Brantôme is a sleepy little village in Périgord. A gorgeous little town on a u-turn bend of the river, originally built on an island, surrounded on all sides by the calm rolling waters of the river Dronne — which is why it’s called “Venice of Périgord”. This would be a great fort. It’s a great central base to explore Dordogne. Here’s a giant related post I made on exploring Dordogne.

It really is one of the cutest list villages in France, I loved it. There’s only about two thousand people that live here and the immediate surroundings. Walking into town in the morning to pick up the International Herald Tribune and a cafe au lait and sit by the river.

view of abbey Brantôme

It has all the water of Venice, but cleaner, cheaper, fewer boats and even fewer tourists. This town is old, originally settled around an old abbey founded by Charlemagne in the way back of 769 (!). In fact, one of the four old pilgrimage routes in France that fed into to the Santiago de Compostela — the Via Lemovicensis, which was the route draining from Germany, Belgium and eastern France — runs right through Brantôme, so people have been traipsing through here for thousands of years in search of food and a good place to rest their head… which is why I was here, too.

village view Brantôme
mist on river Brantôme
Brantome France satellite view
You can see how this town is an island. The water curves around all sides, almost like a fortress village.

Because it’s a small island, it’s mostly pedestrian. You park on the large free carpark and walk across the river. Like the rest of Dordogne, there’s evidence of cave dwellers here (and behind the abbey) of prehistoric dolmen and people living here in the 4th century. That cool bell town of the church is considered the oldest in France. The church was built right on top of the troglodyte shelters.

bridge in morning Brantôme
This gorgeous bridge was built be Charlemagne at the same time as the abbey, in 769!
bridge reflection Brantôme
flowing river Brantôme
The Dronne is considered one of the cleanest river in France. It’s like looking into a fish tank, it’s so clear. You can rent a little boat, canoe or kayak, or take a little cruise.

Le Moulin de l’Abbeye — The Reason I Came Here

I was sitting in a remote kasbah on the edge of the Sahara Desert, this one. I had quit my horrible job and it was my last day of a six week trip to Portugal, Spain and Morocco and about to check in for my flight home. I didn’t tap the CHECK IN button. I thought “I’m not ready to go back.” I started googling hotels in France.

The French manager of my amazing hotel saw Relais & Chateaux on my laptop, Florence, asked “What is it you are looking for?” I told him a nice hotel in the middle of nowhere. Instantly he said “look up lamoooleeendeLABee”. “What?” Thinking I knew my French, but had no idea what he was saying. He said it again. Nothing. Finally, he wrote it down on paper. Le Moulin de l’Abbeye.

“I trained to be a hotel manager there. Fantastic location, right next to a beautiful waterfall. A Michelin starred restaurant. I loved working there.” I booked it right then. flew back to Barcelona, got a rental car with no end date and headed East, staying in the Pyrenees and then up into Dordogne.

THAT is how I got here.

waterfall Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

This building used to be the mill for the giant abbey across the river — the name actually means “The Abbey’s Mill” — complete with it’s own waterwheel. You can see how the water was channeled to go under the building and power other crushing machinery.

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye steps
Le Moulin de l'Abbaye exterior
The hotel has rooms in another house across the quiet street, where I stayed the first two nights, pleading to find me a room overlooking the waterfall and river my final night, which I was able to get the last night. I slept with the doors open, listening to the waterfall. Although the rooms were nice, if you can’t staying in the mill building, then it’s not the same experience.
Le Moulin de l'Abbaye sunrise

Book directly on the hotel’s website. My sister booked a trip here on to stay after a Bordeaux cruise. She arrived at peak summer and they had no record of it and there was nowhere for her to stay, anywhere. She totally got screwed by

The Michelin-Starred Restaurant at Le Moulin de l’Abbeye

view from terrace Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

The restaurant is a regional draw because of its 1-star Michelin rating. I ate every meal here. They specialize in all things Périgord, which in the gastronomy breadbasket of France, means they have a lot to work with. It was fantastic and if it had black truffles on it, I ordered it. The risotto with truffles was out of this world.

You can sit inside or out on the terrace, with the lights of the bridge and sound of the roaring waterfall adding all the atmosphere you want. And nothing beats a post-dinner Armagnac right by the waterwheel.

restaurant window Le Moulin de l'Abbaye
morning at Le Moulin de l'Abbaye

— Last visited June 2015, Post created July 2024 —

More Information on Brantôme & Le Moulin de l’Abbeye

Here’s a great overview of Brantôme from Guide du Perigord’s great website. And an overview of Brantôme from And the 15 best things to do here from TripAdvisor. Here is the website for Le Moulin de l’Abbaye. Here is the TripAdvisor review. And the Michelin guide review.

And here’s a post I did about the remarkable Gorge du Verdon in Provence. And here’s a post I made about an amazing hotel and restaurant in Gascony.

Here’s a map of the Way of St James that cuts through Dordogne and Brantôme.

Way of St James Dordogne

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