Sometimes you think you know a place but you don’t. I discovered that on my latest visit to Rocamadour. There is so much more to that pretty little village than a high street with souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes. So let me show you around and help you plan your visit.
My visit to Rocmadour
My visit to Rocamadour began with me almost driving off the edge of a cliff in a desperate bid to find a car park. Read my Travel Diary for the whole story (look out for Day 10).
You are likely to arrive at Rocamadour via l’Hospitalet – the site of the old hospital which was originally built to accommodate pilgrims who stopped over on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The ruins are still there, the small chapel which was restored in the 15th century is there and it makes for a nice photograph too.
Today the site of l’Hospitalet is best known as the belvedere of Rocamadour, offering spectacular views towards the village. The Tourist Office is there too together with plenty of car parking space. I left my car in the car park opposite Le Belevedere hotel and restaurant. It was free and without a time-limit on it.
I didn’t go to the tourist office this time but it’s always a good idea to do so, especially on your first visit to a new place. There you can pick up a map of the place, check out the notice boards and see what’s on etc. At the very least, you could make a mental note of the places you want to see and the things you want to do.
The tourist office in Rocamadour is at l’Hospitalet which is quite convenient as it allows you to visit it prior to walking into the village down below.
Things to see (and photograph) in Rocamadour
Rocamadour is a walled village, built on three levels which mimic the medieval social order. The workers lived on the lower level near the river, the religious clerics lived on the middle level whilst the knights enjoyed the views and benefits from living on the top of Rocamadour.
As soon as you walk through the stone gate, you are on the main street of the village. Today this is where you find the shops, cafes and restaurants. It is busy but you can still take some amazing photographs of the traditional stone buildings on either side. Walk all the way down the street until you reach the gate at the bottom, then walk back up towards the stairs to the Sanctuary level of Rocamadour on your left.
Don’t be put off by the steps and the steep climb leading to the religious centre of Rocamadour. This part of the village features quite a few arches and stone balustrades which have a very Italian feel to them.
The largest of the seven churches on that level is The Basilique St Sauveur. The gallery at the back of the church is wooden and quite similar to the ones found in churches in the Basque region.
There, you will come across Chapelle Notre Damme. It is a small chapel which was built after a rock fell into the original sanctuary in 1479. This chapel is also the home of the Black Madonna which is believed to have healing powers.
I urge you to turn off the flash on your camera before you go in, as it is bound to go off due to the limited light inside.
Chemin de Croix
Now that you are half way up the cliff, you might as well carry on and take the walk to the metal cross on top. Make sure you have water before you set off because even though it is a shaded and pleasant walk, it is steep and a good cardio workout.
When you reach the top, go behind the cross. You have a wonderful view towards Rocamadour and the valley opposite you. That view is worth the walk, I promise you.
When you’ve been to Rocamadour, it’s easy to see why it is the second most visited site in France. This small village receives 1.5 million visitors per season. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site (link here) as well as one of the Grand Sites of France (link here).
Last year (2016), Rocamadour was voted “the favourite village of the French”.
If you need a visual for the location of Rocamadour, here is a Google Map for you: