A Quick Guide to Saint-Émilion, France
Bonjour mes amies! Besides ‘croissant’ that’s pretty much the extent of my French – so how are you? In keeping with the spirit of today’s post, I hope this finds you eating a baguette or wearing a beret. I am doing neither of those things, but I might have to remedy my baguettelessness soon. Anyway, did you catch my Eating Our Way Around Bordeaux post? It was basically a love letter to all the great food we ate during our visit, and I’m here today to share a follow up to that post: A Quick Guide to Saint-Émilion, France! As with Bordeaux, we were in the lovely village of Saint-Émilion back in December, using the small Christmas markets as an excuse to visit. We spent two nights in town, eating all the food and walking up every cute laneway that crossed our path.
a few quick thoughts
Neither Boyfriend nor I had ever visited Saint-Émilion before, and I don’t think either of us were prepared for how small it is! With a population of just under 2,000 people, it’s tiny! While we enjoyed our time there and found it beautiful to wander around, there isn’t all that much to actually do. It probably didn’t help that we visited in the depths of December & a lot of restaurants/cafes/bars were closed, but just in case, this is something to keep in mind. If we were to go back, I think we’d go in the summer to experience the vineyards in full-swing, and we’d probably only go for the day or one night.
If you’re thinking about visiting Saint-Émilion during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, be sure to check out my Bordeaux post & scroll down to the ‘before you visit‘ section for info regarding travel restrictions etc.
All of my Saint-Émilion recommendations are listed below: where to stay, where to eat, and what to do. Enjoy!
quick guide to Saint-Émilion: getting there
Good news! It’s super easy to get to Saint-Émilion on public transport! Where possible, we are huge public transport advocates in foreign countries. It’s great on holiday because it means a) both of us can sample all the amazing wine and b) we don’t have to work out roundabouts going the other way. What a mind-bender.
Here’s how we got to Saint-Émilion from Bordeaux:
• we took the train from Gare Saint Jean in Bordeaux to Saint-Émilion SNCF station. The train takes around 30-minutes, and there’s one every 1-2 hours. More info about timetables here. Our ticket for two cost €15.80 one way, and we bought it at the machine in Gare Saint Jean. The stop for Saint-Émilion is a tiny blip in the middle of nowhere, and both times we were there the station was entirely shuttered up. Pro tip: if you don’t buy a return ticket in Bordeaux, keep in mind that the small S-É station might not be open to buy one at. We purchased our tickets for the journey back to Bordeaux online.
• from the train station, it takes about 20-minutes to walk into town. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for other people – French people, who appeared to know where they were going – I would’ve been lost; my phone stopped picking up signal and I couldn’t load a map. From memory there are no signposts, but you cross away from the train station and head up the hill alongside some beautiful vineyards. The path into the centre of town is pretty straightforward – and then you’re there! Something to keep in mind: the walk into town is mostly uphill – not ideal if you have luggage!
For more information about alternative ways to get to/fro Saint-Émilion, I found this blog very helpful!
quick guide to Saint-Émilion: where to stay
Concept Appart Saint-Émilion // our lovely apartment! Smack bam in the centre of town, this is exactly where I would stay if I ever returned. We opted for the ‘Studio Apartment’: open plan bedroom/fully-equipped kitchen/dining area, with a large separate bathroom. Aka: everything we needed packaged up into a cozy attic apartment with skylight views of the Bell Tower. Added bonus: Sophie, the owner, was so lovely – she even dropped by some extra coffee machine capsules for us addicts! Would definitely recommend. Address: 1 Rue de la Cadene, 33330 Saint-Émilion, France
quick guide to Saint-Émilion: where to eat
A lot of research went into planning our meals before we touched down in Saint-Émilion. Yes, we obviously wanted to have good food, but we didn’t want to splurge on any Michelin starred restaurants. I must admit, through my research online, I found it rather hard to distinguish where the line between great food with good prices and apparently terrible service lay. I’m pleased to say, I think we found the best of both worlds.
Also! If you find yourself headed to Saint-Émilion, do not just assume it’ll be easy to find croissants and the likes in the morning! I made this mistake, and we nearly had a pastry-less day in France!! Details of the one lone boulangerie in town listed below – you have been warned!
