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The Libournais and Saint Émilion

the LIBOURNAIS, lands of vines 

The Libournais is mainly a wine tourism destination, with prestigious appellations such as Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol, Saint Emilion…, which has developed around the wine trade. Today, many property owners open their estates to visitors offering tours of their cellars and tasting. This oeno-tourism, which has grown significantly, aids your discovery of the wine and all its secrets. 

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The landscapes of the Libournais are composed of vines, limestone and woody valleys, crossed by the Dordogne River and the Gironde River. This landscape offers a large range of sport opportunities and relaxation. The architectural heritage in this area of France, is especially well conserved and is an invitation to go back in time. 


You can spend hours walking in the narrow and steep alleys of the medieval city created during the 8th century by the monk Emilian. Wandering on the small squares or in the many boutiques, savouring macaroons (the speciality of the region) and discovering the large variety of its historic monuments: the troglodytic Church Saint-Pierre, the monolith church and its bell tower, the collegial church and its cloister, the Great Wall a vestige of a Dominican Monastery, beautiful town houses, underground galleries, the Convent of the Cordeliers, the fortifications and the Brunet gate, the ruins of the Cardinal Palace façade, the Roy Tower, wash houses, and its hall market … 

One day won’t be enough to immerse yourself in the city and its many monuments, a true architectural treasure that you can admire from the Roy Tower overlooking the city and the vineyard. The Tourist Office offers many ideas for themed discovery walks, especially the visit to a hidden underground heritage.

It was John Lackland (King of England from 6 April 1199 until his death in 1216) who in 1199 gave the status of town to Saint-Emilion which became a “Jurade” (The Autumn Festival in Saint-Emilion celebrates the wine and heritage of this medieval city. The Jurade are the Saint-Emilion wine brotherhood who historically had administrative rights over the town.  As part of the festival, they parade through the town in their traditional crimson robes reminiscent of the all-powerful aldermen of centuries past). Its wine brought a great reputation to the town which still resonates, today.

The jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion has been a listed Unesco World Heritage site since 1999. For the first time, a viticultural landscape of 8 communes and 5,000 hectares of vines was accepted on this prestigious list.

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Approximately fifteen kilometres from Saint-Emilon, the Dordogne River runs through Castillon la Bataille. The town is renowned for its famous battle between the French and the English that halted the One hundred Years War on 20th July 1453. Bordeaux fell to the French in October of the same year, then the Aquitaine became French again. Each summer a sound and light show recreates, this important episode in the History of France. 

It was only in 1953, for the 500th anniversary of the victory of Castillon, that the town took its actual name. The commune is rich in architectural and naturel heritage. A few kilometres away, the former fortification town of Gensac, overlooking the Durèze Valley and the Dordogne Valley, a listed ancient village is full of charm. During the month of August, its festival offers beautiful classical music concerts.


In 1253, the brother of Saint Louis ordered the building of the bastide, which remains today one of the best preserved in France. Its church, built during the 13th century by the Templars, was destroyed, rebuilt, then extended, and has one of the highest spires in Aquitaine. It is very pleasant to wander in the narrow streets and squares. 

The Tourist Office houses a local archaeological museum. The town also has a Musée de la Batellerie, relating the wine trade and transportation in gabarres and its “couraux” (traditional flat boat) up to Libourne on the Dordogne River, « la rivière Espérance ». Around 12 km away, the Moustelat Water Mill, built in 1724, has been entirely restored. 

LIBOURNE, CONFLUENce of the ISLand and the DORDOGNE river. 

Libourne is a former harbour bastide which prospered due to its wine trade. The main square with its 16th and 19th centuries arcades and houses are a legacy of the past. 

The grand pont de pierre built during the 19th century with its 9 arches measures 220 metres long, it replaced the ferryboat which was the only way to cross the Dordogne River. 

The town renovated its harbour area in order to welcome cruise boats. Around 8 kilomètres away, in the commune of Vayres, twice a year the sportiest or the bravest, can ride the Mascaret (or river tide). The Mascaret is a natural phenomenon that occurs in rivers estuaries at times of high tide.  A sudden elevation of the water, due to the strong ocean tide, overpowers the natural flow of the river or estuary creating a ‘bore’ – takes place in France in the Gironde estuary and the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers.

The Vayres castle, with  medieval, Renaissance and 17th century architecture, is a listed historic monument. Its gardens and its monumental staircase open on the Dordogne River. Its park received the label “Jardins Remarquables” (Remarkable Gardens of France). The castle belonged to Henri IV, it is now a private property that can be visited. 

About fifteen kilometres away, The Abbey of Guîtres, built during the 11th century was destroyed during the French Revolution, and today only remains a Saintongeais style church, which was restored during the 20th century and now houses a majestic organ. Concerts take place from July to September.