Sarlat is a medieval town in the Dordogne Valley of France and is famous for its weekly markets, wonderfully restored architecture, and annual Truffle Festival.
Sarlat la Caneda to give the town its full title, is a medieval town that evolved around a Benedictine abbey of Carolingian origin: the medieval Sarlat Cathedral is dedicated to the French saint Sacerdos (670-c.720), who was born near Sarlat, and later became the bishop of Limoges.
The famous Sarlat markets
Of all the wonderful French markets, those held twice a week in Sarlat are among the best.
The Saturday market is busier than the Wednesday version but both are great events to attend.
The Saturday market here is a wonder to behold.
Sarlat is a place heavy with all the trappings of a small French market town and the Saturday market is absolutely laden with food to try and fresh produce to buy.
It has enough culinary and quaffable products to ensure that your return home will earn you an overweight payment at the airport.
It’s better to come by car…but don’t expect to be able to park easily on market day. Just have fun.
Sarlat markets are held on Wednesday and Saturday morning in the Place de la Libertie.
You can buy all the regional products, meats and vegetables, cheese even truffles.
Sarlat Truffle Festival
The annual Sarlat Truffle Festival is held in mid-January; a good time to visit and sample these delicacies.
At the festival you can old buy truffles (known in these parts as the Black Gold of the Perigord) – but also enjoy workshops and even cookery classes.
Read more about French truffles.
You’ll also be fascinated by the truffle hunting demonstrations in which the local hunters dogs showcase their talents.
If you’re looking for a weekend break to France which is a bit different and, let’s be honest off the wall, the Sarlat Truffle Festival is a great choice. But book your hotel early as rooms go fast.
The town of Sarlat la Caneda
Sarlat in the Dordogne valley, now combined with the nearby village of La Canéda, is not particularly on the tourist route from the UK, or anywhere else for that matter.
But it more than justifies the deviation; this is a wonderful place…bustling, energetic, historic and a little bit wacky.
This is the capital of the Périgord Noir, a gem of medieval architecture that somehow combines the heritage of the past with acceptable modernity.
The town has some of the best preserved 14th-century buildings in France, and narrow streets that run between the old stone buildings. This area is full of shops, cafés and restaurants.
Things to do in Sarlat
As we’ve already mentioned a visit to either of the town’s markets should be high on your to do list. And if you can squeeze in a viis to the truffle festival all the better.
But there is plenty more thing to do in Sarat:
Enjoy guided tours of the Medieval town. It’s wonderful just to stroll around yourself but joinning one of the many guided tours will help you appreciate even more the amazingly well preserved and restored buildings in the town. You’ll find details of all guide tours in the Sarlat Tourist Office.
Take a a boat trip on the Dordogne river. You can sit back and relax on a tourist boat or, if you’re feeling adventurous, can hire your own vessel to enjoy boating along the river.
If you have a car a drive out to the village of Beynac with its 13th-century chateau is worth a visit and you should also try to visit the nearby Chateau de Castelnaud. There are also many other chateau and castles nearby to visit.
If history is your thing the Grottes de Rouffignac have an electric train that takes you through the tunnels where you can see ancient cave drawings.
The Medieval town of Sarlat
Because modern history has largely passed it by, Sarlat has preserved its antiquity, and today is and one of the towns most representative of 14th-century France.
As such enjoys its place on France’s Tentative List for future nomination for UNESCO World Heritage site designation, a distinction it owes to the enthusiasm of writer, resistance fighter and politician André Malraux, Minister of Culture (1960-1969), who largely restored the town.
Take a stroll through the centre of the old town to discover its impeccably restored stone buildings. Immerse yourself in the essence of the medieval times, a rare commodity in many French towns and villages.
Or just take a seat at one of the many restaurants and bars and enjoy a relaxing coffee or Perrier Menthe. You could do no better than visit the restaurants, Les Jardins d’Harmonie on place André Malraux (www.lesjardinsdharmonie.com).
The world famous architect, Jean Nouvel, spent his childhood in the capital of the Périgord Noir, and in Sarlat he has transformed the ancient church of Sainte Marie into a covered market with monumental doors.
In the nearby tower there is a glass lift with panoramic views, which was inaugurated in 2013. From above the roof tops, the town reveals the passing of the centuries.
You can make out the line of the ancient ramparts, get views of the old justice house and Sainte-Claire Abbey.
You can also take in a splendid panorama from the Lantern of the Dead to the historic Plamon mansion, from the Saint Sacerdos cathedral to the Maison de la Boétie, from the Town Hall to the Place de la Grand Rigaudie…
With such antiquity, it is not surprising that the town and the surrounding countryside has featured in a number of films, notably ‘Timeline’ (2003), adapted from the late Michael Crichton’s time-travel novel, set in 14th-century France.