From the first moment that an image was captured by Nicephore Niepce in 1816, humans have been transfixed by the ability to immortalize a moment in time. Even with the advances in tech that means we can whip out our phones every time a photo opportunity presents itself, nothing thrills like that one off picture where everything just works. If you hanker to visit a place that has a combination of history, stunning vistas, objets d’art, ever-changing light, and all the things that add up to an amazing photo destination, then welcome to the Charente, the home of Cognac in France.
So what is there to do in Cognac France?
When it comes to seeking out that perfect image location, our region has but one problem. And that’s that the Charente has so many beautiful areas, managing to whittle it down to a mere 12 spots for Cognac France tourism was quite a challenge. But the team at Cognac Expert rose admirably to the test, and we’ve eventually come up with what we think are some outstanding things to see in Cognac to create that frame-worthy photograph.
And being that one good hobby always deserves to go hand in hand with another, we’ve also taken the liberty of adding in a great Cognac house to visit close to each destination. After all, it’s tough work creating that perfect shot. So you deserve a sip or two of luxury along the way to help with the creative process.
1. Courvoisier building, in Jarnac, France for some Cognac tasting
Jarnac, a 20-minute drive from the town of Cognac, is the home of Courvoisier Cognac, and is one of the highlights of Cognac tourism. This impressive building on the banks of the Charente River is best viewed on a sunny day when the colors of the brickwork and roof tiles are a stark contrast to the blue sky above. And if you’re lucky, the reflections in the water can make for a surreal reflective focus. Our favorite time is just after sunrise or sunset itself, where the shadows are long and the light casts an eerie reflective glow.
Of course, you can visit the HQ of Courvoisier itself. And if you’re taking pictures of this historic architecture it would be rude not to indulge in one of their classic offerings. We suggest the award-winning Courvoisier Initiale Extra, a wonderful Grande Champagne and Borderies blend presented in an unmistakable teardrop shaped decanter.
Discover more about this and all the other delicious Cognacs of Courvoisier.
But Jarnac isn’t just about the big houses. The houses of Delamain and Louis Royer are also located here, amongst others. Delamain, with a history dating back to the early 1600s, is a wonderful family run house, with medal-winning delights such as the Delamain XO Pale and Dry, and the Delamain Vesper Grande Champagne just aching to tantalize your taste buds.
Check out our Delamain brand page for details such as the address and visiting their site.
Louis Royer is another Jarnac-located Cognac house worth your attention. As with most of our favorite brands this one is also family-run, with some top-notch Cognacs on offer. Try the multi-award winning Louis Royer Extra, or the uber-special Louis Royer Eloge if you fancy splashing out.
2. Visit Francois Mitterrand’s tomb and the cobbled streets of Jarnac
The thing is, there are so many photogenic areas within the town of Jarnac in that we couldn’t leave it without a few more recommendations.
Jarnac is famed for being the birthplace of one of France’s most revered leaders, Francois Mitterrand, and is where he’s now buried in the Cimetiere des Grands Maisons,. If such a subject gets your creative juices flowing, then we have to say that the French certainly know how to do cemeteries. With amazing avenues of tombs, the atmosphere is one of tranquillity and peace. And it certainly offers some interesting opportunities for some very different photographs.
Be sure to wander the cobbled streets of the town, enter the lovely Saint Pierre Church and the crypt, and find yet more unique photo shots around every corner. And if you’re lucky enough to visit in the winter months, then the ongoing Truffle Market is the perfect place to snap images of French rural life in real-time.
A couple of other Cognac houses to note that have their HQ in Jarnac are Hine and Tiffon. Hine have made a real name for themselves with their range of Millesime Cognacs, such as the Early Landed 1984 and the Millesime 1989. We also particularly like the Hine Family Reserve.
When it comes to the house of Tiffon, their wonderful family home, the Chateau de Triac, is definitely worth a visit. Some of their Cognacs of note include the Tiffon Vieux Superieur and the Chateau de Triac Reserve de la Famille.
3. Drive along the road to Segonzac
This has to be one of our personal favorite places to visit in the whole of the Cognac region. And it’s not one you’ll find in the guide books. The road from Cognac to Segonzac is a little more than a single track of bitumen passing through rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see. It’s worth taking your camera whatever the time of year, as every season brings its unique effect on the landscape. If you ever want to feel miles away from the trials and tribulations of life, this has to be the place.
