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cities in france

Cities in the southwest France: history, tourist sites, activities.

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france tours suggestions

Eight suggestions for touring the southwest of France.

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french gastronomy

Traditional dish recipes from southwest part of France.

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french trivia

France in facts and figures! Interesting less known facts about France

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Main Tourist Cities in the South West of France

Agen

With around 33600 inhabitants Agen, the departmental capital of Lot-et-Garronne - Aquitaine region- is considered the 244 town of France.
The city has 33 historic monuments and protected buildings.
The origin of Agen date from the pre-roman times when it was the city of Aginnum inhabited by the Celtic population called Nitiobroges.
During the Roman occupation of Aquitaine Agen, between the 1st century BC and 3rd century AD, Agen was Civitas Agenensium a flourishing Roman city.
The development of the city was interrupted by the invasion of the migratory populations of the 5th and 6th centuries and later in the 8th century the...
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Albi

Albi is the departmental capital of Tarn. It has over 80,000 inhabitants and is visited every year by more then 2 hundred thousands tourists.
The Albi region has been inhabited since the down of human civilization as attested by the artifacts found in the area.
In the second century BC Albi is occupied by the Romans who respect the way of life of the Celts who were already living in the region.
In the middle ages, like the majority of the cities in what is now the Southwest of France, Albi becomes a quasi-independent city. It is also a time when the town...
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Auch

 
Auch is the departmental capital of Gers.
It is a small town of just over 20,000 inhabitants.
While the town was established during the Roman occupation of Aquitaine, throughout the centuries Auch was the seat of the one of the first archdiocese of France, elevated as such in 847, the residence of the Counts of Armagnac during the 10th and 11th centuries and the capital of the old region of Gascogne.
Arguably, Auch's most famous citizen was …D'Artagnan who, even by tradition considered an "Auscii" was not born in Auch but in the village of Lupiac some 43km (26mi)...
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Beziers

Béziers is now the “sous prefecture” and the second city of the Hérault department, and with a population of around 75,000 inhabitants the fourth city of the region Languedoc-Roussillon.
The city was founded by Greek colonizers in the 6th century BC.
In the 1st century BC the Romans, newcomers in the region where they create a new province called Septimania, set up a new city under the name Baeterrae, city crossed by Via Domitia, the highway linking Rome with Iberian peninsula.
During the Middle Ages the inhabitants of Béziers go through two historic massacres.
The first momentous slaughter of the city’s population took...
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Biarritz

Like Saint-Tropez on Côte d'Azur that was made fashionable in the '60s by the famous Brigitte Bardot, Biarritz was transformed from a sleepy fishers town into a glamorous destination by Empress Eugenie de Montijo, the wife of Napoleon III, who made the city and the Basque Coast her favorite summer destination.
The history goes that before coming with regularity to Biarritz, the imperial couple was spending its summers mostly in the town of Vichy in the center of France.
All that changed on Monday, July 27, 1863 when a famous scene (that remained in history under the name of...
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Bordeaux

With more than 700,000 inhabitants Bordeaux is the biggest city in the Aquitaine region of France.
While the Bordeaux region was populated since Neolithic times the first archaeological attested human dwellings date from 6th century BC.
In the first century BC the Romans founded Aquitaine - "the land of waters" - as a Gaul province on the vast territory bordered by the Loire river at the north, the Pyrenean Mountains in the south, the Massif Central at east and the Atlantic Ocean on its west side.
Bordeaux under the name of Burdigala becomes a flourishing Roman city, an important ocean port...
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Cahors

Cahors is situated in the Lot department of France. The inhabitants, a little over 20 thousands, are called Cadurciens et les Cadurciennes. Cahors has 120 building listed as historical monuments.
In antiquity Cahors was the Gaul settlement Divona, named this way in the honor of the Celtic water goddess Divona. What is now the Chartreux fountain was a sacred place where the locals were paying their respects to this divinity.
During the roman occupation of the region, Divona settlement became the town of Divona Cadurcorum, a prosperous city due to its wine and linen commerce as well as its crop growing...
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Carcassonne

The city of Carcassonne is the capital of the department Aude (11). It has a population of over 40,000 inhabitants.
One legend says that the name Carcassonne comes from the name of the wife of the last Moor king Ballak who died during the siege laid by the Emperor Charlemagne, Dame Carcas.
This dame was left by her husband to defend the fort and she managed to do it by tricking the Emperor into believing that the citadel’s inhabitants were far from starving – like the attackers would have like to believe after months of blockade. According to the legend...
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Dax

 
Dax is an ancient city founded by the Roman conquerors in the 1st century AD.
It is a subprefecture of the Landes department in Aquitaine region, and has a population of around 20,000 inhabitants.
The town is famous since Roman times for its thermal water (which comes at a temperature of 64C) whose rheumatism treating qualities were discovered – according to the legend – by a Roman legionary who, when departing to war, decided to abandon his rheumatism afflicted dog. At his return he found the dog restored to health by the thermal water and the mud of the river...
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Foix

Foix is the capital of the Ariege department. It is situated at the feet at the Pyrenean mountains.
Ariege region was inhabited since the Paleolithic age, some 14,000 years ago, as attested by the paintings that can still be admired in the Niaux Grotte. The town is inhabited since Roman times when a first stronghold is built.
The town developed first around the Saint-Volusien abbey built initially by Benedictine monks in the 8th century and then around the castle in the Xth century. The first county of Foix was established in 1012 when Bernard I becomes the first count. The Counts of Foix...
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La Rochelle

