If there’s one place I recommend you go in France, it’s Sarlat-le-Caneda. This gorgeous medieval town is the perfect home base for exploring the area’s rich history, culture and food scene. Beautiful stone streets, rolling hills and valleys, stunning villages along the river, caves a plenty and a food scene that created foie gras – it’s a relaxing paradise, especially for foodies and wine lovers.
We spent a bank holiday in Sarlat-le-Canada and had a fantastic weekend exploring all that this area has to offer. We only wish we could have extended our trip to stay longer!
Stay | Do | Eat & Drink | Tips
Where to Stay in Sarlat
When traveling to Sarlat-le-Canada, stay near the old city center. The beautiful medieval old town is the perfect backdrop for a weekend getaway and is filled with great restaurants, shopping and of course, the famous market. Further outside, the quaint stone buildings become fewer and farther between and more obviously commercial. From our experience, it’s worth paying a bit more to be able to walk over to the old town and soak up the ambiance.
We rented an Airbnb just outside the old city right by Parc Du Plantier. This Airbnb was one of our favorites here in Europe! It was an easy walk over to the market and shops and restaurants of the main squares.
It was quiet, clean and even had air conditioning, which you never know if you’ll need during August in Europe. It was newly renovated and beautifully decorated, with exposed beams and stone walls. Our host left us the cutest welcome, complete with famous Sarlat walnut cake!
What to Do in Sarlat
Located in the Dordogne and Perigord regions of France, there is so much to explore in and around Sarlat. This beautiful area offers incredible historical sights, stunning natural beauty and lots of fun activities. Here are the best things we found to do in Sarlat.
Visit the Famous Market
I’ll admit it. I thought to myself before we arrived, “How special could this market be? We’ve seen one European market, we’ve probably seen them all.” I was wrong. This market was above and beyond any that we’ve visited and our aim to gather supplies for a meal at our Airbnb was the perfect way to make it even more fun.
The entire town is transformed. Stalls pop up all over the medieval part of the city selling their wares, most very beautiful or delicious things. Families, locals and tourists alike fill the streets to admire the things on offer or do some shopping for the week ahead. There was a decided lack of junk being sold at this market, which we appreciated.
We planned to peruse the market for something to make for dinner on our third night in Sarlat and it was far easier and more delicious than we could have anticipated. Our first order of business was to get some foie gras, which the area is known for. Our Airbnb host recommended Albie and we easily found their stall outside Old St Mary’s Church. We also saw that they sold duck confit, so we picked up some of that to make as well. #decadence
After that, we happened upon a stall inside Old St Mary’s Church that had both truffle risotto and macarons. The perfect side and dessert.
We wandered more with two more items in mind, a plate for our collection and some sort of vegetable for our market meal. We collect decorative plates on our travels and someday when we have a home with enough square footage to accommodate a plate wall, we intend to create one with plates from all over the world. We found a perfect specimen in a little shop, which spilled out onto the street during the market hours.
Despite the rain, the market was a fun, sensory experience that ended up being a great way to explore Sarlat!
Visit a Cave
The Perigord is famous for its caves, which are scattered all throughout the limestone landscape. Gorgeous cliffs rise out of the lush greenery, hinting at what lies beyond their stony faces. Inside many of the caves, evidence of prehistoric peoples and animals have been found, the most remarkable among these various cave drawings and paintings dating back thousands and thousands of years.
Using a guidebook our Airbnb host provided, I sorted through the caves fairly quickly by checking their hours to see which ones were open and narrowing them down from there based on driving distance and TripAdvisor reviews of their features. I settled upon Rouffignac Cave, which featured ancient cave drawings and a train tour. It was also said to be a larger cave, which sounded impressive. Just under forty minutes away from Sarlat by car, it was a scenic and easy drive over.
We arrived in the afternoon and made our way to the ticket office. We were able to get tickets for the tour departing an hour and a half later, as the others were booked up (cave touring is a great activity for a rainy day!).
With some time to kill, we drove back up the road to a shop and cafe with its future foie gras milling about. We went to have a look which was somewhat morbid, as my diet during those days was largely comprised of duck.
After, we headed back to the cave for our tour! The tour was given only in French, so we paid a couple extra Euro for an electronic English guide. Our tour gathered at the back of the entrance area to meet our guide. Once she opened the doors to the rest of the cave, the temperature dropped quite a few degrees.
