If you’re planning a trip to Bordeaux for the upcoming year, why not plan an overnight or longer bicycling trip to the gorgeous wine village of Saint-Emilion? It’s an easy adventure to plan, and it’s certain to be a highlight of any trip to France!
This bicycle-friendly wine wonderland is located just 40km northeast of Bordeaux. Bicycling in this region is an experience to savor: lush rolling hills, vineyards as far as the eye can see, medieval homes, old ramparts, lots of history, cobblestone streets filled with unique shops for gift buying and picture-perfect squares filled with cafes and wine bars for people watching. Did I mention that the area is perfect for beginner as well as experienced cyclists?
Photos never adequately capture the amazing landscape of this area, but I hope they’re enough to pique your interest!
Saint-Emilion is one of the most visited areas in France. The town has over 13,000 acres of vines and produces about 25 million litres of wine annually. Since December, 1999 the wine-producing area of Saint-Emilion has been a UNESCO listed world heritage site, the first winemaking region to achieve this designation.
Whether you are a wine enthusiast or not, this is a spectacular area to visit, and to explore it by bike is a once in a lifetime experience!
If you arrive into Saint-Emilion by bike, you’ll be one of the few visitors not scouring the streets looking for a parking place! Parking is at a premium in this medieval town. Arrive here by bike and you’ll quickly realize the many benefits of touring this area by bike!
Are you thinking this sounds interesting, but the thought of planning a short bicycling trip would just be too complicated? Regardless of the reservations you might have, if you have a sense of adventure and want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, keep reading. I’m going to tell you how to plan this adventure in just 5 easy steps!
5 Steps To Planning The Perfect Bicycling Trip To Saint-Emilion:
#1. Pick a date.
The spring months of April, May and June and the fall months of September and October are perfect times to visit this region. Avoid traveling to the area on national or religious holidays when everyone in France travels. If there’s any way that you can plan your visit during the week, you’ll find smaller crowds and greater availability for the best B&B’s. This is particularly true if you are traveling in the busy summer months.
#2. Reserve your bikes with Norbert Audoin at O2cycles in Bordeaux.
No one in the Aquitaine region rents better bikes than Norbert Audoin of O2cycles in Bordeaux. There are other options, including renting bikes once you get to Saint-Emilion, but my recommendation is to rent bikes from Norbert in Bordeaux. You’ll have the comfort of knowing that the bikes are safe and ready for your adventures along the vineyard roads around Saint-Emilion. You can also rent a set of panniers from Norbert for clothes and personal items for your trip.
Norbert is a wonderful resource for any questions you may have. As soon as you have picked the dates for your trip, contact him to reserve bikes: firstname.lastname@example.org. By the way, he speaks great English and is prompt about returning e-mails.
#3. Book a room in Saint-Emilion.
Depending on when you are traveling, finding your perfect place to stay in Saint-Emilion can be a challenge, so book a room as soon as you’ve chosen your travel date. My favorite place to stay is Chateau Franc Pourret. Under the watchful eye of owner Catherine Ouzoulias, Chateau Franc Pourret has become one of the most popular places to stay in Saint-Emilion.
With only 2 rooms, securing a reservation here is like winning the lottery. Staying here is like staying with family and, should you be lucky enough to stay here, it will be an experience you will never forget….from incredible breakfasts to a private wine tour, it doesn’t get any better than this. Contact Catherine at: email@example.com.
#4. Pick your train from Bordeaux to Saint-Emilion.
It’s possible to bicycle from Bordeaux to Saint-Emilion, but if you’re short on time, take the train. It’s a quick 40 minute ride to Saint-Emilion and bikes are free. Trains depart from the main station in Bordeaux at 12:05, 1:05 and 2:05. Return trains are at 9:18, 11:21, 1:19 and 3:18. As schedules are modified, times may change so be sure to check. I use the website Captain Train for all of my French rail searches and reservations. I have found it to be the easiest most user-friendly online booking resource.
The train to Saint-Emilion is a local train and you don’t need to book a reservation in advance. If you do book it on Captain Train, you’ll receive a booking number which you must keep to retrieve and print your ticket when you are in Bordeaux. Allow a few extra minutes to do this, and refer to the easy directions on Captain Train on retrieving your tickets. Otherwise, just purchase your tickets at a machine or from the ticket office in Bordeaux.
Navigating in the Bordeaux train station with a bike is not difficult, just allow a bit of extra time. There are elevators to get to the lower platforms, and there are also ramps to get from one platform to another. Always look for and follow the handicapped signs when you are looking for elevators or ramps. When your train approaches the platform, watch for the car with a bicycle on the car door/window and head for that car.
Enjoy the short trip to Saint Emilion. Once you arrive, it’s only a 15 minute ride into town. Just follow the steeples and the other train travelers!
#5. Visit the Saint-Emilion Tourism website.
This is the one place to come for all the information you need to plan your time in Saint-Emilion. There is so much to see and do here; some upfront work will help you get the most out of your time! Whether you’re looking for information on the history and culture of the region, best restaurants, where to shop, things to see and do or vineyards to visit, this website should be your first stop. There are videos to watch, in-depth information on major monuments, links to many different tour offerings, including tours and tastings to local vineyards. You can visit vineyards on your own, or you can select from one of several organized tours, several of which are by bicycle.
Before your visit, you’ll want to learn more about the area’s vineyards, and why this region is so perfect for growing grapes. The Chateaux section of this website will provide you with information that will help you get the most from your trip. You’ll learn about the underground quarries and which of them are open to the public. There’s a list of all the vineyards in the region, and information on which ones have tours and/or cellars for tasting. There are 89 chateaux open to the public.
Most important, you can download detail sheets on 6 bicycling tours around Saint-Emilion, ranging in length from a family trip of 7km to a two day ride of 46km. Most of the itineraries are under 30km. You can also pick up copies of all of these bicycling itineraries at the Office of Tourism when you arrive. It’s located at Place des Creneaux in the center of town.
That’s it, my 5 easy steps to planning a bicycling excursion to Saint-Emilion! I hope that you find this information helpful and that it encourages you to add a bicycling component to an upcoming trip. If so, have a great time planning your adventure.