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The main centre of Sarlat la caneda in France

A Weekend in Sarlat la Caneda in the Dordogne | Ultimate Guide

There are so many reasons to visit Sarlat la Caneda in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region of France. 

With its luscious rolling green hills and stunning countryside, it’s a little slice of paradise nestled in the well-known Dordogne area.

This medieval village is the capital of the Périgord Noir and is famous for its culinary delights including truffles, cheese and walnut wine.

Meander around the old streets drinking in the history, take a trip down the river or visit the nearby prehistoric caves. You’ll need to set aside a long weekend to really appreciate everything there is to see and do in Sarlat.

Planning a last minute trip to Sarlat and short on time?

Here are some of my favourite Sarlat tours, trips, hotels and more.

3 Great Tours & Experiences in Sarlat

Best Places to Stay in Sarlat

Car Hire

Table of Contents

What is Sarlat-la-canéda, France, known for?

What is Sarlat known for? In a word, truffles. But not the chocolate variety.

You see Sarlat-la-Canéda is located in the heart of the Périgord region, which is celebrated for its truffle production. 

And in case you were wondering, truffles are subterranean fungi that grow in harmony with the roots of certain trees, most notably oak and hazelnut. 

The truffles found here are primarily black truffles, also known as Périgord truffles. 

They possess a distinct and robust flavour, with hints of earthiness, musk, and garlic. Plus, they’re considered the most exquisite variety.

An old cart with barrels in the old town of Sarlat la caneda in the Dordogne in France

Truffle hunting in Sarlat-la-Canéda is deeply rooted in local tradition and culture. The truffle growers, also known as trufficulteurs, employ trained dogs or pigs to assist them in the search of these elusive treasures. 

It’s an age-old practice, passed down through generations, where the trufficulteur and their faithful companion, venture into the woods in search of the truffles.

In honour of this little black gastronomic delight, they hold a festival towards the end of February, beginning of March, every year.

The French love a good festival and they have numerous ones celebrating strawberries, garlic, turkeys, omelettes and more. 

This article about Food Festivals in France is worth a read if you want to know more.

The history of Sarlat

An old street in Sarlat la Caneda with the cathedral in the background

From its humble origins, it’s a living testament to centuries of history and cultural evolution.

It’s said that the town’s development can be traced back to the devout efforts of Benedictine monks from Calabre Abbey. They transported the sacred relics of Saint Sacerdos from Limoges to the site and that’s where it all began.

Once the town was able to govern itself and was no longer beholden to the church, its prosperity grew.

During the Hundred Years War it remained loyal to the King, however, the treaty of Bretigny in 1360 sees the entire Périgord region handed over to Edward III of England.

There were many ups and downs over the centuries and the relics of Saint Sacerdos were destroyed during a siege on the town by protestants in the 16th century.

The last big historical event to happen in the town was “La Fronde” when the town was again sieged and pillaged.

However, it got off relatively lightly during the revolution and has maintained its old-world charm for us to enjoy. So much so, that at night it’s lit using traditional gaslit lamps giving it a truly magical feel.

What to do in Sarlat-la-canéda

When you first visit Sarlat it’s almost like stepping onto a movie set. It doesn’t seem possible that you’re in the 21st century anymore.

Wander through the streets of the old town of Sarlat

An old backstreet in Sarlat in the Dordogne in the Nouvelle Aquitaine

The village is split in half by the Rue de la République, which is now the main shopping street in Sarlat.

Give yourself time to drink in the history, and wonder at the old buildings, some with Rapunzelesque conical towers attached to them. 

I think I could quite literally spend a morning just taking pictures of all the buildings as they take your breath away. You get a very real glimpse into what life would have been like 500 years ago.

There are plenty of artisan shops and cafes for you to enjoy full of character and charm.

I’d be surprised if you didn’t fall in love with this town very quickly, I certainly did.

