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The best things to see and do in the Dordogne
Destinations & Inspiration

The best things to see and do in the Dordogne

Suzie Dalton
By Suzie Dalton - 8 minute read

Jam-packed with tourist attrac­tions and ben­e­fit­ting from the most incred­i­ble scenery, the Dor­dogne is one of the most famous places in the world – and often sits high on trav­el-lovers’ buck­et lists. Whether you’ve got just a few days to spare or you’re lucky enough to have a few weeks of free time in which to explore this stun­ning region, here are our top things to do and see in the Dordogne. 

Explore historic towns

Best things to see and do in the Dordogne Sarlat le Caneda compressed

Sar­lat-la-Cane­da is one of the Dordogne’s most pop­u­lar towns.

There are two towns that are often used to illus­trate guides on the best things to see and do in The Dor­dogne – Sar­lat-la-Cane­da and Roca­madour. First and fore­most, Sar­lat (as it’s affec­tion­ate­ly known by the locals) is a medieval delight. Whether you’re vis­it­ing for its his­toric cathe­dral, enchant­i­ng wind­ing streets or the excep­tion­al array of restau­rants that are tucked down every alley­way, this gor­geous town should be top of your to-do list. 

Hillside town of Rocamadour

Roca­madour is steeped in history.

Next up, Roca­madour is a unique cliff-side town that also hap­pens to be a UNESCO World Her­itage Site. The town is car-free, and is a pil­grim­age site for many Chris­tians. Hun­dreds of years old and split over three lev­els, you’ll find incred­i­ble archi­tec­ture and plen­ty of fas­ci­nat­ing sights to see – like the 9th cen­tu­ry bell that is said to ring itself when a vir­gin per­forms a miracle! 

Last­ly, the hill-top town of Domme is unique. With a famous cave sys­tem that sits under­neath the main square, stone gates galore and a stun­ning array of bou­tiques and charm­ing restau­rants – some of them boast­ing views over the Riv­er Dor­dogne below – this is a must-see. Chil­dren will par­tic­u­lar­ly love the dinky tourist train that takes you from the town’s car parks up into the centre. 

Splash in the water

Bridge and water. Kayaking on the Dordogne

Go kayak­ing on the Dordogne.

Pad­dling and swim­ming in the Dor­dogne Riv­er are favourite past-times in the warmer months, but to see as much as pos­si­ble of the area, we’d sug­gest try­ing your hand at kayak­ing or canoe­ing. You’ll find plen­ty of com­pa­nies who are ready to sup­port your adven­tures, and depend­ing on where you want to start or fin­ish, they will either dri­ve you up-riv­er, or they’ll meet you at an agreed point on the riv­er and dri­ve you home. 

The most pop­u­lar stretch of water is between La Roque-Gageac and Beynac, par­tial­ly because you’ll see some epic cas­tles enroute. But the flip­side of this is that the water can be busy – real­ly busy – and it can feel a bit over­ly-touristy. For a more peace­ful expe­ri­ence, instead con­sid­er pad­dling your way down the Vézère which is every bit as beau­ti­ful. Make sure you stop at the medieval vil­lage of Limeuil for a love­ly break from the water. There are a few great restau­rants and ice cream options here, and the walk up the hill is worth it for the views. 

Explore historic chateaus, castles and gardens

Château de Beynac

Château de Beynac will fire up every imagination.

The Dor­dogne is sim­ply heav­ing with stun­ning chateaus and cas­tles. There are lots we could men­tion, but here are a few of our top picks: 

  • Heav­i­ly for­ti­fied, Château de Beynac is a 12th cen­tu­ry fortress. As one of the most well-con­served chateaus in the region, it offers breath­tak­ing views over the Dor­dogne, and vis­i­tors can enjoy explor­ing the dun­geons, kitchens and liv­ing quarters.
  • Boast­ing walls of red stone, 6 tow­ers and 3 bas­tions, the dra­mat­ic façade of Château de Castel­nau-Brete­noux can be spot­ted for miles!
  • With swirling top­i­ary and beau­ti­ful grounds, the Jardins de Mar­queyssac offer the most incred­i­ble sight. If you’re vis­it­ing in July or August, con­sid­er book­ing an evening slot for Mar­queyssac aux Chan­delles (Mar­queyssac by can­dle­light) dur­ing which you’ll be enter­tained by musicians. 
  • Look­ing like some­thing out of a fairy­tale, Château de Val is tru­ly fit for a princess. Try to coin­cide your vis­it with one of their epic open-air music performances.
  • Chil­dren will love Tours de Mer­le. With sev­en tow­ers to explore, they’ll work up an appetite for a pic­nic in the love­ly gardens.
  • Mil­i­tary buff? Then head to Château de Castel­naud to dis­cov­er more about its mil­i­tary archi­tec­ture, and see the artillery tow­er and a stag­ger­ing col­lec­tion of weapons.

