If you’re planning a visit to Dordogne, you’re in for a treat. A department located in southwest France, Dordogne is home to some of the most alluring, beautiful villages and towns in the whole country. In fact, 10 of Dordogn’s villages are labeled as the most beautiful villages in France by the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France association. And even this impressive number doesn’t come close to the actual number of stunning villages and towns Dordogne has to offer.
In this article, you’ll read about some of my favorite places to visit in Dordogne – quaint, enchanting fairytale villages. You’ll get personalized recommendations about the towns you simply can’t miss, including the ones on the official list but also some hidden gems.
If you struggling to decide where to base yourself on your trip in the region, check out my article about where to stay in Dordogne.
A quick note: this article doesn’t mention Périgueux and Bergerac, because while both delightful and worth seeing, they’re Dordogne’s main cities and don’t feel as cozy as the rest of the villages mentioned.
Before we dive in, here’s my first tip: grab a map from the local tourist office so you can locate highlights like historical buildings and markets at the beginning of your visit. Also, if only have a few days in the region, think about taking a tour that will take you to some of the most beautiful villages in Dorddogne. This half-day tour, for example, will offer you a visit to Beynac and Domme and a boat ride on traditional gabarre at La Roque Gageac.
If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to read my guide to Dordgone with kids first. And if beautiful villages are your thing, check out my article about the most beautiful villages in the Bordeaux region (Gironde).
Fun fact: Dordogne was historically called Périgord and is still referred to as such in colloquial or touristic terms. The department is divided into four parts, named by color after each one’s resource. Curious to know, what each color means, keep reading 🙂
The beautiful villages of Perigord Noir – the Sarlat region in Dordogne
Perigord Noir (black), named for the dark oak forests and rich soil, and the decadent truffles found there, is where most of the stunning villages of Dordogne (and maybe even France!) are located. No visit to Dordogne is complete without visiting this extraordinary area. In this article, you can find quite a lot of stuff to do in the Perigord Noir area.
Sarlat-la-Canéda is one of France’s most famous and photographed medieval towns. Known for its incredible architecture, food, and history, Sarlat is located just north of the Dordogne River.
The town is thought to have originated around the 11th century and many buildings still standing today are from the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. It’s a history aficionado’s paradise! But also a foodie heaven with an incredible about of restaurants and gastronomic shops.
I have a full article dedicated to visiting Sarlat with plenty of recommendations for what to do, where to eat, and where to stay in Sarlat. However, here I just wanted to summarize some of the best things to do in this magical town.
What not to miss in Sarlat:
Head to the Sarlat market, the biggest and best food market in all of Southwest France! On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the city center comes alive with bustling market vendors and smells of food fill the air.
Locals and tourists from all over come to enjoy the cheerful atmosphere and colorful stalls adorning the lovely streets of this medieval town.
If you happen to visit Sarlat in winter, don’t miss the famous truffle and foie gras (rich goose or duck liver spread) market, which takes place between December and February. You can watch a truffle dog at work, sample the region’s best foie gras, and taste Bergerac Duras wines. Come with an empty stomach because it’s a decadent-tasting expedition! You can see the full list of Dordogne truffle markets taking place from December to the end of January here.
La Roque-Gageac is situated 12km south of Sarlat on the banks of the Dordogne River. It’s one of the most beautiful you’ll ever see, it’s thus doesn’t come as a surprise that La Roque was labeled as one of France’s Plus beaux villages (most beautiful villages).
This fairytale-like village is built into the limestone cliffs cascading down into the river and goes back as far as the 12th century. Once a bustling river port town for regional trade, today it’s one of the most popular touristic destinations in the Dordogne thanks to its medieval architecture and natural beauty. It’s one of the best day trips from Sarlat.
Most of the kayaking trips on the Dordogne River pass through this La Roque-Gageac, which is another great way to explore it. Even if you don’t have a full day to dedicate to visiting the village, you can make a stop there during a kayak outing. Find out more about kayaking on the Dordodge river here.
What not to miss La Roque-Gageac:
La Roque-Gageac is just a perfect village to wander around and you can have a perfect day there even if you spent it entirely outside. However there’s a place nearby, I must recommend.
The gardens of the Château de Marqueyssac, a mere 5-minute drive from La Roque-Gageac, are an unforgettable experience. Magical green mazes and 150,000 neatly manicured boxwood shrubs are surrounded by waterfalls and panoramic views. It’s one of the most family-friendly places in the Dordogne with picnic tables and playgrounds for kids, too. See ticket prices and opening hours here.
