12 fun things to do in Cognac, France

View of Cognac

Located in the Charente department of western France, Cognac is a beautiful town known for producing one of the world’s most famous brandies.

But there’s more to this town than just its famous drink.

From its rich history and heritage through to its cosmopolitan dining scene and adventure activities, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Cognac.

Whether you’re here for the historic distilleries, its picturesque charm or its world-renowned music festival, Cognac is an idyllic French getaway.

My family and I have been visiting Cognac almost every year for the last 20 years, so rest assured that I have the very best recommendations for you!

1. Do a Cognac distillery tour

If you’re a fan of cognac or just curious about how it’s made, a distillery tour is one of the best things to do in Cognac.

There are several distilleries in the region which offer tours, and each one provides a unique experience.

Hennessy Building Cognac

During the tour, you’ll learn about the history of cognac, the production process, and the different types of cognac.

You’ll get to see the distillation process up close, from the crushing of the grapes to the ageing of the spirit in oak barrels.

Some distilleries also offer tastings (which I’d definitely recommend), where you can sample different types and learn about the various flavours and aromas.

It’s a great opportunity to try some of the finest cognacs in the world and discover your favourite.

Here are some of the top distilleries to visit in Cognac:

  • Hennessy – the biggest cognac house and a seriously impressive multi-sensory tour.
  • Château de Cognac – produces Otard and D’ussé cognacs; choose from five different tours.
  • Martell – the oldest cognac house; opt for a dynamic tour that involves an electric scooter!
  • Rémy Martin – choose from a number of tours, from exploring the estate by train to lunches and high end tastings.

Make sure to book your tour in advance, as they can fill up quickly during peak season.

And don’t forget to bring a designated driver or plan for alternative transportation, as cognac tasting can be quite potent!

2. Take to the water on the Charente

If you’re looking for a unique way to see the town, taking to the water on the Charente is one of the best things to do in Cognac.

The river runs through the heart of the town, and you have a number of options for exploring by water. 

Cognac Kayaking

The most leisurely option is hiring a boat, where you can explore at your own pace. Bring some wine and snacks to enjoy as you saunter down the Charente.

As you sail, spot the beautiful architecture of the town, including the historic Chateau de Cognac and the recognisable Hennessy building.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also rent a kayak or paddleboard; perfect for those warm summer days. 

What better way to experience the stunning scenery of the Charente valley than from the water.  

3. Wander the old town

I’d really recommend taking some time to stroll through the old town of Cognac, where you’ll be transported back in time.

The narrow streets are lined with charming, centuries-old buildings that have been beautifully restored.

Take your time and wander through the winding streets, taking in the sights and sounds of this historic area.

One of the highlights of the Old Town is the Château de Cognac, which has been producing cognac for over 200 years. 

As you continue through the Old Town, you’ll come across a number of quaint shops and boutiques selling local products and souvenirs.

If you’re feeling peckish, there are plenty of charming cafés and restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat. 

Try some of the local specialities, such as foie gras or escargots, and wash it down with a glass of local wine or cognac.

4. Attend the Cognac Blues Festival

If you’re a fan of blues music, you won’t want to miss the Cognac Blues Festival.

Held annually in July, this festival attracts top blues musicians from around the world and offers a variety of performances and events.

The festival takes place in various venues throughout Cognac, including the stunning Jardin Public and the historic Château de Cognac.

With its beautiful setting and top-notch musical acts, the Cognac Blues Festival is a must-attend event for music lovers.

In addition to the main concerts, the festival also offers a range of other activities.

You can attend workshops and masterclasses, where you can learn more about the history and techniques of blues music.

There are also food and drink stalls, providing the necessary fuel to keep you dancing, from burgers and sandwiches to fresh pasta and ice cream.

If you’re planning to attend the Cognac Blues Festival, be sure to book your tickets in advance.

5. Sip a coffee in the square

If you’re looking for a relaxing and authentic experience in Cognac, there’s nothing better than sipping a coffee in the square and watching the world go by.

The town has a handful of charming squares, each with its own unique character, but the Place François 1er is the most popular.

Located in the centre of the town, the square is named after François 1er, who was the king of France in the 16th century.

A large statue and merry-go-round sit in the middle of the square, so you really can’t miss it!

It’s surrounded by beautiful historic buildings, including the town hall and the Saint-Léger church.

The atmosphere is lively but peaceful, with locals and tourists alike enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful surroundings.

Find a table, order a coffee and do a spot of people watching; what better way to while away a relaxing hour or two.

6. Pick up some local produce at the covered market

If you’re looking to get your hands on some fresh local produce, the covered market is the perfect place to start.

Located in the heart of the city, the market is a bustling hub of activity, with vendors selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to artisanal cheeses and meats.

As you wander through the market, you’ll be struck by the vibrant colours and enticing aromas of the produce on offer.

The vendors are friendly and knowledgeable, happy to offer advice on the best ingredients for your next meal.

One of the highlights of the market is the selection of local cheeses. From creamy goat’s cheese to tangy blue cheese, it’s a cheese lover’s dream.

You can also pick up some delicious cured meats, perfect for a picnic lunch or aperitif.

If you’re looking for something sweet, the fruit at the market is bursting with flavour – from juicy peaches to plump strawberries.

You can also pick up some local honey, perfect for drizzling over your morning toast.

7. Have a picnic in the park

Cognac has several beautiful parks where you can enjoy a relaxing picnic with your friends or family. 

The most popular park in Cognac is the Jardin Public, located in the heart of the town. It has plenty of green spaces but the real highlight is the picturesque gardens.

If you visit in the spring or summer months, you’ll see beautiful blooms at every turn.

It’s a truly idyllic spot for a picnic – be sure to grab some fresh produce from the covered market.

For a family-friendly option, head to Parc de l’Etang. It’s located on the outskirts of the town and offers a number of activities and attractions for kids. 

From swings and inflatables to water activities and mini golf, there is plenty to keep the whole family entertained.

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8. Enjoy the local food

The Cognac region is famous for its gastronomy, from its distilleries to fine dining restaurants. 

In 2021, Cognac hosted the French Michelin star ceremony – surely a hint at the gastronomic appeal of the area. 

From seafood to meat, cheese to wine, the local dishes offer immense variety and heaps of flavour.

If you’re after the coveted Michelin-star dining, head to Les Foudres or La Ribaudière for exceptional cuisine.

Other Michelin-recommended restaurants in Cognac include La Maison and Poupette – both absolutely worth a try. 

One of my personal favourite restaurants – and a recent opening – is the boutique Chez des Gens.

It’s located just outside of Cognac in Bréville, but it’s well worth the trip. Both the setting and the food are unforgettable. 

For a riverside location in the heart of Cognac, I’d recommend stopping for lunch at L’Atelier.

9. Sample a cognac cocktail

When in Cognac, sampling a cognac cocktail is a must-do activity.

Given that the area is renowned for its production of cognac, it follows that the cocktail scene here is equally impressive.

You can find cognac cocktails in almost every bar in the city. However, some bars specialise in creating unique and innovative cocktails that you won’t find anywhere else.

Unsurprisingly, one of the most popular cocktails in Cognac is the classic Sidecar.

Made with Cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice, this cocktail has been a favourite for decades.

Another popular option is the French 75, made with cognac, lemon juice, sugar, and champagne.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Cognac Sazerac, a New Orleans classic made with cognac, absinthe, sugar, and bitters.

Many bars in Cognac also offer their own signature cognac cocktails, using local ingredients and flavours. 

My personal favourite for great cocktails in Cognac is Bar Luciole. They offer a selection of signature cognac cocktails, as well as all the classics – each expertly crafted.

10. Go for a cycle

Cognac is a beautiful region with plenty of scenic routes to explore, and what better way to do so than by bike?

Cycling is a great way to explore the city at your own pace while getting some exercise in the process.

You can rent a bike from several places in the city, including the tourist office, and there are plenty of cycle paths and quiet roads to explore.

One of the most popular routes is the “Circuit des Remparts,” a 12km loop that takes you around the historic city walls.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can head out of the city and explore the surrounding countryside.

The “Vélo Francette” is a 630 km cycle route that runs from Normandy to the Atlantic coast, passing through Cognac along the way.

You can join the route just outside the city and cycle through picturesque villages and rolling vineyards.

With plenty of rental options available, you can rent a traditional bike, an electric bike or even a tandem if you’re feeling romantic!

11. Visit the Musée Des Arts Du Cognac

If you’re interested in learning more about the history and production of cognac, a visit to the Musée Des Arts Du Cognac is a must.

This museum is dedicated to the art and science of cognac-making, and offers a fascinating insight into the history and culture of the region.

As you wander through the museum, you’ll be able to see a range of exhibits that showcase the different stages of fognac production, from the harvesting of the grapes to the ageing of the spirit.

You’ll also be able to learn about the different types of cognac, and the various methods used to create these unique and complex spirits.

One of the highlights of the museum is the opportunity to see a working distillery in action.

You’ll be able to watch as the grapes are crushed, fermented, and distilled, and see first-hand the traditional methods used to create this iconic spirit.

Whether you’re a seasoned cognac connoisseur or a complete novice, the Musée Des Arts Du Cognac is one of the best things to do in Cognac.

12. Day trip to Bordeaux

Train tickets: Book tickets from Angoulême to Bordeaux here

Top tours to book: 

If you’re looking for a change of scenery from Cognac, consider taking a day trip to Bordeaux.

The city is roughly an hour and a half away by car or train, making it a convenient option for a day trip.

Once you arrive, you can explore the historic city centre, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Stroll through the charming streets and admire the beautiful architecture, including the iconic Place de la Bourse and the grand Cathédrale Saint-André.

If you’re a wine enthusiast, you’ll definitely want to visit some of the many wineries and vineyards in the region.

Bordeaux is known for its world-class wines, and you can take a tour or tasting at one of the many châteaux in the area.

For a more cultural experience, visit the Musée d’Aquitaine, which covers the history and culture of the region.

The museum has a wide range of exhibits, including prehistoric artefacts, Roman mosaics, and modern art.

If you’re travelling with children, the Jardin Public is a great place to spend a few hours.

The park has a playground, a lake, and plenty of space to run around and enjoy the outdoors.

Looking for more holiday inspiration in France?

Discover the best French coastal towns or read my French Riviera guides for Nice, Antibes, Villefranche-sur-Mer and Saint Paul de Vence

For some capital city magic, check out my Paris travel guide

Want up to 25% off hotels?

Subscribe to my newsletter and get immediate access to my guide on how to save money on flights and hotels. Our weekly emails are filled with adventure inspiration, insider travel tips and exclusive discounts.


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Subscribe to my newsletter and get immediate access to my guide on how to save money on flights and hotels. Our weekly emails are filled with adventure inspiration, insider travel tips and exclusive discounts.