Sancerre is a beautiful little medieval city in the Cher department, in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France. It lies just to the north of the centre of France, and is within walking distance of the lovely Canal Latéral à la Loire. The city had a population of 1,340 when the last census was taken in 2020. Although it is relatively small, it has a vibrant community, with many shops, cafés and restaurants, and galleries, my favourite of which has to be a wonderful bookshop called the Café Librairie de Sancerre – just the kind of place I sometimes dream of running!
The architecture in this region is bewitching - this photo taken on a dull day really doesn't do it justice. The stone properties are pale and honey-coloured, and the roofs a variety of dusky red tiles and soft grey slate. You'll also find nearly a thousand beautiful chateaux in this region of France. The old town is a delight to explore, with narrow medieval streets leading you into the beating heart of the city. The houses in this area date back to the 15th-century. The main shopping and meeting area is the marketplace at La Nouvelle Place. It is a hive of activity all year round, and even hosts an impressive Christmas market.
Don't miss a climb to the top of the Tower of Fiefs - its 195 steps will give you an impressive view across the rooftops to the surrounding fields and vineyards.
Canals and Rivers
The Sancerrois is truly beautiful, and has the bonus of being canal country. The Canal Latéral à la Loire is cut parallel to the River Loire, and lies close to Sancerre, just a 25 minute walk to the east. It was built to bypass the unreliable, wide, but shallow, River Loire. In the same direction you'll find a spectacular Viaduct Walk on a disused railway line, which enjoys glorious views from various vantage points across the vineyards, villages, and the Loire valley. A little further afield, you'll find the River Cher, the Nivernais Canal, the River Yonne, and the Briare Canal, a network which connects to Paris and the many canals of the north east.
The landscape of this region is an absolute delight, with rolling lush green countryside – it is no surprise that it is often described as the 'garden' or the 'heart' of France. The town sits on a chalky outcrop, part of a range which runs via Champagne and Chablis all the way to the White Cliffs of Dover. Swathes of vineyards carpet the small valleys cutting through chalk hills. Each valley seems to have its own unique soil, and microclimate, and terroir, which leads us to...
The chief wine of Sancerre is, of course... Sancerre. The white variety is made from locally harvested Sauvignon Blanc grapes, but in recent decades the area has developed some rosé and red wines using local Pinot Noir grapes.
The Sancerre area is particularly noted for its goat cheese. The nearby village of Chavignol, just over 3km west of Sancerre, gives its name to the delicious Crottin de Chavignol cheese.
Other local specialities include nonnettes, which are small gingerbread cakes, often iced. There are also almond biscuits called croquets. Another delicacy is the local honey, which combines beautifully with nuts and goat cheeses.
Being a medieval city, the town has many centuries of fascinating history to discover. In the 12th century it was a feudal holding of the Counts of Champagne in the province of Berry. They built a fortified chateau on the 312 meter high hill and ramparts to protect the city. In the 16th century Sancerre the Huguenot population held out for nearly eight months against the Catholic forces of the king during the siege of Sancerre, one of the last times in European history where trebuchet slingshots were used in warfare. During the French Revolution, Sancerre was the site of a royalist rebellion. In 1838 the nearby Canal Latéral à la Loire was opened, and in 1885 the railway was built in the same valley. Mlle de Crussol d'Uzès built a mansion on the ruins of the original chateau in 1874. During World War I, Sancerre was the site of a military hospital. Then during World War II, it was a regional command center for the French Resistance. Plenty to research and learn about, eh?
Getting to Sancerre
For simplicity, I have assumed that you are travelling from London to Sancerre. These times were researched on the Rome2Rio website at the time of posting.
- Train from Saint Pancrass to Sancerre via the Tunnel - 5 hrs 39 mins
- Driving from London to Sancerre via the Tunnel - 6 hrs 38 mins
- Driving from London to Sancerre via the car ferry - 7 hrs 50 mins
- Bus (with changes) - cheapest but slowest at 13h 37min
- Fly to Paris and drive down from there - 2 hr 45 mins drive from the airport.
- Fly to Lyon and drive up from there - 3 hr 40 mins drive from the airport.
House hunting in Sancerre
If you'd like to search for property in Sancerre, be warned - it is a compact and well-loved city, so it can be quite difficult to find that perfect property for sale in the old town. However, if you're willing to be flexible, there is usually something lovely to be found, particularly in the surrounding countryside. There are even some canalside villages near to the city if you would like to be within easy reach of the Canal Latéral à la Loire.
Bear in mind that there is no MLS equivalent service in France (like the US), and no single French portal has the power of Rightmove (in the UK). A good place to start your hunt is France's biggest property portal, SeLoger. However, the only way to truly get to grips with French property for sale is to contact local agents and notaires, and walk around looking for sign boards.
Here is a list of some of the best known estate agents in the Sancerre area.
SAS Du Canal Lateral, notaire's office, Saint Satur - tel +33 24 854 1226
Demeures de Campagne - tel +33 95 012 8419
Agence Immobiliere Homerie - tel +33 64 333 8873.
Aurélie Vanheren, local agent for Safti - tel +33 62 504 3960. Generally listed on SeLoger.
Transaxia Sancerre - tel numbers vary as the properties are sold by independent agents. Generally listed on SeLoger.
ConceptImmo, Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire - tel +33 37 358 0008. Generally listed on SeLoger.
Ordim Immobilier, Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire - tel +33 38 626 6000. Generally listed on SeLoger.
Orpi Agent Mahaut Mathey - tel +33 24 878 0008. Generally listed on SeLoger.
Good luck with your search!