If you’re keen to learn more about the Dordogne’s spec­tac­u­lar selec­tion of chateaus, cas­tles and gar­dens, then take a look at this arti­cle, fit­ting­ly enti­tled Land of 1,001 Castles’. 

Act like a local

Trees and village of Saint Leon sur Vezere

Saint Leon sur Vezere is one of the region’s many hid­den gems.

There’s pos­si­bly no greater plea­sure then ven­tur­ing into the many small vil­lages that dot the Dor­dogne, and explor­ing the boulan­geries and café cul­ture – where you’ll find the most out­ra­geous­ly good crois­sants and croque mon­sieurs (basi­cal­ly the best ham and cheese toastie you’ll ever try!) It’s worth hir­ing a car for the day to get off the beat­en track to find the most delight­ful towns and vil­lages – Saint Cyprien is one such exam­ple, but La Roque-Gageac might be in-line for the title of pret­ti­est vil­lage in the Dor­dogne’. Mon­pazier and Saint Leon sur Vezere are also delight­ful – but real­ly and tru­ly, your per­son­al favourite will almost cer­tain­ly be some­thing that you’ve stum­bled across by acci­dent! Once you’ve found your hid­den oasis, don’t for­get to take some snaps and share them with us on our social media chan­nels using #welove­home­swap so that we can like and share your pics. 

And don’t for­get that the major­i­ty of French peo­ple are keen sup­port­ers of their local food mar­kets. Near­ly every town will have a week­ly offer­ing, so get there ear­ly before the crowds descend, and gath­er the sup­plies you need to whip up a feast in your home swap kitchen. This list of food mar­kets in the Dor­dogne is par­tic­u­lar­ly helpful. 

Visit prehistoric sites

Blue sky, large rockface of Les Eyzies de Tayac Sireuil

Les Eyzies offers excep­tion­al pre­his­toric sights.

The Dor­dogne is famous for its pre­his­toric touristy sights – name­ly a num­ber of spec­tac­u­lar caves. Whether you want to explore cave paint­ings, impres­sive sta­lag­mites and sta­lac­tites or sim­ply escape the intense heat of the sum­mer, there’s a huge array of options. The caves of Font de Gaume, Las­caux and the Grotte du Grand-Roc are great options, while Gouf­fre de Proumeyssac offers the chance to be low­ered into the cave via an impres­sive hang­ing bas­ket, so that you expe­ri­ence how the first cave explor­ers entered this deep abyss! Alter­na­tive­ly, ride the train in the Grottes de Lacave, or explore Le Gouf­fre de Padirac’s under­ground riv­er on a flat-bot­tomed boat. 

Once you’ve had your fill of being under­ground, Les Eyzies offers an uncon­ven­tion­al alter­na­tive to the caves. Home to the famous Nation­al Pre­his­to­ry Muse­um (which hous­es Nean­derthal skele­tons), there’s also a cas­tle that has been built into the over­hang­ing rock and you can get a great view of troglodyte dwellings. Cut into the rock, these immense shel­ters over­look the love­ly town – make sure you find the time to stop at the many restau­rants serv­ing up local pro­duce such as truf­fles, duck and wal­nuts. For a real­ly use­ful over­sight, we like this guide to pre­his­toric sights in the Dor­dogne.

Drink local wine

Grapes at St Emillion

The grapes in Saint Emil­ion pro­duce a love­ly tipple!

With the love­ly town of Berg­er­ac and the gor­geous Bor­deaux region both falling with­in the Dordogne’s con­fines, it’d be a shame to not make the most of the excep­tion­al wine that is pro­duced here. Whether you’re mak­ing the most of incred­i­bly cheap carafes of local wine in charm­ing bistros, or head­ing to the vine­yards, wine is a local pas­sion that you should ful­ly embrace! 

Keen wine enthu­si­asts should fac­tor in: 

  • A trip to Saint-Emil­ion, which is the old­est wine town in France.
  • A road trip around the Médoc region, where you can vis­it var­i­ous wine-pro­duc­ing château.
  • An organ­ised wine tast­ing tour to the many cel­lars and vine­yards through­out the region.
  • An excur­sion to the wine hills of Sauternes where you can try the famous sweet white wine.

We’re a huge fan of keep­ing costs down (we’re home swap­pers after all, so we appre­ci­ate great val­ue!) so if you’re in the lucky posi­tion of being able to dri­ve back to your home coun­try, we’d sug­gest stock­ing up with a few bot­tles so that you can keep those vaca­tion vibes going long after your hol­i­day has ended. 

Have you expe­ri­enced the many things to see and do in the Dor­dogne? Then share your tips with us by click­ing the Feed­back tab above… we’d love to add your sug­ges­tions to this blog!