196 Belves Luc.fauret.photographe Expireson 2025 01 01 1196 Belves Luc.fauret.photographe Expireson 2025 01 01 1
©196 Belves Luc.fauret.photographe Expireson 2025 01 01 1


Secrets and hidden treasures

Belvès, one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France”, stands on a rocky hilltop between Sarlat and Monpazier.

What's in a name

The name of Belvès literally means “beautiful view” in the local Occitan dialect. A steep climb takes you to the historic heart of the village which has earned the prestigious title of one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France”.

The breathtaking view at the top is indeed spectacular. From this vantage point overlooking the Nauze valley and situated halfway between Sarlat and Monpazier, the panorama showcases the rolling hills of the Périgord stretching as far as the eye can see.

Belvès was founded with the construction of an abbey in the 11th century. Legend has it that this charming village acquired the moniker “The Village of Seven Steeples” due to its fascinating architectural history. Seven noblemen, acting as protectors of the abbey, each decided to erect a tower in its defence. This collective effort not only enhanced the village’s defensive capabilities but also bestowed its unique and enduring name.

A tumultuous past

Due to its strategic position, Belvès has experienced a deeply turbulent history, enduring multiple sieges during significant historical periods such as the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of Religion.

Despite being several times besieged and captured during these conflicts, the village still remains miraculously well-preserved. Troglodyte dwellings, ramparts, a covered market hall, medieval towers, bell towers and a magnificent church are a tangible reminder of its tumultuous past.

This 11th-century fortified medieval city is full of charm. Its seven bell towers give Belvès a distinctive outline that can be seen from miles around. Amongst its narrow alleys and historical landmarks the covered market shops, bars and restaurants built in ochre stone add a vibrant atmosphere and allure to the historic village.

Château de Belvès

The Château de Belvès, also known as the Hôtel de Commarque, was built in the early 14th century. It underwent significant extensions and modifications in the 19th century with the addition of a tower to the south and new rooms integrated to the existing medieval dwelling.

Some rare and remarkable Renaissance frescoes were discovered here in 2010, depicting the exploits of the “Nine Valiants” (Neuf Preux). This famous pictorial group includes the heroic prowess of three pagans, three Jews and three Christians who personified the ideals of chivalry in the Middle Ages.

Life at the bottom

Near the entrance to the castrum, the picturesque Saturday morning Farmers market is held year round. In summer months   you can also experience a night food market on Wednesdays in July and August. Buy excellent local produce from food stands and sit down with the locals at the tables around the market hall to sample it!

Sitting on 23 pillars, this magnificent 15th-century wood-timbered market hall also hides a much starker side of this medieval village, the likes of which you rarely get to see.

About 6 metres under the market square are located troglodyte dwellings where beggars and peasants used to find shelter from the 13th to 18th centuries. These basic humble underground rooms with rudimentary period furniture are open to the public and reveal a lesser-known aspect of the severity and hardship of medieval life.

The underground dwellings are accessible through the fortified gate at the entrance to the square. Allow 45 min for the visit (guided tour). The temperature varies between 13 and 15 degrees.

More hidden treasures

The Belvès church is a stunning example of gothic architecture that stands on the grounds of a former Benedictine monastery.

Both choir and chapels date back to the 13th century. Recently, the church underwent restoration work on its interiors, which has unveiled exceptional wall paintings from different periods spanning the 16th to the 19th centuries.

Open every day. Free entrance.

Favourite French Village

Belvès was recently in competition for the “Favourite French Village” award. Considering the abundance of breathtaking destinations throughout the country, being selected as a contender speaks volumes about the village’s undeniable appeal.

Even if it didn’t win the top prize, Belvès embodies the essence of the genuine French village lifestyle. A perfect balance of southern French charm with a slight Italian feel mixed with the timeless preservation of so much of its cultural heritage.