The Most Beautiful Dordogne Villages
Dordogne villages are the quintessential essence of France. The Dordogne conjures up a dreamy image of picturesque rural France, idyllic rustic farmhouses, and creamy stone houses surrounded by rolling green hills. Medieval castles dot the landscape and life moves in time with the leisurely flow of its rivers and streams.
We were lucky enough to call the Dordogne home for 9 months and adapted to village life rather easily in a tiny Dordogne village called Villars, (pronounced Ville -arr).
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Quick Overview: Best Villages in Dordogne
Map of Dordogne Villages
To use this Dordogne Villages Map:
- Expand it using the square symbol on the top right-hand side and you will find the key on the left-hand side.
- The purple icons are the Dordogne Villages and the green icons are additional attractions to see in the Dordogne.
Where is the Dordogne?
The Dordogne area is in south-western France. However, when we talk about where exactly the Dordogne is, things can get a little confusing.
If you want to skip to the best Dordogne villages to visit, click here.
It’s not easy to get your head around the various regions and departments in France, as the old and new names are used interchangeably and can be confusing to a visitor.
Since the beginning of 2016, France has been divided into 13 official regions.
One of those 13 regions, the one we are mainly interested in, for the sake of this article on villages in the Dordogne, is the Nouvelle- Aquitaine region.
Each region contains a variety of ‘Departments – The Nouvelle- Aquitaine region contains 12 Departments
One of those 12, is the Dordogne Department
That seems simple enough. And it would be if all Dordogne villages were in the Dordogne Department. But let me go on …
Departments are further divided up into arrondissements, cantons and communes … oh and prefectures and subprefectures – but thank goodness we don’t need to delve too far into that!
Each Dordogne village, town or city is a commune but, and this is where the labelling of the ‘Dordogne’ gets tricky, what is called a ‘Dordogne village’ isn’t necessarily a village /commune in the department of Dordogne or even in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region.
‘Dordogne villages’ are also in, for example, the Occitanie region. This is because the Dordogne river and thus the Dordogne Valley pass through that region.
These distinctions can be very confusing for the Dordogne newcomer, especially when booking accommodation – are you staying in the Dordogne or not? In reality, it’s really just a case of semantics, with a touch of complicated french administration thrown in for good measure, because the whole area around the Dordogne River is beautiful and worth exploring.
In conclusion, and to put it as simply as possible, these Dordogne villages, towns and cities are found in the Dordogne department and in the Dordogne Valley (which crosses other departments of France).
More on the ‘Dordogne Department‘
In the past, the Dordogne region was known as the Périgord. Today, locals refer to the areas surrounding the capital of the Dordogne department, Perigueux, using the old name of ‘le Perigord’.
In fact, the Dordogne/Perigord region is further divided into four natural areas:
- Perigord Vert (Green) – north (Capital: Nontron)
- Perigord Blanc (white) – the centre of the region (Capital: Perigueux)
- Perigord Noir (Black) – south-east (Capital:Sarlat)
- Perigord Pourpre (Purple) – south-west (Capital: Bergerac)
Delightful Dordogne Villages and Towns to Visit
Bourdeilles is a small medieval town situated on the Dronne, a northern Dordogne River. The two main attractions here are the Chateau de Bourdeille and Bourdeilles’ charming stone bridge that was originally built in the 14th century but had to be rebuilt in the 18th century following severe floods.
The bridge is extremely picturesque, not only by its unusual shape but also because as the river flows under it swathes of emerald green mossy plants near the surface add to the visual.
Bourdeilles Bridge over the River Dronne
Bourdeilles in the Dordogne
The chateau, built on a rocky outcrop, is listed as a historical monument and dates back to the 12th century. It was closed when we were there but you can get access to small gardens and at the top of the village is a great viewpoint over the river.
View across the bridge to the Château de Bourdeilles in the background
Brântome has to be one of the prettiest and most photogenic of the Dordogne villages. The Dronne River flows through its centre and the Benedictine Abbey, Brantome Abbey, flanked by wooded slopes looks on grandly. A charming old stone bridge crosses the river beside an old working mill (now a restaurant) that adds to this idyllic picture.
The old mill in Brantome
A market is held here every Friday and you will see Brantome filled with traditional French cuisine and colours of the Perigord. You’ll find local fare of le Perigord – paté de foie gras, walnuts and truffles. Depending on the season, you’ll likely see many chestnuts for sale – which grow prolifically in the region. And of course the classic French strings of garlic.
You can walk alongside the river between weeping willows and catch glimpses of the brightly coloured shutters on the pretty stone houses on the opposite side of the river.
