Sarlat and the surrounding Dordogne Valley was a spur of the moment destination in France. We had two weeks to spare before traveling to Paris, and we needed a cheap flight out of London and across The Channel. Bordeaux was a cheap hop, and Sarlat was en route to Paris!
After picking up a rental car at the Bordeaux airport we were on our way to Sarlat, our perfect home base while exploring France’s Dordogne region for a week. From Sarlat we took day trips to the Gardens of Marqueyssac, Beynac, Collonges-la-Rouge, Martel, and Rocamadour. The drive from the airport is about 2½ – 3 hours. It is possible to travel to Sarlat by train. However, to truly appreciate what the local area has to offer a rental car is best. Book ahead if planning to pick up a car in Sarlat as Europcar is the only option in town. If you decide to rent a car from Europcar, it is located on the south side of town close to the train station.
Sarlat-la-Canéda is a beautifully preserved medieval town with a population of 10,000 people. The old town is full of picturesque limestone buildings and homes. While walking around Sarlat’s winding streets you will find so many opportunities to capture beauty from old doorways to rambling roses adorning homes. Around town the blooming wisteria was climbing up garden walls and fences.
For centuries, Sarlat’s market has been a local tradition. Sarlat is very well known for the year round market it has twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The market is in the main square, Place de la Liberté, and spreads out to the surrounding streets.
At this bustling local market you will find vendors selling fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, meat, cheese, olives, flowers, and plants. We saw tables filled with asparagus, artichokes, radish, cucumber, peppers, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, and eggplant at the time we visited. Vendors also sell local specialties. The area is known for its foie gras, truffles and walnuts.
We spent a Wednesday morning strolling around the Sarlat market before going to the Gardens of Marqueyssac. The market is perfect for gathering items for a picnic.
Local Farm Shop
If you miss the market days in Sarlat, you can visit some of the local shops such as La Ferme de Vialard. This local farm shop is open Monday through Saturday and is approximately a 10 minute drive from Sarlat. The shop sells an assortment of locally sourced products and seasonal produce. You will find bread, vegetables, fruit, meat, cheese, eggs, fruit juice, honey, biscuits, jam, walnut cake, and sorbet. We loved the refreshing sorbet!
Also, a daily covered market is inside the former Ste-Marie Church on the main square of Sarlat. During the off season this market is open every day except for Thursday. We did not leave this market without purchasing some tasty macarons.
Gardens of Marqueyssac
With our picnic packed we headed out to The Hanging Gardens of Marqueyssac located in Vezac. A short 20 minute drive away from Sarlat and locally known as the Belvedere of the Dordogne (Panoramic Viewpoint of the Dordogne Valley). The romantic gardens are set atop a rocky spur and designed in the 19th century with walking in mind! All paths lead past the rolling boxwoods to the viewpoints that give an impressive appreciation of the Dordogne Valley.
We visited the garden on a chilly and overcast day with rain in the forecast. It ended up being perfect because it was quiet with hardly any visitors. We felt like we had the garden all to ourselves.
The garden has a few different walks you can take. We did the Cliff Walk and parts of the Great Walk to admire several views of the garden. The walk takes you along the Rosemary Path and past the Poet’s Hut. Ultimately, all paths lead you to the Belvedere where you will see magnificent views of the Dordogne Valley.
The garden is open every day year round. An adult ticket costs 9.80 euros and a ticket for a child (age 10 -17 years old) costs 4.90 euros. Children under the age of 10 years old have free admission.
If you are looking for a bite to eat, the Tea Room is found in the chateau’s North wing serving refreshments that can be enjoyed outside on the terrace. The garden has two children’s playgrounds as well as a children’s labyrinth near the terrace of the Tea Room.
Tourists often overlook this garden, but we feel this is a sight not to be missed. It was an enchanting place to enjoy the view and take in the late afternoon while picnicking on the local foods purchased at the market.