Photo of Rocamadour

Visit Rocamadour

The lovely village of Rocamadour is on the eastern edge of the area, across the border from the Dordogne into the Lot department. Each year the small village of Rocamadour (population around 600), in the Parc Naturel Régional des Causses du Quercy, receives more than a million visitors. Why so popular?

Firstly because Rocamadour is an important pilgrimage destination, and has been for 1000 years. Built on the site of a shrine to a Madonna, the shrine became famous for its healing powers, and soon became a stop on the pilgrimage path to Santiago de Campostela

The second reason is because of the beautiful and dramatic setting of the village, climbing up a cliff side.

Explore Rocamadour

Rocamadour is one of the Grand Sites of France. It was also voted 'the favourite village of the French 2016' by viewers of a French television channel. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the pilgrim route of the 'Way of Saint James'. Rocamadour is one of France's most important tourist destinations.

Rocamadour has several highlights well worth exploring, although it is the 'village as a perfect unity' which is really the big attraction.

The village clings to the cliff side above the river Alzou and is so picture perfect it is quite breathtaking. For the best views of the village in its entirety go to l'Hospitalet which is a small hamlet on the edge of Rocamadour.


As the village hugs the cliff it mainly consists of one long narrow paved street, the Rue de la Couronnerie, lined with medieval houses, several of which are notable and many of which are impressive, and entered by stone fortified gateways. The Porte du Figuier and the Porte Salmon are the two main gateways.

From the Rue de la Couronnerie you get to a series of monumental steps called the Grand Escalier.  These lead to a small square surrounded by 8 important religious buildings. This is the Sanctuary and is the pilgrim destination. There are 216 steps in total, once climbed by pilgrims on their knees.

If you can persuade your children to climb all the way up the Grand Escalier without complaining you are doing a fine job!


The Sanctuary and the Way of the Cross

A small chapel was built in the cliffside in 1105 and in 1112 the abbot of Tulle came to live here and in 1148 a first miracle was announced and pilgrims started arriving.

Money from the pilgrims financed the building of a large basilica, the basilica Saint-Saveur and then further religious buildings were also built in this relatively small space.

The religious buildings here inclue the Chapelle Notre Dame which is home to the Black Madonna; the basilica Saint-Sauveur; the Saint-Michel chapel and  the Palace of the Bishops (Palais des Eveques) and several chapels.

The statue of the Black Madonna was the main draw for the pilgrims. In the same chapel is the miraculous bell reputed to ring when a miracle occurs at sea and a sailors life is saved. Famous pilgrims who have journeyed to Rocamadour include Henri II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Louis IX of France, Charles IV of France and Louis XI of France.

Above the Sanctuary is the Chateau of Rocamadour and between the two is a windy, shady path which follows the Stations of the Cross. You can walk around the remparts of the castle and get some excellent views down over the village.

It is possible to get up and down between the castle (and one of the car parks is up here), the Sanctuary and the village by way of two lifts though these are reasonably expensive if you are staying here and need to get up and down regularly.


If you still have some energy (or have taken the lift rather than walked) take the shady path from the village towards L'Hospitalet, final destination for the pilgrims and a great place for some stunning views across the region. In L'Hospitalet there are a number of car parks and quite a lively small centre with some bars and restaurants . There is also the Chapelle de l'Hospitalet and the ruins of an older chapel.

It has to be admitted that a million visitors a year to a small village means that Rocamadour is very often over busy, and you should visit early morning or out of season if at all possible. But crowds or not, it remains unmissable if you are in this part of the Dordogne / Lot region.

Rocamadour main street

Once you have explored the religious buildings take some time ambling down the main street. It is full of cafes, restaurants and some interesting little shops.

Also to visit in and near Rocamadour

Not to be missed near to Rocamadour are the Gouffre de Padirac - one of our favourite caves in France.

Also practically within the village itself, the caves at 'Grotte Prehistorique des Merveilles' are popular for both the rock formations and the 20,000 year old cave paintings they contain (entrance 100 metres from the Rocamadour tourist office). These are open April to November, 10.00-12.00 and 14.00-17.00 and 9.30-19.00 in July and August. The visit takes about 40 minutes.

Also in Rocamadour is the 'Maison des Abeilles', the Bee house,  where you can learn about the historical importance of bee-keeping in the region.

If you are travelling with children the Foret des Singes at Rocamadour is a forest where more than 100 monkeys live in relative freedom. Wandering through the park there are various opportunites to observe the monkeys close up.

The most beautiful villages of Loubressac and Carennac are close to Rocamadour as is the wonderful town of Martel.

On the river between Rocamadour and Calès there is a mill that you can visit. The Moulin de Cougnaguet is an impressive medieval mill that is still operated today

The lovely town of Martel is nearby. With its seven towers and lovely square with a large stone market hall and the Palais de la Raymondi there is a lot of beautiful architecture to admire.

You can also take the scenic train ride on a steam train from Martel to Saint-Denis for some magnificent views of the Haut-Quercy.

See also: 

Photos of Rocamadour

Click any picture to start the gallery

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  • porte-basse
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Map of Rocamadour and places to visit


Rocamadour places to visit

Sanctuary of Rocamadour

Sanctuary of Rocamadour

The Sanctuary at Rocamadour is one of the most important pilgrim sites of France.

Sanctuary of Rocamadour guide
The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross is a path between the Sanctuary of Rocamadour and a large cross on the cliff top with the Stations of the Cross illustrating Christ's journey to Mount Calvary and his crucifixion.

The Way of the Cross guide
Gouffre de Padirac

Gouffre de Padirac

The Padirac caves are entered by boat! They are extremely popular.

Gouffre de Padirac guide


Martel is a beautiful town known as the town of seven towers.

Martel guide


Souillac is a pleasant town with an impressive abbey.

Souillac guide


Carennac is one of the most beautiful villages of France

Carennac guide