The French capital of rugby and of prunes – even though
the famous prunes d’Agen do not in fact come from
here – Agen (Aginnum) was originally a Gallo-Roman
town. It grew rapidly during the late Roman Empire, but
suffered as the result of invasions in the 5th and 6th
centuries, and was later incorporated into the Grand
State of Aquitaine, formed in 1032. Fought over by
the king of England (who was also Duke of
Aquitaine) and the king of France, control of the town
passed from one to the other during the Hundred Years’
War. In the 16th-century Wars of Religion, the town’s
Protestants were expelled. Agen later became a major
manufacturing and trading base, exploiting its
position on the river Garonne to export its
produce. Today, it is an important
administrative centre and university town.
The largest town in the Garonne valley between
Toulouse and Bordeaux, Agen still has many fine
buildings dating from it periods of prosperity as
a manufacturing and trading centre. In the heart
of the town, between boulevard Carnot and
the Garonne, are narrow streets with restored
half-timbered, medieval houses, grand 16thand
17th-century town houses and arcaded
squares. There are also some early 20th-century
Neo-Classical buildings and a fine museum.
Between esplanade du Gravier, on the Garonne,
and the canal running parallel with the river,
there are many pleasant areas of greenery.
Musée des Beaux-Arts
n Place du Docteur-Esquirol.
Tel (05) 53 69 47 23. ¢ Tue & public
hols. & 8
Founded in 1876, this museum,
whose collections cover almost
every period from prehistory to
the 20th century, is one of the
finest in southwest France.
The works are displayed in four beautiful
16th- and 17thcentury
houses. On show
here is the Vénus
du Mas, a Roman
statue from Le
(see p154), as
well as Flemish,
paintings of the
16th and 17th
centuries and an
important collection of 18thand
paintings, including five works
by Goya. Paintings by
Courbet, Corot and Sisley
cover the 19th century, and
canvases by Roger Bissière
and sculptures by Claude and
represent the 20th century.
This part of town is crammed
with many interesting
features. These include
buildings as diverse as the
13th-century Chapelle Notre-
Dame-du-Bourg, in rue des
has a single-walled belfry,
and one of France’s earliest
reinforced concrete buildings,
the 1906 Théâtre Ducourneau,
in place du Docteur-Esquirol.
Rue Beauville, a narrow
street, is lined with beautiful
houses. The Église Notre-
Dame-des-Jacobins, once the
chapel of a Dominican
monastery built here in 1249,
is now used for exhibitions.
Arcaded galleries line the
nearby place des Laitiers.
Ruelle des Juifs, a narrow
alleyway was, until the end of the 14th century, a street of
bankers’ and merchants.
Rue des Cornières, on the
other side of boulevard de la
République, was a major
thoroughfare for trade in the
13th century. It is now lined
with attractive restored
houses, set above rows of
arcades in a variety of styles.
Other houses worth seeing
are the beautiful 14th-century
Maison du Sénéchal in rue du
Puits-du-Saumon, and the
18th-century Hôtel Amblard,
at 1 rue Floirac.
R Cathédrale Saint-Caprais
Place du Maréchal-Foch. Tel (05) 53
66 37 27.# daily. 8
Originally built in the 12th
century, the cathedral has
been remodelled several
times. It has a magnificent
Romanesque apse and its
walls are covered with richly
P Place Armand-Fallières
The bishop’s palace here,
now used as the offices of
the local council, was built
in 1775 and added to later. A grand staircase, flanked by
allegorical statues, fronts the
During the reign of Louis XIII,
this small island near the river
bank hosted regional fairs. The
esplanade, laid out in the 18th
and 19th centuries, is now a
popular place for strolling.
On avenue Gambetta is Hôtel
Hutot-de-la-Tour, an 18thcentury,
pink brick building
that was the tax-collector’s
house. To its right is the Tour
de la Poudre, once part of the
This 23-span stone bridge is
580m (1,903ft) long, one of
the longest bridges in France.
Parc Walibi Aquitaine, 3.5 km
(2 miles) west of Agen, has
around 20 different rides and
other attractions (see p286).
At Les Serres Exotiques
Végétales Visions, in
(4 miles) to the west of Agen, greenhouses full of rare
exotic plants are on display.
Y Parc Walibi Aquitaine
Château de Caudouin, Roquefort.
Tel (05) 53 96 58 32. # mid-Apr–
Oct. www.walibi-aquitane.fr &
Y Les Serres Exotiques
Tel (05) 53 67 07 77. # Jul–Aug:
daily; Sep–Jun: Tue–Sun. ¢ 2 wks