If you’re in the mood for a fancy dinner, La Roque is home to one of the best restaurants in the Dordogne region, called O’Plaisir des Sens. The family restaurant offers an exquisite menu of regional specialties with a touch of modern cuisine. It has been recommended by the Michelin Guide, however, it’s not a starred restaurant so it’s still affordable.
Beynac-et-Cazenac is possibly the most famous of all the villages in the Dordogne region and as one would expect, is also included in the exclusive group of the most beautiful villages of France. Its breathtaking views, yellow-stoned houses, and cobblestoned streets soaked in history make it one of the most visited destinations in the Dordogne.
The village is home to the famous Château de Beynac nestled between a steep limestone cliff and the magnificent Dordogne river. The castle is so well-preserved and boasts such magnificent views, movie directors often choose it as the backdrop for their films. One famous movie that used Beynac as a backdrop is “Chocolat” (2000), starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche.
One of the best ways to start your visit to Beynac is from the riverside. Rent a Kayak in the nearby village of Cenac and be amazed by the stunning view of the cliffs and the castle as you approach Beynac. Kayaking is a very popular attraction in the Dordogne in the summer, so be sure to book in advance.
Beynac is also home to a beautiful port which was once a very active trade port accommodating ships transforming goods to Bordeaux. Today it has become a leisure port where you can take a guided tour on one of the traditional boats, called les Gabarres.
What not to miss:
A visit to Château de Beynac is an absolute must! The medieval fortress is famous for its defensive architecture which was mostly built in the 12th century. Just a warning for people with little kids or mobility issues, the streets of Beynac are very stiff and hard to climb so be sure to park on the top of the village near the castle.
Head to the top of the village and look for the cross. There you’ll find the best backdrop for a photo souvenir, with views stretching over at least five different nearby castles! That alone should tell you how strategically important Beynac has been throughout history.
As you look out across the river, straight ahead you’ll see the extraordinary Castelnaud-la-Chapelle and its castle. Yet another village under the label of “Les plus beaux village de France“.
While it is indeed a stunning village, I did not include it on this list because it’s tiny, and the most interesting thing to see there is the chateau itself. If visiting Château de Castelnaud is on your list, then you should also spend some time walking around, otherwise, I think there are more interesting villages to visit in the Dordogne.
Next on my list is Domme, a slightly less touristy village but not a less charming one. It’s adored by locals and expats living in the region for its peaceful charm, beautiful architecture, and dreamy views.
Domme also falls on the official list of France’s most beautiful villages and has been well preserved through the centuries. Dating back to the 13th century, Domme was once a strategic defense lookout during the Hundred Years War between France and England. Today the Bastide town is a captivating voyage back in time.
You can take a walk under the fortress arches, stroll around the ramparts and explore the stunning streets with almost golden color houses. The village, located on the right banks of the Dordogne River, has one of the more impressive views over the Valley, so getting to the top of the village is a must.
What not to miss in Domme:
One of the most impressive monuments in Domme is the entrance gate to the village, La Porte des Tours. In the past, the two half towers have served as the guards’ rooms, and for a short few years in the 14th century were used as a prison. During their years there the proisoners have engraved messages on the prison’s walls. Today you can still see the engrave graffitis if you take the les-mysterieux-graffiti visit in the towers.
The village is also home to Les Grotte de Domme, a cave with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, draperies, and water mirrors. If you have time to visit other caves of that type I’d recommend Grottes de Maxange or Grottes de Padirac. However, if your time is limited and you’re visiting Domme, this cave is a fun one-hour activity.
If you’re there on a Thursday, check out the local market and get your fill of local meats, cheeses, and wines. Otherwise, you can enjoy the many restaurants situated around the main square of the village, Place de la Halle.
Moving away from the Dordogne River for a minute, we’ve now landed on the banks of the Vézère. This delightful little village sits snugly in a curve of the river and is full of quaint, meandering lanes and charismatic old houses.
Strolling the streets of the charming village you’ll find a few nice art boutiques and galleries as well as a nice selection of places to eat. If you’re looking for a bite to eat in Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère, I can personally recommend the restaurant La Poste for a lovely meal.
What not to miss in Saint Léon sur Vézère:
The small but perfectly constructed 12th-century Roman-style church has a fascinating domed ceiling and bell tower with arched windows. In front of the church, you’ll find picnic spots and beaches along the river, perfect for a family lunch.
A visit to the Manoir de la Salle is also highly recommended. The impressive 15th-century house and its large dungeon are both open for visits.
