St. Emilion is the epitome of a cute wine town – stone buildings surrounded by scenic vineyards, check; a town plaza lined with cafés, check; a mysterious patron saint who inspired the name, check. But it’s also incredibly touristy (there are 200 locals residents and some 1 million annual visitors), so it’s worth going early or later in the day and planning to get off the beaten path.
- Arrange for a guide to see the town’s hidden treasures: the catacombs, the impressive Monolithic underground church, and the cave of St. Emilion (all can only be visited with a pre-arranged appointment through the tourism board or with a guide).
- The terrace of Hostellerie de Plaisance, a Relais & Châteaux, is a great spot for a coffee or tea break
- Climbing the narrow, winding staircase of bell tower is well-worth it for the stupendous views
- Lots of places claim to be selling authentic St. Emilion macarons (they are completely different from the pastel-colored concoctions of Ladurée), but the best are made by Nadia Fermigier, sold at 9 Rue Guadet.
- There are 70 wine shops in town, one cuter than the next, but know that buying in this touristy town comes with premium
- Skip lunch in the touristy restaurants in town and take the 10-minute drive to Chateau La Dominique to dine at La Terrasse Rouge