Sarlat Panoramic Elevator in Sainte Marie Church

An old church facade with a big steel grey door

Possibly the pièce de résistance is the panoramic elevator behind the old church of Saint Mary. 

Now the church, which dates back to the 14th century, was damaged quite extensively during the French Revolution and was completely abandoned in 1794.

Luckily, Jean Nouvel, an architect living in Sarlat came to the rescue and renovated it. And now, it’s not only home to a covered market but also a wonderful elevator, that transports you to the top of the church for you to look out over the countryside.

Going up 35 metres you have a 360° panoramic view which quite literally takes your breath away.

It’s open from April 1 – November 1, weather permitting, and there’s a guide to point out all the attractions you can see from the top.

Canoe on the Dordogne River

The town of Beynac in the Dordogne overlooking the river

There’s nothing like a leisurely punt down the river for taking in the scenery and making you feel relaxed.

You can take it at your own pace and enjoy seeing the chateaux as you pass by. 

Click here to hire a canoe or kayak and cruise down the Dordogne >>>

The Lantern of the Dead

An old building shaped like a rocket in the town of Sarlat in the Dordogne

This unusual looking monument was built back in 1147 to commemorate the visit of Saint Bernard, a founder of the Cistercian order of monks. It looks a bit like a rocket, which is strange considering how long it’s stood there for.

It was during this visit, after returning from the Crusades, that he performed the famous miracle, “loaves which cured”, convincing the townspeople that God existed.

Discover the bike paths

Two people on bikes cycling through a wood with the sun shining through

Sarlat is the perfect starting point for following the many bike paths there are in the region. You have about 50 km of trails to choose from which sit on what were the original train tracks. 

And of course, you don’t need to worry about the traffic either as it’s a completely car-free zone.

There’s nothing better than taking in the breathtaking scenery on a leisurely bike ride. Just don’t forget to pack a picnic.

You can hire bikes from Liberty Cycles.

Saint-Sarcedos Cathedral

An old cathedral in the town of Sarlat in the Dordogne region of France

The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Sacerdos, the revered bishop of Limoges, whose relics were brought to Sarlat-la-Canéda by Benedictine monks in the 12th century.

It’s a blend of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles with its biggest feature being the bell tower standing at around 66 metres. 

Like many historical monuments in France, it’s undergone a lot of renovation and updating.

It’s an imposing building, worth a look both inside and out.

Manoir de Gisson

One of the old rooms in the medieval building of Manoir de Gisson in Sarlat-la-canéda

Recently opened to the public, you’ll find it on Place du Marché aux Oies, the Goose market square.

This square was once a hive of activity with lots of trading taking place. Now, you’ll see a statue of three geese in the middle of the square.

If you enjoy visiting a place and transporting yourself back in time then Manoir de Gisson should be top of your list.

As you go in you’ll enter via the vaulted basement where you’ll find a collection of curiosities. The society in the Renaissance period were keen collectors and loved to collect things traveller bought back from their trips overseas. 

The private apartments in the building offer you a glimpse into the life of the Gisson family going as far back as the Middle Ages.

The Great Drawing Room has some lovely period pieces of furniture and has featured in a few film sets, along with many of the streets in Sarlat. 

Other rooms you’ll see include Boudoire de Madame, a room where the lady of the house would receive her guests. Also the maids’ room, kitchen and smoking room

The Episcopal Palace

A very old stone building in the square at Sarlat in the Dordogne

Originally the bishop’s palace, which replaced the Abbot’s house in the 14th century, this building is a real mixture of styles. 

It’s had many uses over the years including a covered market, theatre and town hall. Now the tourist office is located there.

Présidial de Sarlat

An old restaurant building in the village of Sarlat la caneda in the Dordogne

Now a lovely restaurant this building used to house the 17th-century court and prior to the French Revolution operated as a prison.

The prisoners would be held in cells in the basement waiting for transfer to whatever fate awaited them.

