Albi is a beautiful city, it’s small, full of history and lots of old-world charm.
When I say city, it is the size of a medium-sized town, but is the capital of the Tarn department, about an hour from Toulouse, reached by an excellent road system.
The city gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2010, which makes the region, Midi-PyrÃ©nÃ©es the most capped in this department – It really is a fantastic region full of jaw-dropping marvels to see.
Talking of history, the bridge across the Tarn was built before The Norman Conquest of Britain, 26 years before that in 1040. Albi, like Toulouse is about the gentle pink bricks, from which the majestic cathedral of Sainte CÃ©cile is built.
Parking is fairly easy here, there are numerous free spaces and car parks on the opposite side of the Tarn from the cathedral and an underground car park a stone’s throw from the cathedral steps.
The cathedral is probably a good place to start your visit.
Building started in the 13th century, making Saint CÃ©cile cathedral the biggest brick-built cathedral in the world, with a breathtaking painted ceiling – you must have a look inside and around it.
100m meters from the cathedral is the Palace De Berbie, which houses the exquisite Henri de Toulouse Lautrec gallery, Toulouse Lautrec was born in Albi, although his most famous works were painted in Paris in Le Moulin Rouge and the houses of ill repute around Place Pigalle. The collection is wonderful and unique – although photography isn’t allowed inside.
A good investment is The Albi pass, available in The Tourist Information office next to the museum. At the time of writing, the pass was 9â‚¬, which gives entry to the museum / gallery and the chancel of the Cathedral along with other savings and a trip on the tourist train.
Visit the Palace de Berbie and especially the beautiful ornate, formal gardens of the Episcopal Palace overlooking the Tarn, the two main bridges and the weir.
From here, you can stroll over to the Collegiate church of Saint Salvi and the cloisters dating from 1270 – the steps are often jammed with people on Saturdays when wedding parties come here for a photo session in the gardens – I’ve got into a few wedding albums this way.
The that radiate off from the cathedral square are full of small shops, are often cobbled with half-timbered houses on both sides – there are many things to discover here, best to explore.
If you still have some energy, you can take a boat ride on the Tarn, which offers another view of the cathedral, if you can time it for around sunset, you’re sure to get some great photos.
There are also many winding streets on the opposite side of the Tarn river, with some curious and interesting buildings to discover along the banks of the Tarn.
There is a cafÃ© where you can just drink in the view on the lawns below the cathedral and many more opposite the cathedral where you can watch the world go by.
Fashionistas may be interested in the Fashion Museum (MusÃ©e de la mode), there are also other museums to visit such as Laperouse Museum, the house of the famous explore, Jean-FranÃ§ois Galaup de Laperouse,Â The L.A.I.T.Art centre (International Artistic Laboratory) , The sacred art of the cathedral (religious treasures and art in the cathedral, contains numerous objects of the XIV and the XIX centuries.) and the house of Vieil Alby (a medieval house).
If you are feeling hungry after this, there are some lovely little bars and restaurants in Albi and a covered market selling regional and traditional products about 100 meters from the cathedral.
Albi is a great place to visit for a weekend or a couple of days – there is much too much to see in one day!