LivingTravelGuide to Albi in the south of France.

Guide to Albi in the south of France.

Albi is a charming little French town with a remarkable old center that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The heart of Albi is the Episcopal City, a gated medieval neighborhood that contains two outstanding buildings.

If you have a sense of history, then Albi calls you. In the 11th century , the Cathar heresy took over much of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, many of the heretics hailing from Albi. The name of the Albigensians became synonymous with the heresy that threatened the autonomy of the Catholic Church. From 1209 to 1229, the Albigensian Crusade swept through the region, destroying the heresy with great brutality.

If you are interested in exploring the Cathars, take a walk to Montsegur, the remote castle perched on top of a rocky hill where they made their last stop.


Albi is in the Tarn department, on the banks of the River Tarn, and about 52 miles (85 kms) northeast of Toulouse.

What to see

Start with Sainte-Cécile, the extraordinary Gothic cathedral, dating back to 1280. It is a massive and imposing building, dominated by its bell tower and has the strange advantage of being the largest red brick cathedral in the world. The exterior, while impressive in scale, is relatively simple, due in part to its quasi-military purpose as a reminder of the power of the Catholic Church in the face of the Cathar heresy. Come in and it’s a different story. Every inch of the interior is decorated with quirky tiles, gold leaf, and frescoes.

The most striking site is the Last Judgment mural, depicting the end of the world with suitably grotesque scenes of the damned writhing in eternal pain and misery. It was painted between 1474 and 1484, probably by Flemish artists and is the largest in the world. If you can, take a concert or a recital at the 18th -Century classical organ.

The Berbie Palace is almost as imposing as the cathedral and resembles a fortress rather than an Archbishop’s Palace. Today it houses the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum and the most important art collection in the world. The museum covers both her art and her life, which was strange, much of it lived in the bars and brothels of Paris.


The markets of Albi are reason enough to visit, particularly the covered market, where local Albigensians come to buy vegetables, cheese, meat and fish.

The city is home to a wide variety of markets, including a vegetable market every morning except Monday, a poultry market on Saturday mornings, a pet market on Saturday mornings, a book market on second hand on Wednesdays and a handicraft market on Saturdays (except January to March).

Where to stay in Albi

4 stars Mercure Albi Bastide is a glorious 18th -Century mill building on the banks of the Tarn. The rooms are well decorated; The bathrooms are particularly good and the restaurant has a terrace overlooking the cathedral.

  • Read guest reviews, compare prices and book the Mercure Albi Bastide with TripAdvisor

Hostellerie du Grand St-Antoine is not simply an iconic four-star hotel in Albi; It is also one of the oldest hotels still in operation in France. It first opened its doors in 1734, and the same family has welcomed guests for five generations. There is a courtyard garden overflowing with flowers and greenery. Although it is a luxury hotel, there is a wide range of room prices.

  • Read guest reviews, compare prices and book Hostellerie St-Antoine with TripAdvisor

The Chiffre Hotel, in the city center, was a typical inn, accommodating travelers on coaches crossing France. The 38 rooms and suites are decorated in comfortable, old-fashioned fabrics and colors, and the rates are reasonable.

  • Read guest reviews, compare prices and book Hotel Chiffre with TripAdvisor

La Réserve is a Relais et Châteaux hotel, so you can count on luxury and very high standards. It is relatively small with only 20 rooms on the banks of the Tarn. The restaurant has a terrace for al fresco dining.

  • Read guest reviews, compare prices and book La Reserve with TripAdvisor

Albirondack Park is a campground and spa and is very good value for money. It is surrounded by trees near Albi with cabanas, Airstream trailers, a heated pool, spa, hammam and sauna.

  • Read guest reviews, compare prices and book the Albirondack Park with TripAdvisor

Albi is a popular destination, so there are hotels for all price ranges. Check them out on TripAdvisor.

Edited by Mary Anne Evans

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