I am no stranger to France and to The Dordogne area. My partner and I used to holiday there and as a result, I have been to quite a few of the places mentioned in various travel guides about The Dordogne and Périgord Noir. That, of course, includes Sarlat… or does it?
Erm, well, actually it doesn’t. It turned out that my partner and I, were so “clued-up” and “familiar” with The Dordogne, that we never went to its most famous town – Sarlat. Not sure why and how we missed it but we did. Instead, we used to go to Soullliac which is a few kilometres down the road and the town I always referred to as Sarlat!
Just as well I decided to go and see it this time, which turned out to be not only my first solo visit to France but my first visit to Sarlat too!
My visit to Sarlat
First things first, I need to find a car park as Sarlat is France’s finest and most unspoilt 14th century town. The Old Town is car-free which makes it so much nicer to explore.
You can park slightly away from The Old Town or do what I did and leave your car at Place Pasteur. It’s a convenient car park, just a stone’s throw away from the heart of The Old Town and it costs €3 for the day.
If this is your first visit to Sarlat too, you could start with a quick stop at the Tourist Office. Pick up a map, find your bearings and decide on where you want to go and what you want to see. The Tourist Office is next door to the Cathedral which is likely to be your first stop anyway. You can’t miss it, even if you come into town from a different direction.
I decided not to invest in a map, because I needed my hands to be free in order to take photographs. This is a good place to remind you to charge your camera and make sure you have enough space on your memory card too. Better still, bring spare ones (batteries and memory cards) as you are likely to get carried away and photograph anything and everything within sight.
Things to see (and photograph) in Sarlat
I was quite overwhelmed by The Old Town and its appeal. It is very attractive and even if you went for a casual stroll (like I did), you are likely to come across quite a few of the “must-see” sites. My favourite and the reason I wanted to go to Sarlat in the first place, is Place du Marché aux Trois Oies. This is the square with the statue of the three geese which marks the site where the goose market once was. Keep an eye out for Manoir de Gisson which is the castle-looking manor house on that square.
Other “must-sees’ include Lanterne des Morts (Lanterns of the Dead), Place de la Liberté which is the main square in The Old Town of Sarlat. It’s a busy place with cafes, restaurants, shops and The Market which was once a church – Eglise Sainte-Marie.
Le Badaud statue is on that square too. It’s a statue of man who is watching over the square. You can’t miss it as it’s always surrounded by photographers.
Time for a break
I must have walked for a couple of hours and even though I enjoyed it, I needed to sit down and relax. The good thing about Sarlat is that there is always a cafe, bistro or a restaurant a few yards from you. I settled for coffee and cake as I watched the world go by. Even if you end up in a small backstreet place, there will be plenty of people to watch.
If you are there for lunch or dinner, I suggest you try some of the area’s delicacies. Think duck, goose, foie gras, truffles, goat’s cheese, walnuts, washed down with a glass of nice local wine, of course. Just make sure you are not driving after that.
Most restaurants and bistros also serve salads with various meat and cheese toppings for lunch – #justsaying.
Now that you are fed and rested, you need to explore the rest of the town. On foot, obviously 🙂 Go for a wander and have your camera at the ready. Despite the tourists, Sarlat is a quiet and unhurried place. Take advantage of that and enjoy your visit there. I certainly did.
If you need a visual for the location of Sarlat, here is a Google Map for you: