Huddled at the top of a steep, round hill with the vineyards below, SANCERRE could almost be in Tuscany. The village trades heavily on its famous wines – there are endless caves offering tastings – rather than any particular sights or attractions, but it's certainly picturesque and the rolling hills of the Sancerrois, to the northwest, make an attractive venue for walks and cycle rides. First port of call for wine enthusiasts should be the Maison de Sancerre, 3 rue du Méridien (April, May, Oct & Nov 10am–6pm; June– Sept 10am–7pm; 5; Web: www.maison-des-sancerre.com ), which has an elaborate permanent exhibition on winemaking in Sancerre, and a garden of aromatic plants that represent the sixty key flavours found in Sancerre wines. The building itself is a fine fourteenth-century town house, the top of whose tower offers a great view over the rolling, vine-clad hills around.
Wine outlets in the village itself tend to belong to the most famous names, with prices to match, but the tourist office can supply a list. Well suited to the wines is the local crottin de Chavignol, a goat's cheese named after the neighbouring village in which it's made; signs in Chavignol direct you to fromageries open to visitors.
The town is difficult to access by public transport, save for an occasional bus service that connects with the trains from Gien station and then heads to Sancerre, and one to three buses a day to and from Bourges, depending on the time of year. Private transport, such as a car or chartered bus, is more convenient, especially as this makes visiting the vineyards far easier. The tourist office, on Nouvelle Place (daily: June– Sept 10am–6pm; Oct– May 10am–12.30pm & 2.30–5.30pm; Tel:02.48.54.08.21, Web: www.sancerre.fr ), is an invaluable source of local information, especially when it comes to wine.
The choice of hotels in Sancerre is surprisingly poor, but two charming chambres d'hôtes more than make up for it: Le Logis du Grillon, 3 rue du Chantre (Tel:02.48.78.09.45; Price: 66-80); and La Belle Époque, rue St-André (Tel:02.48.78.00.04; Price: 51-65). The best hotel in the area is by the river in St-Satur, at the antique-furnished, extremely comfortable and picturesque AHôtel de la Loire, 2 quai de la Loire (Tel:02.48.78.22.22, Web: www.hotel-de-la-loire.com ; Price: 66-80). The welcoming youth hostel Auberge de St-Thibault, 37 rue J.-Combes (Tel:02.48.78.04.10; Price: Up to 40), a block away from the river, has the best value rooms in the area. An excellent campsite (Tel:02.48.54.04.67; closed Oct– April) is found a little further along the quay, beyond the kayak shop.
There are two fine restaurants in Sancerre: La Pomme d'Or, 1 rue de la Panneterie (Tel:02.48.54.13.30; closed Tues & Wed evening), and the more formal La Tour, 31 place de la Halle (Tel:02.48.54.00.81), both with menus (around 25) to suit all pockets. Auberge Joseph Mellot, Nouvelle Place (Tel:02.48.54.20.53; closed Sun, Tues evening & Wed) serves good, simple meals that are designed to complement its own top notch wines.