Segonzac is also home to Michel Forgeron Cognac. A relatively young Cognac house, this family run concern is all about sustainability in a world where this seems decidedly out of fashion. And they produce some rather lovely Cognacs. The Michel Forgeron Vieille Reserve Grande Champagne and the Michel Forgeron Hors d’Age Grande Champagne are two particular ones to take note of.
And a tip from those of us who live here is that if you’re travelling by camper van (or RV, for our American readers), you can camp at the Cognac estate itself. Check out our Michel Forgeron brand page for more details, as well as visits, guided tours, and tastings.
4. La Tour de la Lanterne Lighthouse, La Rochelle
The ocean town of La Rochelle boasts a jaw-dropping amount of places to go wild with your camera. But none so starkly beautiful as the La Tour de la Lanterne, or the Lantern Tower. This is the oldest lighthouse on the Atlantic Coast, with an elegant octagonal spire atop walls that measure six feet thick at the base. Inside you can marvel at graffiti carved by soldiers and prisoners (it was a jail for a portion of its turbulent past) from the 17th and 18th centuries. If you’re looking for the wow factor for some truly historic photos, then this is a must-visit area of the region.
And whilst you’re here you have to visit the house of Godet Cognac. Boasting a family history spanning 14 generations, they continue to push the boundaries of Cognac production. One of their most recent products of note is the Godet Antarctica, a Folle Blanche, clear Cognac Glace designed to be drunk directly from your icebox.
5. Cathedral Saint Pierre, Angouleme. Narrow, steep cobbled streets, medieval ramparts
With its Romanesque cathedral with a masterpiece carved into its façade, the Cathedral Saint Pierre at Angouleme is a photographer’s dream. Add into the mix some steep, cobbled streets and medieval ramparts, and both amateur and professional alike will happily while away many a wonderful hour getting their unique perspective nailed in digital format.
A mere 15 minute drive from the town is the house of ABK6, in the village of Claix. Surrounded by its own 250 hectares of vines, the Cognac house provides some truly stunning countryside in which to capture images of the creation of eau-de-vie. This family run house offers some incredible creations, many of which are taking the industry by storm. Try the World Cognac Award winning ABK6 XO Renaissance, or the multiple medal-winning ABK6 XO Family Reserve for a great introduction to their range.
6. Saint Martin-de-Re, Ile de Re
Beware the UNESCO World Heritage site of Saint Martin-de-Re, located on the picturesque Ile de Re. Because it won’t take long before it has you enchanted with its numerous charms. Plan as much time as you can spare for your visit, as however long you stay we promise it won’t be enough. From the Citadel of Vauban. to the church, bell tower, and panoramic terrace, every which way you turn you’ll be wowed by the views in front of you.
Visit in winter or spring for the opportunity to photograph the thousands of migratory birds that visit the safe haven of the Lilleau des Niges. This is a remarkable nature reserve that’s perfectly located on the migration route between the Arctic and Africa. Ornithologists be prepared to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount and species of birds that you can bag during these times of the year. In fact, the whole area of the Ile de Re really is a ‘pearl of the Atlantic’, known for captivating unsuspecting visitors with her many-faceted charms.
Even though there aren’t any Cognac houses located actually on the Ile de Re, it should be noted that the unique micro-climate of the area has a lot to do with certain productions. One of the most notable is the Ile de Re range from Camus, who have vineyards on the island where grapes grow under the influence of the oceanic climate. Offerings such as the Camus VSOP Fine Island And Camus XO Cliffside Cellar are well worth discovering, as is the Camus Ile de Re Double Matured Cognac, all of which are deliciously different in their taste profile.
7. Merpins, ruins of an Iron Age settlement
A mere 3.5km from the town of Cognac is Merpins, home to the ruins of the Roman town of Condate. Here you can revel in the remains of the settlement that dates back as far as the late Bronze age in the 11thcentury BC. There’s also an old Cistercian abbey, a chateau, and a church, all of which are well worth a wander for some extraordinary photo opportunities.
You can also visit Remy Martin here (as opposed to their HQ in Cognac itself).
