The Dordogne region is an amazing holiday destination for families. Home to some of the prettiest villages in France, the region basks in 200 days of sunshine a year. Families can cater for wide range for interests – coupling cultural and historical activities with active persuits like swimming, kayaking and cycling. Having visited the region for a number of years, we’ve explored far and wide in search of the best things to do in the Dordogne with kids.
Whether staying for a few a days or enjoying a long summer holiday, read on and discover great family days out and things to do in the Dordogne with kids.
Things to Do In The Dordogne With Kids #1 : Visit a Chateau
From fairytale castles to huge medieval fortresses, the Dordogne region is known to have some of the prettiest château’s in France. Each château has its own unique story so when visiting you’ll discover the adventures and tales of times passed. We have visited a number of châteaux over the years and therefore compiled a summary of the most family friendly Château’s in the region…
Château De Beynac
Chateau de Beynac is a 12th century fortress perched 150 metres high up on a cliff. Daily tours are run in French, however, there are self guide booklets available in English. Everyone will find its nine centuries of history fascinating and certainly enjoy the panoramic views across the Dordogne river and countryside.
Château De Castelnaud
Just across the river, and built to rival Château de Beynac, is Château de Castelnaud. The most visited château in south-west France, it is a huge castle offering visitors a fantastic insight into castle life during medieval times. Children will love the ‘Museum of Medieval War’ which houses 250 weapons and armour. Throughout the year, a programme of additional events run at the castle so it is worth reviewing before choosing a day to visit.
Châtaeu De Bridoire
The most family friendly chateaux we have found – and consequently the one we always return to – is Chataeux De Bridoire. The château is located in Ribagnac, just a 20 minute drive from Bergerac, and filled with family fun.
Lovingly restored by the Guyot family, the castle has plenty to explore. Because of the huge number of traditional and medieval games, as well as costumes and armour, the whole family will be entertained for hours. In 2016, the château added “La Vallée Mystèrieuse” to its armoury. This experience offers visitors a ramble through ‘the Enchanted Forrest’ finding clues, a labyrinth and cave along the way. Read more about why we love this château here.
Things to Do In The Dordogne With Kids #2 : Dordogne Markets & Marché Gourmand
French markets are a regular feature all over the Dordogne. A great place to shop for the best local produce, souvenirs and hand made goods. Kids will enjoy sampling the local patisserie goods and shopping for holiday trinkets. You can check the local market days here.
If visiting in the summer months, the Marché Gourmand is not to be missed. Eating out with kids can get expensive therefore the marché gourmand provides a purse friendly dining solution. The village squares fill with pop up food stalls offering an abundance of delicious local fresh food. There’s almost always main courses, desserts, vegetarian and cheese options on offer. There’s usually a band playing and locals dancing. Its a great way for the whole family to experience ‘French life’. You can check which days markets are running here.
Things to Do In The Dordogne With Kids #3 : Explore Prehistoric Caves
The Dordogne region is packed with prehistoric caves. Some are magnificent rock formations and others contain the incredible drawings and inscriptions of early man. The three most recommend for families with children are:
Font-de-Gaume is probably the most sought after cave experience in France. Tours are personal, intimate and a once in a lifetime experience. There are a very restricted number of tickets available per day and it is no longer possible to pre-book tickets, unless you are part of a tour. The remaining tickets are given on a first come first serve basis each day so you need to get there early to secure your spot in line. Whilst this is an incredible cave to visit, it is better suited to older children.
Lascaux II, a perfect replica of Lascaux, allows visitors to continue to experience the famous cave drawings. The original drawings, compromising of animals, human figures and symbols, are extraordinary. The English spoken guided tour is a fantastic overview of the story of Lascaux and is very educational for kids. The cave is well suited to younger children as the paintings are large, the ground is level and there are not many steps. Tickets can be booked up to 90 days in advance.
Rouffignac is our personal family favourite. We love it here for a few reasons…
- You board an electric train ride into the cave to view the famous mammoths
- You pass a pre-historic bear pit, where they would have hibernated in winter
- The paintings are really clear and easy for children to distinguish between the different animals
Tickets to the cave are again limited and it is not possible to book in advance. The cave opens from April – October and tickets are available on a first come first served basis from the entrance to the cave. Get there early!
Things to Do In The Dordogne With Kids #4 : Visit Univerland La Bugue
Univerland is 4 different activities in one area of adventure. There is the Aquarium du Perigord Noir, Labyrinthe Prehistorique, Jungle Golf and Big Bird.
The Aquarium has a range of different fish, alligators and reptiles. The animation shows involve getting up close with the reptiles and fish. There is a large open carp pond which therefore allows visitors to stroke the carp fish. The labyrinth is a mirror maze with some prehistoric animal replicas. It’s entirely in the dark so can be a little scary for younger children. Jungle Golf does what it says on the tin – it’s a crazy golf course.
Big Bird is a high adrenaline arial ropes climbing course which reaches 22 meters above ground at its highest point! Its the highest of its kind in Europe. There’s 75 agility challenges and activities to complete and it’s a very popular activity for kids and adults alike.
