ALBI LA ROUGE,
Unesco-listed Episcopal City in the Tarn Département
Fantastic view from the other side of the River Tarn
Wherever you're coming from, you can't miss it – it's all you can see! Like a lighthouse, Lady Sainte Cécile beckons you from miles away. Park the car and leave it behind for the rest of the day. For a fantastic view of the Cathedral, go to the other bank of the River Tarn. Take the Pont Vieux Bridge and head for Botany Bay Square (in front of the Lapérouse Museum) – the view is extraordinary. In the morning, yellow-orange tones, and in the evening, red and ochre. Takes your breath away!
In Summer, to prolong the "wow" factor, take a "gabarre" (traditional boat) on the River Tarn one evening, for a Concert and Aperitif with a view over the Cathedral. Unique!
Stretch your neck and look up at Sainte Cécile
Come back across the river and go towards the Cathedral. When you come right up to the front of the Cathedral, you can't remain indifferent to the imposing Sainte Cécile. Stand right at her feet, and tip your head back – you'll feel dizzy! It's the largest brick Cathedral in the world. Its dimensions are exceptional. The construction of the Cathedral of Sainte Cécile of Albi took 211 years (1282-1493). It is a pure masterpiece of Southern Gothic style.
Do the maths !
CHow many bricks in the Cathedral? Well, no-one knows exactly. But just think: a brick measures 37 x 22 x 5.5 cm, the walls are 2.5m thick, and the Cathedral is 133m long by 35m wide with a 78m-high bell tower... We'll leave you to make the calculations.
Visit the Cathedral
Saint Cécile's Cathedral was built from 1282 as a response to the Cathar Heresy, like a fortress symbolising the power of the Catholic Church. It has a massive, plain exterior, but inside it is extraordinarily rich. The ceiling is painted deep blue, it has a grand organ and lacy stonework in the Chœur des Chanoines, a Mappa Mundi, and much more. It's an unmissable and unforgettable visit.
It's the largest painted Cathedral in Europe. 18,500 sq m of frescoes and paintings cover the walls and the ceiling of the Cathedral. In fact, it is the only one in Europe where the walls and the vaulting are completely covered in paintings
A stroll round the little streets of the Episcopal City
Albi the Red, the rebel, the proud Occitan! The Episcopal city, listed by Unesco since 2010, is a reason to visit by itself. But no doubt you will also be "espanté" ("impressed" in the Occitan language) by the atmosphere of the little Mediaeval streets, the gentle pace of life beside the River Tarn and the warm welcome of the local people. Stroll around as much as you want – find little hidden terraces, taste local specialities, have a snooze beside the River Tarn... wonderful moments.
To make the most of Albi, the "Pass Albi" gives you reductions and preferential rates for your visit. Get it from the Albi Tourist Office.
The Toulouse-Lautrec Museum
Toulouse-Lautrec, a native of the area, left a considerable number of works: paintings, watercolours, drawings, and hundreds of lithographs. The majestic La Berbie Palace holds a large number. It is the largest public collection of the artist's work in the world. His cabaret posters are particularly well-known. There you will be charmed by the works of his youth. A collection unique in the world in the heart of a building listed by Unesco.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec left us inspiring little phrases: "Autumn is Winter's Spring"; "I will drink milk when cows start eating grapes", and "Just think – I would never have been a painter if my legs had been a bit longer"...
Next to the Cathedral, the Bishops had their palace, the La Berbie Palace. In the 17th century, the Archbishop loved plants, so he created a wonderful garden. The d gardens
Glory to Hyacinthe Serroni, the Archbishop who loved plants. Thanks to him, by the end of the 17th century, the La Berbie Palace had a wonderful garden. From the covered walkway hidden under the vine arches, you can admire the interlaced box trees on a bed of white gravel. "Shame you can't walk on the paths", said Margot, sadly. But from here you can see the garden on one side, and the River Tarn on the other. It's brilliant."
Not far from there, the garden of the Cloitre Saint-Salvi is a wealth of greenery and quiet right in the centre of town. The Canons grew simples there – aromatic and medicinal plants. You can see it today, with its little, well-ordered squares.
Where to sleep and eat, what to do?
Gisèle Patoureau Bertrand - Maison d'hôtes du Pigné
The Maison d’hôtes du Pigné is an unusual place, in the heart of the Episcopal City.
Maely Amalric - La Tour Sainte-Cécile
In the heart of Old Alby, La Tour Sainte-Cécile occupies the upper part of the Hôtel Séré de Rivières, an historic...
Le Clos Sainte-Cécile
All the charm of an old school, with the menu written on a blackboard and a little wonder of a terrace in the shade of...
A trip aboard a scow – Albi Croisières
A trip on the River Tarn aboard a traditional flat-bottomed boat. Various departures from the banks of the Tarn between...
- By car: 1 hr by road from Toulouse by the A68 motorway. 2¾ hrs from Montpellier by the A75 and the D999
- By train: 1 hr direct from Toulouse, 3 hrs from Montpellier
- By air: from Toulouse-Blagnac International Airport or Castres Airport (connection with Paris Orly-Castres Mazamet).