Saint-Emilion, tourist place in the Bordeaux wine region

To the east of Bordeaux, on the right bank of the Dordogne river, are the areas of Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac, Côtes de Francs and Côtes de Castillon. The collective name for these areas is the Libournais. This comes from the most important city in the area: the port city of Libourne. However, the informal wine capital of this region is Saint-Emilion.

Saint-Emilion, enriching your vacation in France

To visit Saint-Emilion, go through one of the seven gates. These gates are left over from the medieval walls around the city. In the city there are narrow streets with beautiful historic buildings, cafes, boutiques, artisan shops and restaurants. In the middle is a central square with pleasant terraces. More than 2 million tourists visit the city every year. They come for the beautiful place and for the wine that is internationally known and famous.

The birth of Saint-Emilion

Originally the name of Saint-Emilion was "Ascumbas". This changed in the 8th century. According to legend, the Breton monk with the name Emilion is the cause of this. Around the 8th century he settled in Ascumbas. There are many caves in that region. Emilion lived in one of those caves. Before that he would have been employed by a count as a monk. He had access to the kitchen and regularly took bread for the poor in secret. One day he was caught and the count asked what he was holding under his coat. Emilion said it was a piece of wood. When he had to show it, the bread turned out to have turned into wood. Because of this legend, the monk became very popular, and the name of the town of Ascumbas was changed to Saint-Émilion. The cave in which he lived became a popular destination for pilgrims.

Saint-Emilion has grown over the centuries into a prosperous shopping town. It became a trade center for wine, grain, among other things. This prosperity is still visible today in the many monuments that the place has.

Saint-Emilion on the UNESCO World Heritage List

Since 1999, the Saint-Emilion region, the city itself and the 8 surrounding villages and vineyards have been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Not many places have this honor. In this way, this special heritage can be preserved for the future.
With a city wall that has been preserved over more than a kilometer, Saint-Emilion belongs to the small group of French medieval cities with city walls. Other such cities include Aigues-Mortes, Avignon, Boulogne, Carcassonne, Cordes, Dinan, Mont Saint-Michel, Provins, Saint-Malo and Vannes. France has only two typical Romanesque city walls: in Provins and in Saint-Emilion.

Eglise Monolithe

One of the most impressive buildings in Saint-Emilion is the "Monolithic Church", a medieval church with a striking bell tower. This is largely underground. The church has been given the name Église Monolithe, because it is made from a single piece of rock, a so-called monolith. The clock tower was added later. This church building is one of the largest churches of its kind in Europe.
You can enter the church from the market square. If you go inside, under the arch, you will see a beautiful relief with a religious representation above you. On the other side of the arch is a large space carved into the rocks, the nave of the church.
Guided tours are given through the underground spaces. You can see the life of the Emilion monk passing by.
The clock tower is a nice viewpoint. You will have to climb 196 steps but then you will see the winding streets of the village and the red roofs of the houses.

The monastery of Cordeliers

Another point of interest in Saint-Emilion is the Convent of Cordeliers. It is a beautiful building that is preserved as a historic monument. After you have entered the monastery you first descend 17 meters down to the underground cellars. From there guided tours are given through the underground catacombs. During this tour you will get an explanation of the traditional preparation method of the "Crémant de Bordeaux", the sparkling wine of the Cordeliers. This has been produced since the 19th century.

The famous wines of Saint-Emilion

Whoever hears the name Saint-Emilion often thinks directly of the famous red wines that come from this region. They are usually very good quality wines with a Grand Cru Classe classification.
The excellent quality of the wines is due to the exceptional microclimate in this region and the special soil quality:

  • The climate is a moderate continental microclimate, this is extremely suitable for viticulture
  • The soil is a special combination and variation of clay, gravel, sand and limestone soils. This also contributes to the exceptional quality of the wines produced.

The Merlot grape variety is the most popular in this region. This is used to make Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.
Saint-Emilion with its 5565 vineyard is one of the largest wine-producing regions in Bordeaux. More than 800 winemakers are engaged in the production of quality wines on a daily basis. They use the 70 km of underground passages in the region. The best Crus can be ripened in this aisle system of limestone: Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Angélus, Figeac, Canon la Gaffelière, Clos Fourtet. Many wine chateaux provide guided tours and tastings.

Visit to Saint-Emilion

The combination of world-famous vineyards and beautiful architecture makes Saint-Emilion one of the most beautiful places in the Bordeaux region to visit. But there is more: nice streets, atmospheric boutiques, beautiful views and pleasant terraces.
You can also visit the surrounding vineyards such as Pomerol, Sauternes and Margaux from Saint-Emilion. You can do this in various ways. There are vans and a tourist train, boats run, you can view the area by bike, but also motorcycles with a sidecar and a horse and carriage are possible.

A visit to the city is highly recommended. Ask at the Office de Tourisme of Saint-Emilion for the Pass’Escapades, a nice way to discover the famous places.

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