Domme is a medieval, bastide town located in the Dordogne Valley in the Nouvelle-Aquitane region of southwestern France. Perched on a rocky outcrop, Domme provides magnificent views of the Dordogne River and valley. A member of the association, Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, Domme is a popular tourist destination.
Getting to Domme
I arrived to Domme on a Wednesday in late May in the early afternoon after visiting Sarlat. I wasn’t sure how busy Domme would be, so I followed signs to the first public parking lot I saw, number 4, which was a bit of distance from the town.
Unlike parking in the Corrèze which is generally free, the parking in the Dordogne Valley costs a couple of euros. The ticket machine was not at the entrance, so be sure to look around to purchase a slip to display on your dash.
In lot 4, the machine is near the bathrooms and water fountain. While these were nice conveniences, in this case, I would have preferred parking closer to town in lots 1 or 2 which were not yet full, though it was not peak, summer season.
History of Domme
As mentioned above, Domme is a bastide town, one of about 300 remaining. Bastide towns were hurriedly built in the 13th century by both the English and the French to settle empty areas before the Hundred Years’ War. They included planned grids of streets and fortified perimeters that surround a central square, a church, and a market place arcade.
Despite Domme’s fortified walls and cliffside location, Domme faced much turmoil. It was ruled by both the French and English during the Hundred Years’ War and by both the Protestants and Catholics during the Wars of Religion.
Porte des Tours
I descended the stairs from the parking area to the street, turned right, and climbed a hill toward Porte des Tours, one of three medieval gateways still remaining in Domme. Upon entering Porte des Tours, I took a jog to the right and found a sign indicating my position in town and a proposed walking route.
Grand Rue and L’esplande de la Barre
I strolled to Grand Rue and followed it north past a handful of shops and restaurants, made a quick stop in the L’eglise Notre Dame de L’Assomption, and ended at L’esplande de la Barre, a viewpoint where it seemed like every visitor to Domme was standing. I could see why. The overlook provided a wonderful panorama of farmland and hillside cut by the Dordogne River.
I stuck to the recommended walking path for a while as I meandered along the promenade and to the public gardens. The windmill and chateau pictured on the map were closed, so I turned back toward Place de la Halle while admiring the golden stone buildings draped in greenery and colorful flowers.
While I veered from the proposed path, I saw most of the indicated highlights, including Place de la Halle, Place de la Rode, and Porte de la Combe, while wandering the village streets.
Two things I failed to visit, however, were the caves located beneath Domme where villagers hid during the Hundred Years’ War, as well as the Knight Templars’ graffiti in the Porte des Tours gateway, whose towers were once used as a prison.
La Grotte Domme
Both the La Grotte de Domme and the Knight Templars’ graffiti require a tour. The La Grotte de Domme tours cost 8.50 euros for adults, are 45 minutes long, and take place on the hour during July and August. More limited hours apply during the rest of the year.
Knight Templar’s Graffiti in the Porte des Tours
The Knight Templars’ graffiti tour should be arranged in the visitor’s office (not at the site). Visitors may follow a self-guided tour with a pamphlet or engage in a visitor center guided tour. The site is only open in July and August.
Not visiting during the peak months of July and August? Don’t worry, Domme is still one of the most beautiful villages in France, and it’s worth a stroll through the streets inside its protective wall. Be sure to take advantage of the views Domme provides as it sits 820 feet above sea level. ETB
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