The impossibly beautiful medieval town of Sarlat is the jewel in the crown of the Dordogne. Sarlat is located in the Périgord Noir and attracts thousands of tourists every year, especially during the summer months. It’s also a favourite with movie makers who have chosen it as a backdrop for their blockbuster movies including the likes of ‘Ever After’ which starred Drew Barrymore and Ridley Scott’s forthcoming ‘The Last Duel’.
Discover Sarlat [Video]
How about a little taster of what awaits you in Sarlat? Check out our video below:
Where is Sarlat?
So where exactly is this beautiful medieval town? Sarlat (its full name is actually Sarlat-la-Canéda) is located in the Dordogne region of South West France, about 2 hours east from Bordeaux. Referred to as the ‘Périgord’ by the French, the Dordogne is divided into 4 different regions and Sarlat is the capital of the Périgord noir.
There are many things to do in Sarlat, however, one of our favourite things is to simply wander the narrow, winding streets where you’ll find the highest concentration of medieval buildings in the whole of Europe (apparently!). The medieval town centres around a large square (Place de la Liberté) that is lined with cafes and interesting boutiques. It’s also a great place to pick up local gifts for friends and family back home.
Place de la Liberté
The heart of the medieval town is found in this large square known as La Place de la Liberté. The square is lined with restaurants, cafés, bars, craft shops and is where most of the action is to be found on market day. It’s a great spot to have a café and watch the world go by.
Saint Sacerdos Cathedral
From the Place de la Liberté, head south towards the Place du Peyrou. Here you will find the unusually large cathedral called La Cathédrale de Saint-Sacerdos. It’s worth a visit, entry is free, and the interior is impressive.
La Lanterne des Morts
Head up the hill from the cathedral and you’ll find the 12th century Lanterne des Morts (Lantern of the dead), an attractive stone tower (thought to be built by the Knights of the Templar), whose purpose is a bit of a mystery.
Maison de la Boétie
Back down the hill and you’ll come face to face with this impressive 16th century building, the Maison de la Boétie. Built in 1525, it has some expertly carved Renaissance stone facades.
Manoir de Gisson
If you would like to see inside a typical Sarlat mansion then visit the furnished 13th century Manoir de Gisson, near to the popular bronze geese sculptures (an Instagram must) in Place du Marché aux Oies.
The Bronze Geese
No trip to Sarlat is complete without a selfie with the geese! Located at Place du Marché aux Oies (Geese Market Square), this is where live animals used to be sold around a century ago. The live animals have now been replaced with the friendly bronze geese.
Just off the main square, Place de la Liberté, you’ll find a converted old church that’s been turned into a covered market. Gain entrance via the impressive large doors (15 meters tall!) and choose some delicious produce available on a daily basis.
Parc du Plantier
If you are on a budget, then pick up a sandwich from one of the town’s boulangeries and have a picnic amongst the flowers in the Parc du Plantier. It was at one time the Abbey gardens and is now a quaint municipal park a stone’s throw from Sarlat’s medieval centre. There’s a small playpark for younger children and an attractive bandstand.
Hidden in the former church of Sainte Marie (the covered market), you’ll find access to a panoramic lift that will take you to the rooftops for some fabulous views of the town. The tour last 12 minutes and tickets can be purchased at the tourist office (weather permitting).
Best time to visit Sarlat
If possible, I recommend visiting out of high season as tourists flock here in July and August, streets are crowded, and parking can be an issue. Check below for details on the various events that take place throughout the year so you can plan your visit to coincide with a specific festival.
Where to eat in Sarlat?
There is a tremendous choice of restaurants in Sarlat covering all budgets and palates. The choice can be rather overwhelming and it’s also worth bearing in mind that there are quite a few tourist traps, particularly in the medieval part of town.
Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are our tried and tested favourite eateries in Sarlat. Also, you can’t beat having a coffee in the Place de la Liberté!
It’s also worth noting that you’ll often get some great lunch time deals so why not splash out over lunch rather than having to dig deep for an evening meal.
Budget & Quirky Restaurants in Sarlat
Located on the edge of the old medieval town, l’Endroit is a great option if you’re looking for somewhere casual and want a change from the usual duck and foie gras. They do a mean burger and service is always very friendly.
Again, those looking for a change from the traditional fayre will get their fill at this quirky restaurant located a stone’s throw from the tourist office. Head here for some charcuterie and cheese heaven. Think hearty, alpine food and very friendly owners who’ll take great care of you.
