Head west of Aveyron to explore the bastide town of Villefranche-de-Rouergue. Walk the squared streets of its historic center and immerse yourself in several centuries of history.

Located along a geological fault separating the Causse from Ségala, the bastide town of Villefranche-de-Rouergue has retained much of its identity. Its ground plan with straight streets organized around a central square lined with arcades conceals monuments listed and classified quite remarkable.

A strategic foundation

In 1252, Alfonso of Poitiers, brother of Saint Louis, decided to build on the right bank of the Aveyron a country house in order to establish royal authority in the region after the crusade against the Albigensians.
Thus, he benefited from the richness of the surrounding soils to diversify livestock and agricultural production, exploit silver and copper from nearby mines and utiliser

the river to develop trade and a craft activity.
To encourage people to join the bastide, the sovereign authority offered privileges to new inhabitants, through land donations and exemption from certain taxes. The latter received an ayral to build their house, a cazal to cultivate and were freed from the granting and the tonlieu.

A prolific management 

Very quickly, the Villefranchoise population numbered more than 5 inhabitants. Many of them made a fortune by working with meat, fabrics, wood, skins, silver, copper… More than 000 goldsmiths worked in the bastide at the start of the 60th century.

To meet their needs, four consuls elected by direct suffrage managed political, judicial, social and economic affairs. The latter collected the tax and quickly developed three weekly markets as well as four large annual fairs. It is said that everything was sold there and that people came from afar to buy and sell there. This is why certain buildings in the bastide are imbued with Italy, Spain and even Norway.

Exceptional architecture

Most of the streets in the old town are lined with half-timbered houses and stone. Some of them are classified as Historical monuments, such as the Combettes, Gaubert, Armand houses as well as the Dardenne house. These have quite elegant sculpted decoration from the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, testifying to the wealth of the city at the junction of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Among the emblematic elements of the heritage architectural villefranchois,

we can cite the bridge and the Fountain of the Consuls, built at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, the Notre Dame collegiate church, marvel of the Gothic periods with its bell tower culminating at 58 meters in height, the chapel of Saint-Jacques, witness to the importance of pilgrimage in the city, the Chapel of the Black Penitents, a jewel of Baroque art, and the Chartreuse Saint-Sauveur, a masterpiece of flamboyant art, on the other side of the river. 

How to visit the bastide?

Do you want to discover the bastide? Several options are available to you :

  • Follow our tour guides on a guided tour of the historic center of Villefranche.
  • Get a visit plan from the tourist office and explore every corner of the bastide.
  • Let yourself be carried away by the audio guide through the streets of Villefranche.

The bastide town of Villefranche with the family

  • For children aged 6 to 12, pick up the Mystery of the Spice Merchant game booklet at the tourist office reception. Free.
  • For teenagers, ask for the Little Murder in a Bastide booklet and lead the investigation in the streets of the bastide. 3€.

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