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ALBI LA ROUGE,
Unesco-listed Episcopal City in the Tarn Département

Duration
1
day
Budget
from €0 (excluding visits)
Features
  • Unesco-listed World Heritage Site
  • Grand Occitania Site
The best period
  • Autumn
  • Summer
  • Winter
  • Spring

Take bricks (lots of red ones), builders (give them these bricks) and Churchmen. Leave to infuse for several centuries, then add a painter (preferably a lover of cabarets and brothels), rugby players and around 50,000 joyful inhabitants (there is joy among Albigensians). Give it all a good shake. So here you are in Albi, a city appreciated as much for its Cathedral and its Toulouse-Lautrec museum as for the little streets of the old town Alby and the terraces and cafés. You need to take your time to enjoy it.

Pascale - Tarn Tourisme
de Tourisme Tarn
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La cité épiscopale
La cité épiscopale

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!

Original

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!

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Dans Albi
Dans Albi
La cathédrale Sainte-Cécile
La cathédrale Sainte-Cécile

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.

La cathédrale Sainte-Cécile
La cathédrale Sainte-Cécile
La cathédrale Sainte-Cécile

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. 

Did you know?

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

Albi

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.

   

Top tip

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.

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Le musée Toulouse-Lautrec
Le musée Toulouse-Lautrec
Le musée Toulouse-Lautrec

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.

Quotation

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"...

Les Jardins de la Berbie
Les Jardins de la Berbie
Le Tarn
Le Tarn

Remarkable gardens

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."

   

Our favourite

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.

Two days in Albi

Margot and Romain have put their cases down in Albi for 2 days Between wandering round the streets, visiting the Episcopal City and enjoying the gastronomy of the Tarn Département, they have been really impressed! Video 0:55 © Romain Leclerc. 

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Les escapades de Juju
Albi
Instagram Albi
©shophiemahoungou
Albi
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Where to sleep and eat, what to do?

Rental accommodation

Gisèle Patoureau Bertrand - Maison d'hôtes du Pigné

ALBITarn

The Maison d’hôtes du Pigné is an unusual place, in the heart of the Episcopal City.

Rental accommodation

Maely Amalric - La Tour Sainte-Cécile

ALBITarn

In the heart of Old Alby, La Tour Sainte-Cécile occupies the upper part of the Hôtel Séré de Rivières, an historic...

Restaurant

Le Clos Sainte-Cécile

ALBITarn

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...

Cultural leisure

A trip aboard a scow – Albi Croisières

ALBITarn

A trip on the River Tarn aboard a traditional flat-bottomed boat. Various departures from the banks of the Tarn between...

Latitude: 43.928353000000
Longitude: 2.142652000000
How to get there
  • 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).

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