The village is located a 5-minute drive away is La Roque St. Christophe, an immense limestone wall 300 feet high and more than half a mile long with prehistoric cave dwellings. Ancient caves carved into the rock still house prehistoric wall paintings today. A visit there is highly recommended and is a fun activity to do with kids.
Further North on the banks of the Vézère lies Terrasson-Lavilledieu, a town full of hidden surprises. It’s one of the biggest towns of Perigord Noir (although still relatively small, with a population of about 6k). Many tourists visiting the Dordogne region skip this charming town, but in my opinion it’s one of the most special towns in the region.
The town is divided by the Vézère river into two parts, the modern one and the old city, which is where you should be focusing on. Like many other towns/ villages on this list, the old town of Terrasson is built on a hill, and stolling around requires to be in shape. Bit it’s so pretty that it worth the effort.
Atop the hill above the village sits an ancient church and down by the river, an impeccably-preserved 15th-century bridge. The heart of the old town, Place Bouquier, boasts incredible architecture and nearby, one of the village’s twelve cluzeaux – ancient caves cut into the rock.
What not to miss in Terrasson-Lavilledieu:
Les Jardins de l’Imaginaire are some of the most visited gardens in the Dorodgne, and it’s easy to see why. With magnificent water features, contemporary art, and panoramic views over the valley below, no trip to Terrasson is complete without stopping by these magical gardens.
If you’re visiting on a Thursday, you’ll be in the middle of the action on market day. The riverside fills up with food vendors and in the summer months there are stalls all the way across the bridge to the opposite bank. You’ll get to try all the best local delicacies, like walnuts, foie gras, cheeses, wines, and duck.
One of the more special parts of this town in the village of Craftsmen, Un village d’artisans d’art, located on the upper part of the old town. You can find around twenty art workshops hidden in the stunning alleys of the city, from a wood turner to a cutler, a glass blower and more. You can get a map with all the workshops in the Tourist office.
This village might not be on the official list of the most beautiful villages, but it’s on my personal list of places to see. Filled with charming streets and impeccably-preserved old stone buildings, Saint-Cyprien is the perfect spot for a day trip in the Périgord Noir. The village offers a lovely historic center and sweeping views across the Dordogne Valley.
What not to miss in Saint-Cyprien:
The fabulous weekly market is a must-see. Every Sunday, locals flood the traverse, the narrow street that crosses the whole town, to shop for fresh produce and stop for coffee at the cafés.
You should also see the medieval town center with architecture typical of the region and an ancient abbey.
To get there you’ll walk up narrow, steep lanes, almost like the Montmartre district in Paris. From up there, the views over the Dordogne River are breathtaking.
South of Perigord Noir you’ll stumble upon another one of France’s official most beautiful villages, Belvès. The village is known for its well-preserved architectural treasures and vast views over forests in the valley down below.
In fact, the word Belvès literally means ‘beautiful view’ in the Occitan language (previously used in the region). This postcard-like village looks out over the Nauze stream and is sometimes referred to as the “Town of Seven Bell Towers.”
The tourist office of Belves offers guided tours of the town as well as booklets that allow one to discover the village in a fun way with kids.
What not to miss in Belvès:
The town has a number of monuments worth visiting that will transport you back to the Middle Ages. Among them are le Chateau de Belvès (Hôtel de Commarque), a 13th-century church called Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption, and the 13th-century tower named Tour des Filhols.
One of the highlights of Belves is the 15th-century covered market located on the main square Place des Armes. The market really comes to life on Saturday mornings for fresh bread, vegetables, nuts, and cheeses. On other days of the week, you can also enjoy plenty of restaurants located around the square.
Nestled in the Vézère valley lies this fairytale-like village, home to what is known as the most impressive fortified church in all of the Périgord. The town is named after Saint Amand, a recluse who was holed up in a cave in the hillside during the 6th century. The yellow stone homes with their grey lauze roofs underneath the imposing church tower’s shadow make for a very pretty picture.
Saint Amand de Coly too is labeled as one of the most beautiful villages in France. However you should know that it’s a tiny village with just a few streets around the church. You’ll finish your visit there in less than an hour, that’s why I recommend combining it with a visit to Terrasson-Lavilledieu or to the Lascaux caves.
What not to miss in Saint Amand de Coly:
Sit down for a coffee across the road from the church to take in the magnificent views, then take a walk inside. If you’re feeling adventurous, there is a hiking path that goes around the church and into the countryside.
The most beautiful villages in Dordogne – Perigord Vert
The northern part of Dordogne, Périgord Vert (green), is quieter than the Périgord Noir but still has amazing places to offer. This region is filled with lush meadows and a few splendid villages to visit.
