Day Trip to St-Émilion
Languishing among picture-postcard vineyards famed for producing some of France's finest full-bodied red wines, the medieval village of St-Émilion is the Bordeaux region's most handsome and magical wine town. An easy trip by train from the city, it is well worth a day trip to taste the exceptional wine in situ and explore its golden, Unesco-listed old town.
Alfresco Terrace People-Watching
Begin with a morning coffee on a cafe terrace on central square, place du Clocher, with panoramic terrace proffering a sweeping view of the village's original market square and ancient rooftops. The tourist office, charmingly at home in the former refectory of an 15th-century monastery, is on the same square.
Clocher de l’Église Monolithe
Grab a key from the tourist office and spiral up the 196-step staircase inside the Clocher de l’Église Monolithe, the gigantic Flamboyant Gothic belfry of the Église Monolothe, not built but rather hollowed out of limestone rock between the 12th and 15th centuries. Village and vineyard views from the top are predictably beautiful – try to spot Bordeaux.
To the right of the tourist office, an archway leads into the romantic cloister of the Église Collégiale. Cross its full length to access the church, with a domed Romanesque 12th-century nave and almost-square vaulted choir dating to the 14th and 16th centuries.
A Lesson in Wine
Stumble out of the dimly lit church and straight into St-Émilion's hallowed temple to wine, the Maison du Vin de Émilion. Test your sense of smell with an exhibition on St-Émilion different appellations and aromas. In the Salon de Dégustation, a sommelier can guide you through a 40-minute blind tasting of three wines (€20) or a Grands Clus Classés tasting (€28).
A Gourmet Lunch
Break for lunch at L’Envers du Decors, an exceptional bistro cooking up fantastic Bordealis classics including lamproie à la Bordelaise (a local eel-like fish simmered in red wine). The accompanying wine list is naturally sensational.
Place de l’Église Monolithique
Duck and dive your way along the village’s signature tertres (incredulously steep and narrow, stone-paved streets) to place de l’Église Monolithique, yet another enchanting medieval square filled with cafe terraces. Admire the limestone rock of Église Monolithique and ancient marketplace over a digestif (after-meal drink).
La Tour du Roy
Burn off those extra calories consumed at lunch with a stiff hike up this sturdy square tower – the remains of a 13th-century donjon – and at the top swoon over the remarkable panorama of the town, vineyards, nearby Dordogne River and its bucolic valley.
- Medieval architecture
- Outstanding wine-tasting
Car St-Émilion is 47km east of Bordeaux, a journey of 45 minutes.
Train From Gare St-Jean, trains head to St-Émilion train station (€9.50, 35 minutes), from where it's a 1.7km walk to the village. Or beckon a tuk-tuk.