Nestled against a limestone cliff, encircled by the Dronne river, lies a tiny little village built around the majestic Abbey of Brantôme. There is a reason why Brantôme is a starlet amongst the Dordogne attractions. Find out everything you need to know in this Brantome Dordogne travel guide.
With over 40.000 visits per year, the village is firmly planted on the tourist map for visitors to the South-West of France and the Nouvelle Aquitaine region. Yet despite its notoriety, a whopping 70% of all visits occur in July & August.
We strolled into Brantôme one October afternoon to find the village practically desolate. That is, retired locals were nipping a café while reading the newspaper and a few lonesome tourists darted in and out of the tourist attractions. It provided us with the ideal environment to explore everything there is to do in Dordogne, at a leisurely pace.
Where is the town of Brantôme in France?
Region vs Department: France is made up of 13 administrative regions, which in turn are split into smaller chunks known as departments.
So where in Brantôme? The village of Brantôme is in the largest region of France, known as Nouvelle Aquitaine, nestled in the department of Dordogne to the southwest of the country. Roughly 28 km (17 mi) from the capital of the department, Périgueux, and 148 km (91 mi) from the capital of the region, Bordeaux
Why do I read Brantôme is located in the Périgord?
The department of Dordogne is colloquially known as the Périgord, a former province of France back in the day. For reference, the Perigord is split into four: Périgord Noir (Black), after the truffles that can be found in abundance, Périgord Pourpre (purple), Périgord Blanc (White), after the quarries and finally the Périgord Vert (Green) for forests. Brantôme is in the Périgord Vert.
Read More: One week in Nouvelle Aquitaine
History of Brantôme
What once started as two separate villages, on opposite sides of the Dronne river, quickly grew into one thriving village, the Brantôme we see today. Originally built within the confines of the Dronne river, the original settlement outgrew these natural borders quickly as the 8th century Brantôme Abbey became an important pilgrimage site.
According to legend Charlemagne himself provided the abbey with relics, which in turn attracted pilgrims. The abbey as we see it today has little to do with the original 8th-century building. In fact, it suffered a rather turbulent history of destruction and restoration, the last of which took place in the 19th century by the architect Paul Abadie who radically transformed the abbey.
The church tower is said to date back to at least the 11th century, making it the oldest in all of France. The abbey today functions as a 4-star hotel (Moulin de L’Abbaye) and Michelin-star restaurant.
5 Things things to do in Brantôme
The town of Brantôme might be small, but it packs a punch! Driving in the direction of the village the first thing that will catch your eye is the gargantuan Brantôme abbey. While the abbey is the undisputed highlight of Brantôme, there are quite a few more things to see and explore in this hamlet.
Useful resources to plan your visit: Website of the tourism office
Visit the Brantôme Market
The market in Brantôme has been held every Friday on the market square in front of the abbey for the last 500 years. The market takes place on the aptly named Place du Marché (Market Square). As is the case for many markets in small villages around France, expect to find everything from fresh produce to local handicrafts.
In July and August, the market tends to be slightly larger, catering to the tourists flocking to the city.
From December to February the market sells fresh black truffles that have been harvested from the nearby Périgord Noire.
Take a river cruise
Fee: €/$9 per person for a 45-min cruise
Opening Hours: Official website
Guided Tour Languages: French & English
Gliding through Brantôme on a small electric boat and listening to a dry-humored French guide explain the town’s history was one of my favorite things to do in Brantôme. As we head out of the village, I remember looking back and catching the reflection of the Abbey in the water, while our guide alluded to the town’s tradition of throwing meddling mothers-in-law into the river (a joke, I assume).
The 45-minute tour takes you past the Brantôme abbey, the renaissance houses of Brantôme, the town beach, and into the marshlands surrounding the village. To protect the ecosystem of the marshlands and the river, the boat is fully electric and oftentimes veered in the right direction with the use of long sticks (not unlike punting).
