What to visit in Cognac ?
City of Cognac © presto-immo.fr
Famous for the production of spirits made from wine and bearing its name, the city of Cognac has a rich history. The historic center, also called « Old Cognac », gathers the rich cultural heritage of the city. Between castles, hotels, religious buildings and centenary parks, Cognac is full of places to visit. The city is located at 1 hour from La Rochelle. From Paris or Bordeaux, it takes 3h30 and 2h by train to reach the city. There are many famous cognac houses that you can visit such as Hennessy, Martell, Meukow or the famous castle of Cognac where the cognac house Baron Otard is located. In all of these places you can go on a cognac tour, discover cognac distilleries, the production methods, and enjoy a cognac tasting.
Discover here a selection of places to visit in Cognac to discover the city and the best cognac tours and tastings visits.
THE OLD COGNAC DISTRICT
Although the city of Cognac is often related to its famous liquor, its heritage and history goes beyond the scope of this drink. One of the key moments of the city’s history is the birth of the King Francis 1st in 1494, who spent a good part of his life in Cognac and who gave the city commercial privileges and allowed it to develop economically. Rich families then settled in the current neighborhood of the Old Cognac and built beautiful half-timbered houses that still exist today for some of them.
Then, at the beginning of the 18th century, English families started to be at the head of the first Cognac trading companies. Among them, were the companies of Jean Martell, Rémy Martin and Richard Hennessy which are still references today.
The Old Cognac district © tourisme.fr
Along the banks of the Charente, the towers and gates of the old harbour of Cognac bear witness of the medieval history of the city. There was indeed a medieval bridge in the 12th century, which was destroyed in the middle of the 19th century, just after the creation of the current stone bridge crossing the river, considered to be more solid. Originally, the two towers were in a square shape. But in the 15th century, considering they were not adapted to enemy invasions, it was decided to change their shapes into round shapes.
Saint Jacques gates © wikipedia.org
Considered as the largest church in the city of Cognac, the Saint-Léger church was built from the beginning of the 12th century and was gradually expanded over the centuries. You can admire one of the oldest parts of the building: its facade, with Romanesque features. It stands out by its three arches and the 12 zodiac signs spread over all its contours. The large rose window that you can also see on the facade was added in the 15th century, shortly before the wars of religion that ravaged Cognac.
Facade of the church Saint-Léger © mapio.net
Close to the old Cognac district, you can relax in a soothing environment by visiting the public garden of the city. Covering an area of 7 hectares, this garden includes several fountains, a bandstand, a gothic pavilion, an orangery and even a pet store. The paths of the garden all converge to the same point: the former Otard de la Grange hotel, which became in 1892 the sumptuous City Hall of Cognac.
Cognac Public Garden and City Hall © commons.wikimedia.org
Still in the public garden area, in the Hotel Dupuy d’Angeac, is the museum of arts. This building was built by the Dupuy of Angeac family in 1840. It gathers a whole collection of paintings, sculptures and archaeological objects, given for most of them by families related to the industry and the production of cognac.
Museum of arts, Cognac © tourisme-cognac.com
PARK FRANCIS 1ST
A few minutes away from the old Cognac district, in the north of the city, the Park Francis 1st owes its name to the legend saying that Louise de Savoie gave birth to Francis 1st under a tree of this park during a Sunday ride. In this park, you will enjoy the lush and green vegetation. It is an ideal place to rest on the many shady places during summer time.
Park Francis 1st © photo-charente.com
COGNAC AND CHARENTE VINEYARD
Around Cognac, you can discover the producers of this famous liquor. The vineyard of Cognac is vast as it is not just limited to the city of Cognac but extends over the departments of Charente-Maritime and Charente.
You can then taste Pineau, red, white or rosé wines or the famous Cognac drink in Cognac and its surroundings.
Map of Cognac vineyards
Located in the city center of Cognac, Martell is one of the oldest great Cognac Houses, founded in 1715 by Jean Martell. With a rich heritage of 300 years, the Martell Cognac House is a place to visit to discover cognacs of a unique style.
Martell Cognac House, Cognac
In the heart of Cognac, come to discover the oldest treasures of the Meukow Cognac house which bears the name of its founders since 1862. Behind its elegant facades, the historic site has retained the typical character of the 19th century trading houses. You will discover the history and the know-how of a big house of Cognac during a modern and innovating tour and visit. For gourmets, the tour and tasting can continue around a lunch where you will discover the cognac in all its forms (flambé, marinade, sauce …)
Meal at Chai Meukow – Meukow Cognac, Cognac
You can continue your discovery of the vineyard of Cognac by going to the winery Cognac Raby – Logis de la Brée, a family-owned winery for 5 generations located in Ségonzac, a twenty minutes’ drive from Cognac. With a vineyard area of more than 40 hectares, the owners will be happy to welcome you to help you discover their winery during a full 2 hours visit during which you will also discover their wide range of wines and spirits: Cognacs, wines of Charente region, Pineaux of Charentes, liquors and grape juice.
Cognac Raby – Le Logis de la Brée, Segonzac
At 20 minutes’ drive from Cognac, you will discover a winery producing both long ageing cognac and Pineaux des Charentes. Several options of visits are offered. You can create your own Pineaux des Charentes and learn to characterize the vintages or enjoy an escape game where you’ll have 60 min to discover the secrets of the winemaker and leave with the recipe of Guillon Painturaud cognac!
Escape Game – Guillon Painturaud winery, Segonzac
Between Cognac and Saintes, you can visit a family-owned winery that perpetuate the old know-how of the distillation to produce Cognac with their traditional still. The passion of these winemakers for vines and wines brings them to produce also Charentais wines, Pineaux des Charentes, liquors, grape juice … From the vine to the bottle, all the stages will no longer have secrets for you!
Clos de Nancrevant, Chaniers
A few kilometers away from Angoulême, in the village of Saint-Saturnin, you will meet the new generation of Cognac winemakers by going to the Bourgoin Cognac winery.The winemaker Frédéric Bourgoin will introduce you to his unique production methods to obtain natural cognacs (no blending, no added sugar, dye or filtration …).
Bourgoin Cognac, Saint-Saturnin
Close to La Rochelle, Normandin Mercier, founded in 1872, produces cognac from the best vintages of cognac appellation. Specialized in the production of long-term cognacs, the house offers a large range of cognac, VSOP or XO, with wonderful carafes, vintages and Pineaux des Charentes. They’ve also produced their first organic cognac in 2018. Several options of visits are offered such as the visit “goumet agreement” where you will taste cognac and pineaux des charentes with chocolates.
Normandin Mercier, Dompierre-sur-Mer
We wish you a pleasant discovery of Cognac and of Charente region!