15 best things to do in Libourne (France)

In the northern Gironde, where the rivers of the Isles meet the Dordogne, Libourne is an old Bastide town with a fabulous wine label in its backyard.

During the Middle Ages, wines from Pomerol, Fronsac and Saint-Emilion were brought to the river port of Libourne for export to the British, Dutch and Hanseatic trading cities.

Libourne is now a preeminent wine destination, with a surprising number of nearby castles for tours, tastings and purchases.

Plus, the idyllic scenery, rich culture, plenty of outdoor activities and the UNESCO city of Bordeaux are just a short drive away.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Libourne:

1. Sell Castle

sale castle

The old wine estates around Libourne combine the dual charm of world-class wines and century-old buildings.

The sales château in the Pomerol appellation has been run by the same family for 500 years and remains an intimate establishment to this day.

Take a tour of this magnificent 17th-century building to gain insight into contemporary winemaking and an exciting piece of history.

You’ll see cellars, warehouses and vineyards planted with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to produce silky smooth wines.

After learning about this heritage and culture, you will be able to taste a selection of wines in an unparalleled setting.

2. Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion

Less than 10 minutes east of Libourne is the charming World Heritage town of Saint-Emilion.

The name is already known outside of France for its red wine, although it grows in a small area due to the mix of limestone, sand and clay, but is very diverse.

But the beauty and history of this place will win your heart: Saint-Emilion is located on a cliff, where limestone has been mined for over 1,000 years.

Some monuments are hewn directly from the rock, like the awe-inspiring monolithic church.

The second largest building of its kind in the world, it was built in the 11th century to house the remains of Saint-Émilion, the first Breton hermit who settled here in the 8th century.

3. Terras Castle

Terras Castle

Like the sale château, this wine estate is run by a family.

So you’ll be greeted with a warm welcome and eighty years of virtuosity from the horse’s mouth.

It is also a Pomerol winery with 11 hectares of vines, making red wines from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon according to sustainable principles.

During the hour-long tour, you’ll be impressed by how much of the process from picking to sorting and crushing is done by hand.

You’ll see most of the processing and storage equipment, and talk through the finer details along the way.

As you might expect, you can taste past vintages of this wine that is known for its smoothness.

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4. Wine tourism

Pomerol

We had the castle within minutes of Libourne.

But the truth is, you can spend your entire vacation visiting wineries and tasting wines.

Labels for the Libournais region, such as Pomerol, Fronsac, Côtes de Vayres and Côtes de Castillon.

These are household names, and they’re just the beginning.

What makes the wine here so outstanding? Centuries of family-shared technology, a temperate Atlantic climate and 2000 years of viticulture.

These qualities and more make Libourne among the best places in the world to indulge in wine and winemaking.

5. Eyre Pier

Quai Souchet

You have to go down to the water’s edge on the island of the Libourne River.

Not so much because of what is there now, but because of what the place stands for.

Founded in the 13th century, Libourne is an exporter of wines produced in the Dordogne Valley.

So there is a large inland seaport at Quai des Salinières and Quai Souchet, loading wines for export to the Hanseatic ports of England and the Baltic.

Rejuvenate with a walk in the shade of plane trees and visit the spectacular Tour du Grand Port, the last fortification of the 13th century.

6. Museum of Fine Arts

Museum of Fine Arts

For a provincial town, Libourne has a large fund for Baroque painting.

This is thanks to many donations from wealthy benefactors and deposits from the state.

Élie, duc Decazes, who was Minister of Police in the 1810s, collected the first works for the museum.

It wasn’t long before it established a wide variety of Flemish and Italian Baroque paintings by artists such as Jacob Jordanens and Bartolomeo Manfredi.

The 19th and 20th century collections are also superb, including works by Fujita, Raoul Dufy, Rodin and René Princeteau of Libourne.

It’s all waiting for you on the second floor of the Libourne Town Hall.

7. The Water Mill in Libourne

Moulin Rouge Abu Zaq

After the Hundred Years’ War, Libourne and its surrounding areas were in chaos, and the new lords of the area decided to build dozens of flour mills to stimulate the economy.

Because, with the Ile and Dordogne rivers, there is absolutely no shortage of water and electricity.

When they started grinding flour, when the Industrial Revolution came, many turned into steel mills and oil mills.

Although most of these industries are long gone, these ancient buildings still contribute to Libourne’s character.

Two of them are open to tourists: the exquisite Moulin d’Abzac, built in the 1700s, is the headquarters of the industrial group Abzac SA.

The Moulin de Porchères on the island is special because it retains all the flour-processing machinery.

