Martel is a picturesque medieval village located in the department of the Lot, in the Occitanie region. Martel is also known as 'Ville de Sept Tours' (town of seven towers) and has its own government entity, the Mairie (Town Hall). The ‘Town’ of Martel also includes eight surrounding villages within six kms.
The Occitanie is one of the new regions of France, recently formed by merging the two former regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées. The Lot, number 46, is its most northern department, which was part of the medieval province of Quercy.
Martel lies in the Dordogne Valley on the boundary between the three départments of the Lot, Corrèze and Dordogne, which all have the river Dordogne, running through them. There is a wide variety of landscapes including steep valleys with tall cliffs, limestone plateau and rolling green hills. The Dordogne Valley is one of the most beautiful places to visit in France.
The region has never been heavily industrialised and is quite rural with unspoilt countryside. It is famous for its charming medieval towns and villages, including several of the Most Beautiful Villages in France (Beaux Village), Romanesque churches, chateaux and prehistoric cave paintings. The region is also well known for its good food and wines and produces many local specialties with local markets, food fairs and restaurants ranging from village inns to Michelin-starred establishments. Martel is not really on the tourist trail so usually there will not be many tourists around.
Martel was the former capital of the Viscount of Turenne. It is thought to have been founded by Charles Martel, a military leader in the early 8th century. Martel means hammer which was apparently his favourite weapon however, it may have also been named due to it being inhabited by numerous artisans at the time.
By the 12th century, Martel was a trading town and an important stopover for pilgrims on the route to Rocamadour. Nearby is the old Gallo-Roman railway where the Paris to Toulouse and East to West trade routes intersected. During this century the original town was surrounded by a defensive wall.
During the 13th century Martel's economy grew. The town was given the right to mint money and the Royal court of appeal was based here. Many merchants’ houses were built inside the wall fortifications, while the poorer people lived outside. During the Hundred Years War a second wall was built for protection and the main roads that surround Martel are built along the line of these walls. The original foundations of the house were also built between these walls.
The 15th century was another period of prosperity as government workers, lawyers and others arrived in the town and built more houses.
Martel became even more prosperous In the 19th century due to the truffle trade and many more houses were built around the edge of the medieval centre.
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The medieval centre of Martel is full of quaint houses and shops, set out higgledy piggledy, along cobbled stone streets.. Martel has many examples of medieval architecture including enormous wooden doors, stone arches, turrets and the remains of the 12th and 14th century ramparts. The wooden halle in the market square is where the weekly market takes place. Palais de la Raymondie, built by the tax collector, Bernard Raymondi in the 13th century, is now the Mairie (Town Hall) and also houses the tourist office.
The famous seven towers are the
Martel has numerous shops and boutiques and there is even an organic grocery store. There are two pharmacies, a newsagent selling English newspapers, boulangeries and a wine cave. A small family run grocery store is in the medieval centre and a large intermarche is on the edge of the village. Boutiques selling clothing, accessories, jewellery, local arts & crafts and homewares line the cobblestone lanes and a couple of brocante stores are great for browsing in.
Martel also has its own farmers market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, selling fresh local produce and specialty items such as fruit, vegetables, charcuterie, cheese and olives. It is very much a community event and an opportunity for the locals to meet.
For more retail therapy, boutiques, chain stores and a department store are in Brive-la-Gaillarde, the closest large town to Martel.
There are over 10 restaurants, cafes and bars ranging from rustic, family run establishments serving simple food to upmarket dining rooms serving gourmet cuisine and local delicacies.
The Tourism Office provides Information about Martel and advice about what to do in the area. It also sells postcards, local souvenirs and gifts
From Martel you can travel on a steam train to Saint-Denis, known locally as the “Truffadou”.
On the edge of town is a walnut mill where you can watch the production of walnut oil which is also available to purchase.
The Gallo-Roman Museum of Uxellodunum is located in the market square, with permanent collections as well as temporary exhibitions of prehistoric and Gallo-Roman archaeology and medieval artifacts.
Reptileland is just outside the village and has the biggest collection of reptiles in France. It is run by respectful owners who treat the animals well.
Most villages have their own circular boucles, walking trails that wander through the surrounding farmlands and forests. Martel's 'les boucles' starts in the market square.
Services includes two banks, a Post Office with a money changing service, hairdressers and a beauty salon. There are doctors and dentists and even a Police Station.
Martel has its own small library with wifi available, as well as computer hire and printing facilities.
A taxi service which also provides airport transfers and an ambulance service is two doors down from the house.
Two bus companies service Martel with daily but limited buses. The local bus service is known as the Lot O’Bus. Another bus line, Bus SNCF et TER runs between the train stations at St-Denis-pres-Martel and Souillac and between Brive and Souillac via Martel.
The nearest train station is at St Denis près Martel with trains to Brive. There is larger TGV train station, 15 minutes away at Souillac with trains to Paris and Toulouse.
It is recommended to hire a car as a lot of local sights and attractions are not accessible by public transport.