Souillac is a town in the north of the Lot department in Occitania, on the border of the departments of Corrèze and Dordogne.
The city with nearly 4,000 inhabitants is located 65 km north of Cahors, 35 km south of Brive and 26 km east of Sarlat, the emblematic city of Périgord.
Souillac has developed thanks to its privileged location in the heart of a fertile region in the north of the former province of Quercy, contrasting with the causses, to the east, and as a crossroads of roads, Axis Paris-Toulouse and the Dordogne river which joins the Atlantic coast.
From the seventeenth century on, the gabares that go up the stream can unload salt, fish and wines...
Until then, the prosperity of Souillac was the result of a priory established in the tenth and then a vast Romanesque abbey built in the 12th century, surrounded by an enclosure. After the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion, during which the city paid a heavy price, the city and its abbey were rebuilt.
In addition to its small and medium-sized fabric and its commercial areas, Souillac, which is still a crossroads in terms of transport and logistics (river, motorway, airport), is also a tourist town appreciated for its built heritage, environment and gastronomy (foie gras, Quercy...).
We will begin a stopover or a stay at Souillac by discovering its historic center and its picturesque streets.
The emblematic Sainte-Marie abbey which owes its origin to the Benedictine monks of Saint-Pierre d'Aurillac deserves special attention. The buildings were rebuilt in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the church of the twelfth, topped with Byzantine cupolas, presents a set of rich sculptures among which we note a rare representation of the prophet Isaiah. Several paintings are kept inside, where you have to linger in front of the listed organ dating back to 1845.
See also, the old church of St. Martin (sixteenth) with an amazing bell tower shaped belfry.
Still in the city center, but more recent, we can admire a hall built in 1832.
In addition, the city is famous for its many bridges and viaducts, including the Louis Vicat bridge, the first of its kind in artificial cement and the Borrèze viaduct (19th century), which is part of the complementary inventory of historic monuments. The most recent (1998), on the A20, more than 300 m long, offers a unique panorama of the city and the loops of the Dordogne.
Souillac is also famous for its Automaton Museum, unique in Europe. We discover a surprising collection of automata and mechanical toys of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (more than 300 in total), mainly from Roullet-Decamps workshops, created in 1865. The whole is governed by a "brain electronic". Adults and children are thus transported to a magical world in an atmosphere of sound and light. Presentation in addition to temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Paid entry. Information on +33 5 65 37 07 07.
In a different register, the museum of the Old Plum of the distillery Louis Roque allows to apprehend the process of secular development of these exceptional products. Information on +33 5 65 32 78 16.
Souillac, that crosses the GR 6 which connects in particular Sarlat to Rocamadour by borrowing an old way of Saint-Jacques, is obviously favorable to numerous excursions on foot or by bicycle. Multiple routes include the most remarkable sites of the city and its surroundings, such as the banks of the Dordogne. Brochures and information at the Dordogne Valley Tourist Office on +33 5 65 33 22 00.
To cool off, choose the municipal swimming pool (entry fee, contact +33 5 65 37 82 47) or the leisure center Quercyland, which offers several pools to swim or have fun, slides, but also karting and tree climbing. Paid entry. Join +33 5 65 32 72 61.
To combine sport and discovery of landscapes in a singular setting, canoeing on the Dordogne can also be a good choice. Contact the base of Souillac to +33 6 80 01 78 63 or +33 5 65 32 72 61.
During the 3rd week of July, the Souillac jazz festival will feature internationally renowned artists in unique locations (outdoors in front of the abbey, on squares or gardens, not to mention "off" concerts in the streets). Information on +33 5 65 37 04 93.
From mid-July to mid-August, the Organ Time Festival is held, with most of the dozen concerts taking place at the abbey.
Finally, to appreciate regional products and local handicrafts, the colorful and fragrant market of Souillac takes place all year long on Fridays from 8am to 1pm, doubled in summer from a local market on Wednesdays from 5pm to 8pm.