10 Must-visit Gems To Immerse Yourself in Historic Dordogne
If you thought our French holiday home rentals were suited purely to those who want a lazy break away, think again. While I relish the chance to escape and do nothing much but soak up the sunshine, what I love about the Dordogne is there’s so much to uncover! No matter how ready-to-relax we’re feeling, it’s hard to resist a venture to take in the historic charm of the region. Here’s a look at the gems worth considering on your trip:
Bergerac Old Town
Situated on the northern bank of Dordogne River, look out for the signs for ‘Vieille Ville’ if you want to discover the old town of Bergerac. Here you will find both the 12th Century Old Cloister, Maison de Vins de Bergerac (home to the Bergerac wine exhibition!) and the half-timbered Medieval designs on Rue St Clar. Each ready to take you straight back to a time long gone.
If walking through the Medieval street warrens of Bergerac isn’t your thing, make sure you seek out the beauty of Monpazier. This stunning French town was founded by Edward I in 1284; Monpazier is home to a mix of Medieval, Classical, and Bourgeoise architecture and has a historic market hall complete with the original weighing and measuring equipment used on it's establishment. Step inside and vividly imagine the olden hustle and bustle, order a coffee and watch the world go by.
Hanging Gardens Of Jardins De Marqueyssac
Chateau de Marqueyssac was built in the 17th century at Vezac, Dordogne. But it wasn’t until the 1860’s that new owner, Julien de Cervel, chose to plant and carve thousands of boxwood trees – creating an eccentric landscape of rounded hedges. History books say the garden lost its appeal during the centuries (read: lost its attentive gardeners!) and it wasn’t until the 90s it was restored with a water feature. It is simply stunning and a must for any green fingered enthusiasts.
13th Century Hilltop Domme
History buffs and avid ramblers, make a point of visiting the enchanting fortified town of Domme with its cliffside promenade and breath-taking views across the Dordogne valley. You’ll also find a 17th century covered market hall and historic wall carvings at the gate towers. An interesting spot for history-reluctant youngsters who love graffiti at home!
More ancient wall art can be found at the famous Lascaux caves. These Palaeolithic cave paintings are thought to be around 20,000 years old. Featuring large animals once found in the Dordogne region. A true bucket list visit.
Château de Bridoire
Located in the heart of the vineyards of Monbazillac, Château de Bridoire is 12 km south of Bergerac and only 20 minutes from our beautiful La Verger villa. The château is open for visitors in which you can wander the historic furnished receptions rooms, preserved kitchens (complete with gleaming copper pans) and vast living room with knights in armour! In the château’s garden, discover the medieval games which both children and grown-ups will love. Or immerse yourself in the labyrinth forest, a two-hour walk with puzzles and conundrums along the way – a favourite spot my boys never tire of.
Nestled at the foot of a ragged cliff, picturesque La Roque-Gageac looks like a model village from a far. Arguably one of the most beautiful villages in France, you’ll be able to capture postcard perfect holiday snaps as you stroll the line of golden yellow houses upon the river. One of the best ways to see this town is by boat or canoe. A brilliant family day out and if you take a picnic you can stop along the way and enjoy the views. Look up the cliffside and see the troglodyte fort if you want to go further back in time!
Issigeac is another medieval highlight. Always particularly popular on a Sunday morning, this village hosts one of the best markets in the area, especially for fresh produce. So take your wicker baskets! In July and August, there is also a Marché nocturne (their fabulous night market) held every Thursday from 7pm. And if that’s not enough, Issigeac is home to the Foire aux Paniers et à la Vannerie (a willow weaving festival held in July, where you can buy baskets, gorgeous ornaments, and plants for the garden) and Medieval Day (August) a parade where locals dress in medieval clothing and entertain the crowds with the likes of jugglers and street theatre.
Château de Castelnaud
Find a spot to perch and take in the grandeur of Château de Castelnaud, Dordogne’s most famous Chateau. If you’ve got the kids in tow, they’ll love to pretend they’re Knights & Crusaders as you march around the defences and see the replica trebuchets which are often in demonstration firing various items from cabbages to balls.
Another glorious stop-off just a few kilometres north of the River Dordogne is Sarlat-la-Canéda (or just Sarlat if you’re a local). Wander the winding Rue des Consuls, pass the south-eastern Cathedral, and enjoy the Place de Payrou. Time your visit nicely and there’s no better spot for a breakfast coffee; as early morning sunshine hits the yellow sandstone buildings expect to see the town at its finest. It’s the perfect illustration of Dordogne’s enchanting history – and a great example of why we love it here!