The ‘pick and mix’ style entry ticket which allows you entry to all or just some of the above attractions. Peak times get incredibly busy and for that reason pre-booking tickets is recommended.
Things to Do In The Dordogne With Kids #5 : Parc Le Bournat
Also in Bugue is the lovely ‘village trapped in time’ Le Bournat. This open air museum cross vintage children’s playground is based on life in a French Dordogne village in the year 1900. Recreating 19th century life, visitors enjoy traditional craft demonstrations, vintage fairground rides, animations and farm animals. The onsite restaurants offer delicious local produce but there are plenty of picnic areas. It’s a delightful day out.
Things to Do In The Dordogne With Kids #6 : Reserve Zoologique de Calviac
Situated just 10km from Sarlat, the Zoological Reserve of Calviac is home to 200 animals from Europe, South America, Madagascar and Oceania. The woodland eco-reserve offers visitors a fun and interactive wildlife experience. There’s an educational circuit, free roaming lemurs and wallabies and the opportunity to watch animal feeding throughout the day. The reserve is not-for-profit so the entry fee goes to good causes.
Things to Do In The Dordogne With Kids #7 : Parc du Griffon
Ideally suited for kids under 10, Parc du Griffon is a farm park come adventure playground. The Parc has several animals including llamas, pigs, chickens, ponies, rabbits and rare species of sheep and goats. There is a petting area where children can get up close and stroke some of the animals. In addition to the animals, the Parc has several inflatables, a bouncy castle, small playground, zip line and a trampolining area.
Things to Do In The Dordogne With Kids #8 : Visit a Chocolate Factory
Want to make your holiday memories a bit different? A tour of a chocolate factory is certain to get thumbs up from the whole family.
Bovetti Chocolatier Chocolate Museum (in Terrasson-Lavilledieu) exhibits the full bean to bar process of chocolate production. There are even cocoa trees in the greenhouse! Children can get involved in their chocolate demonstrations in the workshop. They make a chocolate moulding and can take home the original mould to use again. The on-site shop has a huge range of chocolate goodies on offer – everything from spreads to drinking chocolate.
The lesser known Maison Guinguet in Duras is an artisan family chocolatier. The factory run free tours for visitors – providing interesting information about its history and plenty of opportunities to sample their delicious artisan chocolates. The praline is a delicious Maison Guinguet speciality. Also on site there is a factory shop where you can sample (even more!) chocolates and buy some of your favourites.
Things to Do In The Dordogne With Kids #9 : Paper Making at Le Moulin de la Rouzique
Dating back to the 15th century, The Rouzique Paper Mill is a fantastically unique experience in an idyllic setting. The hands-on tour guides you through the whole paper making process and children have the opportunity to help the guides make some paper sheets. The tours are in French however you are given an information guide in English. The guides are able to speak English so can answer questions throughout the tour.
Things to Do In The Dordogne With Kids #10 : Aux Étangs du Bos Waterparc
Located in Saint Chamassy, 50 mins east from Bergarac, this waterpark has everything a family could want. There’s a padding pool, heated swimming pool, waterslides and a lake with inflatables. There are plenty of other things on offer here too including; crazy golf, pedal boats, air trampolines and fishing.
Things to Do In The Dordogne With Kids #11 : Fun on the Dordogne River
The Dordogne River provides many activities and things to do with all the family. If active pursuits are your thing, consider a kayaking or canoeing session. There are several canoe tracks on the Dordogne and the quiet water flow makes it perfect for old and young.
Families can also explore the scenic river by bike. Cycle hire and tours are readily available throughout the region. Dordogne Cycle Hire deliver bikes direct to your rental, gîte or B&B and have a range of children’s bikes, seats and trailers. Perfect for all the family to have some cycling fun!
There are also plenty of relaxing things you can do with kids in the Dordogne; a leisurely riverside walk, a river cruise, enjoy a picnic on the riverbank, or buy a permit and go fishing.
Things to Do In The Dordogne With Kids #12 : Hit the Leisure Lakes!
Missing the beach? There’s certainly no need to trek out to the coast – leisure lakes are a Dordogne speciality.
These beautiful man made lakes are typically surrounded by beach, playgrounds, restaurants and open countryside. Aside from the hikes, swimming and watersports on offer, there’s usually also a designated fishing area. It really is the perfect family day out.
There are plenty of leisure lakes to choose from in region. Bort-les-Orgues Reservoir, Plan d’eau de Miel (Beynat) and Plan d’eau du Mas de Croux (Tauriac) are our family favourites. Bort-les-Orgues because of its lakeside fairytale château and giant inflatables. Plan d’eau de Miel because of the long sandy beach and ease of access, especially with a buggy. Plan d’eau du Mas de Croux for its shady rest areas and crazy golf.
Hopefully this guide has given you plenty of ideas for things to do in the Dordogne with kids. If there’s anything more you would like to see, please drop a comment below.
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