This year sees the Musée des Arts du Cognac celebrate its 10th anniversary. Located in the heart of old Cognac, this is perhaps one of the best places in the world to visit to take a trip back through time to discover what’s earned the drink of cognac such a special place in the hearts of so many people.
Located in a 16th century mansion, the museum boast more than 800 exhibits and documents, as well as state of the art computerized projections and audio visual exhibitions.
So if you’re planning a trip to Cognac, this would be a great place to start your exploration of the area.
But what else is there to do here? And naturally, we’d like to keep an eaux-de-vie related theme going through the recommendations. So here’s the Cognac Expert top 10 list of things to do in and around the Cognac region.
1. Musée des Arts du Cognac
As mentioned above. Located in the city centre, with parking on-site, it costs 5 Euros for an adult entrance (this also covers entrance to the Musee d’Art et d’histoire). There are concessions for seniors over the age of 65 years. And if you visit outside of July and August, the first weekend of every month features free admission. Learn more about the Musée des Arts du Cognac.
2. Cognac Tasting Tour
It would be rude not to visit Cognac and taste a variety of eaux-de-vies. And what better way to do it than to take part in an professionally run tasting tour. You can find a variety of these run by different operators, or you can do one run by the cognac houses themselves.
As an aside, if you visit in the months of December, January or February, you can take part in an event known as Les Bonnes Chauffes. This is where houses, distillers and winegrowers open their doors during the weekends to the public for free visits and tastings. Some restaurants and bars also get involved, and create menus of local products with a cognac and pineau theme. Music also plays a big part, meaning that an out of season visit to the region really could be a trip to remember.
3. Visit one of the ‘Big 4” Cognac Houses
Of course, you can’t come all this way and not get an insiders view on at least one of the biggest of all the cognac producers. Hennessy, Rémy Martin, Martell and Courvoisier all welcome visitors at all times of the year. Visit our pages on each of them to find out more. We at Cognac Expert were lucky enough to have a guided tour around the house of Hennessy in 2012. Read more about that extra special visit here.
4. Walk the Old Town
Taking a stroll around the medieval quarter of Cognac (Vieux Cognac) really is like taking a jaunt back in time. Many of the buildings date back to the 15th and 16th centuries and are some of the original places inhabited by the early cognac merchants.
5. Visit La Rochelle
At the mouth of the River Charente, the port town of La Rochelle played a vital part in the original exportation of cognac by sea in the early 13th century. It’s a beautiful place to visit; and definitely worth more than a day trip. The harbor is enchanting, and it’s a real treat to see it at different times of the day. The hustle and bustle of the day time, the hubbub that overtakes come evening and sunset, and the quiet thrill that envelops the town at night time when all the day trippers have left. A real must-see…
6. Personal Experience at a Smaller Cognac House
Whilst you’ll undoubtedly want to visit one of the cognac giants, as mentioned above, if you’ve the time we definitely recommend spending some time at one of the smaller producers. There are so many to chose from, and you’ll experience a very different tour from that of the big cognac houses. Most speak at least some English, and the language barrier is all part of the charm of visiting these artisan producers.
Visit our brands pages for some ideas of which smaller cognac house you might like to experience. There’s also information on each page about how to organize your visit.
7. Pack a Picnic and Head to the Vineyards
Now this one is from personal experience. Get an ice box, fill it with your favourite picnic items, perhaps a couple of bottles of chilled beer and, naturally, a little cognac. Then head out, perhaps by bicycle, car or on foot, and experience the solitude that is the Cognac countryside. Vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see, punctuated by red tiled roofs, church spires and farm buildings.
You’ll have no trouble finding an isolated picnic spot. Just perfect for enjoying the surrounding countryside, vines and wildlife that abounds in the area. A perfect stress-busting day; if this doesn’t chill out, then pretty much nothing will.
8. Visit the Second Distilling Town of Jarnac
10 kms east of Cognac is the second distilling town of Jarnac. This picturesque little town also lies on the River Charente, and is home to many cognac producers. These include, Louis Royer, Hine and Delamain, to name but a few.
9. Boat Trip along the Charente
With the river playing such a pivotal part in the history of cognac, it makes sense to get a perspective from the water. It’s easy to book a leisurely boat trip from either Cognac or Jarnac. In fact, if you visit the house of Hennessy, their organized tour includes a boat ride across the river.
10. Create your own blend of Cognac…
… with a visit to the house of Camus. The fifth largest of all the houses (and the largest family run producer), Camus is certainly biting at the heels of the big four cognac houses.
However long you decide to spend in the region of Cognac, you’ll be spoilt for choice. And there’s nothing more authentic than sipping cognac in Cognac. So whatever your reason for visiting, relax, experience and enjoy…
Last but not least: Rent one of our holiday rentals!
Since the 1960’s our family runs a farm and holiday rental estate in the South Charente / Cognac. Discover our rentals for 2 persons (apartment), 4 persons (farm house), 6 persons (holiday rental) or 8-10 persons (Château Logis).
Read more about us.
Sources: musees-cognac.fr, tripadvisor.co.uk, westernfrancetouristboard.com