Brantôme is one of the most beautiful places in the Dordogne, but there are others as well, notably some that are classified officially as ‘plus beaux villages de France’, the prettiest villages in France. The closest ‘beaux village’ to Brantôme is St-Jean-de-Cole, just 20 minutes away by car, while the others are about 1 1/2 hours away, but clustered quite closely together. These include St-Amand-de-Coly, St-Leon-sur-Vezere, Limeuil, Beynac, La Roque Gageac, Belves and Domme. The stunning city of Sarlat is also nearby (pictured here), and you could probably see them all if you started early in a day trip, you can plot your journey on this map Beaux Villages.
It’s also worth driving up to Angoulême to see its charming old town, and beyond it to Cognac, where you can also visit some of the Cognac producers See directions. Perigueux is just 25 minutes away and worth visiting too, especially if you want to do a big shop at the large supermarket complex Auchan, just 5 minutes away from the town.
The historical part of Cognac is a maze of narrow, cobblestone streets framed by beautiful 17th-18th century houses built by cognac merchants of the period. On the docks of the river Charente sits the castle where Francois I of France was born. You can visit some of the famous cognac houses such as Hennessy, Martel and Camus as part of a guided visit lasting about an hour in the town of Cognac. For more information about Cognac and the town, to go Tourism Cognac
Perigueux is also a beautiful ancient Roman city, with over 39 listed buildings and a charming little ‘old town’ studded with restaurants. The place is also quite lively at night, especially in the summer, with lots of open-air festivals and concerts. Get the latest information from their tourist office, at Tourism Perigueux
Angoulême is quite a large town, but its prettiest part is the old medieval town high up on the hill with spectacular views of the area. You can park up near the mairie and then walk over to the old town, with its cobblestone streets and charming shops and cafes.
Sarlat, the capital of the Black Périgord, is one of the most authentically preserved cities in the France, having been the first in the region to be protected by laws regarding the preservation and restoration of historic towns.
As a result, you will step back into history as you witness an architectural heritage spanning over one thousand years. Pippin the Short, the father of Charlemagne, was reputed to have founded Sarlat, and built its magnificent Benedictine Abbey. Don’t miss a visit to this charming town and its narrow cobblestone streets. Read more
St-Jean-de-Cole dates from the 11th century, and according to history started as a settlement for monks. The village square is dominated by the 12th century Château de la Marthonie, which was reconstructed in the 15th century after being ravaged in the 100 Years War. It is also crowned by a superb Roman-Byzantine church, built in the 11th century by the bishop of Perigueux. Both the church and castle are worth seeing, perhaps after a delicious lunch in one of the many quaint cafes and restaurants in the square. Read more
OTHER BEAUX VILLAGES
Driving down towards Sarlat, you’ll see St-Amand-de-Coly, with its stunning fortified Romanesque church that overlooks the pretty village before reaching St-Leon-sur-Vezere, another beautiful town that sits on a bend of the Vézère river near Les Eyzies. While here, don’t miss the 12th century roman church and the impressive castles, dating from the 14th to the 17th centuries. Read more.
Further along, you will see Limeuil, located at the meeting of the rivers Dordogne and Vézère, a prime position for the feudal fortress built there, which was fiercely fought over by the English and French during the 100 Years War.
Beynac was one of the four major baronies of the Périgord, along with Biron, Bourdeilles and Mareuil. The village sits at the bottom of a 150 metre cliff, crowned by its impressive fort, and is one of the most picturesque villages in the region. Read more. Nearby, don’t miss the village of La Roque Gageac, whose houses are built right into the face of a huge cliff facing the river. If you climb up to the ancient troglodyte caves you’ll see magnificent views of the area. Read more
The medieval town of Belves was built on a rocky outcrop, giving it superb views of the open countryside. Known for its seven bell towers, Belves also has some interesting troglodyte dwellings that date from the 13th century. Read more
Domme is a well-preserved fortified town, that has retained some of its walls and the original gateways into the town, which were later used to imprison the Knights Templar that had been arrested by the king. Read more