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Tucked among hills adorned with corn and wheat, Sarlat is a well-preserved medieval town that has managed to retain some of its true character, despite the hordes of visitors. The end of the Hundred Years' War in 1453 led to the construction of beautiful urban buildings in the Dordogne, and Sarlat was especially favored: when the English handed the region back to the French king, he rewarded loyal townspeople here with royal privileges. Before long, a new merchant class sprang up, building sublime stone mansions in the latest French Renaissance style. To do justice to Sarlat, meander through its Cité Médiévale in the late afternoon or early evening, aided by the tourist office's walking map. The tourist office also organizes English-language walking tours that give you an in-depth look at the town's architecture; they depart every Thursday at 11 from mid-May to mid-October (€6). If you're planning a trip to the many prehistoric caves and perched villages nearby, the capital of the Périgord Noir makes an ideal base for exploring, too.

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