The most beautiful villages of the Dordogne

The Dordogne is a majestic region, packed with magnificent castles, a generous gastronomy and charming villages, nestled in the most beautiful surroundings. Visiting the most beautiful villages of the Dordogne is like stepping back in time. We had the chance to house- and petsit in the Dordogne for 4 months, so we got to know the area pretty well. These are my favourite villages. Which one’s yours?

1. Monpazier

The bastide town of Monpazier is truly exceptional. It has remained virtually intact since its founding, back in 1284. Three of its six medieval gates are still intact and the ‘Place des Cornières’ couldn’t be more perfect, with its oak-pillared ‘halle’ and stone-built houses that seem frozen in time. Stroll through its narrow streets, wander under its arcades and discover the authenticity and simplicity that this medieval jewel has in store.

2. Beynac-Et-Cazenac

The village of Beynac-et-Cazenac is a must. This medieval pearl owes its ranking among the most beautiful villages in the Dordogne due to its location on the banks of the river and its castle, which proudly dominates the village and the valley. Climb up the hill along the cobbled streets and houses with slate roofs. It’s steep, but oh so worth it!

3. La Roque-Gageac

With its ochre-coloured houses sheltering under dramatically overhanging cliffs, La Roque-Gageac inevitably draws in the crowds and it can become pretty oppressive during summer, so try to visit early or off-peak season.  For the best views without the crowds, rent a kayak and paddle to the opposite riverbank or get on one of the traditional  ‘gabarres’ river boats.  Stroll through its maze of cobbled streets for gorgeous river views and don’t forget to take a walk in the tropical garden, complete with banana trees!

4. Castelnaud-La-Chapelle

Castelnaud should probably win the price for the most stunning castle-setting. Built on the slopes that dominate the river, you crisscross the alleys of the village to arrive at the medieval castle which will delight the entire family. Adults come for the views and the history, while children will have the time of their life imagining themselves as medieval knights.

5. Domme

Domme is situated 250m above sea level and sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Dordogne. Its strategic location offers an exceptional panorama over the valley and the river, making Domme one of the most beautiful villages of the Dordogne. After admiring the panorama on the Esplanade, stroll through the charming streets and alleys and look out for the ‘Porte des Tours’, the most preserved gateway into the medieval town, flanked by two round bastions. You may also want to check out the underground secrets of Domme, by visiting its natural caves that served as a refuge during the Hundred Years War.

6. Belvès

This lively and attractive bastide hilltop town is perfectly preserved. Start your visit at the ‘Place des Armes’, the original centre of the town. In the heart of the square, you’ll find the 15th century covered market.  Walk through the gateway into the surrounding streets that consist of medieval houses and what’s left of the ramparts. You can also visit the troglodytic dwellings cut into the medieval fortifications.

7. Molières

Probably the tiniest village, but one of my favourite ones and worth to drive up to, if only for the beautiful main square. Have a drink at the ‘Le Poquelin’ and while the afternoon away. It doesn’t get more idyllically French than that.

8. Limeuil

I’ll start by saying that Limeuil has one of the best river beaches, situated across from the main village. It’s a great place to watch the kayaks passing or just glimpse at the old town.  Limeuil is situated in a spectacular location at the confluence of the Dordogne and the Vézère rivers.  At the top of the village are the panoramic gardens. I visited  ‘Les Jardins de Marqueyssac’, so didn’t visit these, but they are said to offer beautiful views of the arch-shaped stone bridges and the confluence of the rivers. Do walk to the top of the hill though, it’ll be easy to see why Limeuil is listed as one of the most beautiful villages of the Dordogne.

9. Issigeac

The half-timbered medieval buildings in the heart of Issigeac and the narrow streets are largely unspoilt, but come on a Sunday morning and the village is transformed by one of the busiest markets in the area. It’s probably the best time to visit. We were there during the Festi’Music, when musicians took over the streets on a Friday night. Great atmosphere!

10. Brantôme

While the most spectacular villages of the Dordogne are mostly situated in the ‘Périgord Noir’ and ‘Périgord Pourpre’, this one is in the ‘Périgord Vert’. Brantôme was built on an island and is a very pretty and romantic village. The Dronne river and the canals that surround it give it the nickname of ‘Venice of the Périgord’. It’s nothing like Venice of course, but its rich architectural heritage is reflected in the waters and the majestic abbey bears witness to the rich past of Brantôme.

11. Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère

If a film crew came to Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère looking for a medieval village in which time stood still, they probably wouldn’t have to change a single thing. The church square will seduce you by its authenticity. The slated roofs, the warm, yellow stones, the narrow streets, called couredous, and the Vézère river make it all a very charming and unique place. It’s not only one of the most beautiful villages of the Dordogne, but also one of the most beautiful villages of France!

There are no doubt many more villages that deserve to be on this list, like Cadouin, Issigeac, Eymet or Beaumont for example. There is so much beauty to discover and so many things to do in the Dordogne, you would probably need a lifetime to see it all!

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