La Pizzeria du Vieux Lavoir // such a busy little spot! On our initial walk into town it started lashing rain, so we – and apparently everybody else in town – ducked in here for lunch; I’m pretty sure we nabbed the last table! I know we should’ve opted for something more French for our first meal in town, but did I mention the rain?! We both went for a classic margherita pizza, with a half pint of Warsteiner beer. The crusts were thin, the sauce was thick, and the beers were cold. Would recommend! Address: 19 Rue de la Grande Fontaine, 33330 Saint-Émilion, France
Fromagerie La Moineaudière // literally, as French as a place can get! The cutest little meat + cheese shop, owned and run by the most enigmatic man in Saint-Émilion. We stopped in for takeaway baguettes one lunchtime: one hot with coppa, melted raclette, and sun-dried tomatoes + one cold with coppa and butter; both were amazing. The free samples while we waited and the smell of cheese wafting around were just added bonuses. A must visit. Address: 12 Rue de la Cadene, 33330 Saint-Émilion, France
Chai Pascal // so good, we went twice! The space is beautiful, the menu is simple, the food is outstanding, the wine-list is great, and the prices are not extortionate. Both times we visited, we were blown away with the quality of the food – it’s so good! On our first visit, we ate starters of pumpkin soup made with pumpkins grown in the granny of our waitress’s garden + house-made terrine with chili/curry/turmeric/paprika, mains of duck breast with truffle potato gratin and parsnip puree with anise, and we shared a cheese board for dessert. On our second visit, we had one cheese board + one meat board to share, and the chocolate sundae of Boyfriend’s dreams for dessert. Every single thing we ate was impeccable. I’ll admit, initially I was skeptical of the terrine. I went for it on the word of our waitress alone, but it was probably one of the tastiest things I ate on this entire trip to France! If you visit, please don’t pass it up! A must-visit. Address: 37 Rue Guadet, 33330 Saint-Émilion, France
snacks and pastries
Le Saint’e // basically the only place open and selling pastries on our first morning in town, and we were pleasantly surprised! Okay, so it’s a little intimidating from the outside – but the coffee is hot and the pastries are great! You can trust us, we sampled a few! Address: 29 Rue Guadet, 33330 Saint-Émilion, France
Chocolaterie Maëlig // the loveliest artisan chocolate shop! We stopped in one evening for a dark chocolate bar to enjoy with red wine, and it was so delicious we went back the next day to get some of their milk chocolate! We also got chatting to the lady who owns the shop, Maëlig, and she’s super lovely! A must-visit. Address : 5 rue de la Petite Fontaine, 33330 Saint-Émilion, France
Macarons de Saint-Émilion – Nadia Fermigier // almondy goodness! Nothing like the traditional macaron – less crispy + more almondy – but infinitely more addictive! Boyfriend isn’t really an almond guy, so I scored and got to eat the whole large macaron by myself 😉 Would recommend. Address : 9 rue Guadet, 33330 Saint-Émilion, France
Boulangerie Mie et Merlot // I believe this to be the only boulangerie in town! It’s a little on the outskirts, but the pastries are fantastic! If you’re lucky, you’ll get there just as they’re pulling a fresh batch out of the oven – Boyfriend did! Buttery, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth perfection. A must visit. Address: 6 Pl. Bouqueyre, 33330 Saint-Émilion, France
Utile Supermarket // you read that correctly, this is just a supermarket. It is, however, the closest supermarket to town, and that’s a very handy thing to know! Baguettes, cheeses, beers + wine, crisps – everything your apartment needs. Pro tip: Be sure to check opening times before you go! Address: 20 Grand Pontet, 33330 Saint-Émilion, France
quick guide to Saint-Émilion: what to do
Wander the town! // here’s the thing: there’s nothing really to do in Saint-Émilion. The draw is the beauty of the little winding streets, the bizarre hilliness of the cobblestone walkways, and the vineyards in the summer. We spent our days walking up, down, and all over the beautiful town, averaging about 12,000 steps every day – worth it! Fun fact: the town and surrounding vineyards are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Christmas markets // obviously a seasonal attraction, but still. We visited two Christmas markets in Saint-Émilion, and both of them were so cute! Addresses: The Market Hall and the Cloister of the Collegiate Church.
Bell Tower of the Monolithic Church // I’m not really the best with heights, but I’m so glad we did this! The whole experience was so small town and quaint; it costs €2 each, and the tourist office give you a key to let yourself in/out of the bell tower! An actual key! To an old wooden door at the base of the tower! We thought it was wild! Anyways, the views from the top of the tower were wonderful, and we were lucky enough to have the entire place to ourselves! A little teardrop of terror might have escaped me on the way down the spiral staircase, but it was so worth it. A must-visit. Address: Pl. du Marché, 33330 Saint-Émilion, France
Underground Monolithic Church // we actually didn’t do this, but I definitely would if we went back. You have to visit the church in a guided group tour, and we were trying to be responsible in the time of Covid, so… Next time!
And there we have it: my Quick Guide to Saint-Émilion, France. Okay…. so it might be 95% photos and 5% recommendations – but they’re stellar, I promise! Have you visited this tiny French village? I’d love to know! Opinions, thoughts, recommendations – hit me up using the comment box below!
Until next time,