The "Pays de l'Agenais" is the name given to the region around the town of Agen, the prefecture of Lot-et-Garonne. An almost undiscovered area of France, the adventurous traveller will find numerous villages and small towns.
Explore the Pays de l'Agenais
France This Way comment: the Pays de l'Agenais area of south-west France is rather similar in character to Gascony, the historic region of France to the south of here, and is visited for quiet relaxation, a chance to enjoy peaceful countryside and to visit unspoiled villages rather than for any individual highlight.
Although the Pays de l'Agenais region has Agen as its most important town, the area we are exploring here is only the part to the east of Agen. We have also taken the liberty of including a few villages that are across the border into the Tarn-et-Garonne department, because you are likely to explore those as part of the same visit...
The countryside of the Pays de l'Agenais is of small fields, gentle hills, areas of woodlands, traditional farmhouses and small villages. Several of the most interesting of these historical villages were founded in the 12th and 13th centuries as bastides, small towns that were created to a regular 'grid' layout, centred around a market and church, and allowing the residents to live in relative safety.
The central open squares in the bastides of the Pays de l'Agenais are often preserved as they were, with the arcaded buildings around the edges of the square that have provided shelter to market traders for the last 700 years!.
Sometimes the original medieval market halls are also found in the center of the square. One such example is at Laroque-Timbaut, unusually having stone columns instead of the more common wooden structure. (The market hall at nearby Bourg-de-Visa is altogether more modern, with an ornate structure in wrought iron replacing the more traditional market hall).
If you are able to spend a couple of days in this peaceful rural environment you will also discover small ancient churches, and lots of half-timbered building dating from the 15th-17th centuries.
Some places we suggest you include on your itinerary when you visit the Pays d'Agenais are:
1) Walk in the footsteps of Charlemagne's army at Laroque-Timbaut – the army under Charlemagne was suffering from an ilness in the troops when they were near here, but the water from a stream in the valley proved to be an effective cure!
2) The village of Beauville was the site of an important castle in the 13th century and home to local barons until the 16th century
3) Brassac, to see the castle which partly dates from the 12th century and was heavily fortified in the following centuries
4) Castelsagrat to see the arcaded central square and good examples of colombage houses from the Middle Ages
Other villages that you should consider visiting in and around the Pays de l'Agenais include Puymirol, Montjoi and Bourg-de-Visa. Note that although each of these villages has its own particular charm, they are all small and have limited facilities and don't really take long to explore. Nonetheless, the "pays de l'Agenais" is well worth visiting as part of a gentle relaxing break in this unspoiled part of France.
We should also mention the town of Agen. This is quite a large town that has not historically attracted many visitors, but has been greatly improved in recent years with lots of the medieval buildings in the historic centre now restored, and a lively town centre with a wide selection of shops and cafes - so it is also worth a visit when you are exploring.
Visiting Pays d'Agenais with children
If you are travelling with children you might think they will be very bored by looking at ancient villages - and you are probably right.
The good news is, close to Agen there is a large theme park called Parc Walibi, and a short distance north of here at Lacapelle-Biron there is a 'treetop adventure park' called Parc en Ciel, so you can persuade the children to look at 'boring villages' some of the time by promising them a visit to one of these attractions (although both will be closed if you visit in winter!)
Outside the Pays de l'Agenais
If you are able to travel further of stay for longer there are lots more villages just outside the Pays d'Agenais region. These include Auvillar, classified as one of the 'most beautiful villages in France' to the east, and Penne d'Agenais and Pujols (also classified as one of the 'most beautiful villages in France') to the north.
Map of the Pays de l'Agenais