This tiny Dordogne village was home for nine months and I must admit this little piece of the Dordogne holds a special place in my heart. Just 10 minutes from St. Jean de Cole, and 20 minutes to Brantome this was the perfect retreat in Rural France.
There are several things to see close by and if you are looking for somewhere to stay – I know just the perfect little gite run by the lovely Eliane.
Just up the road from the village centre is the Chateau de Puyguilhem. Built in the Renaissance style, this chateau, reminiscent of the Loire Valley Chateaux, is classified as a historical monument. You can wander the grounds and you can also take a guided tour of the chateau.
Chateau de Puyguilhem, Villars
Additionally, just a little bit further outside the village, you’ll arrive at the Boschaud Abbey ruins. This Cistercian Abbey ruins are classified as a historical monument and free to explore.
The ruins host various cultural events in the year.
Boschaud Abbey, Villars, Dordogne
St. Jean de Cole
Another of the most beautiful villages in Dordogne is St. Jean de Cole, a medieval village dating back to the 11th century. The attractive village square is the epicentre and to one side is the 12th-century Chateau de la Marthonie and on the other side is the Byzantine church of St Jean Baptist which was built in the 12th century.
St. Jean de Cole, Dordogne
The village has also been awarded the iconic French award of being one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France. This award was established in 1982 and small rural villages with a rich cultural heritage are judged on their tourist appeal and the measure they are taking in their tourism planning.
Autumn colours in St. Jean de Cole
There is a gorgeous little bridge – that is called the Donkey Bridge which spans the river Côle near the edge of the village.
If you are visiting St. Jean de Cole in early May then you mustn’t miss Les Floralies, a popular flower festival which attracts several thousand visitors. The village is festooned with flowers and exhibitors share their passion with all things floral.
Perigueux, although not very pretty to look at on its outskirts, has a historic centre which is worth a visit. Here you’ll find the Cathedrale Saint-Front with its attractive cloisters surrounded by medieval houses and inviting boulevards to stroll along.
Perigueux, capital of the Dordogne
Rocamadour is a medieval mix of houses, churches and chapels built into the cliff face above the Alzou Canyon. From a distance, it looks like a set of a magical Disney film.
The fairytale scene of Rocamadour from a distance
Listed as a UNESCO Heritage site, its ancient, arched gateways lead you on to its one street, Rue de la Couronnerie, and passed olde-world shops and cafes. You’ll then encounter the numerous steps which bring you to another level housing eight chapels. The most famous of which is the Notre-Dame chapel (sometimes known as the miracles chapel), which is home to a statue of the Black Virgin dating from the 12th century.
Rocamadour is an important pilgrimage site and in the past centuries, pilgrims arriving here would climb the steps on their knees.
The main street of Rocamadour
Rocamadour Village in the Dordogne
Close to this Dordogne village, you’ll surprisingly find the Rocamadour Monkey Sanctuary. (fôret des singes). Not perhaps the place you would expect to find a sanctuary for Barbary Macaques (indigenous to Morocco and Algeria). But here you can wander alongside these monkeys which are part of a conservation program to combat the endangerment of this species.
Sarlat la Caneda
Sarlat La Caneda
Sarlat is a popular medieval town in the Perigord Noir region of the Dordogne. The best thing to do here is to wander the maze of old narrow streets through the old centre of town which will transport you back to the middle ages.
Many of Sarlat’s buildings have been restored and it has the highest density of ‘Historic Monuments’ and ‘Classified Monuments’ of any town in France.
La Roque Gageac
La Roque Gageac, Dordogne
Just about 8km from Sarlat is the picturesque Dordogne village of Le Roque Gageac. Yet another of the most beautiful villages in France.
We visited on a rainy day and yet still its charm shone through – as did the sun just a couple of times amongst the showers. Interestingly, the street climbing the hill behind the charming ochre-coloured houses on the main street takes on an exotic feel with banana trees, palms bamboo and lining its route.
Marqueyssac Gardens, near La Roque Gageac
A must-see when visiting the Dordogne village of La Roque Gageac is the magnificent Marqueyssac Gardens.
Set on chalky limestone cliffs, these gorgeous gardens overlook the Dordogne valley. Filled with verdant hand clipped boxwood hedges and woodland paths this is a perfect place to idle away an hour or two. Top it off with tea and cake at Tearooms overlooking the valley.
Visiting Dordogne Villages – Summary
Whichever villages you visit in the Dordogne I’m sure will delight but these we have mentioned are definite winners in our books.
The relaxed pace of life in the Dordogne is relaxed and it is here that you will get a true sense of quintessential French rural life.
If you have any questions or have a favourite Dordogne village, please leave a comment below to share with our readers.
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