Like a fine bottle of Bordeaux wine or an exceptional gourmet dinner at a Michelin three-star restaurant, the picturesque town of Sarlat deserves to be enjoyed and savored slowly.
Visitors to this gem of a city should set aside enough time to take a leisurely stroll through its charming cobblestone streets, study the stunning architectural details of its medieval buildings or enjoy a delicious al fresco lunch in the town's lovely main square.
Sarlat, which is also sometimes referred to as Sarlat-la-Caneda, offers visitors a fascinating peek at the way France once appeared.
In some ways, visiting Sarlat is like taking a trip to the past without having to invest in a time machine. The carefully restored town has even been classified as a Ville d'Art et d'Histoire -- or in English, as an Artistic and Historic Town.
About Sarlat: Sarlat is also on the tentative list to be considered for a possible UNESCO World Heritage designation.
This town, which is home to an impressively large number of Historic and Classified Monuments, has also been awarded three stars, an excellent rating, by the prestigious Michelin Guide.
Sarlat, which is nestled in the middle of a beautiful forested area, is the capital of the Perigord Noir. It has been in existence since around the Gallo-Roman times, but it really began to flourish in the 9th Century when a Benedictine Abbey was established in the settlement.
Most of the fascinating historic stone buildings that you can still see today in Sarlat date back to the 14th Century.
These magnificent examples of medieval architectures were restored to their current glory thanks to the French Malraux Law of 1962, which provided much-needed funds to the city as well as to the owners of private homes for restoration purposes.
Today, visitors can enjoy strolling down the narrow streets of this picturesque city and imagining how much of France once looked. Those in the know recommend visiting Sarlat in the early morning when the rising sun sets off the yellow hue of the stone buildings to perfection, and its streets aren't yet bustling with tourists.
Great Base: Because Sarlat is located in the center of Perigord Noir and is close to the Dordogne region, it makes for an excellent base from which to explore the beauty of the surrounding areas. In addition, it offers a relatively large number of accommodations in many different price ranges.
Sarlat also has a reputation as a food lover's paradise. Not only is this historic village of approximately 10,000 people home to a number of excellent restaurants, it is also famous with foodies for its rare black truffles and amazing foie gras.
Open Markets: If at all possible, try to arrange your itinerary so that you can be in Sarlat on either Wednesday or Saturday. These are the days when the town's famous markets are held. Sarlat's markets are truly a foodie's dream come true, with stalls overflowing with fresh produce, artisan cheeses and meats as well as the region's famous foie gras and Perigord truffles. The latter can cost as much as $1,200 a pound but, thankfully, you only need a little to turn a regular dish into something much more special.
In addition to the food, this market also typically features singers or bands as well as goods from local craftspeople. You will probably find that these markets are as much an adventure for your eyes as they are for your taste buds. If you like large, crowded events filled with hustle and bustle, try to shoot for the Saturday events, which are typically much larger than the Wednesday ones. On the other hand, if you would prefer a quieter event, the Wednesday markets would probably be more to your liking.
The Chateau de Puymartin: This beautifully restored castle was originally built in the late 13th century. It is set high on a hill in the Perigordian forest and boasts beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. Legend has it that the castle is haunted by a young lady in white, who is said to be the ghost of Therese de Saint-Clar. This unfortunate woman had died in the castle after having been locked up in one of its rooms for 15 years by her husband who had discovered her with a lover.
St. Sacerdos Cathedral: This historic building, which is located in the center of medieval Sarlat, is located on the site of a Benedictine Abbey. It has been altered and renovated a number of times over the years, but is still a fascinating place to visit.
Special Events: Sarlat is home to a number of interesting and popular festivals, including a famous film festival in November called Le Festival de Film de Sarlat and a Truffle Festival, which is held during the third weekend in January every year.
Getting There: If you wish to travel to Sarlat, you can either rent a car and drive to this beautiful area or, if you're coming from Paris, take the TGV train to either Libourne or Bordeaux, and then take a TER regional train to Sarlat.
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