Figeac is a medieval town in the Lot department of the Midi-Pyrenees, about 70 kilometres east of Cahors on the River Célé. It is a lovely town that you must visit when you are in the region!
In the town there is an extensive and interesting historical centre, dating in part from as far back as the 9th century, and the town still has many houses and small palaces dating from the 13th – 16th centuries, when it was an important trade centre. It is the overall feel of Figeac that you will find most attractive.
Start your visit at the ‘Hotel de la Monnaie’ in the south-east of the town centre: this is a very well preserved house from the 13th century which features arched windows and an unusual round tower and is now home to the Figeac Tourist Office.
From here you can continue into the streets just east of the Hotel de la Monnaie, such as the Rue Balene (with the Palais Balene), and the forst part of medieval Figeac. You will quickly reach the Church of Saint-Sauveur, one of the two main churches in Figeac and the biggest in the town. This church was originally part of a benedictine abbey, around which Figeac originally developed.
The main town centre is to the north of here, in the streets around the Place Carnot and the Place Champollion. The narrow medieval streets are now busy with the shops and cafes that occupy the ground floor of many of the buildings. The Place Champollion in particular is very lively with several cafes here having outdoor terraces.
The old colombage houses, houses with first floor balconies, and narrow streets lined with ancient stone buildings and ornate carvings form a lovely ensemble. In the town centre many of the houses still retain the medieval arcades at ground level.
There are many interesting houses in Figeac. Among these try and see the Hotel Galiot de Genouillac (12, rue Roquefort) for an example of renaissance architecture, the ornately decorated Hotel Dumont (on Rue de Clermont) dating from the 14th century and the house with a small tower above an arch at the Maison à Tourelle d’Angle (Place carnot).
The ‘Museum of Ecriture’ in Figeac in a modern redesign of a medieval building on Place Champollion is a very interesting, and looks at writing across the centuries, including an explanation of how the writing on the Rosetta Stone was decoded. The museum is based in Figeac because it was the birth place of Francois Champollion, renowned for his work in deciphering egyptian hieroglyphics – the museum is based in the house where he was born.
Follow the small alley to the left of the Museum of Ecriture to reach the Place des Ecritures, where a room-sized copy of the rosetta stone occupies much of the floor area in a pretty courtyard.
In the rue Gambetta,do not miss the spectacular “Commanderie des Templiers”.
Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit the outdoor leisure center of Domaine the Surgié, with playgrounds, swimming pool and green lawns along the riverbanks.