Give yourself the time to amble through the Puy St-Front, Périgueux’s well-preserved medieval quarter, rich with ancient houses, cobbled alleyways, and Renaissance facades. It’s hard to miss the imposing Tour Mataguerre, a 15th-century tower that is all that’s left of the city’s fortifications. Follow the winding streets up to the Cathédrale St-Front and the place de Coderc, once a literal pigsty, and later the administrative center of the medieval town. An outdoor market takes place here and snakes down to place de la Cautre and the Hôtel de Ville on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8am to 1pm.
Périgueux is a treasure trove of Gallo-Roman antiquities. The most visible is the Tour de Vésone, a partially ruined site that stands 26m (85 ft.) tall, just southwest of town beyond the railway station. Here you’ll see the remains of a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Vesuna, but you can’t enter the site. The remains of a large 1st-century Gallo-Roman villa were discovered next to the temple, and in 2003, a sleek new museum was opened, Musée Gallo Romain Vesunna.
Nearby is the Jardin des Arènes, a public garden that holds a few remains of an amphitheater that held as many as 22,000 spectators back in the 2nd century. Near the arena are the ruins of the Château Barrière, rue Turenne, built in the 11th or 12th century on Roman foundations.
Gastronomy reigns supreme in Périgueux, especially when it comes to foie gras, or “fat liver,” which comes from force-fed geese and ducks. (Vegans may want to skip directly to truffles below.) Stores that sell what some call a delicacy (and others animal cruelty) abound. One is L’Espace Du Sixième Sens, 6 pl. Saint-Silain (tel. 05-53-09-24-29). If you want an adventure, and to see an example of less industrial production methods, head for a goose farm that makes its own foie gras, such as A la Ferme de Puygauthier, about 15 min. south of town in Marsaneix (www.bienvenue-a-la-ferme.com/aquitaine/dordogne/marsaneix/ferme/ferme-de-puygauthier/307926; tel. 05-53-08-87-07). To get there, take the D2 and follow signs to Brive.
Black truffles are another local specialty, and many fans of the delectable mushroom come to the area with only one aim: to eat as many as possible, in as many forms as possible, especially during the Truffle Festival (Fête de la Truffe) in mid-December. Truffle markets are held during December to February in place St Louis in Périgueux, and in a few local villages, most notably in Saint Genies and Brantome. In July and August, although not the season for truffles, there is a singing competition in honor of the local delicacy in Périgueux itself.
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