Good to know: Tickets can only be paid in cash. Purchase your ticket directly at the dock where the boat is moored.
Visit the Benedictine Cloister & Climb the bell tower
Entrance Fee: €/$8 or €/$10 for a combined ticket including a visit to the caves (see below)
Opening Hours: Official website
Steps in the belltower: 130 (no lift available)
Without a doubt one of the unmissable things to do in Brantôme. The mammoth Benedictine Abbey looms over the tiny little town, ensuring even the most directionally challenged travelers (like myself) always have a point of reference. Said to have been founded in the 8th century AD by none of the than Charlemagne himself.
If you want to visit the Cloister, the Abbey and climb the bell tower, you will need to take a 1h15 guided tour. We took the tour which turned out to be highly informative and a good load of fun. Clambering up the 11th-century bell tower is not recommended if you suffer from claustrophobia as the staircase is pretty narrow.
The views from the bell tower are worth the short climb, though when we went the tower was undergoing renovation, and walking under the bells was no longer possible. In all honesty, the most impressive attraction in Brantôme is the abbey, which is best viewed from the canal cruise and not the top of the church tower. Take the tour for the information, not so much for the views.
Learn about the Troglodyte Caves and visit the Museum of Fernand Desmoulin
Entrance Fee: €/$4.5 or €/$10 for a combined ticket including a visit to the abbey (see above)
Opening Hours: Official website
The Brantôme Troglodyte caves are located in the limestone cliffs hugging the Benedictine Monastery. These very caves were home to the original monks of the order before they moved to the monastery in the 8th century AD. Noteworthy are the two enormous bas-reliefs called “The Last Judgement”. What struck me was the surprising amount of detail in the carvings and how well-preserved they remained.
The little museum of Fernand Desmoulin is located in the renovated monastery wing (dating back to the 18th century). While the troglodyte caves are worth visiting, the museum itself is rather underwhelming.
The Troglodyte Caves and museum can be visited with or without a guide. The difference in fee is negligible (an additional €/$1.5 for a guided visit). We had a guide on our visit, which was wonderful for the Troglodyte Caves but proved to be slightly tedious in the museum.
Stroll around the little town
Map of Brantôme: Bilingual French/English version can be downloaded here
Tourism Office: Église Notre-Dame, 2 Rue Puyjoli de Meyjounissas, 24310 Brantôme, France
The tiny town of Brantôme can easily be explored in two hours. It has a number of medieval and renaissance buildings dotted around the town. Noteworthy is the former civil and military hospital and the old footbridge on the outskirts of town. Before stepping on the footbridge, head to the water and look right. On the wall, the markings note where the water level rose over the centuries.
Spend a relaxing few hours in the “Monks garden”, once privately owned by the abbey now a beautiful public garden. You might notice a small tunnel (number 37 on the downloadable map) while walking around the Boulevard the Charlemagne. This used to be a train tunnel, as once upon a time a train would ride right in front of the Benedictine Abbey.
Rent a kayak or canoe in Brantôme during the summer
Weather permitting, explore Brantôme and the Dronne river in a kayak or canoe. Sadly when we went a lack of swimsuits and time got in our way. If not, my first stop would have been to get myself into a kayak (and promptly manage to turn it over and fall in the water would be my guess).
Two reputable options are available for those looking to rent a kayak or canoe. Both companies have licensed instructors and are endorsed by the local tourism board.
Alloocanoes: Offers both kayak and canoe rental for anyone over the age of 5. Prices start at €/$20
BrantomeCanoe: Offer canoe, kayak and standup padel rental. Prices start at €/$12
Where to stay in Brantôme
PERSONAL RECOMMENDATION: Moulin du Roc ($$)
Set in a beautiful 17th-century refurbished nut mill. This 4-star hotel was my favorite hotel in Nouvelle Aquitaine! They work together exclusively with local producers, have an electric car charger and both the service and dining experience were top-notch!
