Named for the Dordogne River that runs through the region, the Dordogne lies between the jagged Pyrenees and the fields and vineyards of Loire Valley in the south west of France. There is no shortage of things to do in Dordogne.
Picturesque villages, medieval fortresses and historic caves provide a one-of-a-kind experience with a bit of a thrill. Limestone hills and oak forests enhance the surroundings, offering a stunning view of the area’s castles, churches, chateaus and market halls. Whether visiting a small town, an urban space filled with high-quality architecture or the capitol’s historic sections in the Dordogne, this rural region is a great place to escape the bustle of larger French towns.
Your Guide to Dordogne
When to Visit Dordogne
While May through October marks the busiest time in the Dordogne, you’ll want to avoid visiting in July or August, if possible. Though these months bring a lot of the region’s fairs and festivals, the weather is hot so it’s hard to enjoy the outdoors. Trust me, I was in the south of France recently and nearly melted.
Spring and autumn are better times to visit, usually offering plenty of sunshine to enjoy. Though the rain is more plentiful these times of year, attractions in the Dordogne are open so there are plenty of things to do. The lush scenery makes it the perfect time for walking or cycling in the busiest villages. In the winter, the weather is cooler and there aren’t many visitors, but the scenery is beautiful in a different way. Many of the attractions and restaurants are closed in winter, but small Christmas markets are also held in some towns.
Things to do in Dordogne
An area rich with history and architecture, you’ll have so much to learn while you explore the Dordogne. Chateaus and castles like Château de Beynac, Château de Hautefort, Château de Losse and more offer stunning designs coupled with beautiful gardens. Cathédrale St-Sacerdos and Cathédrale St-Front offer a blend of architectural styles, and a few different town squares are also worth the trip.
In the Dordogne, you’ll find museums dedicated to France’s prehistory, medieval stonework and ancient mosaics and other art forms, entertainer Josephine Baker, vintage winemaking equipment and beyond.
But, most unique of all, are the caves in the region. From stalactites and stalagmites to mineral deposits, the natural elements are impressive. These caves are also known for their prehistoric cave paintings. Whether you stop by the Lascaux caves or the Grotte de Villars, you’ll spot some unique drawings. As you can see, there’s no shortage of things to do in Dordogne.
The Weather in Dordogne
When you pack for a trip to the Dordogne, France, make sure to be prepared. Even in the summer, rainstorms may pop up in the mornings. In the spring, these storms are more common and may take place throughout the day. While it’s not a major deterrent for traveling there, it’s good to prepare with a raincoat and umbrella, at the very least. And don’t forget your boots.
In the winter, prepare for cold temperatures; it gets as low as -10 degrees Celsius. Wrap up in a warm coat and slip your feet into some thick socks or tights before heading out to explore.
Where to Stay in Dordogne
When it comes time to decide where to stay, there are so many different options to choose from. Amongst the many homes in the French countryside, some of the most charming options include ivy-covered French cottages with swimming pools, authentic homes with simple décor, luxurious stone homes, wooden barns converted to houses and more.
For more unique settings, visitors can opt for an apartment in the middle of a medieval town. Or stay in a small chateau, private villa or even a castle (yes please).
Food and Drink in Dordogne
France is known for its culinary scene, though I must admit it hasn’t really caught on to the whole vegetarian thing yet. BUT, if you’re a meat-eater, don’t be surprised if you fall in love with the food in the Dordogne. Duck and goose are common bases for local dishes, paired with fine wines from France. Foie gras is a delicacy in the region (no thank you), but there are also walnuts and mushrooms from local oak forests.
Lunchtime during the week, you’ll find better deals on some of the delicious local fare. Opt to eat your more upscale meals then to take advantage of the discounts. You typically don’t need reservations, but if you’re planning to eat out on a Sunday, make sure to book. Sunday lunches are big affairs in the Dordogne.
From Michelin-star restaurants like L’Essentiel in Perigueux to rural farm restaurant La Ferme de Biorne in Bergerac, there are so many different types of cuisine to enjoy. Eating is just another one of the many things to do in Dordogne.
Have you been to the Dordogne?
What did you think?