The town is on a rocky peninsula almost entirely surrounded by a loop of the Lot River. It grew near a sacred spring that still supplies the city with water. At the source of the spring, the Fontaine des Chartreux stands by the side of the pont Valentré (also called the pont du Diable), a bridge with a trio of towers. It's a magnificent example of medieval defensive design erected between 1308 and 1380 and restored in the 19th century. The pont, the first medieval fortified bridge in France, is the most eye-catching site in Cahors, with crenelated parapets, battlements, and seven pointed arches.

Dominating the old town, the Cathédrale St-Etienne, 30 rue de la Chanterie (tel. 05-65-35-27-80), was begun in 1119 and reconstructed between 1285 and 1500. It was the first cathedral in the country to have cupolas, giving it a Romanesque-Byzantine look. One remarkable feature is its sculptured Romanesque north portal, carved around 1135 in the Languedoc style. It's open daily from 9am (the scheduled hour for daily Mass) to 6 or 7pm, depending on the season. Adjoining the cathedral are the remains of a Gothic cloister from the late 15th century. The admission-free cloister is open during the same hours as the cathedral.

Cahors for Wine Lovers -- A robustness that mellows over time characterizes the wines of Cahors. Three wineries of exceptional merit, all within a short drive of Cahors, are Domaine de Lagrezette, in Caillac (tel. 05-65-20-07-42); Domaine de Haute Serre, in Cieurac (tel. 05-65-20-80-20); and Domaine de St-Didier Parnac, in Parnac (tel. 05-65-30-78-13). Their dark wines are of consistently high quality and easily hold their own with any of the region's rich, hearty dishes. The Office de Tourisme provides detailed information and maps to these wineries.

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