 415€, breakfast from 27€. Strong points: the Spa, the outdoor swimming pool, the magnificent setting, the quality of the restaurant. This is my recommendation for a luxury stay in Saint Emilion!
Best hotels in Bordeaux
If you prefer, you can also stay in Bordeaux and visit Saint Emilion as a day trip.
Here are the best hotels in Bordeaux depending on your budget:
- Central Hostel Bordeaux Centre: A youth hostel located 500 meters from the Place de la Bourse. Bed in dormitory from 35€, breakfast from 5.50€. Strong points: clean, good location, the friendliness of the staff. This is the best choice for cheap accommodation in Bordeaux!
- Hotel Life Bordeaux Gare: Hotel located near the train station and the Garonne River. Modern and cosy double room from 100€, breakfast from 14€. Strong points: the copious breakfast, the parking, the friendly staff.
- Aparthotel Adagio Bordeaux Centre Gambetta: Located 10 minutes walk from the Rue Sainte Catherine. Studio or apartment with kitchen from 120€, breakfast from 15€. Strong points: geographical location, spacious apartments, warm welcome.
- Quality Hotel Bordeaux Centre: Located 2 minutes from the Grand Theatre. Modern and spacious double room from 190€, breakfast 16€. Strong points: location on the main street, comfortable beds, room size.
- Yndo Hôtel: 5-star hotel located in a magnificent 19th century residence. The rooms are equipped with designer furniture in a refined style. From 270€, breakfast 34€. Strong points: the charm of the hotel, the tasteful decoration, the attentive staff. This is my recommendation for an upscale stay in Bordeaux!
- Radisson Blu Hotel Bordeaux: Located next to the Cité du Vin. Spacious and well-decorated double room with large windows, from 285€, breakfast 20€. Strong points: the Staff, the rooftop and its view, the calm.
- Le Palais Gallien Hôtel & Spa: This luxury hotel is located in the centre of Bordeaux and offers sumptuous and very comfortable rooms from 410€, breakfast from 28€. Strong points: the swimming pool, the Spa, the gastronomic restaurant, the attentions during the stay (bottle of wine, fruits). This is my recommendation for a luxury stay in Bordeaux!
Where to Eat in Saint Emilion?
Apart from being a wine lover’s paradise, Saint Emilion also offers a wide range of dining options that cater to all tastes and budgets. From traditional French bistros to gourmet restaurants, here are a few of my favorites:
- L’Envers du Decor is a fantastic bistro that serves hearty and delicious French fare. Its wine list is also quite extensive, featuring many local wines.
- La Table 38, run by the celebrated Chef Stéphane Derbord, boasts a menu that expertly highlights the rich flavors of the Bordeaux region. The dishes are prepared using locally-sourced ingredients and pair beautifully with the extensive selection of local wines.
- For a more upscale dining experience, you can go to Logis de la Cadene. This Michelin-starred restaurant is famous for its innovative dishes and its exceptional wine list.
Remember to make a reservation. Many restaurants in Saint Emilion are often fully booked.
How to Get to Saint Emilion?
Getting to Saint Emilion is quite straightforward. The village is about 35 kilometers east of Bordeaux, and it’s easily accessible by car or train.
If you’re driving from Bordeaux, it will take you about 45 minutes to get to Saint Emilion. The journey is quite scenic, especially as you get closer to the village.
Alternatively, you can take a train from Bordeaux. The journey takes about 35 minutes, and trains run regularly throughout the day.
To check the train schedules and book your train ticket, simply click on the button below:
Where to park in Saint Emilion?
You can park your car on the free parking lot behind the Gendarmerie. You can also park your car for free on the “chemin des Fossés”.
There are also paying parkings around Place Bouqueyre (lower part of the village) or around the collegiate church, in the upper town.
Tourist map of Saint Emilion
To help you visualise Saint Emilion and Bordeaux wine region a bit better, I have created this tourist map of Bordeaux wine region, with all the best places to visit and things to do in Saint Emilion and its surroundings.
You can display the map legend by clicking on the top left button, the one with a small arrow on it.
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