The town of Bergerac nestles along the banks of the River Dordogne in Dordogne, Aquitaine. It’s in an area known as Périgord Pourpre (purple Périgord). A land of lush vineyards, the Purple Périgord is also famous for its rolling hills and fields of sunflowers peppered with tiny hamlets and grand castles.
Medieval Bergerac sits in the heart of the region. A gourmet paradise, perfect for history buffs, wine lovers and water babies with river rides and canoeing. It’s an ideal base to explore the picturesque countryside and villages of the Dordogne.
The Old Town of Bergerac
Bergerac’s medieval old town is home to a warren of winding cobbled streets that slope down to the river. Sitting outside at one of the many cafes and restaurants adorning the streets leaves you free to soak up the ambiance and admire the views. Half-timbered buildings, some of which date back to the 14th century, and tinkling fountains are a feast for the eyes.
It’s a great town to take a wander, with plenty of ancient half-timbered buildings. Don’t miss the 16th century archway (Passage Bobinsky) which leads to the pretty rue des Fontaines and rue St-James. Pick up a map from the tourist office to discover the key sites. And, if you’re there on a Wednesday or Saturday morning, browse the weekly market alongside the Church of Notre-Dame.
Wine time in Bergerac
Wine lovers definitely shouldn’t miss the Wine Centre in the Récollets Cloisters, a magnificent group of monastic buildings from the 17th century. There’s an exhibition about the Bergerac vineyards, film and tasting experience. Concerts are regularly held in these lovely surroundings – check the website for details: www.vins-bergeracduras.fr/en
Or head to the 16th century fairy-tale like Chateau of Monbazillac, about 10km from the centre of town. Now managed by the Monbazillac Cooperative Winery, it is surrounded by vineyards. Beautifully furnished it’s well worth a visit to take a tour of the grounds and the Chateau, and then do a wine tasting and buy wine in the lovely shop afterwards. There are plenty of events laid on here from jazz in the cellars to art exhibitions. chateau-monbazillac.com
Musée du Tabac
When French King Louis XIII entered Bergerac in 1621, he stayed in the 16th-century Maison Peyrarède. The house, with its cantilevered tower and Renaissance mullioned windows, is now the home of the Musée du Tabac. This quirky museum which in no way promotes tobacco, presents its history dating back more than 3000 years when the plant was first cultivated. There’s a fascinating collection of ivory, bronze and copper pipes and other smoking paraphernalia. Musée du Tabac, place du Feu.
Grottes de Maxange
The remarkable caves of Maxange were only discovered by accident in August 2000 during dynamiting in an adjacent quarry. Hidden in the hills upriver from Bergerac, you’ll discover a masterpiece of nature. You can’t help but be captivated by the clusters of calcite crystal. These sparkly constellations have formed over thousands of years and fill the cave with an eerie beauty.
Best place to stay in Bergerac
The perfect place to base yourself for a tour of the area if you’re a wine buff, love gorgeous countryside and being surrounded by sweeping vineyards in gorgeous accommodation, is at the gorgeous Chateau Masuburel. It’s around 25km from the centre of Bergerac in balm-for-the-eyes tranquil and green surroundings. The charming Chateau B&B is ideal for adults – it’s a working winery so not suitable for children – wonderfully restored with luxurious rooms filled with antique furniture and rugs. It’s a ravishing boutique getaway from it all sort of place, a hidden gem. All the handsome period rooms have views over the elegant courtyard and onto the vineyards in the distance. The courtyard beckons for summer dining under a star-filled sky, or a lazy breakfast on a beautifully sunny morning. And your hosts are happy to give a guided tour and wine tasting of the Chateau’s award-winning wines.
Book your stay at this bucolic hideaway and find out more at: chateau-masburel.com