St Cecelia's cathedral Albi

ALBI - city and visitor guide -  a thematic guide to France

Jewel of the Midi-Pyrenees region, Albi is one of the most attractive of France's small cities. The centre, with its remarkable mediaeval brick cathedral, and Toulouse-Lautrec museum, is a UNESCO world heritage site
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Albi city guide

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 Discover Albi - things to see and do 

On this page Location and access Tourist attractions
In the area Local accommodation

Mediaeval bridge AlbiMediaeval bridge over the Tarn at Albi
While it is not exactly undiscovered, Albi is one of those French provincial cities that has only recently come into its own as a tourist destination. The change in the city's fate came in 2009, when its episcopal area - comprising the cathedral and the Palais de la Berbie, the bishop's palace - was classed as a UNESCO world heritage site. But Albi has much more to offer.....

Location and access

    Until recently, Albi suffered from its location which is rather aside from the main tourist routes in France: but within the last ten years, the motorway link with Toulouse has been completed, and the link via Rodez to the A75 is being upgraded to motorway standard. For now however, over half the section between the A75 and Albi is still single carriageway.

Tourist attractions

Mediaeval bridge AlbiIn the streets of old Albi
      Albi, capital of the Tarn,  is arguably the most interesting small city in the Midi-Pyrenees region. Its imposing mediaeval St. Cecilia's cathedral has always been a remarkable and unique monument, being both fortified and built of brick. On the outside, it looks like some gargantuan array of medieval grain silos; inside, it is all delicate gothic tracery in stone and wood, one of the finest late gothic buildings in France. Of particular interest are the massive murals of the Last judgement, that decorate the whole of the cathedral's western wall.
     Built between 1282 and 1480, the current cathedral was built as a defiant assertion of papal power in a region which had only recently been brought back under the power of Rome following the period of the Cathar heresy.  The Albigensian crusade was the only crusade directed not against infidels, but against dissenting Christians.
Salon of the Rue des Moulins
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - Salon rue des Moulins
     Next to the cathedral stands the similarly massive and fortified Bishop's palace, part of which now houses the magnificent Toulouse Lautrec museum. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1864-1901, was the great post-impressionist iconographer of Parisian life in the late nineteenth century; he was a native of Albi, and the museum hosts the largest collection of his work.
       Beside the west end of the cathedral, a pedestrian piazza takes you to a vantage point overlooking the river Tarn below, and the old bishop's gardens. Upstream from the cathedral can be seen the Old Bridge, a thousand years old, and still in service today. The bridge can be reached on foot by taking a short walk down the street in front of the entrance to the Toulouse Lautrec museum.
      The old city of Albi, with its narrow streets and historic buildings, is clustered round the cathedral. Of particular interest is the XIIth - XIIIth  collegial church of Saint Salvi, with its cloisters.

In the area

     For visitors staying in or around Albi, and wanting to discover the local area, three places stand out.
    Just west of Albi, Gaillac is the centre of a well known vineyard area - AOC Gaillac. As well as vineyards that can be visited, and wine tasting (check local tourist offices for details), the area aslo has some interesting fortified villages, notably Puycelsi and Castelnau de Montmiral.
     Northwest of Albi lies Cordes sur Ciel, an incredible small town, perched on a hill above two valleys: Cordes was built up in the XIVth and XVth centuries, and to this day has conserved a remarkable collection of mediaeval town houses and streets - one of the best in France. Saturday is market day.  Click here for a free audio guide to Cordes.
     Finally, on a completely different note, Carmaux, just north of Albi, has an interesting mining museum. Carmaux was once a coal-mining town; the last pits closed in the 1980s. In the mining museum, visitors take a 350 metre underground tour in a reconstructed coal mine. For those interested in industrial archaeology or engineering, fifteen miles to the north of Carmaux, on the road to Rodez, another very attractive small city, is one of Gustave Eiffel's finest bridges, the Viaduc du Viaur. It carries the railway line from Albi to Rodez.

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Key tourist information for Albi:

Region: Midi-Pyrenees
Nearby cities: Toulouse, Rodez, Castres
Nearest airports: Toulouse Blagnac, Rodez.
Albi is on the routes between:
Clermont-Ferrand and Toulouse
Population:  52000
Main sites:  St. Cecelia's cathedral and mediaeval bishop's palace (UNESCO world heritage site), Toulouse Lautrec museum, Old bridge over the Tarn, historic city centre.
Nearby attractions:  Cordes sur Ciel, Gaillac vineyards, Tarn viaduct

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Location Albi
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