This idyllic village on an island in the Dronne river with its majestic abbey is a must-see in the northern Périgord. A famously charming town loved by tourists, Brantôme is busiest in July and August. The magnificent bell tower, dating back to the 11th century, is one of the oldest in all of France. You can get a great view of the village from a boat if you do a short river cruise!
What not to miss in Brantôme:
Behind the abbey we see today are ancient man-made caves carved into the limestone cliff where the monks used to reside. Inside the troglodyte caves you’ll discover incredibly detailed stone carvings called “The Last Judgment” and the Saint-Sicarius Fountain, known to contain miraculous properties in its water. Visits are open all year long.
This medieval village, another one on the official list of France’s most beautiful, is an architectural gem. Situated on the Côle river with a fairytale bridge crossing, it’s a charming stop during your visit to the Périgord.
What not to miss:
Château de la Marthonie dates back to the 12th century and is bound to take your breath away. You can do a guided tour from July to September and dive into the history of Saint-Jean-de-Côle and its surroundings. And don’t forget to stop for a photo on the old bridge over the Côle.
Every May, the Saint-Jean-de-Côle is hosting a beautiful flowers festival. If you’re doing a day trip to Perigord Vert, try to combine it with the lovely town of Thiviers. The city has a great market on Sunday mornings.
The most beautiful villages around Bergerac
Périgord Pourpre is the unofficial name of southwestern Dordogne, with its capital being Bergerac. Purple Perigord is the second-largest wine region in Nouvelle Aquitaine, after Bordeaux, and so the color of the grapes is where it draws its name from.
I have an article with all my recommendations about the best villages to visit around Bergerac. But if you’re short on time and want my recommendations in a nutshell, here are some of the most pleasant and stunning villages to visit around Bergerac, the Purple Périgord.
This small medieval village dates back to Roman times and is located about 20km from Bergerac. The stunning ancient architecture that characterizes the town center was built in a circular design. Many of the historic 13th- to 18th-century buildings have been well preserved, making for a wonderful day trip.
Issigiac is known to be one of the best markets in Nouvelle Aquitaine and many people are taking the route every Sunday to enjoy the market spirit. From what’s usually a small quiet village, Issigeac transforms into a bustling marketplace where you can shop, taste, explore, and people-watch. After 11 am (especially in the summer period) the town gets very busy and the waiting line for every stall is getting long. So be sure to get there early for a better experience.
While most of the ”Plus beaux villages of Dordogne” are located in the black Perigord, here in Périgord Pourpre there are two honorable representatives on the exclusive list. The beautiful village of Limeuil is one of them.
Built at the confluence of the Dordogne and Vézère rivers, this medieval town boasts one of the absolute best views in all of Dordogne. Wandering through the narrow streets that meander up the hill from the river banks will transport you back in time as you gaze upon the delightful old houses.
What not to miss:
Limeuil is home to one of the most stunning panoramic gardens in the region, Jardins Panoramiques de Limeuil. On top of the impressive scenery inside the garden, you’ll also get to enjoy a sweeping view of both the Dordogne and Vézère Rivers.
For adventurers who want to see the village from a different angle, take a kayak tour on the river. If you find yourself going to Limeuil on a hot day, you can cross the Dordogne River to the other side and enjoy the nice little beach called Plage de Limeuil.
Monpazier is one of the most impressive bastide towns in the southwest of France, labeled as one of France’s most beautiful villages. A slice of paradise for history fans, the town has remained practically untouched since its creation in 1284.
The few new cafés and boutiques match the ancient architecture perfectly and are a great spot from which to enjoy the view of the village’s main square.
What not to miss Monpazier:
The Bastideum museum, set in the building that housed a former convent on the main square, is not to be missed. Here you’ll discover the history of Monpazier, its special architecture, and important historical events, and you’ll see how life used to look there during the Middle Ages. It’s also one of the most interesting places to visit with kids around Bergerac.
If it’s your first time visiting Dordogne you might also want to read these articles:
Where to stay in Dordogne
What to do and where to stay in Sarlat
The most beautiful villages near Bergerac
A day trip to Eymet in the Dordogne region
One day in Bordeaux – in case you decided to do a day trip to Bordeaux
Day trip to Saint Emilion
You can also get plenty of tips on things to do in the Southwest of France via lost in Bordeaux’s social media accounts and email list, check them out here:
*Note – Some of the links in this article include affiliate links for which I earn a small commission. It adds absolutely nothing to your cost and helps me continue writing about this amazing region. Don’t worry, I’m not getting rich here, I’ll never recommend anything I don’t believe in 🙂