The building itself has a lantern structure on the roof and you can see how imposing it would have been all those years ago.

The Food Market in Sarlat

The weekly market in the square in Sarlat in the Dordogne

One of the biggest and most popular food markets in the region you’d be advised to get there early to avoid the crowds. 

Held on a Wednesday and Saturday between 8 am – 1 pm you’ll find it on Place de la Liberté.

The Wednesday market is smaller and features more local produce but the Saturday market is the one that draws in the crowds.

Depending on what’s in season you’ll find truffles, foie gras, nuts, duck confit and mushrooms, amongst other things.

There is also the covered market in Old Sainte Marie Church on Place de la Liberté which is held all year round, a bio night market held every Thursday and the truffle market December – February.

Sarlat Christmas Market is also worth a visit as one of the largest in Aquitaine with over 70 stalls. It brings a whole different meaning to Medieval Christmas.

What to do near Sarlat, France

Being situated in the Dordogne there are plenty of things to do both in Sarlat itself and within a 30-minute drive.

Marqueyssac Gardens

Beautiful gardens with boxed hedges at Marqueyssac Castle

Currently the most visited garden in the South West of France the Marqueyssac Gardens transport you to Italy, the country that inspired the design.

The gardens surround an 18th-century chateau which was built on the eve of the French Revolution.

The uniformity of the boxwood hedges is just lovely and you can follow them around letting them take you on their path of discovery.

There are over 6 km of pathways lined with greenery, rockeries and water fountains. 

The whole thing sits on top of a rocky spur giving fantastic views of the Dordogne.

For opening times click here >>>

If you really want to experience all that Sarlat and the market have to offer this tour is perfect. Your guide will take you all around the streets of the town telling you about the history, stopping off for some tastings of the local delicacies and seeing some of the old buildings that line the streets.

Beynac and Domme are officially classified in the list of the most beautiful villages in France, “Plus Beaux Villages de France”. On this tour, you’ll get to enjoy walking around both villages as well as a boat ride on the river.

Immerse yourself in the history of Beynac as you visit the Medieval castle sat on top of the hillside. You’ll also tour the prehistoric caves and see how people survived during this time and see the cave paintings dating back over 30,000 years.

This half-day tour of some of the best spots in the Dordogne will take you on a private tour of  Beynac Castle belonging to Richard the Lionheart, son of Eleanor of Aquitaine. You’ll also visit La Roque Gageac on the cliffs of the Dordogne, the hilltop village of Domme, and the medieval village of Montfort.

The best local food in Sarlat

Truffles on a wooden board with a knife and some truffle shavings

This region is full of gastronomic delights from truffles to walnuts and a trip to Sarlat is not complete without trying at least some of what’s on offer.

Périgord Black Truffles

Known as “the black diamond” these truffles have a very earthy taste reminiscent of the undergrowth and can be as big as an apple. Dogs are used to dig up the truffles, although it used to be pigs.

Fraise du Périgord

There are six different varieties of Périgord strawberries and to be classed as such they have to meet pretty strict criteria regarding size, shape, colour and more. 

Noix du Périgord

The Dordogne is a big producer of walnuts in France and it has been a huge part of the farming history in this region. There are four main varieties grown and harvested here.

Périgord Foie Gras

The best type of foie gras is “foie gras entier” which you’ll find at one of the many Marchés au gras, duck or goose markets, in the Dordogne.

Cabécou of Périgord

This soft goat’s milk cheese is synonymous with this region. In order to be classed as Cabécou of Périgord the cheese must be produced in Périgord using goat’s milk from a Périgord goat.

What to drink in Sarlat - the best local produce

Local beers at Sarlat le caneda

The French love Apéro time and I’ve certainly taken very well to the tradition. It’s a time of the day when you down tools and enjoy a tipple of something you fancy.

Walnut Wine

An apéro that is widely celebrated in this region is walnut wine.