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8. Lac des Dagueys

Daji Lake

In cooler seasons, you won’t be blamed for neglecting this stretch of water just minutes from Libourne.

But when the sun comes out from May to the last weekend of September, the lake takes center stage, most importantly if you’re on vacation with the kids.

There’s an expansive beach that’s supervised during school holidays, and a water inflatable adventure playground where the kids will give it a thumbs up.

On land, there are more youth playgrounds, as well as sand volleyball and basketball courts.

In the water, you can rent pedal boats, canoes or kayaks and paddle out to see what you can find around kilometers of wooded coastline.

9. Wye Castle

Vayer Castle

On a bend in the Dordogne is a luxurious waterside castle with exquisite gardens.

The castle’s story is complex and fascinating: it was fortified in the 14th century by a nobleman loyal to King Edward II of England, and many of these pieces are still visible in the moat, gates and castle.

After changing hands between England and France, the future King Henry IV stayed here in the 16th century, and around this time it was updated in its current Renaissance style.

But today, the garden makes headlines, with formal boxwood and yew parterre next to an English-style park.

There is a flight of stairs going down from the castle, and after you leave, the sight of the flower beds and the river will accompany you all the time.

10. Place Abel Surshan

Place Abel Surchamp

Like most medieval Bastide towns, Libourne has a grid system and is centered around a main square.

This is Place Abel Surchamp, which houses the town hall, built in the 1500s and remodeled in the early 20th century.

Place Abel Surchamp is still part of everyday life, as there is a huge open-air market here on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

It also features the iconic Bastide Arcade on all four sides and now houses a cafe and restaurant with tables spilling out onto the square.

11. Le Jardin du Fond de l’Or

Le Jardin du Fond de l'Or

Easily accessible just minutes from the Dordogne River, this peaceful “jardin remarquable” is Japanese-themed.

It is woven into a wooded valley with a small stream running through it to cool down even the hottest summer days.

The humidity of this small clearing allows the owners to grow many exotic plants such as Brazilian giant rhubarb and large jungle-like ferns.

The gardens were established in 1981, and after the old trees were cleared, their stumps were carved into works of art that line the paths.

12. Train Touristique de Guîtres à Marcenais

Train Touristique de Guîtres à Marcenais

An evocative way to experience the Isle Valley countryside is to take this historic train in the town of Guîtres.

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If you’re inspired by the age of steam travel, there’s a museum inside the station with locomotives and carriages from 1880 to 1950. Compagnie des Charentes laid the line in the 1870s, but banned passenger traffic in the 1930s, and then freight trains stopped running in the 60s.

It reopened in the 70s as a tourist route and completed a round trip to Marsenay, a few kilometers away, stopping for pictures at the picturesque Charlot Mill.

13. Bordeaux

Bordeaux

France’s fifth largest city is an easy day trip from Libourne not to be missed.

The first is architecture, as Bordeaux’s Golden Age took place in 1700, equipping it with one of the greatest buildings of the century.

With its extensive marinas along the Garonne River, the cityscape is majestic and unified, and has been awarded the UNESCO World Heritage List.

If you want to see it all, you will need a few days, but your priorities will be the Esplanade des Quinconces, the largest square in Europe, the Place de la Bourse reflected in the Miroir d’Eau and the Rue Sainte at 1.2 km – Catherine shopping street .

The Museum of Fine Arts is also mandatory and houses paintings by Delacroix, Renoir, Van Dyck, Rubens, Veronese and other masters.

14. Dordogne Mascaret

dordogne mascaret

To fill your trip with unforgettable experiences, consider surfing the tides of the Dordogne.

It’s a rare phenomenon, more associated with distant rivers like the Amazon.

But there are certain days in summer when the forces of nature (moon tides) combine to form smooth, waist-high rollers that never seem to end.

Experienced surfers can easily balance for up to 30 minutes, but novices will also find the rollers very forgiving.

Every now and then you will look up and be reminded that you are browsing the wine country of Bordeaux!

15. Food

candied duck

At the confluence of two great rivers, not far from the mouth of the mighty Gironde, Libourne’s gastronomy comes from water and land.

If you want something totally authentic, make a pot of rillettes de Lamproie, a meat sauce made from lamprey and red wine.

The Gironde estuary is a breeding ground for sturgeon, which means top-notch caviar, so see if you can find some from de Saint-Seurin-sur-l’Isle.

Ducks and other poultry are special in the Southwest.

Confit de canard is salted duck, while foie gras (duck liver) is grilled, parboiled or raw.

Where to stay: The best hotels in Libourne, France
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