Saint Emilion: Exploring a charming wine village on a budget

Located 22 miles from Bordeaux, Saint-Émilion is an excellent destination for true oenophiles. This charming medieval village has plenty of wine shops to sample the famous vintages of Bordeaux and easy access to local vineyards.

Despite the wine region’s expensive reputation, there are several ways Cheapos can visit Saint-Émilion without emptying their bank account.

Related: Visiting Bordeaux, France without breaking the bank

Getting to Saint-Émilion

If you’re staying in Bordeaux, it’s easy to plan a day trip to the renowned wine village of Saint-Emilion. A train ride is only 35 minutes from Bordeaux to Saint-Émilion. A return train ticket will cost you €18, and that’s much cheaper than opting for an expensive bus tour of the wine region. Search for train tickets on SNCF.

Arriving in Saint-Émilion

Here you can embark on a self-guided tour and explore the picturesque village on your own terms. When you arrive, head to the Office of Tourism where a very friendly and multi-lingual staff awaits you. They will happily provide you with free maps, brochures, and referrals to local vineyard tours depending on your timeframe and budget.

Saint Emilion Cave

A wine cave in Saint Emilion. Photo: Etienne.

Wine tours in Saint-Émilion

Most local vineyards offer one-hour tours for about €12-14, which includes a tasting following the tour of the chateau and/or vineyard. It may be wise to take a sneak peak of Saint-Emilion’s tourism guide for information on chateaus, tastings, and other things to do during your visit.

Exploring Saint-Émilion

While you’re snaking your way through the enchanting wine village, draped in rustic antiquity and dappled with ‘Moulin Rouge’ geraniums, try to scope out a couple wine shops off the beaten path. Let yourself get carried away and go down those tiny alleys that beckon your curiosity. The town is only so big after all, so getting lost may be the serendipitous moment you’ve been seeking after all!

There’s no need to worry about a language barrier as Saint-Emilion is fueled by its thriving tourism, so no matter what shop you end up entering, there will always be someone you can communicate with on all things-wine and otherwise.

Related: 22 French phrases every traveler should know

You’ll love strolling through the narrow streets of Saint-Émilion.

Once you set your heart on a shop, enter it and don’t look back. This is your opportunity to have your own little private tasting, as long as you intend on buying at least one bottle. This is what my friends and I did before getting some made-to-order baguette sandwiches at the local boulangerie for lunch. You’ll save a lot of money that way. After several gratis tastings, we finally agreed on two wines we all enjoyed: one, which we opened to enjoy during our picnic lunch and the other for that evening.

Wines that would cost a fortune in the U.S. will only cost you €10-20 a bottle. Of course, you can spend much more than that if you’d like, but at €12, you’ll have an excellent bottle of wine to accompany your afternoon lunch or evening meal. We’ll drink to that!

La Maison Colline

We love the rustic charm of the rooms at La Maison Colline.

Cheap hotels in Saint-Émilion

If you don’t want to take a day trip from Bordeaux, there are several well-priced accommodations for budget travelers in Saint-Émilion. While the high-end hotels can cost you upwards of $200 per night, you can find comfy rooms for well under $100 if you stick to small, independent guesthouses and hotels.

Here are a few picks from our guide:

La Maison Colline

Double rooms from $87

Looking for that perfect little French guesthouse that you’ve always dreamed about? This friendly spot might just fit the bill. An ancient stone house with three exquisitely designed rooms, the guesthouse was completely renovated in 2015. Music lovers will enjoy the grand piano in the living room! Read more.

Les Chambres d’Ovaline

Economy double room from $83

With an outdoor terrace and garden, this cozy guesthouse is a treat for Cheapos looking for an incredible location. It’s smack dab in the center of historic Saint-Émilion. Read more.

ibis Bordeaux Saint Emilion

Double rooms from $74

Located a few miles outside of the city center, this popular budget chain offers rooms with private bathrooms and flat-screen TVs. It also has free parking, so it’s a good option if you’re renting a car to explore Bordeaux. Read more.

Browse and book 40 hotels in Saint Emilion

Les Logis du Roy

The entrance to the affordable hotel Les Logis du Roy.