If you’re in search of old buildings and traditional villages, you will be in your element strolling through the typical narrow streets of our “Most Beautiful Villages in France”, discovering our bastide towns, or visiting Périgueux or Sarlat, both of which are officially recognised “Towns of Art and History”.
The Dordogne is renowned for its beautiful villages, 10 of which are officially recognized “Most Beautiful Villages in France” – along with the Aveyron, the Dordogne has the largest number of these villages in the country. Situated 20km from Sarlat, Saint-Amand-de-Coly nestles between two wooded valleys and is famous for its 12th-century abbey. At the other side of the département, in the Périgord Vert, Saint-Jean-de-Côle’s history is linked with that of the Château de la Marthonie which dominates its main square, while the typical small village of Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère between Montignac and Les Eyzies boasts no fewer than three châteaux. In the middle of bucolic landscapes is Brantôme, nicknamed the Venice of Périgord – amble along its central canal to the rhythm of the water. Walk along the narrow streets of the bastide towns of Beaumont-du-Périgord and Eymet, and don’t miss the arcade-lined square of Villefranche-du-Périgord. The most beautiful example of a bastide is Monpazier, a town that’s hardly changed since it was founded in the 13th century. Other villages include Limeuil (overlooking the confluence of the Dordogne and Vézère), La-Roque-Gageac, Belvès, Domme, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle and Beynac-et-Cazenac.
Although the Périgord’s villages are already popular with holidaymakers, you should not overlook the département’s three main towns, Sarlat, Périgueux and Bergerac, which are also full of charm and interesting sights.
The châteaux route
The Dordogne really is the land of 1,001 châteaux! Among them, climb up to Beynac , a real medieval castle, and Castelnaud offering many workshops connected to different aspects of the Middle Ages. Introduce yourself to trebuchet shooting, even more precise than a catapult! And don’t miss the two château buildings of Bourdeilles .
With family or friends visit Bridoire fortress, the “château of games” and the perfect place to have fun. Challenge yourself on the beam or play lifesize snakes-and-ladders. If the kids are passionate about knights, organise a surprise birthday party at Biron, an unforgettable occasion! The château also hosts exhibitions of contemporary art all year round.
There’s a radical change of atmosphere at the fortress of Jumilhac , a fairytale château to enchant you with the world of princesses and cavaliers. Made famous by Josephine Baker, the elegant Milandes lends itself to romance and walks through the pleasant gardens surrounding it. You can also enjoy falconry shows organised regularly on the estate.
Love good wine? Head to Monbazillac , nestled at the heart of the vineyards of the same name, and taste the estate wines during the château visit. To round off your château tour, visit Hautefort, jewel of the Périgord used for many film shoots, which each year hosts a cinema exhibition and a film set reconstruction.
With its 147 prehistoric sites dating back to the Palaeolithic period and 25 decorated caves, the Vézère valley or “valley of Prehistory” is of exceptional ethnographic, anthropological and aesthetic interest, with no fewer than 15 prehistoric sites in the valley on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Today, these masterpieces of prehistoric art are being preserved for posterity.
The Dordogne has been a popular destination for more than 450,000 years, and today it offers a panorama of the evolution of man throughout the ages. To discover the Dordogne is to encounter the distinctive origins of beliefs and culture that define us today. The Périgord contains several thousand prehistoric archaeological deposits and almost half of all the cave art in France. These precious gems include the Lascaux caves, painted more than 20,000 years ago, featuring an exceptional collection of cave paintings. To tour its facsimile, Parietal Art International Centre, is to view the dawn of man’s existence. The Prehistory Centre in Les Eyzies can facilitate your approach to the heritage of this ‘prehistoric valley’ and help you to better understand it through educational workshops, lectures, exhibitions and theme circuits.