A major town in the Lot-et-Garonne, the ancient bastide town of Villeneuve-sur-Lot has most of the resources/commerce you would expect to find in a large town (invariably on the outskirts). The historic centre makes a great place for wandering and shopping or eating at one of the many cafes and restaurants.
Originally the town was surrounded by a fortified wall which included six towers and eight gates. The centre of the old- town is located between the two surviving original gateways, the Porte de Paris and the Porte de Pujols, both easily visible when you approach the town. The two gates are now classified as historic monuments.
The Porte de Paris was built in the 14th century and like the town is a mixture of stone and red brick (more usually associated with the Toulouse region). The third floor of the tower was once a prison and the fourth floor operated as a look-out location. The second gateway - the Porte de Pujols is built in the same style as the Porte de Paris and they, along with the tower of St Catherine’s church, give Villeneuve a very interesting sky-line. Next to the Porte de Pujols you can also find some remains of the town’s original fortifications.
The centre of the old- town is now mainly shops and restaurants and makes a splendid place to explore. The Rue de Paris is the main street between the two towers and the town’s main shopping street. Then there are further shops to be found in the Place Lafayette which is the town’s main arcaded square. Here you will find the market each Tuesday and Saturday mornings. There is also a Covered Market Hall just down from the square, on the river side. This market hall was built in 1864 of cast iron and stone in rather a Parisian style.
Wander down the Rue Sainte Catherine behind the Place Lafayette and you will find the wonderful church of Sainte Catherine. This unusual church is built from red brick and has a wonderfully elaborate tower. The church was built in a Romano-Byzantine style starting in the 19th Century and finally being finished in 1937. The church displays (high up and around the internal walls) painting of Saints. The stained glass window came originally from the 13th century church that stood on the site previously. You will also find five ancient gilded wooden statues which have been classified as historic artefacts.
As the name suggests the town is located on the banks of the large and impressive River Lot. There are three bridges that cross the river in the town. The oldest being, the ‘Pont Vieux’ a 13th century bridge styled on the bridge in Cahors, but which has lost its original towers. However, it still provides a great place to enjoy views along the river valley. The Chapel of Notre Dame at the end of the bridge is the subject of a legend. Apparently in the early 13th century boatmen were stopped in the middle of the river by a powerful force. One of the boatmen dived in to the river to investigate and emerged holding a statue of the Virgin Mary, and so the chapel was built here and was dedicated to mariners.
On one side of the river there is a little medieval-style garden and the Chapelle des Penitents Blancs, (the chapel of the white penitents). There was previously a chapel of the blue penitents but this has been destroyed.
Other points of interest in the town are the Gajac Mill which has been converted into the Art Museum of Villeneuve-sur-Lot. Then there is the Saint Cyr Hospital, a beautiful building donated to the town and which still has its own original 19th century pharmacy with 500 decorated porcelain pots. Evidence of even earlier history can be found at the Gallo-Roman ruins at Eysses to the north of the town.
The tourist office (situated near the Porte de Paris) can be contacted on.