Belvès, a medieval village with seven towers

The medieval village of Belvès lies in the heart of the Périgord Noir. Belvès is located between the towns of Monpazier and Sarlat in the touristic center of the Dordogne and is very popular among the many that celebrate their holidays here every year. The seven bell towers can be seen from afar. Belvès is a bastide and has the rectangular street plan characteristic of a bastide. The 15th century covered market hall is located in the center. On the edges of the square there are shops, bars and restaurants which are made from stone in the same golden color as the landscape surrounding the village. There are old cave houses located under the square. Belvès is a cozy village and has plenty to do and see during the long summer season. Stroll through the old town and visit the beautiful houses and nice artistic shops. Be sure to visit the Château de Belvès, Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption, Notre-Dame de Montcuq and the night market.

The name Belvès

The name Belvès stems back from the Occitan bèl ves "beautiful view", which is also where the French word "belle vue" comes from. In all cases, it is a name that suits the village perfectly. The village is on an elevation, and you can enjoy a beautiful view from anywhere in the village. Not only the town itself has a beautiful name, all streets in the Belvès also have special names such as la Rue du Bout du Monde, which translates to the "street to the end of the world " or la Rue de l'Oiseau qui chante which translates to "the street of the singing bird".

Plus beaux villages

Belvès is one of the Frances’ “Plus Beaux Villages”. Villages on the “Plus Beaux Villages” list are some of the most beautiful and special places in France. In this region of France there are relatively many "plus beaux villages” due to the fact that many villages in the Dordogne have survived history unscathed. Belvès is built on a rocky point on the edge of the Nauze valley and towers above the surroundings. In earlier times, the village would be able to see the enemy from faraway and even when under attack being higher than the opponent had its advantages. The castrum (the fortifications of a small town) of Belvès was built during the eleventh century. These days only a tower and the entrance gate are still standing.

Other Plus Beaux Villages

  • Beynac-et-Cazenac
  • Domme
  • La Roque-Gageac
  • Monpazier
  • Limeuil
  • Monflanquin
  • Tournon-d'Agenais

History of Belvès

The first known history of Belvès starts in around 300 BC. During this time the Celtic tribe of Bellovaci settled on this site. It was a well-chosen site due to its pleasant climate, the fertile soil and the well-defendable location. The Romans who conquered Gaul during the first century built a fortress there which gave the place security and prosperity. During the later centuries, the Merovingians, Franks and Vikings owned the village. Through marriage the village became owned by the English during the 11th century. It became the front line of the war between the English and French in the Hundred Years' War. There was peace and prosperity in the time of Clement V who lived as pope in Avignon and was patron of Belvès. This papal period can still be seen in sculptures and paintings with keys or a triple crown.

Cave houses

One of the most remarkable things about Belvès are the cave houses from prehistoric times that lie around 6 meters below the market square. You can visit these "Habitations troglodytiques" and see how people lived in these rock dwellings in earlier times. There is a fortified gate in the corner of the square through which you can enter the cave houses.

Market Hall

On the central square of Belvès you’ll find one of the showpieces of the village, the over five-hundred-year-old market hall with 23 poles. A market is still held here every Saturday. On one of the poles you can see the "pilori chain", an iron ring which in the olden days would be put around the neck of a lawbreaker. The culprits and criminals would then be held there for several days.

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Château de Belvès

The Château de Belvès does not seem very spectacular from the outside and is also fairly small. If you visit the château, you will notice that this intimacy is the charm of this medieval castle. The murals date back to the fourteenth and sixteenth century. They are of high quality and are unique in Aquitaine.

The seven towers of Belvès

There is almost always a story or legend attached to startling things about a village. The same goes for the seven towers of Belvès. In the eleventh century, an abbey was built which was protected by seven noblemen. Every nobleman had their own tower built to defend the abbey; this is what gave Belvès the name "the village with seven towers".

Festivals and markets in Belvès

During the summer months numerous activities and festivals are held in Belvès. A few of the things to do and see in Belvès are listed below.

  • The great medieval festival is held on the first Sunday of August.
  • On the fifteenth of August, an airshow is organized at the local airport. Also great for children.
  • There are numerous wine festivals, Bach festivals (music festivals) and village festivals throughout the summer months.
  • There are guided tours of the village and the cave houses daily.

In the summer season the following is organized weekly:

  • Tuesday evening at 21.00, a walk through the village with torches starting at the market square
  • Wednesday afternoon - a farmers' market where regional products are sold
  • Wednesday evening - barbecue, pizza and salad in the village square
  • Tuesday and Thursday – tours of the area where the tourists are showed how to make foie gras, grow walnuts, truffles and other products
  • Saturday morning - the market in the market hall on the square

Marché nocturne

Every Wednesdays during the summer months a night market is held in Belvès. Long tables and benches are set up in the village square. Its dusk and lanterns are lit. Dozens of market stalls surround the square where local farmers, the village butcher, the local baker and other local entrepreneurs offer their dishes. There are loads of options for food and drinks, however you need to bring your own plate and cutlery. The meal ends with dessert. It's a fun, affordable and tasty way to eat out during the summer. A sultry summer evening with good food, good drinks and music.

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