On this post I will highlight the places we visited and the best things to see and best things to do in Sarlat-la-Canéda.
After a very well slept night, we woke up and packed to check-out of Namasté Cottage; before checking out though, breakfast beckoned us… We had two options — eat inside or outside by the swimming pool. We decided on the latter, and that was a good choice, enjoying delicious food in beautiful surrounds and very pleasant weather.
Breakfast over, we packed the car and headed to Sarlat-la-Canéda.
Sarlat-la-Canéda is closer to La Roque-Cageac, Beynac-et-Cazenac, and the other places we visited before; however, we decided to go further south-west to Issigeac and the medieval villages first, as I wanted to visit Sarlat on a market day. Sarlat holds regular street markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with the Saturday market considered to be the best. We left Namasté Cottage around 9:30 a.m. and arrived in Sarlat at about 11 o’clock. Upon arrival we already realised it was a mistake to come on a market day and that late in the morning.
We spent around half-an-hour looking for a parking space, but it seemed like all car parks around town were completely full. Moving further away from the medieval town centre didn’t look any better, until we got to a car park near Place Sundhouse. We were just about giving up when my husband spotted a buffer zone separating spaces for cars from larger vehicles. Not exactly an official parking space, but since we weren’t blocking the way, we decided to wing it. By the time we paid for parking and left, there were another three cars behind ours… We felt like illegal pioneers!
We walked down to the Old Town, meandering through not the most attractive neighbourhood, until we reached Rue de la République and the market — and what a disappointment! Stall after stall of made in China clothing, shoes, and other unappealing merchandise, without any signs of the famous food market.
We went to the Tourist Office to get a map of the town and on our way realised the food market was on Rue de la Liberté and Place de la Liberté. By then it was almost the market’s closing time, but we still managed to finally see the local produce — foie gras, preserved duck, truffles, walnut, oils, et all — the area is famous for.
For a guided gourmet tour of Sarlat Food Market you can book HERE.
Having had a good look around the food market we decided to explore the rest of the town. I really wanted to try one of my preferred French dishes: the “cassoulet”. Since we were near Rue Tourny and the Le Petite Borie restaurant (allegedly serving a delicious cassoulet) I was keen to see if we could get a table for two and have lunch there.
However, when we looked at the menu at the restaurant’s door, it was not showing “cassoulet”, so I asked the waitress and she confirmed that they didn’t have it on the menu anymore. Yet another disappointment, so we decided not to eat there as we still didn’t feel that hungry!
We went to Saint-Sacerdos Cathedral, built from the dilapidated Romanesque Abbey’s church of Sarlat, which by then only had the bell tower left. The cathedral took many centuries to be constructed due to lack of funds. The chancel was built in early 16th century and the nave was not finished until 1685. The L’Eoine organ has been there since 1752.
From the Cathedral we walked up to the Lanternes des Morts. I like unusual buildings, and this one we can certainly call unusual. It is a cylindrical building topped with a cupola and it reminds you of a giant ice-cream cone.
There are different interpretations of what this building was used for: some scholars say it was for accommodating lanterns to light and guide the soul of the deceased; others say it was built to honour the passage of Saint Bernard in 1147; and yet others say that the name should be “Lantern of the Moors” and people confusing the pronunciation with “Lanternes des Morts” started calling it that name especially because it was positioned next to a cemetery. No matter what, this is a very well-preserved building and worth going up the hill to see.
From there we followed the route on the map given to us in the Tourist Office and passed in front of “Le Presidial”, dating from 1620, and originally the judicial building of Sarlat. Today it is a restaurant, and we didn’t go inside to look at the building. We followed on and passed through Hotel de Grézel, a noble’s house from the 15th century and Hotel de Ville, (the Town Hall), built in the 17th century. We passed Sainte-Marie Church and walked further down to Place du Marché-aux-Oies, with its exquisite architecture and the famous three bronze geese standing in the square.
It is in this square where you will find the “Manoir de Gisson”, the only building you can enter and visit, and this one is one of the most beautiful ones in Sarlat. It is furnished and decorated to portrait the life of the bourgeoisie in the Renaissance. The rooms successfully bring to the present how life used to be in a bygone era. It took us about 45 minutes to see the whole house including the Cabinet of Curiosities in the basement. Great visit in Sarlat.
