Visit Albi (Midi-Pyrenees, France)
Best known as the departmental capital of the Tarn department this bustling medieval city has lots to offer to the whole family. The origins of the city date back to pre-roman times and it is steeped in history.
If like me, you are intrigued by the recent revival of interest in the Cathars’ history then Albi will be a must, as the city was an integral player during this period.
Following the persecution of the Cathars the bishop’s Palais de la Berbie was constructed from where the bishop ordered the construction of the St Cécile Cathedral in 1282. Emerging from Medieval times, Albi hit its golden age as a result of the ‘bleu du Cocagne’ a beautiful blue pastel colour made from a local plant – this brought great wealth to the pastel merchants who in turn invested this wealth into the city.
The city survived WW1 and WW2 relatively unscathed and following recent redevelopments of the Cathedral square and the covered market, the old town is now one of the largest conservation areas in France.
If you are travelling by car then I suggest you head in for the town centre towards the imposing cathedral of Sainte Cecile. Here you will find a large car park which drops down below underneath impressive railway arches. If you park up top you have to pay but if you continue down the parking is free and you can stay all day. Walking back up the hill you come out right next to the Cathedral in the heart of the city.
Head straight to the Tourist office to the left of the Cathedral Square, next to the Toulouse Lautrec Museum. Here you can pick up all sorts of useful literature including the Albi Pass (6,50 euros) which gives you free entry into the Toulouse Lautrec Museum and into the Cathedral knave (which covers the price of the pass) and then all sorts of deductions and offers including discounts on river trips, other museums, certain shops and restaurants.
For those who love to sightsee then you will be spoilt for choice. Simply walking around the labyrinth old town of 'La Vieil Albi' (which is pedestrianised) will offer a whole variety of architecture and fascinating buildings. The tourist office do 6 walking tours with history if you like to be given details. The hidden gardens walk is one of my favourites. There is also L’Echappée Verte – 3 walks of 1km each through the heart of the city based on the banks of the Tarn River.
The Cathedral is impossible to ignore with its austere redbrick façade and for me the biggest surprise is that it inside this dour exterior lies the most incredible painted interior imaginable. Next to the Cathedral in the Berbie Palace is the Toulouse Lautrec Museum. As Lautrec was born in Albi you will find lots of references to him throughout the city.
If you love to shop then you will find lots to please here. In Albi old town there are boutiques and stores covering every possible need. Markets are held regularly with ‘themed’ markets occurring throughout the year. The newly developed covered market in the centre of the town is well worth visiting as it has been beautifully restored.
Events and festivals in Albi
Because Albi is a departmental capital it is possible to find events all year around with theatre and music concerts (often open air) held on a regular basis. Annual events which are well worth attending if you are around at the right time, are the February Carnival with a parade of floats and a visiting fair, the July Pause Guitare , which hosts a large number of folk and traditional French musicians.
The firework display for Bastille Day (July 14th where the fireworks are set off between the two main bridges spanning the Tarn, and the Christmas Market held in December in the square in front of the cathedral.
Albi is also a superb place to visit to eat out. There is a huge choice of restaurants, and generally the quality is good. There are many cheap and cheerful ‘Menu du Jour’ restaurants around the Cathedral, but you can also find some super fine dining too.
Three restaurants I have visited and can recommend are: le Lautrec housed in the converted stables of the house where Lautrec was born, excellent food with superb service, La Table de Sommelier which offers set menus built around red or white local Gaillac wines, and the L’Espirit du Vin, which is not a cheap option but well worth it for a special occasion.
We usually find that if our guests can drag themselves away from the poolside to head into Albi, they generally end up going back for a second time before the end of their holiday!
In the vicinity (north-west of Albi) is Cordes-sur-Ciel.
Photos of Albi
Click any picture to start the gallery
Tourist classifications for Albi
Albi has received the following tourist classifications: ; historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé); village in bloom (ville fleurie) 4*
Address: Albi, Tarn, Midi-Pyrenees, 81000 || GPS: latitude 43.928, longitude 2.1463
Map of Albi & places nearby
Highlights close by
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Albi, France
- Parc Rochegude - remarkable garden
- Episcopal City, Albi - heritage site
- Jardin du palais de la Berbie - remarkable garden
- Gaillac - recommended detour (20km)
- Jardin de Paradis - remarkable garden (22km)
- Jardin des Martels - remarkable garden (35km)
- Najac - town of art and history (35km)
- Sauveterre-de-Rouergue - town of art and history (35km)
- Rabastens église Notre-Dame-du-Bourg (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site (36km)
- Jardins de Quercy - remarkable garden (36km)
Market days in Albi: Regular market(s) are held in Albi each Wednesday & Tuesday all day & Saturday all day. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Albi (Francais)