La Rochelle is inhabited since the 9th century when farmers and fishers built their houses on a small rocky hill surrounded by marshland. They name the place Rupella which is the diminutive for Latin for rock: rupes. La Rochelle was born!
In the 12th century when La Rochelle became an important port of Aquitaine, the Duke William X bestows many liberties on the city. Between the 12th century and the 17th century La Rochelle a prosperous port that trades wine and sell with the Hanseatic League passes several times between the crowns of England and France, while maintaining its liberties and quasi-independence....
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Lourdes

Lourdes is a town of just over 15,000 inhabitants in the department of Hautes-Pyrénées of south west of France. The history of Lourdes started 12,000 year ago, in the Upper Paleolithic, when, attracted by the welcoming environment, a human population settled here.
During their occupation of Aquitaine the Romans built on the hill overlooking the nowadays Lourdes a fortification that was later developed by the Visigoths, Franks and Saracens who successively took control of the region.
According to the legend the name Lourdes comes from the name of a Saracen leader who converted to the Christian faith and was given the...
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Narbonne

Narbonne - the "First Daughter of Rome outside Italy" - how is written on the traffic circle of its entrance is a town of a little over 50,000 inhabitants situated in Aude department.
Narbonne was founded in 118 BC by the Roman consul Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus - the first Roman colony in Gaul - under the name Colonia Narbo Martius.
At the time of its creation the town was to be a major stop on Via Domitia, the route that was linking Rome to the Iberic peninsula, whose remains are still visible today
During the 1st century BC Narbonne becomes...
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Nerac

Nerac is a little town, population 6800, situated in the department of Lot-et-Garonne, region Aquitaind in the South-West of France. It was inhabited since Bronze Age and flourished during the Gallo-Roman occupation - the mosaic that can still be seen at the enterance of La Garenne park dates from this era.
During the Renaissance it was the centre of the French Protestantism (Calvinism) lead by the d'Albret family. It's main touristy attraction is the Castle of Nérac, the main residence of King Henri III of Navarre and his wife Queen Margot between 1577 and 1582.
Nérac is situated in...
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Pau

Pau is located in the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques in the Aquitaine region. Since 1450 Pau is the capital of the former French region of Bearn. With its suburbs forms a urban agglomeration of 150 000 inhabitants. Pau holds the record for the greenest city in Europe with more then 700ha of parks.
It is the birth place of not one but two kings: “Lo Noste Enric” that in Bearnaise – the local language - means “Our Henri” of course King Henri IV of France and King Charles XIV of Sweden born in Pau as Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte the founder...
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Perigueux

Périgueux - the "Prefecture" of the Dordogne department (population just under 30,000) lays on the site of the former Civitas Petrocoriorum, a flourishing Roman city - whose vestiges are still very visible - built during the Roman occupation of Aquitaine in the first centuries AD.
Périgueux is also the capital of the region known as "Périgord blanc" (white Périgord).
As Christian religion spread in this region a monastery and a church were built on the hill (called le puy Saint Front) - next to the roman city - a hill where Saint Front was buried.
In the 12th and 13th centuries the old...
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Perpignan

"All of a sudden everything appeared clear like lightened by a flash: in front of me there was the center of the universe". This declaration was made by Salvador Dali when he visited Perpignan train station in September 1963. He later celebrated it in the painting called "Perpignan Railway Station".
Perpignan is the departmental capital of "Pyrenees Orientales" the most southern of the French departments.
Perpignan exists since Roman times. At the time it was called Ruscino – hence the name Rousillon of the region - and was one of the big cities on the "Via Domitia", the antique highway that...
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Saint-Jean-de-Luz

Saint Jean de Luz - called in the local Basque language Donibane Lohitzun - is an old fisher's town situated on the Atlantic coast, near the Frenco-Spanish border.
The town belongs to what was in olden times the Labourd region, the most western part of the "Pays Basque" of France.
The first written evidence of the town's existance dates from the 11th century when a parish named "Santus Johannes de Luis" is mentioned as belonging to the Viscount of Labourd. From the middle of the 12th century until the middle of the 15th century Saint Jean de Luz together with...
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Sarlat

Sarlat, the American writer Henry Miller was fascinated by the town, calling it the paradise of France.
With a population of just under 10,000 inhabitants Sarlat is situated in the department of Dordogne region Aquitaine of the South West of France. It is the "capital" of the old region of Perigord Noir. The little town has 77 buildings on the register of historic monuments and is on the tentative list of UNESCO's World Heritage.
Sarlat grew around the Benedictine abbey where the relics of Saint Sacerdos were kept - the nowadays Sarlat Cathedral is still Saint Sacerdos Cathedral!
...
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Toulouse

The 4th city of France in terms of number of inhabitants Toulouse is known throughout the world mainly as the place where Airbus planes are built!
It is however also an ancient city where history is written on almost each of its stones!
Toulouse was founded 4th centuries BC by Celtic people called the Volques Tectosages.
During the 1st century BC the Romans occupy it and give the city the name Tolosa.
During the roman occupation Tolosa became one of the most important cities of the empire. At the collapse of the Roman Empire the region of Tolouse comes under Visigoth rule, and becomes the...
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