It’s a liqueur-style wine made by macerating green walnuts in alcohol, typically a neutral spirit such as brandy, along with various herbs, spices, and sugar. The mixture is then aged for several weeks or months to allow the flavours to develop.

La Trappe distillery in Sarlat produces Walnut wine and you can find out more here >>>

Lapouge Pastis

Pastis is another popular French drink and Distillerie du Périgord, founded in 1860 by Émile Lapouge, have their own brand, Lapouge Pastis.

The distillery is in Sarlat and if you fancy a visit to try some for yourself then find out more here >>>

Sarlat Brewed Beer

If you’re more of a beer kinda person then you’re in luck. Sarlat have their own brewery, Roc Mol Brewery where the beer is 100% artisinal. Find out more here >>>

Where to stay in Sarlat

You’re spoilt for choice in Sarlat for places to stay. It really comes down to whether you prefer to stay in full luxury with everything taken care of, or if you prefer a more relaxed approach where you cater for yourself and eat out at the many wonderful restaurants on offer.

Located just 200 m from the town centre of Sarlat this hotel is perfectly positioned for a weekend of exploring. It’s set in a lovely old building but with modern amenities. With 23 rooms and 5 suites it’s full of character and perfect for a weekend getaway.

This boutique 4 star hotel is right in the centre of Sarlat. Each room has views of the historic part of the town and for those hot summer days they even have an outdoor pool for guests to cool off. They even have a gluten-free option for breakfast, which doesn’t come as standard in France in the smaller more rural areas

If you prefer the idea of a B&B then Le Lys Dort is perfect. A short walk from the centre they offer continental and vegetarian breakfast on the terrace, weather permitting.With it’s beautiful stone walls and exposed beams it really allows you to feel part of Sarlat’s history.

If it’s flexibility and freedom you’re looking for then this gite has you covered. Set in the centre of Sarlat you’ll have great views of the town and be able to walk to all the attractions. Beautifully decorated it has a lovely cosy feel to it and with one bedroom, a lounge and kitchen you’ll have everything you need.

Where to eat in Sarlat

Outdoor tables and chairs with red tablecloth set up outside in France

La Petite Borie

Sarlat’s oldest restaurant. This is where the locals go and it’s a hidden gem that isn’t easy to find down one of the back streets near the town hall on Rue Tourny. 

Le Présidial

A little pricier but the food is excellent and of course, you have all the history that goes with this building to accompany your food. You can sit outside in the lovely garden terraces.

Le Saint Julhian

Away from the hustle and bustle of the main square the food is good and reasonably priced. If you can, sit under the trees and dine outside.

Auberge Le Mirandol

We had a great meal here and to my delight, they have a cave at the back of the restaurant you can visit after you’ve eaten.  Find out more >>>

Getting to Sarlat-la-canéda, France

By Air

You have four airports within easy reach of Sarlat with the biggest being Bordeaux. However, it’s worth trying the smaller airports such as Bergerac, Périgueux, and Brive–Souillac. They have regular flights and are often quite cheap.

By Train

Sarlat has its own train station and you connect from the more major stations such as Limoges, Bergerac and Bordeaux.

By Car

If you’re planning to visit surrounding towns in the region then hiring a car and driving is a good option. We recommend Discover Cars.

From Bergerac, it’s approx 80 km

From Bordeaux, it’s approx 210 km

Conclusion: A Weekend in Sarlat la Caneda

Should you visit Sarlat la Caneda? Absolutely you should.

There is so much to do and see from the history to the gastronomy Sarlat really does have it all. A picture book village that is easily the most Instagramworthy village I’ve ever been to.


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About Me

I’m Kylie….

And I live in the beautiful Charente region of France having made the move back in 2016, and I’ve never looked back.

Now, I’m sharing everything I’ve learned about living in rural France. From visiting wineries & chateaux to negotiating French admin and learning the language.


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🏨 Accommodation – I use Booking.com

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