We turned the corner to find our little train. We boarded and took off to explore.
The tour lasted about forty-five minutes and took us past several different cave drawings as well as pits dug by ancient giant bears, who inhabited the cave centuries before humans arrived.
The highlight of the tour was at the deepest point of the cave. There, an unbelievable collection of ancient drawings covered the ceiling in drawings of all different prehistoric animals – from wooly mammoths to woolly rhinos, ibex and horses. It was spectacular.
Kayak the Dordogne
I’ll share more about our experience kayaking along the Dordogne on the blog next week since we had such an incredible day.
Kayaking was the perfect to explore the area at a leisurely pace.
Visit Les Jardins de Marqueyssac
I’ll share more about this in my next post as well, but don’t skip Les Jardins de Marqueyssac. I was all ready to do so, but Andrew wanted to stop in and it was well worth it. They are gorgeous and offer incredible views over the area.
After kayaking, it was the perfect place to see all the ground we’d covered earlier and a new vantage point from which we could admire the beautiful towns along the Dordogne.
Where to Eat in Sarlat-le-Caneda
Foodies find themselves in heaven in Sarlat. With many restaurants serving up classic French cooking, it is a wonderful culinary destination for a town of its size. You never know what delicious food could be waiting around the next stone corner.
We ate very well in Sarlat! We dined there for dinner for two nights and on our third night, made a meal of our market finds.
Les Jardins d’Harmonie
Our first meal in Sarlat at Les Jardins d’Harmonie was just stunning. This was the only meal we booked ahead and I’m so glad we chose this spot and this night. It was dry and warm enough to outside against the stone walls of the medieval town, streetlights casting their warm, romantic light over our table. All that, and then the food.
We started with duck three ways, which included foie gras, and ordered a bottle of red. Andrew chose the “Perigord Noir” off the wine list, figuring since we’d driven through the Perigord that day, it’d be a great local wine to try. It also sounds like “Pinot Noir” which is one of our favorites. Both were fantastic.
For our mains, I got the steak. Also fantastic.
The waiter approved of our wine choice as it is one of his favorites and can only be found in the Perigord region (that was a moment when we were a bit sad about airline liquid limits – it was a lovely wine and we would have enjoyed bringing some back with us to share with friends!). Our waiter was very friendly and proud of his city – he considered Sarlat a hidden gem and it made him happy to know that we had heard of it, being from America.<
It was a beautiful night under the open sky enjoying delicious French food and wine!
L’Entrepote came highly recommended by our Airbnb host and looked great when we walked by after our dinner at Les Jardins de Harmonie. We made a booking while we explored the market for that evening.
We had a lovely meal, I got the duck and Andrew the pork. I was a little envious as his dish seemed lighter and I was beginning to feel the weight of all the rich food I’d been consuming… ha!
Though not as show stopping as our experience at Les Jardins de Harmonie, we had a nice meal and the stone arches in the restaurant give it a special ambiance.
Our market meal turned out fabulous! We arrived back to our Airbnb at nearly 8pm on that Sunday after kayaking with plans to get up early for the drive back to Bordeaux. A home-cooked meal was perfect for our plans.
We started with some Albie foie gras on gluten-free bread, served with a glass of Chateau Monbazillac, which we had picked up on our ride out. Delicious!
For our main, Andrew cooked up the duck confit we bought, along with green beans and truffle risotto. We had gotten a bottle of local wine from a shop in Sarlat during the market to pair with our dinner. It was a veritable feast! So so good.
After dinner, we enjoyed locally made macarons for a little bit of sweet before bed. By the time we returned to London I was ready for a straight week detox of lemon water and salad – ha!
Sarlat was a highlight of our weekend getaways. It was the perfect place to relax, explore and enjoy somewhere new.
You need a car to fully take advantage of this area.
Definitely stay near the old Centre of Sarlat. Outside of the old town, the vibe is very different and there’s fewer restaurants. It’s worth the extra money to be in on the action.
We decided to tour a cave last minute and found that many were closed on Saturdays. When we chose a cave and drove over, we couldn’t get tickets for a tour until an hour and a half later. Though it never felt too crowded while we were there, the sights are small and worth booking ahead.
Book dinners in advance at popular restaurants, like the ones mentioned here. We booked L’Entrepote the day of and were able to get a table that night.