Agen is the main town in the Lot-et-Garonne. It is very large and in parts a little uninteresting with huge commercial and retail parks. However, the original town is worth the effort of parking up the car and strolling around.
The main shopping street is the Boulevard de la Republique, built at the end of the 19th century. It’s a lively street and has some good shops and plenty of cafés. The Place des Laitiers (dairy market) is an open square where on Saturdays you can go to the organic market. The Gallo-Roman forum was originally on this site.
Cutting across the Boulevard de la Republique at the Place des Laitiers is the Rue des Corniers. This was the town’s main street from the 13th to the 19th century. It has been refurbished recently and amongst the beautiful buildings you can see examples of Gothic, Roman and Basket-handle arches in the arcades.
Also see the Ruelle des Juifs, which is one of the roads leading to the Place des Laitiers. This ‘Jewish Alley’ is the old medieval banking area. Then for a step back in history go to Rue Beauville, a narrow, cobbled, 15th century street with timber-framed houses.
The oldest visible monument in Agen is the Tower of Notre Dame du Chaplet. Its lower parts built in stone and above this brick. Originally this was a part of the town’s defences and in the 11th century formed part of Agen’s remparts. Later becoming the belfry of the Benedictine monastery.
St Caprais Cathedral has been damaged and renovated many times since it was work started to build it in 1279. It is now a mixture of various styles. There is a lovely atmosphere in this Cathedral and is worth a few minutes of anybody’s time. St Caprais did not become a cathedral until 1796 after the destruction of St Etienne.
The Senechal’s can be found on the Rue Puits de Saumon and is the oldest private house in Agen. It is a lovely 14thcentury stone building that looks like it was once maybe a church.
The Museum of Fine Art is housed in four lovely mansions dating from the 16th and 17th centuries and the buildings themselves are well worth a look. The museum is one of best in Aquitaine and houses 5 paintings by Goya.
The Ducourneau Theatre is next to the Museum of Fine Art it is a round Italianate structure with large windows and tall pillars. Then near to the theatre is the church of Notre Dame du Bourg with its unusual triangular, one-sided bell tower. It is largely built in brick whereas most buildings in Agen are stone.
The Art Nouveau House, built in 1901, offers a different note in the otherwise fairly classical style of Agen . It is fairly rare in the south of France, to find Art Nouveau architecture, making this a real treat.
The Prefecture to the south of the town centre was formerly the Bishops’ palace. Its 100m façade is a fine example of architecture of the Louis XVI period. Next door to the Prefecture is the Law Courts which is another imposing building, this time in the style of Napoleon the III.
Once you have finished with the architecture and streets you may wish to take a stroll along the esplanade, a promenade next to the river Garonne. Le Gravier is a public garden with lawns and flower beds which runs alongside the walk. A market is held here every Wednesday and Saturday. You can also cross the river using the pedestrian footbridge - La Passerelle.
Further up the river is the impressive canal bridge; 10m high it carries boats on the Canal des Deux Mers across the River Garonne. The bridge is 580m long, making it the second longest canal bridge in France. After the bridge there are 4 locks allowing boats to descend the 12.5m to the canal on the other side.
The railway station at Agen has ample car-parking and the TGV stops here on the way to Paris.