This week, we virtually visited the most well-preserved medieval town of 14th-century France: Sarlat-la-Canéda (or simply Sarlat).
Located in the heart of Black Périgord, it is a French commune with a rich history and developed around the Benedictine abbey of Carolingian origin. It has the highest density of listed historical monuments and is adorned with Renaissance and Gothic mansions and car-free, picturesque alleys.
No wonder Sarlat is recognized as one of the most popular settings for historical films in France, featuring in Robert Hossein’s Les Miserables (1982), D’Artagnan(1978), and Luc Besson’s Joan of Arc (1999), amongst others.
Besides its architectural heritage, Sarlat also happens to be a gastronomic center, well-known for its ‘foie gras’ and truffles (more about that later).
Follow along as we take a 36-hour virtual trip to Sarlat-la-Canéda.
36 Hours in Sarlat-la-Canéda
9:00 AM: Birds-Eye-View of Sarlat
Vue Du Ciel is a panoramic glass elevator located in the bell tower of Church Sainte-Marie. In the elevator, you are treated to a ten-minute crash-course on the history of Sarlat.
Renovated by the famous architect, Jean Nouvel, who turned the bell tower into a modern look-out point, it is a perfect example of the synthesis between 14th-century architecture and contemporary design featuring honey-colored limestone, lauzé rooftops, picturesque courtyards, and squares.
10:00 AM: Samples at Sarlat Market
Sarlat Market is a tradition that began in medieval times and continues to be a popular attraction for both locals and visitors. It is held twice a week and offers a wide range of regional produce and goods.
Don’t miss out on the well-known delicacies, such as goose, duck, and walnuts. They also have gourmet goat cheese from the Rocamadour region and Bergerac wines on offer.
For serious foodies — Sarlat also holds an annual Truffle Festival in mid-January that is solely dedicated to truffle! Events that are held include truffle identification workshops, truffle-hunting demonstrations, and even meet-and-greets with truffle-growers.
11.00 AM: Learn the Secrets of Walnut Oil Production
After sampling the region’s produce at Sarlat Market, head to Les Noyeraies du Landers, where you can taste a variety of walnut oils and learn the secrets behind its production. Their one hour tour includes a chance to explore the 12-hectare orchard and see the equipment used to harvest the nuts.
12:00 PM: Cabinet of Curiosities
Located in the historic center of Sarlat in the Dordogne is Manoir de Gisson, regarded as one of the most beautiful medieval buildings in Sarlat that has only recently been opened to the public.
Manoir de Gisson’s entrance sits on Place du Marché aux Oies, which was formerly a trading spot for geese, as hinted by the elegant statue of three geese in the center of the square.
The manor itself consists of two separate buildings that are joined by a 13th-century tower. It is also interesting to point out that the stone (i.e. lauze) rooftops, though once very common, are incredibly rare today, due to the weight of the tiles.
On the outside, the building is adorned with beautiful mullioned windows, elegant door frames, and iron railings. Inside, visitors are greeted by a collection of curiosities that were once brought back by travelers. The collectibles range from plants and animals to cultural artifacts, but the most are the shrunken human heads that came with recipes on how to cook them!
The manor also gives a glimpse of the private apartment of the Gisson family, with furniture dating back to the Middle Ages, stone fireplaces, paneled walls, and tiled floors.
1:00 PM: Foie Gras
You cannot leave Sarlat without trying the famous foie gras and beef at Lescaleyrou.
Foie gras is a French specialty that has been around for centuries. Made of duck or goose liver, its deliciously rich and buttery flavor has given it the title as one of the most popular delicacies in French cuisine.
3:00 PM: River Cruise on the Gabarres
Just outside La Roque Gageac, you can enjoy a one hour cruise along the river on a traditional ‘gabarres’- a modern version of a flat-bottomed boat frequently used in the past.
As you board the boat, a crew of guides tell you about the local history and customs surrounding the cultural identity of the river.
The history of the village of La Roque-Gageac dates back to the year 849 when the Normans first arrived in Périgord. The village sits at the foot of the cliff where ancient forts were built by local villagers in order to protect themselves from Viking invasions.
7:00 PM: Sarlat Cathedral
Sarlat Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church built in 1317. Although the church has been redeveloped many times over the years, it encompasses a mix of styles including Roman and Gothic architecture.
8:00 PM: Baked Camembert and Other French Cheeses
End the day with an intimate meal at the small, family-owned restaurant, La Crémerie. Menu favorites include their baked Camembert cheese and their apple and berry crumble.
6.00 AM: Cycling along the Dordogne river
Start the second day by cycling along the Dordogne river. The Dordogne is located north of the Pyrénées and gets its name from the river that runs through it. As one of the most popular regions for cyclists, the Dordogne is boasts of miles of countryside scenery and quiet forest tracks.
11.00 AM: Les Jardins d’Eau
The beauty of Les Jardins d’Eau lies in its waterfalls, a variety of pools, calm waters, and the multitude of colorful flowers and lotuses. If you’re lucky you might be greeted by dragonflies.
1.00 PM: Lunch
2.00 PM: Adventure Time at AirParc
Stay active by heading to AirParc, which is 17km from Sarlat. AirParc is a mix between a leisure center and a climbing park that has giant wooden games, an ecological garden, and trails.
4.00 PM: Monkey’s Forest Park Tree Climbing
If you’re still feeling adventurous, head to Sarladais Acrobatic Park for exciting accrobranche courses for all ages. Activities range from exploring a 2km of tyrolean to various workshops in their adventure park.
On-site, the park also offers hammocks and delicious snacks that you can enjoy in their picnic area.
6.00 PM: The Marqueyssac Gardens
Next, head to the Marqueyssac gardens for a romantic stroll. Sitting above the Dordogne Valley, the Marqueyssac gardens feature beautifully manicured bushes and dreamy landscapes. Influenced by the Versailles gardens, this dreamy garden is made up of 150,000 hand-pruned boxwoods that delineate the roundabout walking paths.
To make your experience even more magical, visit the gardens on a summer Thursday night when the walking paths of the gardens are lit by hundreds of candles.
8.00 PM: Dinner at a Local Gem
Le Comptoir du Gout 24 is a local gem with artisan treats ranging from classics like ‘foie gras’ and ‘charcuterie’ to ‘fromage’.
A Timeless Treasure
Sarlat is undoubtedly one of the most charming medieval towns we have visited through our virtual travel series. With its golden cobblestone lanes, beautifully-preserved mansions, and mouth-watering delicacies, we can’t wait to spend 36 hours in Sarlat for real!
How to get there
Visitors can get to Sarlat-la-Canada by train or bus. Sarlat is at the end of the train line that runs through Bordeaux in the west. Car rentals are not available at the Souillac station, but there is the option at the previous station, Brive-la-Gaillarde, which is an hour's drive from Sarlat.
Where to stay
There are many places that visitors can stay that range from more budget-friendly options such as Les lumières de Sarlat, which is located in the historic center, to luxury options like Plaza Madeleine & Spa.
When to go
The best time to go is between May and September due to the pleasant weather and low rainfall.
Travelers to France must apply for a Schengen visa.
The official currency is the Euro.
The official language of Sarlat-la-Canada is French.
If you enjoyed reading this post, you might also like our virtual travels to Tuvalu, Liechtenstein, Turkmenistan, Vatican City, Tywyn, Riga, Khovd, Wulingyuan, Samoa, Madagascar, Beppu, Bishkek, Antequera, Niger, Vanuatu, and St. Kitts and Nevis.
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