The medieval village and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saint Emilion is a perfect full day trip from Bordeaux. Arriving to St Emilion you will find the stunning site of this compact town towering up from a sea of surrounding vineyards. Strolling through the narrow and sometimes steep streets past the quaint shops, magnificent churches, and historic monuments can be a magical experience.
But travel experiences like this in France can often get pricey. This day trip from Bordeaux doesn’t have to be. You can find plenty of things to do in Saint Emilion on a budget, whether you take a tour or create your own DIY (do it yourself) day trip.
Bordeaux to Saint Emilion: On Your Own vs. A Tour
When deciding on whether to go from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion on your own or from a tour, there are three main things to consider:
- Your budget – A tour will cost more than a DIY trip to St Emilion (unless you can go on a Wednesday or Sunday).
- Your physical ability – If taking the DIY recommendation, you’ll need to be comfortable walking at least 3-5 kilometers. The town itself is one kilometer from the train station.
- Your travel style – What’s more important to you: the flexibility to go your own way or the ease & simplicity that comes with a tour?
Price of Bordeaux to St Emilion Tours Compared to DIY Trip to St Emilion
There are three ways to take a day trip from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion with three very different prices:
- Do It Yourself Day Trip to St Emilion: €45
- Similar Small Group Tour: €115
- Half-Day Group Tour on Wednesdays or Sundays only: €40 (plus lunch expenses)
You can travel from Bordeaux to St Emilion on a budget of less than €50 per person and still include similar experiences of the many packaged tours. Here are some sample expenses you can expect to incur if following our DIY Day Trip guide to St Emilion:
- Roundtrip Bordeaux to Saint Emilion Train Tickets: €19
- Winery Tour & Tastings: €7.50
- Underground Tour: €9.00
- Lunch: €10
- Additional wine tasting: free
- Self-guided tour of the town: free
- Total: €45.50 per person
Meanwhile, the least expense tour from Saint Emilion to Bordeaux you can book for any day of the week is €75 per person. But be careful with that one because it doesn’t include hotel pick-up, lunch, or a tour of the Saint Emilion Underground. While the €115 is more expensive, it may offer better value. Obviously the following our DIY recommendation will be much more economical, yet these tours provide much more comfort and ease. Below are links to read more information & reviews or to book them:
- Small-Group Saint Emilion & Pomerol Day Trip €130 (Note: lunch and Underground tour not included.)
- Saint-Emilion Day Trip Chateau Wine Tastings & Lunch €115 (This tour does include lunch and underground.)
- Small Group Saint Emilion Half-Day Trip €75 (Note: lunch and Underground tour not included.)
Thankfully, there is one other tour you can book from Bordeaux to St Emilion and it’s only €40! This tour includes (1) a visit to the Saint Emilion Underground and (2) a tour of one winery. Eat lunch on your own before you depart at 1:30. This is an excellent value for a tour from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion.
The only downside is that you’ll be in a big group of up to 53-people but the value and savings may be absolutely worth it. Also, this 5-hour tour only runs on Sundays year-round and on Wednesdays & Sundays from April 1 – November 15. Use the link below to book this tour, but just be careful to only book on a Wednesday or Sunday, as the online system will allow you to book other days but those tours go to different locations near Bordeaux, not Saint Emilion, on those other days. Also this inexpensive tour to St Emilion is very popular and does book up in advance, particularly in the summer high season. So be sure to reserve as soon as possible if planning this trip in the summer. Book here:
Deciding on a Tour or DIY?
The group tours will undoubtedly be easier and more effortless but you’ll just need to stick with their schedule. If you have decided to forgo the tour, the remainder of this guide provides some general directions and tips on how to go from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion and tour the UNESCO World Heritage Site on your own.
How to Travel from Bordeaux to St. Emilion by Train
You can easily get from Bordeaux to St Emilion by train. There are several trains making the 34-minute trip throughout the day. You can check train times here and find one that works for you. The cost of taking the train from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion is €9.50 per person, each way. You can purchase your train tickets to St Emilion online, but there’s a benefit to buying your tickets at the Bordeaux train station instead.
