Périgueux, the second city of the Dordogne, has long been at the crossroads of Périgord, and is now the regional capital. Périgueux is a town of some antiquity in the fecund valley of the River Isle; its history is displayed in the town's architecture, which ranges across two distinct districts: the Cité and the Puy St Front. The town is particularly renowned for its gastronomy, among which truffles and foie gras are prominent, attracting visitors from around the world.
This busy city is divided into three parts: the main part of the present city stands across the slopes around the cathedral, while to the west are rather mundane modern suburbs. The Gallo-Roman settlement of Vesunna completes the scene, to the south-west. It is here, in the ancient part of the city, that anyone with an interest in history and archaeology should take a stroll; this was the heart of Périgueux, especially in the Middle Ages. Pilgrims undertaking the journey to Santiago de Compostela were instrumental in bringing considerable wealth and renown to the cathedral area in particular.
© Saison d'Or & Co
Although the town has its attractions – the domed cathedral and its Roman remains – it is the surrounding countryside that offers visitors the greatest appeal, especially around Sorges (if you like truffles) and along the valley of the Dronne along the Charente border.
This is the capital of the Dordogne department and an ideal base for wider exploration of the so-called Périgord Blanc. It is a small, bustling place, a market town, but not overly attractive in itself, having a more utilitarian feel about it in spite of its popularity with tourists. For those with time to relax, then the tree-shaded boulevard Montaigne, along the western edge of the old town, is a place to unwind with a coffee or glass of wine.
There are bustling markets here (Wednesdays and Saturdays), always a place to spend a few hours, even without buying anything. But, if you're looking for truffles, this is the place to come, as well as for charcuterie and the local speciality, the delicious pies known as Pâtés de Périgord.
If you're near the cathedral, pop into the Musée d’Art et d’Archéologie du Périgord (22 Cours Tourny; Tel: 05 53 06 40 70), which houses one of the most comprehensive prehistory museums in France.
© CDT Dordogne