Sarlat-la-Canéda (pop. 10,000) is only the third largest town of the rural Périgord region, though it is nonetheless a major tourist attraction, welcoming more than 1.5 million visitors each year.
For many French people, Sarlat is the place which jumps to mind when thinking about the Périgord region. Located off the usual main roads, Sarlat is renowned for a rich architectural heritage that has been remarkably well-preserved, as well as a famous gastronomic tradition (44% of the French think that Périgord is the region where one will eat the best food in France).
Overview of Sarlat
Thanks to the Malraux Laws of 1962, Sarlat’s historic centre has been protected from modern development and planning and is now mostly car-free. The major restoration work conducted on the 14th century town have rendered Sarlat as a major tourist attraction in France, with its honey-coloured limestone buildings, narrow medieval streets and attractive inner courtyards.
Every street, square, courtyard and architectural detail are pleasing to the eye. On your way from the carpark to the centre of town, you will return to the past, simply by walking into the streets bordered with Gothic and Renaissance mansions and townhouses. In Sarlat, even the more modest looking houses display a certain charm with their pitched roofs, tiled with ‘lauze’, the flat limestone so typical of the region, and squat walls often backing on to medieval ramparts.
The old town of Sarlat
The historic town of Sarlat is divided in two by the Rue de la République, known as “la Traverse”. The district to the West of the street is known to be more ‘common’, while the eastern side is more aristocratic. The Tourist Office is located to the South, next to the Cathedral St Sacerdos and a few metres away from the Place de la Grande Rigaudie. The famous Place de la Liberté and the aristocratic Rue des Consuls, with its beautiful mansions, are towards the northern part of town. Find out more about Sarlat Old Town…
But the most beloved event in Sarlat is unquestionably its traditional French-style markets which take place twice a week, all year round (on Saturday and Wednesday mornings) and which display the region’s best local produce: foie-gras, fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy produce and cheese, herbs, poultry, fresh pasta, pâtisseries, jams, teas and infusions, plants, etc.
There is also a covered market which recently opened in the former church Sainte-Marie (open every day except Thursday from mid-November to mid-April), and a late-night organic market (every Thursday from 6-10pm). In December, January and February, a Truffle, Duck and Goose Produce Market takes place on Saturdays from 9am to 12pm on Place Boissarie.
Movies filmed in Sarlat
Today, Sarlat has become a major filming site, the third in France after Paris and Nice, with over 50 French and international movies taking place in the old part of town: ‘Le Tatoué’ by Denys de la Patellière (1968), ‘Jacquou le Croquant’ by Stellio Lorenzi (1969), ‘Les Duellistes’ by Ridley Scott (1977), ‘Les Misérables’ by Robert Hossein (1982), ‘La fille de d’Artagnan’ by Bertrand Tavernier (1993), ‘Les Visiteurs 1 and 2’ by JM Poiré (1993 et 1996), ‘Ever After’ by Andy Tennant (1998), ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ by Luc Besson (1998), ‘Jacquou le Croquant’ by Laurent Boutonnat (2006)…
Since 1991, the Sarlat Film Festival takes place in November. Every summer since 1951, the Theatre Festival of Sarlat creates a certain buzz in the capital of Périgord Noir, with its programme of performances and lectures.
How to get to Sarlat-la-Canéda
Sarlat-la-Canéda is easily accessible by car from Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse, via the A20 and A89 autoroutes (French for motorways).
If you travel from Australia or America, you could take a flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle, and travel by TGV from the airport station straight to Bordeaux and rent a car from there.
The TGV from Paris-Gare de Montparnasse takes 3 hours to Bordeaux. A SNCF regional train links Bordeaux St. Jean station to Sarlat in less than 3 hours.
Tourist information Centre of Sarlat-la-Canéda: http://www.sarlat-tourisme.com