Sarlat, France: A Sandstone Gem That History Geeks Will Love


Sarlat, the tourist town in southern France, Dordogne

The busy tourist town of Sarlat

One thing that the Midi Pyrenees has in abundance is beautiful villages and towns to explore and the medieval town of Sarlat in the Perigord Noir should definitely be on anyone’s travel list.

The History of Sarlat

Tracing its history back to the 9th Century Sarlat rapidly grew from being the centre for a Benedictine Abbey to a rich market town and many of the house structures you still see today were built to support the wealthy merchants that settled there.

In 1962 Sarlat became the trial town of a new law called the ‘loi Malraux’ which set about to protect the patrimony of French towns. Money was provided to restore Sarlat’s fine buildings and it now has the highest density of ‘Historic Monuments’ and ‘Classified Monuments’ of any town in France.  For this reason walking around Sarlat you will feel that you have been transported back to the 14th Century.

Much of the town, which is often besieged by tourists, is pedestrianized making it easier to explore the hidden gems and the sandstone delights.  Rue de la Republique runs the length of the old town and has a maze of narrow little streets running off of it on either side.


The quieter side streets of Sarlat, South France, dordogne

The quieter side streets

So where should you spend your time?

The cathedral, the original building which has been added to over the course of time now has a mix of Roman and Gothic styling, is a beautiful place to explore and spend time in.

Sarlat Cathdral, South France

Inside Sarlat Cathedral

                     Sarlat Cathedral Candles

Opposite this you have the Hotel de la Boetie with its large arched entrance which is said to be the birthplace of Etienne de la Boetie, a humanist and philosopher.

Crossing the Rue de la Republique to the west side of town take a look at the Hotel St Clar with its wonderful turret tower and see the Tour du Bourreau and the last remaining part of the ramparts.

Wandering down the Rue des Consuls you will see a number of very impressive mansions. There is the 16th century Hotel de Mirandol with its imposing doorway, the 14th century Hotel Plamon with its three arched windows. The Hotel de Vassal was built in the 15th century and has a double turret and the Hotel Tapinois de Betou has a monumental staircase. About half way along the Rue des Consuls is The Manoir de Gisson which is made up of two buildings of different styles linked together by a hexagonal tower.

Back towards the cathedral is the fabulous main square, the Place de la Liberté. This lovely square is surrounded by wonderful buildings and has a view towards the bell tower of the cathedral.

There are also several streets of shops and boutiques for you to pick up a gift or two!


Street artists around Sarlat, France

Street Artists around Sarlat

Side Streets of Sarlat, France


Sarlat old buildings to explore, France

Wonderful old buildings to explore

traditional shops around Sarlat France

Plenty of shops to explore for traditional gifts

   The streets of Sarlat France

Sarlat stonework, France

The architecture is eye-catching

This really is a great place to visit however, please be mindful that if you want to avoid the crowds it would be best to visit either early in the morning or later into the evening.  At the height of the summer months this town is awash with tourists and therefore can feel quite claustrophobic.

Sarlat Buildings, France

The cobbled streets of Sarlat, France

The cobbled streets of Sarlat

Have you visited the picturesque sandstone town of Sarlat?  Maybe it reminds you of somewhere else you have been on your travels, if so we would love to hear about them. 


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