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 French village life rather easily in a tiny Dordogne village called Villars, (pronounced Ville -arr). So we were in the perfect place to explore the towns in the Dordogne region.
Read on for information about :
- The best villages to visit in Dordogne France.
- Where is the Dordogne?
- Where to stay in the Dordogne
- Dordogne Villages FAQS
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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
From medieval castles to quaint market squares, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this delightful part of the country.
The Dordogne River meanders through the region, adding to the beauty and charm of the landscape. Whether you are a history buff, a food lover, or simply seeking a tranquil retreat, the Dordogne has it all.
Whether you explore the beautiful towns in Dordogne or escape to the peaceful countryside and small villages of Dordogne, this area offers a variety of options for a memorable vacation.
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.
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.
A great viewpoint over the river is at the top of the village.
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.
A local market is held here every Friday, and you will see Brantome filled with traditional French cuisine and the 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.
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.
This tiny Dordogne village of Villars was our 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 from 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.
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.
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 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.
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 Floralies, a popular flower festival that attracts several thousand visitors. During the festival, the village is festooned with flowers and exhibitors share their passion for all things floral.
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.
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.
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.
Close to this Dordogne village, you’ll 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 the species.
7. SARLAT LA CANEDA
Sarlat-la-Canéda, often referred to as simply 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.
Here are some reviews by visitors who took this tour:
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Beautiful tour! Gave a great overview of the region! — Michael_G, June 2023
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A Wonderful Excursion in the Dordogne Valley — Eileen_M, Oct 2022
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Wonderful itinerary, exceptional guide Martin — Johngerardallison, Jul 2022
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
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.
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.
When we were there, we topped off our visit to the Marqueyssac Gardens with tea and cake at the Tearooms overlooking the valley.
Another charming village in the Dordogne is Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne. Since 2021, the village has been added to the list of being one of the most beautiful villages in France.
You’ll find this beautiful part of France, on the banks of the Dordogne River, in the Upper Dordogne Valley. The luscious green banks overlooking the Dordogne are the perfect place to enjoy a picnic or take a canoe and paddle up the river.
In the main square, you’ll find the Abbaye Saint-Pierre. Once a Benedictine Abbey, in the 9th century, the church is most known for its 7 ft stone carving above the door. The carving depicts Christ’s resurrection, with an image of Christ surrounded by the 12 apostles.
Another attraction of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne is its strawberries. More than ten different varieties are produced in this region in France, with its most famous being the gariguette strawberry, the emblem of the town.
In fact, the village holds an annual Strawberry Festival on the 2nd Sunday of May and produces a massive strawberry tart.
For details of a multi-media tour around the village, visit the Tourist Office at Marbot Place (see map above).
With its enchanting ambience, historical landmarks, and natural beauty, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne is undoubtedly a delightful village worth visiting in the Dordogne region of France.
On the far western reaches of the Dordogne, on the northern banks of the Dordogne River is one of the most famous towns in France, Saint-Emilion. If you are a lover of wine, you have no doubt heard of this charming medieval town.
Saint-Emilion is known for its historic architecture, picturesque streets, and world-class vineyards, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The town’s architectural highlights include the Monolithic Church, which was carved out of a limestone cliff in the 12th century, the remains of an ancient Romanesque church and a 53-metre bell tower.
Most of all though, St-Emilion is known for its prestigious vineyards and producing some of the finest wines in the Bordeaux region. Wine enthusiasts can explore the numerous chateaux and wineries, participate in tastings, and learn about the winemaking process.
The surrounding area is dotted with vineyards, rolling hills, scenic walking trails and stunning views of the Dordogne River. It’s the perfect place to visit in the Dordogne Valley, especially for wine lovers.
🍷 Saint Emilion Day Trip with Sightseeing & Wine Tastings
⏰ 8 hours | ⭐️ Rating: 5/5 | Book Here
Here are some reviews by visitors who took this tour:
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Excellent Guide, Beautiful Scenery, Great Wine – MichaelL_S, June 2023
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Highly recommend – even on a rainy day! – Elisabeth_H, June 2023
12. BEYNAC – ET – CAZENAC
Beynac-et-Cazenac and its imposing medieval castle, Chateau de Beynac sits on one side of the Dordogne River, while the Chateau de Castelnaud and the Chateau de Feyrac sit on the other.
We could see Castle Beynac across the Dordogne River when visiting the Marqueyssac Gardens. Dating back to the 12th century, it is considered one of the most well-preserved and authentic castles in the region. Richard the Lionheart ( the king of England from 1189 until his death in 1199), conquered the castle by scaling the cliff from below.
Overall, Beynac-et-Cazenac and its neighbouring castles offer a unique glimpse into medieval history and architecture in the heart of the Dordogne region.
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 Dordogne towns and villages, 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, 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)
What is The Best Time to Visit the Dordogne?
The best time to visit the Dordogne region in France is during the spring (April to June) and Autumn (September to November) seasons. During these months, the temperatures are mild and there are fewer crowds compared to the peak tourist season in summer.
Additionally, spring is a great time to see the area burst into bloom.
Autumn brings stunning autumn foliage, and harvest festivals, making it a delightful time to explore the charming villages, castles, and vineyards of the Dordogne.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE DORDOGNE
You will find accommodation all over the Dordogne – from small gites owned by locals in rural areas to bed and breakfast venues and hotels.
Popular Dordogne villages and towns to stay in are:
We’d recommend staying in Sarlat-la-Caneda because it’s centrally located and one of the prettiest Dordogne villages.
Here are some of the best-reviewed places to stay in Sarlat:
Best B&B in Sarlat-la-Caneda
✔️ Cooked Breakfast
✔️ Exceptional Reviews
Le Petit Manoir
Best Boutique Hotel in Sarlat-la-Caneda
✔️ In the centre of Sarlat
✔️ Buffet, continental or gluten-free breakfast
Gite Le Vélo Rouge
Cosy gite in Sarlat-la-Caneda
✔️ Spacious apartment
✔️ Terrace with mountain views
Dordogne Towns and Villages FAQS
The prettiest village in the Dordogne has many contenders. However, the most popular and picturesque villages in the Dordogne include Sarlat-la-Canéda, Domme, Roque Gageac, Brantôme, Rocamadour and St-Jean-de-Côle.
The Dordogne region in France is known for its stunning landscapes, charming villages full of beautiful stone houses, and rich historical heritage. It is difficult to single out one specific part as the most beautiful, but some of the most popular and visually appealing areas in the Dordogne include those in the Dordogne Valley. Specific towns and villages include Sarlat-la-Canéda, Domme, Roque Gageac, Brantôme, Rocamadour, Beynac-et-Cazenac and St-Jean-de-Côle.
The main town in the Dordogne region in France is Périgueux, the capital of the Dordogne.
The best base for exploring the Dordogne region in France depends on personal preferences and the specific attractions or activities you plan to do. However, Sarlat-la-Canéda is often considered one of the most popular and convenient bases because it is centrally located.
VISITING DORDOGNE VILLAGES … That’s a Wrap
There is a relaxed pace of life in the villages of Dordogne and it is here that you will get a true sense of quintessential French rural life.
While these are just a few of the beautiful towns in the Dordogne, they are undoubtedly winners in our books.
Allow yourself to be charmed by the beauty, history, and unique atmosphere each village has to offer, and you will surely have an unforgettable experience in this stunning region.
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