9 of the Most Delightful Dordogne Villages to Visit in France

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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 nine months and adapted to village life rather easily in a tiny Dordogne village called Villars, (pronounced Ville -arr).

Read on for information about :

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.

DELIGHTFUL DORDOGNE VILLAGES AND TOWNS TO VISIT


1. BOURDEILLES

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.

This interestingly designed bridge was originally built in the 14th century but had to be rebuilt in the 18th century following severe floods. 

The Bourdeille bridge is extremely picturesque. It not only has an unusual shape but as the river flows under it, swathes of emerald green mossy plants, just under the surface, melt into the river’s flow. A serene image as if it’s a moving watercolour painting.

Bourdeilles Bridge Dordogne
Bourdeilles Bridge over the River Dronne
River with willow trees along and in it
Bourdeilles in the Dordogne

The Bourdeilles Chateau, built on a rocky outcrop at the top of the town, is listed as a historical monument and dates back to the 12th century.

Unfortunately, it was closed when we were there but you can access its small gardens. Here, a great viewpoint over the river is at the top of the village.

Arched bridge over a river next to a town
View across the bridge to the Château de Bourdeilles in the background

2. BRÂNTOME

Dordogne Village of Dordogne with river and abbey in view
Brantome, Dordogne

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.

Brantome Abbey
Brantome Abbey
Arched bridge over a river
Brantome bridge
the Dordogne Village of BrantomeBrantome
The old mill in Brantome

A local market is held here every Friday and you will see Brantome filled with traditional French cuisine and colours of the Perigord. Local foods of le Perigord include 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.

Brantome-Garlic
Brantome Garlic
Brantome-Bread
Brantome bread

You can walk alongside the river between weeping willows and catch glimpses of the brightly coloured quintessential French shutters on the grey stone houses along the river.

Brantome-bridge Dordogne
Beautiful Brantome

3. VILLARS

This tiny Dordogne village of Villars 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.

pink roses on a fence in Villars

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.

Elianes-Gite,-Villars with pool
Elianes-gite- with vines growing around windows
Elianes gite bedroom with double bed

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-Puyguillem-Villars
Chateau de Puyguilhem, Villars

Additionally, just a little bit further outside the village, you’ll arrive at the Boschaud Abbey ruins.

This Cistercian Abbey ruin is classified as a historical monument and is free to explore. The ruins also are used to host various cultural events during the year.

Abbey-de-Boschaud- sign
Abbey-de-Boschaud- roof in Villars
Abbey-de-Boschaud- Villars Dordogne
Boschaud Abbey, Villars, Dordogne

4. 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. To one side, is the 12th-century Chateau de la Marthonie, and on the other side is the Byzantine church of St Jean Baptist, built in the 12th century.

At one time, the chateaux belonged to the Marthonie family but they upgraded when they built the more lavish Chateau de Puyguilhem in Villars.

St. Jean de Cole Village with half-timbered house
St. Jean de Cole, Dordogne

St Jean de Cole 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 their tourism planning.

St.Jean-de-Cole Dordogne village view
Narrow laneways and medieval village houses in St Jean de Cole
autumn-colours-St-JEan-de-cole
Autumn colours in St. Jean de Cole
St Jean de Cole autumn colours
More autumn colours in St. Jean de Cole

There is a gorgeous little bridge near the edge of St.Jean de Cole village. Named the Donkey Bridge, its arches span the river Côle and date back to the 15th century.

If you are visiting St. Jean de Cole in early May then you mustn’t miss Les Floraliesa popular flower festival that attracts several thousand visitors. The village is festooned with flowers and exhibitors share their passion for all things floral.

5. PERIGUEUX

Perigueux, although not pretty to look at on its outskirts, has a historic centre which is worth a visit.

Here you’ll find the Cathedrale Saint-Front. Shaped in the form of a Greek Cross, with impressive domes, it is one of the largest in Southwest France. It is surrounded by Perigueux’s medieval houses and inviting boulevards.

Another local historical attraction is the Tower of Vesone. It is the only remaining part of a sacred temple dedicated to the goddess Vesunna, the ancient protector of the city. It is surrounded by gardens and the Vesunna Museum is nearby.

The Vesunna Museum houses the Roman origins of Périgueux, the remains of a large Gallo-Roman house, which is all now protected under glass.

Perigueux’s local delicacy includes its foie gras and truffles.

Perigueux photo
Perigueux, capital of the Dordogne

6. ROCAMADOUR

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.

Rocamadour town built into a hill
The fairytale scene of Rocamadour from a distance

Listed as a UNESCO Heritage site, its ancient, arched gateways lead you onto 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.

Rocamadour-street with bars and cafes
The main street of Rocamadour
Rocamadour-village
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.

Mother and baby Barbary Macaque

READ MORE: Monkeying Around in Rocamadour

7. SARLAT LA CANEDA

sarlat-la-caneda Dordogne Village
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.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the town hosts one of the biggest food markets in the Dordogne region. You can book a gourmet tour through the market tasting the regional specialties like foie gras, walnuts, and Monbazillac wine.

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. 

Several day tours operate from Sarlat, including a Dordogne Villages Half Day Tour.

This small group afternoon tour lasts for about 4 hours and covers some of Dordogne’s most photogenic landscapes. You visit the medieval town of Domme, the 12th-century caste of Beynac and take a ride along the Dordogne river aboard a traditional wooden Gabarre.

⭐️ Find out more or book this Half day tour of the Dordogne | ⏰ 4 hours | ⭐️ 4.5/5

Here are some reviews by visitors who took this tour:

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A Wonderful Excursion in the Dordogne Valley — Eileen_M, Oct 2022

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Charming villages and boat ride — Helen_S, Oct 2019

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Wonderful itinerary, exceptional guide Martin — Johngerardallison, Jul 2022

9. DOMME

La Porte des Tours, Domme, Dordogne

Directly south of Sarlat is the charming town of Domme, overlooking the Dordogne River. Honey-coloured houses line the flower-filled lanes of what was once a fortified town.

The city walls are still well preserved with three of the old fortified gates still standing. The Portes des Bos, the Portes des Lacombe and the most famous the Porte des Tours. This was where the Knight Templars were imprisoned from 1307 to 1318 and evidence of their graffiti still remains.

In Domme, you will also find the largest natural cave in the Périgord Noir, the Grotte de Domme. The entrance to the cave is at the Marketplace and the tour takes about 45 minutes.

9. LA ROQUE GAGEAC

La roque-gagneac
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.

France-Marqueyssac-
Marqueyssac Gardens, near La Roque Gageac
Peacock at Marqueyssac Gardens
Marqueyssac-Gardens-2

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 spend an hour or two.

Top off your visit to the Marqueyssac Gardens with tea and cake at Tearooms overlooking the valley.

BUT WHERE IS THE DORDOGNE?

The Dordogne area is in southwestern France. However, when we talk about where exactly the Dordogne is, things can get a little confusing.

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.

The Dordogne Region Explained


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).

Dordogne or Perigord?

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)

WHERE TO STAY IN THE DORDOGNE

You will find accommodation all over the Dordogne – from small gites owned by locals in rural areas, bed and breakfast venues, hotels and

Popular Dordogne villages and towns to stay in are:

Find local deals in the Dordogne with Booking.com here

VISITING DORDOGNE VILLAGES … That’s a Wrap

Whichever villages you visit in the Dordogne, I’m sure will delight you, 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.

Marqueyssac-Gardens 1

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For a more thorough list visit our Travel Resources page here.

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