The lively spirit of Cognac is everywhere – in its renowned eau-de-vie and in its namesake area, where the elegant elixir is lovingly cultivated and produced. What better way to enjoy next year’s National Cognac Day than to actually explore the region of its origin?
The exceptional area of Cognac lies between land and sea, proudly boasting a rich gastronomic and cultural heritage as well as a multitude of experiences to enjoy. Its perimeter is defined by the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region. At its heart is the historical town of Cognac, birthplace of François 1er (Francis I), France’s legendary Renaissance king, and also home to most of the major Cognac houses. Between the Atlantic and the expansive vineyards lie other iconic towns and famed maritime islands such as Oléron—renowned for its Marennes oysters and lively communities.
Explore Cognac at glance:
How to get there from Paris
Example by car: Paris to Angoulême | 450km/280 miles | approximately a 5-hour drive
Examples by train:
Paris to Angoulême by TGV Atlantique | 2 hours
Paris CDG Airport to Angoulême | 3 hours
Bordeaux to Angoulême | 34 minutes
What to do / Experiences
• Cognac House tasting & visit
• Explore the vineyards by e-bike or vintage 2CV car
• Become a grape picker for the day
• Drink a cognac cocktail at a local bar and/or try your hand at mixology
Famous native daughters & sons
12th century Eleanor of Aquitaine & Isabelle d’Angoulême, who both became queens of England.
Born in Cognac: François 1er, France’s Renaissance king | Jean Monnet, one of the main founders of the EEC, precursor to the European Union.
Born in Jarnac: President François Mitterand
Born in Marennes-Hiers-Brouage: Explorer Samuel de Champlain, founder of Quebec & New France.
Food and wine specialities
Food: Salt, oysters and mussels, lightly salted butter, melons and truffles, cheeses such as the Chabichou du Poitou, Barbezieux chicken, potatoes.
Wines & spirits: Cognac, Pineau des Charentes (an aromatic fortified wine (white, red and rosé) made from blending grape must (juice) and cognac), red, rosé and white wines, Brûlot charentais (a signature cognac and coffee drink).
Angoulême, Cognac, La Rochelle, Islands: Ile d’Oléron & Ile de Ré, Jarnac, Saintes (Roman ruins and amphitheatre) and the county of Saintonge (includes Jonzac, Marennes—famed for its oyster farms and interactive oyster museum), Royan and its towering UNESCO Cordouan Lighthouse, Rochefort (where Lafayette’s Hermione frigate and its replica were built).
Major festivals & events
September: Angoulême’s Circuit des Ramparts classic car race | October: Fort Bayard Challenge watersports event | November-March: distillation in action | Late January: Angoulême’s International Comic Strip Festival—2024 is its 51th edition | February: St-Trojan-les-Bains’ Mimosa Festival | Early May to early June & throughout the Charente department: International Chamber Music Festival | Early July: Cognac Blues Passions—where else? In Cognac | Mid-July: La Rochelle’s Francofolies. For additional annual events, peruse the Explore Cognac press kit below.
For more on this unsung, authentic and creative region, click below for the Explore Cognac Press Kit. It includes a large variety of entertaining things to do and experience, hotels and restaurants and, last but not least, suggested itineraries.