Classified “Ville d’art et d’Histoire”, Sarlat is An Artistic and Historic Town:
Sarlat-la-Caneda is a town that surprises many people when they visit. Apart from being the capital of the Périgord Noir, it has the highest concentration of Medieval, Renaissance and 17th century facades of any town in France.
We walked into the old town centre from the northern end of rue de la République. This main street, which itself is pretty nondescript, runs the length of the old town but once you get off the main drag and into the narrow lanes and side streets, Sarlat’s Medieval and Renaissance persona unfolds.
Sarlat has been classified a Ville d’art et d’Histoire (artistic and historic town) and its buildings have been protected by law since 1964. Its concentration of medieval lanes, charming squares and amazing medieval buildings and architecture make this town look like a film set for a period movie. In fact, Sarlat is a popular location for filming and it seems that Sarlat runs third to Nice and Paris in terms of the number of films shot in French towns.
Needless to say, Sarlat is very popular with tourists as well and it is a marvelous town for wondering around and exploring its medieval treasures.
If you’re a first-time visitor, a good place to start your exploration of the old town is at the tourist office at 3, rue Tourny which is just around the corner from the St. Sacerdos Cathedral. The tourist office has a pamphlet which provides a suggested walking route that you can do on your own and helps you find your way around the narrow alleyways, interesting archways, courtyards and the town ramparts. Ask for the English language version.
Some key attractions in the old town include:
- Place de la Liberté – there are many luxurious shops and cafés here and some tourists never make it out of the square.
- Cathédrale St-Sacerdos itself is pretty plain compared to the many other magnificent cathedrals that you’ve probably seen around France. It’s 18th century organ is the main feature of this cathedral.
- Lanterne des Morts (Lantern of the Dead) – The conical tower in the cemetery is unique in France.
- The 15th – 17th century mansions in rue des Consuls at the northern end of town. These belonged to the town’s middle class merchants, magistrates and other officials. Plamon House or the Consul’s House is one of the most remarkable.
- Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau may seem like a small back alleyway today but this actually was the town’s main street until rue de la Republique was built in the 19th century.
- The many alleyways, archways and buildings
The Périgord region is famous for culinary delights such as foie gras, chestnuts, walnuts, mushroom and truffles and Sarlat lies in the heart of this trade. Unfortunately we were not there on their market days but nevertheless there were plenty of shops filled with delicacies and regional foods.
Our stay in Sarlat was short, but we saw enough to know that we would love to return to this 3-star Michelin town.
Take a walk around Sarlat old town with Travel Signposts photos.
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