Remy needs no introduction, of course. But we can highly recommend the award winning Remy Martin Carte Blanche a Baptiste Loiseau No1 Gensac La Palluc Edition, a worthy gold medal winner at the International Wine & Spirits Competition. Find out more about the famous Cognac house on our brand page for Remy Martin.
8. Romanesque church, Chateauneuf-sur-Charente
Considered to be one of the most beautiful church facades in the whole Charente region, the church at Chateauneuf-sur-Charente is quite remarkable. At 24 metres in height it’s an imposing sight, and one that can be captured beautifully as the sun sets in the evening and the light begins to fade. Get the timing right (and the weather) and the sun casts a fiery glow on all she touches as she sinks below the horizon. A truly awesome sight.
The high-end house of Tesseron Cognac is located in Chateauneuf-sur-Charente. And whilst some of their excellent offerings require deep pockets (such as the extra special delight that is the Tesseron Extreme), you can take full advantage of many of their other wonderful Cognacs for a very reasonable price. Check out ones such as the Tesseron Lot No 53 XO, and the Tesseron Lot No 65 XO for a great introduction to their wares.
9. Saint Jacques Gate, Cognac, France
We can’t miss out the town of Cognac itself, with its numerous historical landmarks. One of the most imposing has to be the 15th century St Jacques Gate, flanked by two imposing towers. Cobbled streets wend beneath the gate, with quintessential French architecture of the region just begging to be committed to camera. A fine day in winter is as good a time to visit as that in a hot summer (and you’ll have the place to yourself). Just lose yourself in the history and atmosphere on offer—ditch the guide book and just wander, that’s our best recommendation here.
Of course, the headquarters of the most famous Cognac house of all can be found here. Hennessy surely has to be visited at least once in your life. And it’s worth the effort, we promise you. Finish up your tour with a taste of the classic Hennessy XO, or splash out on a bottle of something extra special, such as the Hennessy Paradis. There’s a Hennessy to suit every pocket and palate. So take full advantage whilst you’re here.
10. Pons, France
The town of Pons has a wonderfully preserved medieval center, with an impressive central square called the Place de la Republique. Dominating the view here is the donjon, or tower. Be sure to walk down the many streets that lead to the river, as these offer some wonderful insights into rural French life. We particularly love the cafes that are dotted at the end of the square. If you’re into photographing people, this really is a to-die-for location. We’d also like to bring your attention to the ornate entrance of the Church of Saint Vivien, which dates to the 12thcentury. Pons is a very easy town to get around, being fairly compact, so easy to walk from place to place.
The Cognac house we recommend to visit is a short hop from the town, in a village called Biron. Here you’ll find the estate of Birius Cognac. We were delighted to collaborate with this top quality family producer to create the second in our series of Cognac Expert Limited Editions, Sophie & Max Sélection N° 2 Cognac. And don’t tell everyone, but there’s still a very few bottles left on sale, so if you’ve not yet grabbed one for yourself, there’s still a small window of opportunity to do so.
The spa town of Jonzac is located at the southern end of the Charente Maritime department. It boasts an impressive chateau, and some beautiful medieval houses in the Rue James-Scalfert. It also has thermal springs, so a great place to wind down and soak away any aches and pains from your busy photo stop tour of the Cognac region.
12. Barbezieux-Saint-Hilaire, Saint-Mathias Church XI century, and 15th century castle
And last, but certainly not least, on our list, is the gorgeous town of Barbezieux-Saint- Hilaire. During much of the year not a week goes by without a fair or market taking place, making this the ideal spot to get extraordinary shots of real country folk going about their day to day lives. If you’re here for Bastille Day, July 14, then make sure you set your camera to be able to capture the impressive firework display. And then there’s the lovely 11th century church and 15th century chateau. Take your pick, there’s so many delectable pictures to be taken here, whichever way you turn.
10km away in Ambleville is the prestige family run Cognac house of Raymond Ragnaud. With offerings such as the Raymond Ragnaud Tres Vieille Grande Champagne and the Raymond Ragnaud XO Grande Champagne Extra Vieux, this is a house well worth spending a little time to visit.
So what are you waiting for? Sightseeing in the Cognac region provides a never-ending stream of opportunities. If you’ve yet to visit, then it’s about time you did. Cognac awaits you with welcome arms…