Places to visit

The Dordogne is dotted with charming small villages, religious buildings of great antiquity and small lanes winding through the beautiful french countryside. The Dordogne is a gateway to the past and there are many sites of architectural and historical interest not to be missed.

Villages

Brantôme

Bas-relief of the last judgement in Brantôme
Bas-relief of the last judgement

Brantôme is often described as the 'Venice of The Dordogne'. That's a bit over the top!! Well, sure, the centre of the village is an island surrounded by the river Dronne and no less than five bridges enable you to reach it. But Brantôme doesn't need any excessive comparison: its architectural wealth makes it a must-see destination. In Brantôme, you step back in time: Renaissance, Carolingian, Gallo-Roman eras and even prehistorical times ! Amongst the most famous monuments, Saint-Peter's Abbaye, a former benedictine abbaye founded by Charlemagne, no less, destroyed and rebuilt several times. On the premises you can see troglodyte caves that formed the first Benedictine monastery, with the impressive 'last judgement' cave decorated with two bas-reliefs carved in stone.

Brantôme is also a gourmet destination: plenty of good restaurants and quality food emporiums for you to try!

Bourdeilles

A must-see as well is the medieval village of Bourdeilles overlooked by not one but two châteaux: the 13th century castle, with fortifications and keep and the delicate 15th century château, also named Renaissance pavillion. Two châteaux, one astonishing contrast. You'll be delighted to walk around Bourdeilles and the landscape from the beautiful bridge is just enchanting.

Nontron

You won't see many tourists in this town and that's unfortunate because Nontron has a lot of assets. First, because of its singular topography, the city offers 'Tuscany landscapes ' according to Détour magazine. In Nontron you'll find the cutlery factory whose production originated in the 15th century and is still producing knives with a worldwide reputation. It is said the Nontron knife is the oldest in France ! Every year the 'fête du couteau' - the knife festival - attracts enthusiasts from around the planet.

There's also a château in Nontron which is very interesting, not only because it overlooks the beautiful 'arts garden' and the valley, but mainly because it shelters an impressive handicraft, art museum and shop selling local jewellery, ceramics and other gifts of unique design. Five times annually, a themed exhibition promotes the talented local craftsmen through their contemporay vision of their art: ceramics, design, woodwork, textile, mosaic, engraving, copperware, etc.

And don't miss the permanent exhibition of knives, you'll be suprised to realize that knives can actually be works of art !

Saint-Jean de Côle
Saint-Jean de Côle during the plant exhibition

Saint-Jean de Côle

Saint-Jean de Côle, another medieval village is known, not surprisingly, as one of the 'most beautiful french villages'. It consists of splendid 12th and 15th century château (château de la Marthonie), a Roman-Byzantium church, an adorable medieval bridge, half-timbered houses and spectacular views over tiled roofs. So many enchanting sites in such a small place. There are four restaurants for those that need a break.

Villars

This small village presents three very different tourist attractions. First of all, the magnificent beautifully restored Renaissance Château de Puyguilhem often described as a small Chambord château. Good guided tours, in English too.

Then, the Villars cave, one of the best in Dordogne, with breathtaking limestone concretions: stalactites, stalagmites, columns, 'curtains'... a travel in time and nature's artistic geometry. A small prehistoric painting from the same period as Lascaux and the indentations of prehistoric bear claws does the trick!

And finally, Boschaud abbaye: the ruined building in the middle of woodland and fields creates an incredibly romantic and poetic atmosphere that encourages reverie and meditation.

Mareuil Château

On the northern side of Mareuil-sur-Belle village, stands proudly a 15th century château, replacing the middle-age one. Partially restored the vestiges allude to a former defensive past: a stone bridge that took the place of the former drawbridge, filled moats, machicolations... and a flamboyant gothic chapel.

Aubeterre sur Dronne

L'église monolythe Saint-Jean à Aubeterre sur Dronne
The monolyth church

The same Dronne river we met in Brantôme and Bourdeilles leads us to an amazing village further downstream, actually in another department, la Charente. Like Saint-Jean de Côle, it is another one of France's most beautiful french villages. You won't regret the one hour drive, especially when you visit the largest subterranean church in Europe, also know as the monolyth church, with impressive height (20 meters !) and contemplating the masterpiece you wonder how the hell did the workers cope with the tools of the 12th century. Still more to see in this gorgeous village: other religious buildings, lovely houses, charming streets and good restaurants.

Big cities

Périgueux

cathedrale Saint-Front à Périgueux
Saint-Front cathedral in Périgueux

Most populated city in Dordogne, Périgueux offers a travel through times that goes from the prehistoric times to present day. The historical centre has beautiful pedestrian areas where medieval and Renaissance elements coexist in a unique atmosphere. Impossible to disregard the astonishing Saint Front cathedral with Roman-Byzantine style, 5 cupolas and its monumental bell tower 67 meters high. Keep learning history with Vesunna, gallo-roman museum sheltered in an impressive Jean Nouvel contemporary structure.

On the road leading to Périgueux (D939), in the adjacent town of Chancelade, Chancelade Abbaye is well worth a visit.

Angoulême

Even though it is situated in the Charente, we won't hold it against it as it has a strong asset: a TGV railway station that takes you from or to Paris in 2 hours and half, and very soon in 1 hour and 40 minutes. But it is also a manageable size and it is very pleasant to walk in the tranquil streets of this beautiful city. Perched on a rocky promontory, the centre abounds with historic testimony. The 12th century cathedral, the Gothic-Renaissance city hall and the fortifications that surround the upper town and where you can enjoy the great panorama. Angoulême is famous for its comic strip festival, that's why you encounter comic strip drawings everywhere in the city adding pleasant spots of color on the typical immaculate walls of the city.