During our visit there was no ticketing services operating in St. Emilion, so it is advisable to secure your return ticket from St Emilion to Bordeaux in advance. If you’re not sure how much time you’d like to spend in St Emilion, be sure to ask the ticket agent at the Bordeaux train station for an “open return” rail ticket. This won’t cost anything extra, yet will allow you to return whenever you’d like. This open return ticket from Bordeaux to St Emilion can’t be booked online either, so that is why we recommend to buy it at the Bordeaux train station.
Once you arrive at the St. Emilion train station, be prepared for a one-kilometer walk into town. It’s a pleasant walk through the surrounding vineyards, so as long as you’re in decent shape, it’s easily manageable. Once in town, head up to the Tourism Center where you can arm yourself with lots of information from the helpful staff. You will see well-marked signs that will get you there as you walk towards town.
Things To Do in Saint Emilion on a Budget
The day tours in Saint Emilion from Bordeaux typically include these three main things to do in St Emilion:
- A tour of the underground
- A visit to a winery
- A tour of the town
You can easily replicate each of those experiences when venturing to Saint Emilion for the day on your own.
Tour the Underground
Once at the tourism center, you’ll most certainly want to book a tour of the underground, which culminates in the fascinating monolithic church. And while you can tour the streets of St Emilion on your own, you can only access the underground of St Emilion with the guided tour. Additionally you should know that there are only a few English speaking tours per day and they do fill up, so it’s wise to book this online in advance. But if you haven’t booked in advance, you can buy a ticket from the tourism office in St. Emilion which is also where the tour meets. This hour long guided tour of the underground is priced at a very reasonable €9 per person. You can find times and make reservations directly from the English-version of the Saint Emilion Tourism Board site:
Tour a Winery and Cellar
Also, if you’d like to visit a winery (and you should), the tourism office can inform you which ones are open on the day of your visit and within walking distance from town. Often you need a reservation in advance to visit the wineries, but the tourism office can help you phone a winery and to make a same-day reservation for a visit. If so, we recommend visiting the office as soon as you arrive, so you can arrange that. Otherwise, consider enquiring in advance if you’d prefer to have a set itinerary or to visit a specific winery.
The price of a winery tour here will range from about €5-€10 per person, depending on the winery, and will usually include at least two tastings. Be sure to visit one that includes a tour of the underground cellars, which are legendary in St Emilion and tend to house wines that are many decades old.
Tour the Town of Saint Emilion on Your Own
Lastly while at the tourism office, be sure to pick up a complimentary map, which includes information about all the aboveground sites and monuments. This will enable you to tour this magnificent town on your own, in between your winery and underground tour. Entrance to all of the sites and monuments are free, with the exception of the tower. That costs a mere €1.25.
Where To Eat in St Emilion on a Budget
Most of the package tours include lunch somewhere, but going to St Emilion on your own will provide you with the flexibility of eating wherever you want. There are many restaurants around town, which tend to be horrendously overpriced. So use caution and always look at menu prices before sitting down. Keep a keen eye and you will find some great chalkboard specials or a splendid sidewalk café where you can have a decent lunch of a salad or sandwich for under €10. Set menu deals can be found closer to the €15 range. The tourism office has bound directory of restaurants with menu price ranges if you’d like to peruse their listings before making a decision. Or you can just duck down an alleyway to find your own secret spot.
Where To Drink in St Emilion on a Budget
If the tastings during the winery tour weren’t enough for you, we have another spot to suggest… and its free! The Maison du Vin of Saint Emilion is located next to the tourism center and they generously offer complimentary tastings throughout their impressive wine selection. Check the times in advance because these free wine tastings don’t last all day. During our visit, open tastings were from 2:00-5:30 pm. So go enjoy your free tastings there. Then with all the money you’re saving from forgoing an expensive packaged tour, perhaps consider buying a bottle or two of the local wine.
Saint Emilion Day Trip for Under €50
So that is exactly how you can go from Bordeaux to St Emilion for under €50. Either follow the directions by train laid out within this post or take the €40 Bordeaux Vineyards Wine Tasting Half Day Trip that departs on Wednesdays and Sundays. Whichever route you take, it should prove to be an economical and fun day in this historic & charming place in the world.
Travel in Europe can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. We hope this brief guide helps you save some cash that you can now better spend elsewhere during your travels. Enjoy!
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