We found a restaurant near the Manoir de Gisson, on Rue de la Paix, called “Le Bouchon” that served tapas food; we thought it would be a good idea to stop and have a few tapas dishes instead of having a proper lunch. We ordered a few dishes each and a cold beer to go with them. The portions were quite large, and we ordered too much food, but managed to eat everything. Very nice dishes, ideal when it is too hot, and you don’t feel like having a full lunch.
After lunch we continued through the medieval streets. We wanted to go up in the “Ascenseur Panoramique” but when we got there, we found a note saying the lift was not operating due to the hot weather. It was a shame because the views from the top are supposed to be amazing. The lift is next to the Marché Couvert, where we headed to for a little shopping. We bought some flavoured oil and walnut oil for us and to bring as a present for some friends. After that we thought we had seen everything in the Old Town and with our shopping bags started the way back to the car park at the top of the hill.
It was a very nice visit to Sarlat, and it is a place not to miss while in the Dordogne, but if I were to go back again, I would not bother going on a market day. We found it very stressful to park the car and the amount of people on the streets was a bit too much. I think we would have enjoyed it more if it was not so busy.
We left Sarlat late in the afternoon and our next destination was Bergerac, which would take us about one and half hours to get to.
The trip to Bergerac was easy and stress free with not too much traffic on the roads. We arrived in Bergerac a little before 6 p.m. and went straight to the Air B & B flat that we had booked for two nights. The owner was waiting for us to give us the keys and explain everything. This flat was very close to the town centre and didn’t have any private parking, but parking was quite easy on the same street.
Called the “Coer Historique”, it was a one-bedroom flat in a small building with just another flat. The look of the building was not great from the outside, but inside it was quite nice, having been recently refurbished and decorated with some antique pieces of furniture. The most important thing is that it was very well located and clean.
After settling in and having a shower we headed out to the old town for a stroll and to wait until our diner reservation at 8 p.m. at “La Table du Marché”, at Place Louis de la Bardonnie. This restaurant had very good reviews about the chef and the food, so we wanted to try.
Upon arrival, they could not find my reservation, which I did very well in advance and had a confirmation e-mail from them. Nevertheless, they had a table for two available and accommodated us without any problems.
From where we were seated, we could see the kitchen and the chefs working on the dishes. We placed our orders and just waited for it to be ready. We noticed that there was only one waitress to serve a half-full restaurant and she was going from table to table, struggling with it, all by herself. She was not very friendly and was not smiling or pleased to be working there.
It is understandable, if you are overloaded with orders and you are the only one to serve, but it is not the client’s fault, and everybody deserves to be treated with at least a bit of courtesy when you are eating at a restaurant. We had our starters which were very good and waited for our mains. The main dishes were served by the chef at our table, obviously forced to help, as the waitress was not coping with everything. The main dishes, the desserts, and the wine were all very good. The food itself was excellent, but the service was of a very low standard.
After coffee we walked back to the flat and relaxed, preparing for the discoveries of the next day.
Below you will find a list of what to visit, where to stay and where to eat in Sarlat-la-Canéda. I classified each place as follows:
BOLD – Visited, tried and recommended
NOT BOLD – Not visited or tried, but planning to visit or try and heard very good reviews
*** – Excellent
** – Good
* – OK
£££ – Expensive
££ – Fair and affordable
£ – Cheap
WHAT TO VISIT IN SARLAT-LA-CANÉDA
2 – The Old Town – ***
3 – Saint-Sacerdos Cathedral – ***
4 – Lanternes des Morts – ***
5 – Hotel de Grézel – ***
6 – Sainte-Marie Church – ***
7 – Place du Marché-aux-Oies – ***
8 – Manoir de Gisson – ***
9 – Ascenseur Panoramique
10 – Marché Couvert – ***
WHERE TO STAY IN SARLAT-LA-CANÉDA
1 – Sarlat Catalina – 3* – £
2 – Hôtel Montaigne – 3* – £
3 – Le Petit Manoir – 4* – £££
4 – Hôtel Le Renoir – 3* – ££
WHERE TO EAT IN SARLAT-LA-CANÉDA
1 – La Petite Borie – ££
2 – Le Presidial – ££
3 – Le Mirandol – ££
4 – Brasserie la Lanterne – £
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