Tapas, tapas, tapas! Tucked away on a narrow, little back alley, this tiny tapas bar offers delicious tapas. Try their pimentos or their mussels a la plancha washed down with some great local brew. Our kids love their cheese and charcuterie plates too.
Upmarket Restaurants in Sarlat
Superb garden terrace. Expect the menu to include delicious local specialities such as confit de canard, magret de canard, walnuts, sarladaise potatoes, foie gras and cabécou goats’ cheese. Beautiful setting and great food!
Le Grand Bleu
Boy are you in for a treat! Owner and chef, Maxime Lebrun will look after your every need in this very special Michelin starred restaurant (it’s just lost its star but no doubt it won’t take them long to get it back!). You won’t stumble upon the Grand Bleu as it’s located a stone’s throw from Sarlat’s train station (about 1.5 km from the town centre). Although it’s far from being off the beaten track, so make sure you book a table as it fills up very quickly.
We also recommend opting for the fabulous set lunch menu (available Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays) – it’s incredible value at around 26€ for a starter, main course, dessert, a glass of wine and a coffee. Absolute bargain!
Sarlat Market [Wednesdays + Saturdays]
If you prefer to cook up your own feast, then gather the ingredients from local producers at the fabulous Wednesday and Saturday market. The market is huge with the food section focused in the old town running from the cathedral to the town square (Place de la Liberté). You’ll find clothes, arts and crafts on the main street in the modern part of town (Rue Gambetta).
Accommodation in Sarlat
Studio la Liberté
You can’t get any more central than this! With its picture postcard view across the main square, this studio is a perfect place to stay if you want to be in the heart of the action.
B&B La Lanterne
Located in the heart of medieval Sarlat and a stone’s throw from La Lanterne des Morts (hence the name!), this B&B is a gem. The property dates back to 1504 and offers a choice of 4 ensuite bedrooms. Expect a friendly, warm welcome from owners Ian and Jayne.
This beautiful, luxury bed & breakfast overlooks the memorial square of La Petite Rigaudie and is on the edge of Sarlat’s medieval town. Les Cordeliers offers 5 large (air-conditioned!) rooms at affordable prices. Enjoy a delicious breakfast of fresh orange juice, a selection of breads, cheeses, meat and pastries in the large dining room.
Hotel La Madeleine
If you want a touch of luxury then head to the 4 star hotel & spa Plaza la Madeleine which is located at the entrance to the old town. Beautiful rooms, a heated swimming pool, terrace, spa, La Madeleine has it all. It even has air conditioning which is very much welcomed in the heat of the summer months. There is even parking available (priceless in Sarlat!) although you’ll have to walk about 10 minutes to get to the car park.
Sarlat has a mild climate although we do experience wet and cold days during the winter months. The hottest months are July and August with temperatures often reaching the mid-30s (Celsius). Spring is generally mild although the weather is often not very consistent with periods of showers and sun. The months of September and October are usually very good – we often experience an Indian summer during those months. The wettest months tend to be January and February. Check this link for further details on monthly temperature averages.
Supermarkets in & around Sarlat
If you’re not visiting on market day then you may need to pick up a thing or two from a supermarket. There are a few small supermarkets in the town centre and a number of larger ones which will require a car to get to. Click on the links to check opening hours as they can vary with some closing at lunch and some opening on a Sunday morning.
Town centre mini supermarkets
Le Petit Casino – located on the main high street in the modern part of Sarlat. Handy to pick up the odd thing or two. 32 Rue de la République.
Carrefour Express – located on rue Gambetta as you’re heading out of town. 23 Avenue Gambetta.
Larger out-of-town supermarkets
You’ll need access to transport to reach the majority of the supermarkets below:
Carrefour Market – route de Brive
Lidl – this German supermarket is located at the entrance to Sarlat. It’s worth bearing in mind that it can get very busy, especially during peak season. Avenue Aristide Briand.
Leclerc – this hypermarket is located on the outskirts of Sarlat. Avenue de Madrazes.
Casino – Route de Bergerac, Avenue de la Dordogne, Moulin de Moreau.
Biocoop – there’s a great organic shop which provides fresh, seasonal organic fruit & vegetables, bulk products and a large array of organic produce. Centre Commerciale du Pontet D704, la Gendonie Basse.
Special Events & Festivals in Sarlat
There are a number of events and festivals that take place in Sarlat throughout the year.
Fete de la Truffe
Fans of the black diamond should schedule a trip to the Dordogne in January. The Truffle Festival usually takes place around mid-January and is a wonderful opportunity to learn, buy and/or taste the truffe du Périgord.
