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The Most Beautiful Villages of France: Dordogne

The Most Beautiful Villages of France: Dordogne

story by: Tom Ricketts

Established in 1982, Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, or as we’re going to call it, The Most Beautiful Villages of France was set up to promote the small and picturesque villages of France. To qualify for membership, the villages must have quality heritage, a population of less than 2000, and contain at least two national heritage sites. Today the number of members sits at around 150, so it’s rather unlikely you’ll get to see all of them. To help you see the best of the lot, our Europe experts have picked some of their favourites for you to check out…

Perched on a small ridge overlooking the Sourdoire and Maumont Valley’s, this town dates from the 12th century when its first Romanesque church was built. The town also boasts three castles, two other churches and a handful of noble houses.

The history of this town can be traced back to the eighth century, however much of it was destroyed during the French Wars of Religion, the French Revolution and the Hundred Years War. When peace finally allowed the town to be rebuilt, it was done so entirely in red sandstone which creates a striking contrast with its lush green surroundings, and is the only village built of red sandstone in the country! There’s several castles and noble houses to explore, and the church is especially notable for its detailed carvings.

The small village of Fources is ‘bastide’ with a difference. A bastide is basically a town that was built around a castle, usually many many years after the castle was built. The difference with Fources is that it doesn’t have a castle in the middle! They quite simply have a circular park planted with trees offering great shade from the hot sun. The surrounding buildings are particularly beautiful, and are made of an unusual mix of wood and stone.

This diamond of a town sits about two hours inland from Bordeaux in the Dordogne region. Monpazier has the rather unusual distinction of being founded by King Edward I… that’s the King of England! The town has no less than 32 buildings of the highest heritage listing and is considered the best example of a bastide (read the Fources blurb above to find out what a bastide is) of the 300 examples in this part of the country.

La Roque-Gageac
Carved into the cliffs along the River Dordogne, La Roque-Gageac was built to serve the many ‘gabares’ (traditional flat bottom boats) that were laden with goods heading down river. The town is for its creamy stone houses and brown tiled roofs. Commercial boats no longer stop here, but it’s a great spot for anyone on a river cruise or kayaking adventure. 

> Read about the Most Beautiful Villages in Burgundy.
> Read about the Most Beautiful Villages in Southern France.

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