Sarlat - La Dordogne, France
Sarlat – La Dordogne, is one of the most intact unique medieval cities in Europe. It is in possibly the most beautiful area of the Dordogne and a few miles north of the river. Sarlat la Canéda (to give it its full name) is well worth a visit. There are lots of things to do in Sarlat and this blog should help you to get the most out of your visit.
Sarlat la Canéda – History
Sarlat is the region’s capital of the Perigord Noir and in 1962 it was lucky enough to become the trial town of a new law called the ‘loi Malraux’. This law set about protecting the heritage of French towns. Money was provided to restore Sarlat’s fine buildings and it now has the highest density of ‘Historic Monuments’ and ‘Classified Monuments’ of any town in France. Sarlat is now classified as a ‘Town of Art and History’ and as a ‘Plus Beaux Detour’ – a town meriting a visit for its beauty. The historic centre is also on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Classification.
Things to do in Sarlat
It’s well worth taking at least a morning to stroll through the narrow streets of the old town. These lead into the main square where you can enjoy a drink and marvel at the sights. There are plenty of guides and maps available which highlight the more important buildings. (Even the Tourist Office is located in a fine Gothic building with Renaissance windows.) Do take time just to soak up the atmosphere and imagine what life was like over the centuries. The beautiful honey-coloured buildings are a sight to behold. Head to the Rue de la Republique for a modern shopping experience.
Things to do in Sarlat – Enjoy the festivals
Visit Sarlat during the first couple of months of the year and you could find yourself amidst a major food festival. In January, Sarlat is the venue for a renowned truffle festival while in March it’s all about the goose as the Fest d’Oie takes place. There is a square dedicated to the goose (Place aux Oies) which was once the venue for a fowl market. Its history is commemorated by large bronze statues of geese!
Whit Sunday (which can fall in March, April or May) is the time of the Ringueta. This festival only takes place in even-numbered years and celebrates traditional sports and games of the Perigord.
During the summer months the festival focus is on the performing arts as the Sarlat Theatre Festival sees open air performances in various locations around the town. It’s one of the most important theatrical events in France.
If you are here in early November then you could catch the Festival du Film. This one week festival previews films from around the world.
Sarlat la Caneda market days
The main markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays and although colourful and vibrant they can make for heavy traffic in the peak summer months.
At the Saturday market in the city centre you will find all sorts of products. It runs from 8.30am to 6pm.
There is also a separate food market held on a Saturday morning. You will find it in Place de la Liberté from 8.30am to 1pm.
This is also the venue for a smaller food market on a Wednesday morning. Again, it starts at 8.30am and finishes at 1 pm.
A covered market at Place de la Liberté occurs;
In the low season, everyday (except on Thursday) 8.30am to 1pm
In the high season, everyday from 8.30am to 2pm. On Friday it runs from 9.30am to 8pm
For those lovers of organic food, be sure to catch the organic night market. This takes place from mid June to mid September in front of the Post Office. It’s on a Thursday from 6pm to 10pm.
Truffle and foie gras markets take place on a Saturday during December, January and February at Place Boissarie from 9am to 12 noon
If you love a good market, be sure to read our handy guide to Dordogne markets.
Food & Drink in Sarlat
Eating in Sarlat varies from a Michelin starred restaurant to some mediocre touristy venues.
There is a fantastic wine shop called Julien de Savignac (read our guide to Bergerac wine) and plenty of outlets for regional specialities.
Getting to Sarlat from Les Milandes
The journey between Milandes and Sarlat takes about 15 minutes. As you approach the river, you are greeted by four stunning Chateaux. Beynac and Castelnaud are both medieval and fortified and played a major role in the Hundred Years’ war, the south of the river being English for many years and slugging it out with the French on the other side. Beynac and Castelnaud are both interesting to visit with a museum of medieval armoury and torture at the latter.
Fayrac is privately owned but the Chateau de Marqueyssac is well worth visiting. In the summer you can picnic here by candlelight. It commands amazing views over the other chateaux and one of France’s « plus belle villages » – Roque Gageac. Here you can take a boat ride down the river on a « Gabarre » which used to transport salt and timber to Bordeaux.