Southwest France's Saint-Émilion — with its rolling landscape of vineyard-patchwork hills, UNESCO World Heritage Site medieval village, and distinct terroir that produces some of the Bordeaux region’s finest reds — is the definition of storybook, with charming scenery that complements the local winemaking traditions. Here, crafting the vintages is an art that’s passed from generation to generation. Life moves at a pace dictated by this dedication to authenticity and quality, making a visit something to be savored.
What We Love
Medieval Character: Saint-Émilion also has plenty to offer beyond vineyard visits. The town is exceedingly charming thanks to its landmark monolithic church (carved from solid rock in the 12th century) and bell tower with 196 climbable steps. We also love the 14th-century Franciscan cloister and the remnants of 13th-century ramparts and gates. Instagram alert: Don't miss the panoramic view from Place du Clocher.
Wine Touring By Bike: Pedal your way to two châteaux for tastings and lunch. It's only about 10 miles, but be forewarned the terrain is a bit hilly.
Best Known For
Les Châteaux: Visiting the wine estates of Saint-Émilion is a must. But not all chateaux welcome the public, so prearrange a guided tour or check the tourist office website in advance. Only two open their doors to guests each day.
Tertres: The town's four ancient and steep cobblestone streets are steep. Trek up one and wander along the side alleys, where you’ll find family-owned boulangeries and bakeries selling delectable macarons — a worthy reward for your efforts.
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Who It's Best For
Oenophiles: Whether you visit châteaux, take a wine-tasting or cooking class, or discover a hidden bistro and enjoy local specialties with a robust red, you’ll toast the spirit of Saint-Émilion. Oh, and the name of the town refers to an eighth-century Benedictine monk, by the way.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Wear Comfy Shoes: While the town is walkable, its cobblestones are uneven and hard on the feet.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.