L’escapade: ($) Located on the outskirts of Brantôme, this little B&B has stellar reviews. Travelers praise the good breakfast, hospitality of the host and large garden. Check rates.
Hôtel Château de La Côte: ($$)This 3-star castle hotel is located right next to Brantôme. The hotel has an outdoor pool, an enormous garden and serves traditional French cuisine sourced from local producers. Check rates.
Moulin de l’Abbaye: ($$$) This 4-star hotel is located in the former Brantôme abbey itself. This historical hotel offers the very best views over the Brantôme belltower and has a one-star Michelin restaurant on site. Check rates.
Vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Brantôme
The Nouvelle Aquitaine region is known for foie gras, magret de canard and a variety of different types of beef. Luckily they also have delicious strawberries, walnuts, truffles and of course plenty of cheeses. Traveling through the region as a vegetarian is relatively easy, vegans might have a harder time avoiding the omnipresent cheese.
Bocaux de Liens ($): Zero-waste restaurant that works exclusively with local producers and seasonal products. Vegetarian, vegan and meat options are available. Dine-in or picnic options are available. We had a wonderful lunch here. Not open for dinner.
Restaurant Côte Rivière ($$): Located on the Dronne river with sweeping views over the Brantôme Abbey. I walked by here and thought it was surely a tourist trap because the location was too perfect.. Yet, the Google and Tripadvisor reviews tell me differently. No vegan option is available. Lunch & dinner.
Le Moulin de l’Abbeye ($$$): 1-star Michelin restaurant set in a beautiful old mill which is now a 4-star boutique hotel. Vegetarians need to call in advance as the standard tasting menu is not vegetarian-friendly. Only open for dinner.
Practical details for visiting Brantôme
How to get to Brantôme
TRAIN: Take the high-speed train from Paris Montparnasse to the Angoulême station (2h15 direct, tickets start at €/$25 one way). From the Angoulême station take bus line 1, direction Périgueux, get off at Brantôme Gendarmerie (1h10, tickets start €/$6 one way). Check rates and book tickets online.
FLY + RENT A CAR: The nearest airport to Brantôme is the Bergerac Dordogne Périgord Airport (EGC) which is a smaller airport with a select few international flights. Bergerac is roughly one hour away from Brantôme by car. Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport (BOD) is the largest international airport in the vicinity of Brantôme. Bordeaux airport is roughly two hours away by car. Check the cheapest rates for car rental in France.
Parking in Brantôme
The best place to park in Brantôme is slightly outside of the historical center, right next to the Dronne river. We parked on Avenue André Maurois near Brantome Automobile. A little further up in direction of Brantôme Canoë there is also a large car park. Do not forget to pay for parking at the parking machine (which accepts cash and credit cards).
Best time to visit Brantôme in France
Brantôme village is a highly frequented tourist destination in summer. The tiny town is practically bursting at the seams in the summer months (June, July, and August). We went in October, the weather was fantastic (25°C/77°F) and the town was peaceful.
Average winter temperatures hover around 9°C/48°F, which for me personally is too cold to visit. Therefore if like me, you are not a fan of the cold or crowds, late April to May and September to November are the best months to visit Brantôme.
Visiting Brantôme in Dordogne, a worthwhile excursion
Do not be weary of visiting Brantôme. The little village lives up to its reputation, and then some. Avoid going in peak season (July & August) instead aim for shoulder season when the weather is pleasant and the little streets void of tourists.
Spend one day taking in the sights, rent a kayak or leisurely glide your way through the Dronne river on an electrical river cruise. Grab a bite to eat in the delicious vegetarian-friendly restaurant Bocaux de Liens before heading out to spend the night in the storybook 4-star Moulin du Roc hotel.
MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING FRANCE
South West France: One-week Nouvelle Aquitaine Guide
South West France: A full guide to Rocamadour
South West France: Exploring the beautiful village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie
Eastern France: Complete guide to the Jura & Doubs Region