Possibly the loveliest Bastide walled town set high above the River Dordogne. Admire views of fields and farmhouses, woods and other hill villages along the river. Shop for local honey and truffles and visit floodlit caves with fascinating rock formations, hidden beneath the seventeenth century covered market place, where townspeople took refuge during the Hundred Years War.
Founded by the Romans, Vesunna (Perigueux) has been the centre of the Dordogne region for over 2,000 years and makes an ideal touring base for the chateaux and lakes of the Perigord Blanc. Take in views of the old town and ruined amphitheatre from Tour Mataguerre and Cathedrale St-Front, said to have been the inspiration for the Sacre-Coeur in Paris. The tiny squares and narrow streets come alive on market days. Look for winter foie gras and truffle sales.
Take a trip to popular Rocamadour in the neighbouring department of Lot and marvel at this tiny village clinging high on a cliff face above the Alzou River gorge. Once a traditional stopping place for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela and much visited since medieval times when the cathedral’s black Madonna was credited with miraculous powers. Today the village of historic houses is pedestrianised with lifts and staircases. Visit sanctuary churches and museums and enjoy stunning views on 3 levels - the finest being from the castle ramparts 500ft above.
The well preserved Gothic and Renaissance buildings and restored old quarter of this medieval town are fine examples of Dordogne’s ochre coloured architecture - so much so that Sarlat is often used as a film set. Busy in high season, the town has quality shops and and is a must for lovers of the culinary arts. The Saturday market in Place de la Liberte is regarded as the best in the region, selling all the basics of Perigordian cuisine, from truffles and foie gras (goose liver pate) to walnuts and mushrooms. View archaeological finds in L’Homo Sapiens museum and car enthusiasts should enjoy the motor museum. Modern gas lighting gives night-time streets here a special atmosphere.
Spanning both sides of the River Dordogne, Bergerac today is the main market centre for maize, vines and tobacco, grown on the surrounding plains. Stroll through the old town’s narrow streets with half-timbered houses and pretty squares or visit the Musee du Tabac for a history of tobacco and large pipe collection (open Feb-Dec Tues to Sat). Discover about barrel making and Bergerac’s history as a once flourishing wine port in the Musee Regional du Vin et de la Batellerie (open April-Oct, Tues-Fri and Sat am). There are plenty of restaurants to enjoy and Maison des Vins on Quai Salvette is the place to go for free tastings, local wines and information on nearby vineyards.
This village on a rock high above the north bank of the Dordogne is dominated by its 13th century castle - a French stronghold in the Hundred Years War. Restored to much of its medieval splendour with drawbridge, portcullis and medieval kitchen. Views from the roof are fantastic though not for the fainthearted.
Across the river from Beynac, the Chateau de Castelnaud was an English stronghold during much of the Hundred Years War. Its fascinating museum of artillery and siege warfare includes cannons and model of an ancient catapult.
This pretty village on the Richard the Lionheart Route, is dominated by the Chateau de Jumilhac where the English king reputedly stayed. Worth a visit, the Chateau was originally a twelfth century fortress. Enlarged during subsequent centuries, the 1600s renovation added its unique turreted roof of black tiles, earning Jumilhac the name of “Black Pearl” of the green Perigord. Drink in the Chateau’s fairytale appearance whilst enjoying a coffee in the pretty village square.
Regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in France, Saint-Jean-de-Cole is a picture perfect spot with its cloistered eleventh century Byzantine church in the main square surrounded by half-timbered houses, covered marketplace, stone bridges over the river and Chateau de la Marthonie. Visit in early May for the annual flower festival. Musical events are held in the church in the summer months.
Originally the site of a tenth century monastery, this peaceful town in the Loue Valley - part of the Perigord-Limousin Regional Natural Park - has one of the busiest markets in the region each Thursday as well as sixteenth century houses and Gothic church. Its castle, set high above, is famous for having successfully repelled Richard the Lionheart on several occasions.