Sarlat-la-Canéda is a lovely French village in the Dordogne Valley. It is home to the highest concentration of medieval, Renaissance, and 17th-century architecture of any town in France. Its picturesque lanes and facades display the privileged status Sarlat received in return for its loyalty to the French crown during the Hundred Years’ War.
Getting to Sarlat
In addition to its attractive architecture, Sarlat features one of the best markets in France. While Saturday is its biggest market, Sarlat also holds a large market on Wednesday on the Place de la Liberté. As I love markets, I passed by fields of poppies and visited Sarlat on a Wednesday.
My Rick Steve’s guidebook directed me to public parking on the north side of town. As I approached Sarlat with its bustling atmosphere, I quickly realized after completing my farm stay chores and driving 1.5 hours, I was far too late to find a parking spot in a designated parking area.
As such, I took the first left that led me away from the city as I didn’t want to try driving in town with traffic and French signs. As luck would have it, many cars were parked on the side of the one-way road. While I had to go pretty far up the hill, I followed suit and snagged the last place where a car could fit.
The Sarlat Market
It was almost 11am. I followed the crowd and ended up at the market which ends at 1pm. I wandered up and down the two streets it took over while checking out the delicacies…foie gras, truffles, walnuts, cheese and sausage were among the most popular choices. Fortunately, the vendors spoke English, so I purchased some sausage and olives to snack on as I explored the surrounding streets and architectural sites.
My first stop was at Cathédrale St-Sacerdos. The cathedral was once a 9th century church and part of an abbey. When the diocese was established in Sarlat in 1317, the bishop and former abbot of the church ordered the church be remodeled. The construction took many years to complete due to the Hundred Years’ War and other setbacks, thus with the exception of its 9th century belfry, it dates to the 17th century. Cathédrale St-Sacerdos is known for its amazing 18th century organ.
Lanterne des Morts of Sarlat
Behind the cathédrale, is the Lanterne des Morts. Lanterns of the Dead are conical shaped towers found in the central and western parts of France. Pierced with small holes at the top, the light from the towers indicated the position of the cemetery. The Lanterne des Morts of Sarlat was built in 1147 to commemorate the sermons of St. Bernard who played a major role in the Second Crusade.
Cour des Fontaines
In a nearby court yard which is flanked with two restaurants, is the Cour des Fontaines, a spring that attracted the monks who founded the abbey in Sarlat.
Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau
After weaving around this religious area, I crossed over Rue de La Republique to Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This street, also known as La Traverse, was the main street until Rue de la Republique was constructed in the 19th century. The contrast between the two streets was amazing. One was lined with store fronts and busy with cars while the other was nearly vacant.
Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rue des Consuls
I strolled the quiet street while enjoying the arch ways and lanterns until I reached its end and turned to the right to walk down Rue des Consuls, a street of 15th, 16th, and 17th century mansions and a cool 12th century fountain, Fontaine Sainte Marie, that was once walled up as the water is non-potable. It’s a nice quiet and shady place to take refuge from the busy streets.
Manoir de Gisson
A popular mansion to visit along Rue des Consuls is Manoir de Gisson. The medieval building with mullioned windows and a roof of stone features a basement of curiosities and rooms that exhibit the life of nobility.
Place du Marche aux Oies
The Manoir de Gisson sits on the Place du Marchè aux Oies, once an important goose trading square. Now the square features a statue of three geese.
Just south of the square is the Eglise Sainte-Marie. Once a church, it now hosts a daily indoor market. It also includes a panoramic elevator that provides an excellent view of Sarlat. Just to the east of the former church is a sidewalk which climbs upwards to another nice viewpoint of Sarlat.
Rue de la Salamandre
The final street I walked along before leaving Sarlat to visit some other nearby towns was Rue de la Salamandre. It was named for the salamander emblem of François I which is on many of Sarlat’s 16th-century homes.
Sarlat is a lovely sized village. I loved my short morning visit to the town and think it would be a wonderful place to stay while visiting the Dordogne Valley. ETB
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