Located on the river Garonne in the South-Western region of Aquitaine, Agen is a historic market town that dates back over 2,000 years. Once a bustling Roman trading centre, Agen’s prominent location between the cities of Bordeaux and Toulouse – and between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic – meant it provided a vital crossroads and trading route. Because of its prominence, it endured many battles over the centuries – among them, the Hundred Years’ War with England.
Today, much of its architecture spans several centuries and the old town is peppered with fascinating ruins and crumbling walls, while its museums are full of local history and trinkets dating back to prehistoric times. One of its oldest traditions is its status as ‘capital of the prune’.
Back in the 13th century, a plum tree was brought back by the Crusaders and planted in Agen. Its fruit was dried in the sun to form prunes and this delectable produce soon became an object of regional pride. Today the produce has Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) certification and can be enjoyed in many different ways – as a sweet, topped or stuffed with sugary delights – or soaked in Armagnac for a popular after-dinner treat.
There are many ways to enjoy Agen’s rich heritage. Take a trip through time and savour its beautiful buildings. Stop at the town’s famous bridge where the Canal des Deux Mers meet, and see where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. Or melt some plastic in the shops of the Boulevard de la Republique. And of course, no trip to Agen is complete without a stroll along the Garonne river, stopping for a picnic with a box of delicious locally produced prunes.
Agen France travel tip: Rugby mad locals
Agen people are rugby mad. Sporting Union Agen Lot-et-Garonne – the official name of Agen’s resident rugby club – is currently playing in the Top 14. This is the crème de la crème of French rugby and guarantees plenty of rivalry between clubs; along with a boisterous yet good-natured crowd on match days.
The Stade Armandie is located in the town centre and seats 12,000 fans. Home games regularly sell out but if you can get your hands on a ticket, it’s well worth it – if nothing else just to soak up the electric atmosphere amongst the fans. Even the most inexperienced of spectators will get swept along on a tide of cheerful chants, passionate appeals to the referee and of course, a booming chorus of ‘OUI!’ with every point scored.
Unlike football, rugby fans are a respectful lot and mingle together in the stadium, often trading harmless banter. It guarantees a lively and fun day out, particularly if you’ve got kids or teenagers in tow.
Afterwards, round off a thoroughly rugby-themed day by heading to the lovely Grand Café Foy on the corner of Place Jasmin for a frothy cappuccino or a light bite. Former Agen rugby player Philippe Piacentini owns this modern establishment so be prepared for big screens on match days and plenty of rugby-themed paraphernalia.
Agen Things To Do: Ancient architecture, fine arts and Agen’s famous aqueduct
Visit the Old Town
Stroll through the beautiful old town of Agen and enjoy its winding alleyways, old stone walls and ancient half-timbered buildings, varying in architectural style from Romanesque to Medieval. Wander over to the 12th century Saint Caprais Cathedral with its glorious frescoes, and visit the Saint Hilaire church to seek out the unusual statues of Moses and St Peter.
Fine Arts Museum
Prunes aside, Agen is famous for its fine arts scene. The Musée des Beaux-Arts, housed in four Renaissance town houses, is home to a wonderful collection of decorative art, sculptures, prehistoric archaeological treasures and canvases by Goya. You’ll also find a large number of works by local artists.
You may well be sick of prunes by the time you leave Agen. But if you’ve got any room left in your heart (or stomach) for the local delicacy, a trip to la Musée Pruneau Gourmand is a must. Here you’ll find a museum dedicated to the history of the town’s most famous product, as well as a prune maze (open in the summer months) and a shop offering boxes of the tasty delight in virtually every way imaginable. If you really can’t get enough of the sweet stuff, come to Agen in September to enjoy a prune festival complete with live music, acts, stalls and of course, prune tasting.
The famous Agen Aqueduct dates back to 1839 when the first Quercy stone was laid. 17 years later, the last stone block was heaved into place. Today you can follow the aqueduct and see how the Canal de Garonne crosses the Garonne River, linking the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
Indoor market: Daily except Mondays, Place Jean Baptiste Durand
Halle du pin market: Wednesdays & Sundays, Halle du pin
Organic market: Saturdays, Place des Laitiers
Agen France Top Restaurants
Our selection of restaurants in Agen
25, Rue Louis Vivent, 47000 Agen
Tel: 05 53 77 99 77
A beautiful 19th century private mansion built on a former Capuchin monastery. This Michelin-starred fine-dining establishment offers seasonal menus, an extensive wine list and local gourmets, with duck taking centre stage. A rare treat for the senses. Prices range from 27€ for a midweek lunch with main meals hitting the 68€ – 87€ mark.
La Table de Michel DUSSAU
135, Avenue du Midi, 47000 Agen
Tel: 05 53 96 15 15
Close to the rugby stadium, La Table de Michel Dussau is famous for its local, seasonal produce. Wonderful menus feature regional specialities such as foie gras, canette, truffles and côte de boeuf. Enjoy the action in the open kitchens while you eat. Fixed price menus range from 19€ upwards for a two course lunch.
52 Rue Richard-Coeur-de-Lion, 47000 Agen
Tel: 05 53 48 11 55
This Michelin-listed Bib Gourmand restaurant offers excellent value for delicious cuisine in the heart of Agen’s old town. Fusing old favourites and classic styles with a contemporary cutting edge, the menu will delight even the most seasoned of diners. Enjoy locally sourced fare with such treats as smoked salmon with prune jam, calf sweetbreads and duck breast. Lunch prices typically start around 17€ and evening fixed-price menus range from 25€ – 35€, while à la carte options are around 40€ – 50€.
Agen France Driving Distances
Driving distances from Agen to nearby cities
Montauban: 85km / 52 miles
Bergerac: 90km / 56 miles
Toulouse: 117km / 72 miles
Bordeaux: 141km / 87 miles
Brive-la-Gaillarde: 154km / 95 miles
Bayonne: 302km / 187 miles
38 rue Garonne
47 000 AGEN
Tel: 05 53 47 36 09
The price of property in Agen remains competitive when compared to the rest of the Aquitaine region, despite its central location and convenient midway point between Bordeaux and Toulouse. However, it is becoming increasingly sought-after which suggests the cost of property may soon start to creep up. Restoration remains one route to getting your hands on a cut-price property, and Agen is full of historic gems in need of varying levels of renovation. The town council is keen to encourage restoration of this kind as it offers tax deductions and allowances for sympathetic renovation work on ancient properties.