Cycling from Bordeaux to St Emilion is a joy if you take the Roger Lapebie bike path out of the Bordeaux city centre and then follow quiet back roads to Saint-Emilion. Here's how. (See below also for general info on local bike routes for cycling in Saint-Emilion).
Difficulty: Flat out of Bordeaux. It does get a bit hiller once you leave the Roger Lapebie bike path and head towards St-Emilion. Take your time and it's fine for most riders. There is no avoiding the inevitable kick at the end given St-Emilion is on a hilltop. Any uphill bits are worth it for the views. (See elevation map below).
Local map for this ride: IGN Map No.145, Bordeaux – Arcachon (Gironde and the Medoc)
Download GPX file
Two iconic wine names in one bike ride. If you're riding in south-west France, we'd heartily recommend spending some time (at least a night or two) in Bordeaux, and taking in St-Emilion as well.
Wine lovers will need no convincing, but even if you don't know your merlot from your sauvignon, it doesn't matter. The roads around St-Emilion are lovely. Mile after mile of vines lead to a UNESCO-listed Old Town steeped in history dating back to Roman times.
Even of you're riding the Bordeaux to Toulouse Canal de Garonne route, it's very easy to squeeze the ancient cobbles of St-Emilion into your trip using this route. The first half in any case follows the Roger Lapebie bike path, which links to the Canal de Garonne.
** You want to avoid cycling out of Bordeaux directly east or via the northern Pont d'Aquitaine bridge - no cyclist wants to get stuck navigating these messy (and busy roads). Another more indirect option than ours above would be to ride up through the Medoc and take the ferry crossing to Blaye from Lamarque and then cross to Saint-Emilion via Pomerol. It's a distance of 80km-100km, depending on your final route, and a worthy option if you have more time on your hands (or if you want a circular route back to Bordeaux).
Bikes routes around Saint-Emilion
The Saint Emilion tourist office has a series of bike routes of varying distances available for download by PDF. I've uploaded them at the following links in case their site changes.
- Between vines and river
- Churches and castles in the Lussac area
- History and heritage around Montagne
- Remarkable architecture
- Premiers Grand Crus Classes wines
- The appellation Cotes de Castillon
- The Dordogne valley and its vineyards
- The family wineries
- The wine road for families
- Tour of the Greater Saint-Emilion area
Wine-tasting in Saint-Emilion
Saint-Emilion is not in fact only one wine-growing area – several 'appellations' fall under the St-Emilion banner (you can find out more here). Many chateaux in the area have 'portes ouvertes' (open doors), especially on weekends in summer. Many you can drop into, while others require a reservation in advance. There are also town-centre 'caves' and shops that you can visit.
The Maison du Vin in the centre of town is a good first port of call for general information and advice.
There is a downloadable vineyard map here.
Where to eat
We ride to St-Emilion often on day rides from our house and always stop in at Les Cordeliers for a juice or a pannier of treats (pictured below), or a cheeky glass of their own delicious sparkling wine to enjoy in the gardens. You can also tour the ancient underground cellars.
There are plenty of other cafe and restaurants options as well for longer lunches, including creperies. We'd advise going early in the morning in high summer as it can get busy.
Where to stay
See here for accommodation if you're riding to Saint-Emilion as a diversion from the Bordeaux-Toulouse route.
If you're continuing out towards Bergerac, we'd recommend a stop at the lovely Aussie-owned Le Manoir du Bois Mignon near Ste-Foy-la-Grande (home to one of France's best Saturday markets).
Bike hire for Bordeaux and St-Emilion
See our map above or this page.
Organised bike tours of Bordeaux and St-Emilion
Several companies run self-guided rides in this area, though there is still a lack of hotel-to-hotel baggage transfer services. You can browse our tour listings or use our bespoke planning service for more tailored help.
Trains from Bordeaux to Saint-Emilion
This is a good option if you want a one-way ride from Bordeaux or if you want to take your bikes for local pootling. You can check train times on the OUI.sncf website. The local 'TER' trains take bikes – you just buy your own ticket (available for purchase online) and get on. We have taken this train with bikes dozens of times without problems. The line in fact leads out to Bergerac and on to Sarlat (see here for a nice loop ride there). The platforms at Bordeaux have ramps (+ elevators that take bikes) following a major modernisation, and this makes access easy. The station at Saint-Emilion is at the bottom of the hill, so you will need to ride just under 2km up to the village proper. See this page for general train advice, or here if you're coming from Paris.
Please note the Bordeaux-Saint-Emilion line is due for a major upgrade between Libourne and Bergerac in 2019, and this may result in replacement bus services (again, we have used these before with bikes). Please check ahead.