Sarlat Fest’Oie – Goose Festival
The Goose festival usually takes place around the first week-end of March. Expect to find local produce, geese herders, cookery demonstrations and ‘soupe de carcasse’ tastings. All things geese-related are celebrated during the course of this week-end!
Giant Easter Egg Hunt
Every Easter weekend, the Sarlat town hall organises a massive Easter egg hunt. It’s open to everyone (ie. children!) and is a lovely opportunity to discover medieval Sarlat. You need to sign up ahead online though!
Around 2000 differently coloured plastic eggs are hidden in the streets of Sarlat – each neighbourhood is allocated a different colour. Children then embark on a chocolate themed treasure hunt and have to find 5 different coloured eggs. The plastic eggs can then be swapped for a chocolate prize!
Les Journées du Terroir
This is the must-visit event for foodies amongst you. Les Journées du Terroir take place on the Thursday and Friday of the Ascension week-end in May. Truffle hunting demonstrations, live geese, walnut oil pressing, beer making, foie gras tastings… these are just a few of the things you can expect over the course of the two days. This event is a celebration of local produce, craftsmanship and all things Dordogne. Head to the Place de la Liberté in the medieval town.
Journées du Patrimoine
Les Journées du Patrimoine or European Heritage Days take place the third week-end of September and is an absolute must! There are a number of events and exhibitions on during the course of the weekend, not to mention special access to sites often closed to the public such as la Lanterne des Morts, la chapelle des Pénitents blancs, la chapelle des Pénitents bleus, l’Abbaye Sainte-Claire. The icing on the cake has to be the magical candlelit evening on the Saturday evening though. Just take a look at the pic above and you’ll see why. Wind your way through the narrow streets and tiny alleys whilst following the 2000 candles that have been dotted about the medieval town.
Les Journées du gout et de la gastronomie
Gourmet and gastronomy days! This event takes place during the 4th week-end of September and is set up at the Place de la Grande Rigaudie, at the entrance to the medieval town. You’ll find plenty of local produce, a ‘repas-guinguette’ under the marquee, traditional Tourin soup, some local lamb, sarladaise potatoes and the famous Perigord walnut cake.
On the Sunday morning, you can take part in the incredible transhumance – follow a herd of about 200 sheep from a neighbouring village into Sarlat.
Festival du film de Sarlat
Cinephiles, mark this date in your diaries! Join cinematography lovers for a week during mid- November for Sarlat’s very own Film festival. It takes place in the local cinema Rex and all details regarding the event can be found here.
Sarlat Christmas Market
Sarlat’s Christmas market has grown year on year and has become one of the must-visit christmas markets of the region. It’s set up on the Place de la Grande-Rigaudie as well as the Place du 14 juillet and runs for 3 weeks during the month of December (check dates here). There are some 70 wooden chalets selling handmade crafts, mulled wine and food stands as well as an ice-rink. The whole area comes to life with its many lights and illuminations. Oh, and Santa usually makes an appearance at the opening of the market!
Things to do near Sarlat
Sarlat is a great base for exploring the surrounding area. There are many places that can easily be reached within 20 minutes including La Roque Gageac, Domme, the Hanging Gardens of Marqueyssac, Font de Gaume (prehistoric cave paintings), Les Eyzies, Chateau de Castelnaud and Chateau de Beynac. Check this post for full details on best day trips from Sarlat.
How to get to Sarlat
The easiest way to get to Sarlat is by car although parking can be an issue. Check this link for details for car parks within the town. We generally park at the Parking de la Libération which is free!
You can also come to Sarlat by train, however, there aren’t very many daily trains. The train station is about 1.5kms from the town centre. Check the SNCF website for routes and timetables.
Airports near to Sarlat
There are many low cost airlines that fly to this area with driving distances to Sarlat of between 45 mins and over 2 hours. From closest to furthest away, here is a list of airports that you might want to consider flying into. The easiest way to get around is to hire a car at the airport as public transport is incredibly limited in this area.
Bergerac Dordogne Perigord Airport [1h15 mins]
Limoges Airport [2 hours]
Toulouse Blagnac Airport [2 hours]
Bordeaux Mérignac Airport [2hrs 20 mins]
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to Sarlat and have been left itching to visit this beautiful town! Why don’t you share your Sarlat pics with us on our facebook page or tag us on Instagram? And of course, please feel free to leave us a comment with any questions you might have below.